How to keep it real and still be profitable
When I started in this field, I was a victim of this field.
So I set out to change that.
This post is primarily for those interested in inner workings of health as a field of commerce. These are the insights from years of trying to steer this boat toward more honest waters – sometimes losing myself in the process and then finding again, often losing even my health and then coming back a step wiser. You’re encouraged you to read, if you want to know how things like power, money and marketing work behind the scenes – although additionally you might find some formidable insights to your personal health as well, all the way up to the meaning of life (the version that every and any religion or belief system can totally relate to) – and how all that ties back to these Four Sigma fellows, rap music, freedom from the passage of time; not fearing even death. Big topics, so let’s get going, in case you’re curious.
The usual health business model was to increase people’s dependence on my service. Make them feel they need me; the more the better. That path is so prevalent – in heavily regulated fields like health, wellness and food production – that most of the players, let alone customers, can hardly fathom alternatives. That you could make money by actually setting people free? Where’s the profit if you let them go, let them off the hook? What kind of a farmer lets his cattle roam around wildly?
There can’t possibly be much profit in inspiring people to thrive independently, even without me? If I make things actually work, who’s going to pay me to repair them the next time? You could never earn a living empowering those customers, let alone causing the whole culture to do better, regardless of your continued service? Let’s be careful not to make it too easy for them… because once they’re doing well enough, it’s goodbye to me and my offerings. If the world gets healthy, you don’t want to be one of the starving doctors… so let’s keep the world “pursuing health” rather than embodying it.
The reason I’m honoured to write for Four Sigma, is that they’re doing exactly that new mysterious thing; pioneering ways to make money, and feel good about it too. Sleep well both because your bed is nice, but also because you did good things during the day. These guys are showing the world how shady cronyism is no longer the only game in town… That for us firemen there are other options to survive, than to start fires, or enact laws to make buildings ever more fire-prone… That a part of the fireman’s profitable work can be to actually solve the root problem for good, and thus make our “corrective services” happily irrelevant for future generations. How could one have a future while making your own services irrelevant?? You’ll understand that very well after studying this text for a while.
Let’s face it: when we sell health, we often in fact keep offering the same old complicated corrections to “un-health”. We say we’re dealing with health, but in truth, we end up spending our valuable (working) years toiling with the opposite of health! Where’s the fun in that? We need customers to keep having their problems, so we can keep offering solutions (the kind that really only work to make people’s lives even messier). Circle of neediness: we need our customers to keep needing us. How do you break a negative habit? How can you transcend any and all neediness, toward something completely better – and what might that higher form of reality look like?
There is a new way already, all around us, ever more visible: to be engaged in actual health, and share that with the world. No need for problems – we can finally feel safe to solve them and move on to ever more captivating activities. Sure, solving an important problem is sexy – but replaying the same song year after year is anything but. Then why the heck do we fight and toil to protect our fatally meaningless cages called steady jobs – when by creating actual value we could keep moving toward ever greener grasses and novel fields to explore – with ever cooler friends on our side?
The big question is: Can we, as an industry, rise above our problem-dependence?
Let’s see… Are there examples of other industries making money without needing customers to have problems for us to solve, in order to keep ourselves employed safely? Are there ways to stay relevant and important, even if not one person in the world actually needs you? Of course there are, countless examples: music, entertainment, extreme sports, arts, shiny superstars; all things enjoyable in themselves. No need for problems there, no need for neediness.
Isn’t health supposed to feel more like music or dance, and less like some sterile “health” department?
Usually “health”, as an entreprise and topic of conversation, is concerned with levels below zero; levels below “ok”. Shouldn’t we rather be pursuing the shiniest levels of human experience! Not stay stuck in “solving” the same lame problems over and over till we’re literally bored to death? I’d rather go surfing than deal with health problems :) And it’s about time for this whole industry to take that exact same direction. We’re not here to merely deal with petty nuisances and let the years disappear from the calendar pages – but to seek the highest expressions of flourishing thrival. And there is money in that. Isn’t that what real business is all about: making things work on their own without my presence – so I can free up my valuable time and experience to ever higher forms of activity or communication, and not stay put in some repetitive task… so really it’s just about shifting from worker mindset to entrepreneurial mindset. Once you make that shift, you won’t look at your career in health as self-employment, but opportunity to literally live like a child every day, because you get to do cooler and cooler things. It’s like playing an instrument: as you master the basic moves, you can move on to more difficult songs or more interesting techniques, on top of the old ones. Perhaps play in front of bigger audiences…
Who would seek to play the same song for 40 years, in the same office room? Well, that’s EXACTLY how most people in the field of health see their careers! They ask the government to protect their steady jobs, so they can keep “practising” that menially easy piece they lost interest in years ago. Sure, playing a basic piece 8 hours a day is hard – because not one human being can really take that amount of boredom without getting sick. And that’s exactly why you find some of the most unhealthy people in the field that was supposed to attract the most health-oriented ones.
Here are the comedically common ways to dis-empower customers and make them need more of my static offerings. Once you recognise these, you’re no longer easily fooled by me or any other marketer, nor official authority – and you’ll pretty much puke on yourself if you catch yourself even contemplating to utilize any of these (assuming there’s a soul in your chest and breath in your lungs). Here’s how to be a lazy, security-seeking-no-matter-who-gets-hurt asshole of a person:
1. Make it complicated – so people feel they need to buy many products, and that they can’t be healthy without solving all these mounting hardships one by one (perhaps with my “generous” help..).
2. Make it difficult – so they need to keep reading my blog or paying for your explanations. I’ve done this, and almost lost my soul in the process.
3. Make it appear dangerous: when people are afraid, they make bad decisions, making it easier for us to profit off their emotional state. This is what the the big pharma does, with their well-paid friends (that is, the health authorities). They’re essentially saying: “you need to let us handle your health, because you’re not qualified for such a dangerous task..”.
4. Make it serious: no laughter allowed, means more respect for authority, whether deserved or not. Status or fancy attire is usually enough, long as we can keep the mood sufficiently serious.
5. Oh, and never support your competitors, for god’s sake! It’s a small cake, after all; there’s only so much to go around. The fewer the companies offering similar services, the nicer the slice that naturally falls on me and my business.
It’s been long and difficult (but to some extent fun, and extremely revealing) six to seven years trying to turn things around. In more of a free market situation, you’d simply help the (new) industry stand on their feet, and move on. Now it’s not been enough to help my friends be profitable and successful, but also at the same time make sure to perpetuate a culture where legally protected profit is not enough; where you’re encouraged and socially & spiritually rewarded for actually empowering others, for walking the extra mile for them (not just walking to the bank); where people seek to grow together as whole human beings (including emotions and even blind spots), not just to seek artificial safety in their legally protected corporate cocoons. Like Tacitus said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous its laws” – and my country has lots of laws. :) Doing business in that kind of an environment tends to force people to please the myriads of laws, politicians and officials over the small person called customer and her happiness – alas, the ones who learn to utilize the tens of thousands of (often silly) laws better, tend to win over the truly good guys & genuine innovators.
Human connection is the ultimate medicine; being close leads to being real. Warmth and vulnerability go hand in hand. When your competitors (and customers) are your dear friends, you’re more eager to do things that honor this whole field, and sell products you’re happy to literally bring to the table.
It’s been such a challenge, to try to get people to see these new opportunities to make money being real, being human, being joyous, being authentic. That business could be a way to become even more human not less; that success could support your learning and not just make you busy; that you could experience more flow and less stress when you do things the right, but most uncommon way. The most important ingredient has been to get the coolest and most talented people to participate, to have them see the big picture and realize the opportunity to actually do things we can stand behind and be proud of – not just among crony colleagues, but with anyone eating the same Nori Rolls made by Toma the Man for the night at the office. Once you have enough genuinely growth-oriented doers talking the talk and walking the walk (and sharing the superfood chocolate), you’ve set a standard for others to follow, even surpass – and then that higher standard puts the old-worldish, less honest business models to shame, once the novel way has grown to the tipping-point level of visibility & diversity of application. The genuine way becomes the new way of working in this field, especially for the talented and more ambitious ones. More and more people go like “I wanna do something cool too, I also want to participate in this revolution of joy and authenticity, now that it’s clearly possible, **** all these lame-*** jobs and ***** employers, we can do so much better, plus I wanna hang with the people I love and thoroughly appreciate – especially during the workday…”.
Month by month it becomes more and more common among colleagues to understand these important distinctions; almost habitual have life-changing conversations about not just profit, but also the kind of contribution we’re glad to tell our kids about. That it’s possible to do things so pure and real that people want to sleep with you just for hearing your story and your high standards for what you do with your time. That you’re happy to talk about the whats and the whys, because you’re doing the things you currently most care about in your ever-curious heart, and not much else.
We’re not just colleagues; we’re spiritual growth partners, dance floor ninjas, culinary enthusiasts serving green juice along with life wisdom; jokes with heartaches; expertise among adventures. There’s no substitute for genuine friendship and all those conversational nights in transformational atmospheres, sharing the most wonderful foods and feelings, thoughts and deeper meanings… Moods and experiences, coupled with meaning-seeking communion, aided by mind-opening nutrition, correctly lit ambience, perhaps some music… Physical gathering of quality-minded (food) enthusiasts is the ultimate preventative spiritual health tonic.
HOW THE FSF DOES WHAT THEY DO – compare this to the previous listing:
1. They seek to simplify health – or, tell it as it is. Health is actually simple. We made it quite well even before all this health information. Heck, the animals in wild still do. You don’t need us to feel awesome; you already are – but we’re glad to serve, in case you’re equally excited to work with us :) The core message remains: “you don’t need us – and hey, here’s how to do even better, even if you choose not to try any of our products or services; that’s ok too, we’re glad to help anyway”.
How can we make money then? Well, I as a customer don’t really need a Snoop Dogg record, nor Ice Cube concert ticket. What makes me buy it? Nothing. Nothing makes me buy it. I do it freely, out of my own desire. I actually like the guy and his music; no shady politics needed for money to move between us.
There’s a difference in serving people in need, vs. working on delighting the already delightful ones. Guess which customers tend to pay more? Premium people pay premium money. Your best customers are the ones who are already doing well – which means they appreciate your equally high-vibrating services. The best way to help the poor is to show them how cool it is to be rich: that’s called uplifting others.
The old-worldish health companies used to sell “fixes” for needy people. FSF, among other pioneers, sells health for healthy people; that’s the difference. Uplift, and connect with, the uplifters. “From light to light”, as a local coach-friend would say. No need for darkness in this equation; “let the dead bury the dead”, advices another spiritual figurehead. In this new era it’s all about shining together, and uplifting each other to shine even brighter. That’s my definition of health – and also what the world needs. I don’t always shine; can’t even see the light at times – so that’s why those radiant friends. A very competitive strategy for the future, is to be that for your partners, prospects, customers, and perhaps finally to society at large – a radiant friend.
2. These guys seek to keep it easy – both for you and themselves. They’re not seeking to merely protect their jobs – nor even their position or status. Why? Because of the excitement in planning the next level of their actual vision, which is much much bigger, and frankly, more fun than staying still on repeat mode, till the years roll by.. Fun and Expansive are pretty much synonyms. As a friend who enjoys his every single work day says: “You take a genuinely good thing, and you push it forward all the way with all your might – and then you do something even cooler”. No need to complicate things just to secure my own future busy-ness :) I’d rather be free than busy – free to win even bigger than before.
3. They call it as they see it. Spend enough time on this field, and you find that health is not as dangerous as it is manufactured to appear. You can do it. Go ahead and be your own guru. These FSF guys are always pointing towards safe, sound solutions that you can apply in your own home, work or travel, free of charge; zero risk, do try this at home. You can see it even in their videos: wellbeing is something you can do without special degree in laboratory safety instructions; you can do health in your underwear, up the mountain, at the asian market. The dirty little secret is that health has much more to do with joie d’ vivre than magic pills and potions, and these guys are not afraid to say it – even when it means you’re not going to need that many of their mushrooms. I call that intelligence: the real value is in the relationship anyway, and trust is how you get to provide, create and achieve even cooler things in the near future. Frankly, I no longer seek to sell anything to anyone who needs anything from me. I don’t need needy people in my life :) Neediness, whether mine or customer’s, represents the old paradigm. Happy people prefer to do business with equally voluntary associates; cool companies attract cool customers.. Constructive relationships happen between free people who don’t need each other, as they’re both here to enjoy their thing anyway; already loving this experience and eager for the next.
We as society used to believe that nothing works nor gets done unless forced to. Some parents still can’t imagine any alternatives. Well, nowadays you can see how much of the most profitable business is not done serving needs (“musts”), but in serving much much higher aspirations, such as joy, beauty and winning. Must is a strong motivator for sure, but voluntary flow is even better – that is, doing because I want, like and perhaps even desire – even when my needs are already met more than adequately. I didn’t really have to write this, but it seemed like a very intriguing process I could participate today, even if I could have enjoyed quality conversations elsewhere, for example with the most genius business person I currently know personally. Health is also like that. Health might work okay even when forced to, but works way better when it’s about muuuuch more than merely getting along. Set your sights light years above basic safety, and you finally get happy parenting, inspiring relationships, meaningful moments, wonderful days – and radiant health.
The dirty little secret of “health” is that even some of the most reckless x-games are probably safer, than monotonous existence devoid of Flow. It’s safer to go out and play, than stay “safe”. That’s the feeling you get just watching these guys – and it’s all intentional. They actually care. In fact, they understand their own principles so deeply, that you can see it in the way they conduct their business: joy of growth, thrill to overcome meaningful challenges; team spirit for doing the right thing… over artificial safety (which is probably the opposite of vibrant health, where you could feel the life force flowing; almost touch the magic around you in this intensive, purpose-driven moment of inner peace and deeper strength..).
4. Not one of these guys tries to appear authority. They do know (or at least have easy access to) all the tricks in the book. And yet they haven’t decided to utilize (m)any of them. They appear just like you and me. They seek to connect through joy and laughter. If you respect them, it’s because of the kick-ass results you created following their (mostly) free advice – and you can still laugh AT them if you like. In fact, they’re happy to entertain.
5. Competition is welcome – when the game is transforming culture, amplifying positive chain reactions of enlightenment, doing cool things (to cool people) and creating ridiculous social capital – while setting living examples for a growing number of others to follow – as well as stealing the coolest innovations from others with similarly positive intentions, and giving credit where it’s due. These guys realize, that awesome relationships can give you more than protected work status with steady income or static position. They aim much much higher. Do cool things; enjoy the shared process of being able to participate even cooler endeavours in the future; make dreams come true, and then have a good time dreaming up even cooler ones, with those dream-executing friend. Like a millionaire with massive acres of self-sufficient organic farm land says: “Make money, do good, have fun – and always seek combine all three.”
Snoop Dogg openly endorses Dj. Skee and Pharrell Williams – and then perhaps creates the next uplifting piece of culture with them. Of course every single industry needs to work exactly like that – if they want to experience both fun and profit (and future) in today’s attention economy. You’re welcome to party with your competitors, when it’s clear you’re both making this world a better place for all, and you’re both making this whole industry an extremely attractive place for even more talented “competitors” (that is, friends) and happy customers. Holistic success is achieved by playing more of those plus-sum games; the ones that only get better the more participants you have in the same market of joy, friendship, wisdom, skill, legacy to live for; good times to remember.
I love these guys. So much that I’m personally no longer needed in this industry, and finally free to grab some this growth experience, network value and trust capital, to move on with even more novel developments that have captured my interest lately – where I can look for even larger levers to pull; opportunities to scale up this same contribution of freedom, empowerment and enabling of all things beautiful.
The most challenging component in this work was always to affect the creation of self-perpetuating culture of courage, community, honesty, openness and actual caring – while being profitable and enjoying all the fun that life has to offer, including one’s own pursuit for the most magical levels of wellbeing, freedom, happiness, wealth (in the holistic sense of the word). These FSF guys, along with some close friends of theirs, came in and cracked the code. Now it just keeps getting better – even if these particular entrepreneurs suddenly moved on with their careers. Sufficient number of other professionals are already living examples of the, shall we say, four sigma way – where you keep cultivating your conviction to actually serve, delight and empower the customer – perhaps even inspire competitors to up their game as well… or rather you’ll just go skiing or surfing for the while, than resort to some drowsy “me too” -busy-ness. These guys did it, and now everyone wants to be like them. They, among with many others, are making it increasingly cool to be true; sexy to be real.
The whole health-ecosystem, especially the most meaningfully visible part of it, is already transformed from low or no to high energy, from meaningless dullness (and then watching TV) to pursuing exciting breakthroughs, from legality to quality, and from “safe” contracts to actual appreciation – at least in Finland, that is. Come check us out :) Such powerful people, spreading such inspiring information, giving astoundingly incorruptible advice, always learning, openly maintaining that sense of wonder and curiosity…. everything I dreamed of, and then some. It’s quite emotional, actually, to both see some wildest dreams actualizing in front of you – and at the same time realize you won’t be missed, because there’s more than enough meaningful breakthroughs to pursue for everyone, and much better people (than me) navigating now, executing ridiculously well together. It’s like sadness for sort of losing (your unique significance in eyes of) some of your best friends, coupled with that magical wonder of manifesting miracles in physical reality. Let’s keep making some. Even if the laws of physics say the only way to earn more power is for others to have less and need you more… well, we were never bound by those laws in the first place. We can, directly and indirectly, profit from our ever-expanding impact and shared liberation.
The old way was to make customers dependent on me, and keep them that way – and keep me dependent on their dependentness :)
The new way is how Snoop does it for real:
Our guest blogger Olli was a promising rational thinker and tennis player from Eastern Finland, until one of the worst degenerative diseases of our time forced him to look for new – as well as very old – solutions, outside the narrow box of western medical thinking. Every answer led to even more intriguing questions such as “then why are we being lied to about the true causes of health?” and even “how does society actually work then?” all the way to “what is this reality, what is this world?” Now he has some pretty appealing answers to deliver – the kinds of answers you’re not allowed to know, let alone talk about. Olli has a passion for “liberation through empowerment” (as opposed to controlling subjugation), which he delivers though personal coaching, blogging, and public speaking. He’s all about making life tasty, luscious and gracefully elegant.