On Becoming A Zentrepreneur
An interview with Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold
By Jonathan Schumann and Courtney M. Skiles
In 1994, Ron Rubin purchased The Republic of Tea, a two-year old company founded by the same people who created Banana Republic. Shortly thereafter, marketing veteran Stuart Avery Gold joined Rubin in the progressive, socially-conscious company’s mission to create a Tea Revolution. In keeping with its whimsical identity as an independent nation, The Republic of Tea refers to its employees as Ministers, its customers Citizens, and its sales outlets Embassies.
Located in Novato, California, today The Republic of Tea is one of the most successful and fastest growing cachet brands in America. Ron Rubin, the “Minister of Tea” (Chairman of the Board), and Stuart Avery Gold, “The Minister of Travel” (the company’s COO), are also the authors of the popular Zentre-preneur Guides series of books. Combining ancient wisdom with contemporary insights and penetrating observations, Rubin and Gold’s approach to business and life inspires all to live a “love-what-you-do-and-do-what-you-love” life.
With four books in the series thus far — the latest release, “Tiger Heart, Tiger Mind: How to Empower Your Dream,” will be followed by “The Zentrepreneur’s Idea Log and Workbook” in October 2004. Featured in CNN, Newsweek, and other national media, Rubin and Gold’s experiences and philosophies have captured the imagination and loyalty of readers around the world fascinated by their ideals and insights on how to live a life of passion and purpose, motivating an ever-widening audience to catch and live their dreams.
This month, Awareness Magazine focuses on the singular approach Rubin and Gold bring to their daily work and how they are revolutionizing the concept of entrepreneurism for the 21st century by infusing it with their unique perspective.
Q. You describe your books as “Zentrepreneur’s Guides.” What is a Zentrepreneur? How does being a Zentrepreneur differ from being an entrepreneur?
A. While an entrepreneur creates a business, a Zentrepreneur creates a business and a life. In our first book, “Success at Life,” we address the demands placed on creating a business and go into great detail about the choice everyone has to make. Because the Zentrepreneur realizes that time is hard to find and is easy to lose, we discuss the importance of living a life of choice and not a life of chance. It is you who must be the relentless architect of your own unique possibilities.
A Zentrepreneur is someone who risks letting go of preconceived notions in order to deepen their knowledge of self — and beyond. Someone who endeavors to study and practice, to live a life where the creative spark, the inner illumination of spirit, talent and uniqueness, is put into motion, fostering growth that not only enriches one’s own life, but the lives of others as well. But more than that, a Zentrepreneur is someone who has made his or her own life noble and rich beyond counting by simply living a dream defined.
Q. What are the qualities that describe a Zentrepreneur?
A. While an entrepreneur pretends to know what’s next, a Zentrepreneur imagines what’s next and believes in it deeply. Believe. There is no bigger word. None.
A true Zentrepreneur believes in their right to live the life they imagine. They adhere to the mantra that the positive force of a pliant attitude is the most powerful source of energy available, allowing to adapt to circumstance and attend to things that can be controlled — your thoughts, your emotions, the self-directness that gives you the endurance to act, excel, and succeed. A really good idea demands it. It also demands that there be a led-and-fed readiness to overcome uncertainty.
Use your mind, do not let your mind use you. Feed your mind, support your spirit continually with positive thoughts. There’s no way of stating it any more clearly, but this might come close — you have to think you can. Through passion, purpose and perseverance you can and will live your dream.
If you want to read one of the greatest self-help, inspirational, motivational books ever, pick up “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper. Written in 1937, the story of The Little Blue Engine overcoming insurmountable odds to deliver the toys over the mountain with the resolute mantra, “I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I think I can.” “The Little Engine That Could” is without doubt, the ultimate secret-to-success business book. Keep it close and revisit its pages often.
Q. As Zentrepreneurs, how do you get people to experience The Republic of Tea?
A. More than anything else we are in the experience business. While marketing IPods may be more attention getting, we are marketing an experience that is 5,000 years old. The dictionary defines the word “experience” as an encountering, a happening, an involvement with something. It is our job to educate and inform the consumer to the rich history of tea, the fact that it was the first currency, that it was the drink that contributed to civility and social graces, that it was of course the tipping point of the revolution that started our great country.
And now with the constant and consistent release of research and scientific studies from around the world touting the enormous health benefits of tea, our job is to get men, women and children everywhere to go beyond our award-winning packaging and into the experience itself.
What we at The Republic of Tea call the sip-by-sip life, where one makes the time to slow down and appreciate the wonder and beauty that life has to offer. If a simple, healthy cup of tea can help people do just that, to quiet themselves long enough to experience the world and their place in it, then we are well on our way to making a difference in the life of our business and in the lives of our customers.
While many businesses make the mistake of selling a product, we are in the business of selling an experience. People don’t want to be part of a product, they want to be part of an experience. That is what we are all here for, you, me, we, to be part of an experience. In the end that is what the journey of life is all about, the experience.
Q. You employed a Feng Shui master to design your offices. How did using Feng Shui affect your staff and productivity?
A. Architects and interior designers are employing the Feng Shui principles of proper circulation of energy to everything, from the colors of walls and flooring to the use of metals, woods and plantings, in order to improve productivity, creativity and interpersonal relations. To put a fine point on it, Donald Trump’s newest skyscraper is built based on Feng Shui principles.
To put a finer point on it still, we of The Republic of Tea have taken great care to create our fifty-thousand square feet of offices and facilities with the belief that by applying Feng Shui, we have created an interactive synergy that will take care of us.
By harnessing supportive Chi through design, placement, water elements and color, we believe that Feng Shui creates an ideal, harmonious and balanced environment in which to work, improving the lives of our associates and therefore maximizing the potential for a more joyful and successful business. Not knowing if all of our employees understand the nuances of Feng Shui, we can say that everyone seems to enjoy the energy of the space.
Q. You have very specific encouragement for your readers about fighting what you call “dreamkillers.”
A. Yes, we say keep your focus on the goals and dreams that the real you wishes to achieve. Shun the traps and trips that others — the dreamkillers and career cripplers would lay on you. Listen to your heart and believe in your ability to create a happy, meaningful life regardless of outside factors or pressures imposed upon you by the needs and wishes of others. The only limitations you will face in life are the ones you place on yourself. When it comes to living your dream, whether you think you will or you won’t — you’re right.
As an important exercise put your goals in writing, this is the step that will make them real. When you write down your goals you are no longer thinking about your dream, you are doing something about it. You are taking a positive action by creating a graphic signpost that will act as a forceful, motivating visual to help you travel the path to success.
Positive self-esteem is the foundation for success. And as a successful person it is your personal responsibility to reaffirm your commitment to your commitment. Secure a supreme confidence in yourself and in your abil-ities to achieve what you want to accomplish. With a passionate determination to succeed you will not be defeated. Life will change. You will fulfill the vision of your new self.
Also, find a mentor or a goal model. Don’t confuse the term goal model with role model. A goal model is someone who is doing or has done what you want to do. Mentors demonstrate how much is possible. Whatever it is you want to be or do, there is already someone being it or doing it. Think about those high-performance people whose careers and lives you admire, in whose footsteps you would like to follow. Think about what they can add to your reality by telling you how to get started and what to expect along the way.
The experience and intellectual engagement of mentors can guide you to new ideas and perspectives. Their life lessons can challenge you to move beyond your perceived limits, suggesting more effective and focused actions. Through a mentor you will immediately begin to value more of who you are and what you want.
Q. You define the ABC’s of Personal Responsibility as Action, Belief, and Clarity. How do these ABC’s help people achieve the Zentrepreneurial spirit of success?
A is for Action. Create a sense of urgency so your mind will organize a plan of action to move you toward your goals and dreams . . . Your future is not determined by luck, it’s determined by the actions you take each and every day. Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. You must take action.
B is for Belief. Believe in who you are and what you are capable of. Build a solid personal foundation and demonstrate a strong confidence in your strengths, skills and talents . . . By believing in yourself you will endure the challenges. Believe you can and you will live your dream. Believe it.
C is for Clarity. Know your goals and dreams clearly, and focus on what needs to be done. Gain clarity on what is truly important to you, so you can create a clear and compelling vision of what you want most from life and how best to achieve it . . . Stay focused on what you want and remove yourself from those people, things or situations that confine or drain you.
Q. How can you stay motivated when if feels like nothing’s working out?
A. Unless you are prepared to overcome the inertia of complacency and its mesmerizing effects of c’est la vie, you will attain little, languishing in the realm of what is easily available rather than achieving the greatness that awaits.
Recognize that each moment need not be a repeat of the past, but instead can be and is a moment of a new beginning. A moment of serendipitous opportunity to empower yourself with the positive force of clear, life-affirming thoughts. If what you are doing is not creating the change that you wish to see, then change what you’re doing. Do not live your life the way you have been living it if you want new results.
Your internal dialogue is the downloaded software that has more to do with you catching and living your dream than any other determinant. Your thoughts create the entire direction of your life. You must take care to transform your negative thoughts into supportive self-speak, by catching it, identifying it, challenging it, and changing it.
The poets tell us that we always have a choice, and that we alone are responsible for what is chosen. The wise Zentrepreneur knows that energy goes wherever it is focused, and the more energy that is focused on what is important, the better the choices we will make. Which brings us now to the most important choice of all, the magnificent decision to journey forward. A word about what to bring along with you — Heart and Mind.
Q. How do you get over your fear of going out on your own?
A. The enemy of fear will always be your courage to conquer it. It’s as simple and as complex as that. Complex, indeed, because in order to discuss fear rationally you have to start with knowing that fear is not a rational thing. Fear is perception, a vapor, a sulfurous illusion, and pondering of possible ‘what ifs’ our mind creates to silence the voice of the heart.
In our book “Tiger Heart, Tiger Mind,” we advise readers to literally break down the word F-E-A-R as an effective strategy for conquering that which is so prevalent among those seeking change. Face your fear. Take a moment to recognize the fear for what it is. Engage your fear. Use your fear instead of allowing it to use you. Assess your fear. A not-so-terrible task when you come to accept that fear is ultimately rooted in perception, not in reality. Reject your fear.
Arm yourself with attitude, knowing that you have the inborn power to create your own reality. Do not let fear be your undoing. When the flames start to flicker and the wolves begin to howl, know that you are in control of your life. Aspire with passion, perseverance, intensity, and, above all else, courage. Courage is the difference between a strong will and a strong won’t. Courage is not the absence of fear — it is acting in spite of fear.
Q. What practical advice do you have for our readers who want to start a business or have a business but don’t have the capital to market it?
A. The invisible influence of word of mouth is one of the most powerful and effective, low-cost marketing strategies that can deliver you and your business to the attention of your target audience more consistently than any advertising campaign can ever promise to do, no matter how many dollars are spent.
In order to seed and build buzz, it’s essential to begin with a product or service well worth talking about. One that engages and excites the users so that they themselves become the sales force moving others to jump on the bandwagon. To generate successful buzz, what you have to hold out and offer up must have the absolute, all-important power to cure disease — the disease of familiarity. Familiarity will not create buzz. Familiarity only cripples growth. And it can kill a business. Business that is not intrinsically innovative or special is just busy-ness. It is the vocation of those who love to wave their arms and pretend — “Look Ma, I’m in business.”
Understand: Buzz is all powerful because it is the language of the customer, not the seller. For many, buzz is the truth.
But it is up to you to make it happen. It is you who must be the relentless architect who supplies the building blocks of buzz that your business will have to stand on. It is you who will be responsible for making sure it will not crumble the moment the weight of reality is applied. Building a successful buzz campaign hinges on walking the talk and seeking the right carriers for your message. Target in on exactly who your potential customers are. A Zentrepreneur knows that you need not look too far. An ancient Zen sutra admonishes, “Clouds are in the sky. Water is in the well.” That much is still true.
Q. Zentrepreneurs realize that success at business and enjoying life are not mutually exclusive. Is this only true of business owners and employers, or can employees be Zentrepreneurs too?
A. Anyone can be a Zentre-preneur. Whether you are anchored to a cubicle or out on the street as an employee of Amalgamated Gigantic, promote yourself to the position of CEO of YOU, Inc, currently on loan to create an excitement, an exuberance for whatever it is that you bring — an idea, a project, a plan, a product, a service.
Stand up! Stand out! Stand ready to make a difference by making a difference. Dent the universe. Thrill, surprise, amaze anew. Make it your mantra to move another human being. Be a performance artist. Make each effort a masterpiece. Be responsible for defining who you are and what you do by always being your best. That is what a Zentrepreneur is . . . the best. That is what you are.
The books in the Zentrepreneur Guides series by Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold, “Success At Life: How to Catch and Live Your Dream;” “Dragon Spirit: How to Self-Market Your Dream;” and “Tiger Heart, Tiger Mind: How to Empower Your Dream,” are published by Newmarket Press and available wherever books are sold. Please call (800) 669-3903 or go to our website www.newmarketpress.com Also available is the inspirational quote book “Wow-isms: Words of Wisdom for Dreamers and Doers,” and “The Zentrepreneur’s Idea Log and Workbook” will be published in October 2004. You may visit www.zentrepreneurs.com for more information.
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