john friend on business (in a manduka ad)

I stumbled across this video and hoped to get some insights into running a profitable global yoga brand. But alas, all John Friend talked about was love.

He claims that many people “disassociate business or the production of a marketable product with the heart.” They think “there’s love and then there’s business.”

Personally, I find love a little intangible, and am more interested in business practices based in ethics, respect and transparency.

What do you think: can we be in business relationships that arise out of love? Can we work together for the highest intention?

And can you trust an ad for yoga products masquerading as a reflection on yogic business practices?

11 Comments

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  1. Gagging!

    I’d like a REAL conversation about yoga/dharma and economics (it MAY be starting at the Speculative Non-Buddhism blog of Glenn Wallis).

    Personally, I think the more entrenched we are in Capitalism, the more blind we are to alternatives. Even at Tricycle, Capitalism is taken as (literally) “natural” and to criticize it brings shock and dismay.

    Like water for a fish, it has become invisible and unquestioned among (the vast majority) of yogis.

    • i agree ~ i’m craving an honest and open and non-defensive/non-prescriptive conversation about yoga/dharma and economics. instead, what we get are personal branding/business building tips, or defenses.

  2. Grounding business in love will have to include the resources, raw materials, labor, packaging, shipping, vendors etc. I think his intention is a great one and as Frank said we’d have to assess and change most aspects of a capitalist mentality to achieve what John is paying lip service too.

  3. I think it’s totally possible to run a business (even a corporation) from a place of love and compassion, it’s up to business owners to make it a mission/practice of their company. I know as a budding yoga teacher and as an experienced freelance designer/illustrator, I try to be as mindful as possible in all my decisions concerning business (from buying non-toxic or less-harmful art supplies and working with clients who are also concerned about being mindful and ethical in their own businesses). It’s a matter of always knowing why you’re doing something, and asking yourself if this decision could somehow hurt others. If your motives are based in love and integrity, then everything falls into place.

    Also I just want to say, advertising is not evil in and of itself. Everyone talks shit on it but advertising is GREAT and necessary for small business owners.

    What’s evil are companies/business owners knowingly selling products that are harmful in some way (whether in how they are produced via sweatshops or if they wantonly pollute in order to produce, and/or that the product itself is harmful) and then presenting them to be totally safe or beneficial.

    Other than that, Advertising is not wrong, and any one who succumbs to “manipulative” advertising tactics, well, maybe they’re just ignorant and that is not “Advertising’s” fault.

    So, you can trust an ad for yoga products talking about ethical business practices so long as said company is producing this product mindfully and without harming people. Dude, it’s John Friend, is there really anything to be wary of? I think the guy would not have worked with them, no matter what they offered to pay him, if he knew there was something shady about Manduka.

  4. OH yes, and I agree, this is a really superficial conversation about it. The depth of corruption in business runs really deep, and it’s not like my silly idealistic self believes that the Pfizer CEO or some similar company will wake up one day and say “hey we should really stop testing on animals and people and stop selling drugs that are known to be harmful and we should really start looking into homeopathic cures…” Whatever, I know it’s not something that can change overnight. But I do believe if there is a paradigm shift in thinking collectively, things really can change in the way of business. We can never go back to the barter system so we need to find a way to deal with Capitalism with a totally different mindset, because it’s not going away (unless, there’s some crazy natural disaster that “resets” society as we know it…)

  5. “Other than that, Advertising is not wrong, and any one who succumbs to “manipulative” advertising tactics, well, maybe they’re just ignorant and that is not “Advertising’s” fault.”

    And I meant to expand on that…that it is up to consumers to research what they’re buying to make sure it’s ethical, safe, etc.

    • hi heather ~ thanks for your enthusiastic comments. it’s fun to see your thought process.

      i definitely agree that advertising in and of itself isn’t bad. i even have advertising on this website – it helps me pay my bills and is compensation for the hours of time that i put into this blog. as a freelancer and a writer, i know that i can’t be naive enough to not think of myself as a business. i’m not anti-business.

      but i definitely am skeptical of advertising, and i can’t expect an ad for yoga products to have a very progressive or in-depth view of business practices.

      and while i agree that we’re responsible for how we respond to advertising, many people are lacking the media literacy skills to respond in a proactive way. and i do actually believe that advertising “preys” on these people. it’s not random or artistic – the content of mainstream ads is researched and intentional.

      lots to think about here. it’s a resonant subject for me, because i’m anti-capitalist and trying to figure out how i can present my work in a business-like fashion, without underselling myself. but while adhering to my ethics and ideals.

      • Roseanne – sorry my phone won’t let me respond directly for some reason. So great to hear your thoughts as well, it’s definitely a conversation worth having, as independent entrepreneurs (or trying to be, in my case) I think it’s great to discuss with other yoga types how we can be successful and still maintain our ethical values. By talking about it we can help each other find new ways to achieve those goals.

        But I wanted to say you’re totally right that there are people that lack the literacy or knowledge or even resources to be able to know when a company is lying/preying through advertising. It’s really unfortunate. Being privy to consumer testing and how it’s conducted (I work in advertising now as a designer…trying to get out as it doesn’t align with my ethics…however I live in NY and my landlord doesn’t give a fuck about ethics, only rent checks…you know the deal I’m sure as a freelance writer hehe) is so disillusioning.

        I agree advertising shouldn’t be trusted to be honest 100%, but in this case, and in the yoga business at large, I would like to hope these people are operating in line with yamas and niyamas. But, corruption exists in all fields, so I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist among the yoga business.

        • hi heather ~ thanks for your continued thoughts. there is so much to discuss here; it would make a great blog series!

          while i also hope that yoga businesses are operating in line with yogic principles, we can’t assume that they are, just because they’re “yoga.” or because they have slick, conscious marketing. we, the practitioners/consumers, need to ask questions and hold companies accountable. and we also need to reflect on and question our own business practices.

  6. A business doesn’t operate in a vacuum, so it’s important to remember the society in which it does operate. In the USA, it might be possible to be ethical in certain businesses, but it would be difficult, and even more difficult depending on location. If you’re running the only yoga studio in town, then yeah, you could choose to do it in an ethical manner. If, however, you’re competing against a ton of other studios in NYC, you’re going to have to adopt a lot of the business practices of your competitors in order to compete with them. That most likely (in practice, definitely) means that you’re going to have to compromise your ethics.

    There is, however, a tremendous amount of literature, political, economic and philosophical, that will tell you that compromising your ethics is actually a very good thing indeed. It’s the same line of thinking that says sweatshops are good things, because at least the people there aren’t starving. Never is the question asked why do we set the bar so low, of course.

    tldr; No, in a capitalist system it’s nigh impossible to be ethical in business. Even Adam Smith knew that, if anyone bothers to read him anymore. That’s why there have to be very strong laws regulating corporate behavior, which we do not have in the USA.