Monday, March 3, 2014

Dalai Lama Advises Business Leaders on Compassion

The Dalai Lama proffered a simple message for the hard-driving innovators, disrupters and profit-drunk business titans of Silicon Valley on Monday during an appearance at Santa Clara University: "If you forget about others' happiness, you will suffer more."

Speaking on the topic of "Incorporating Ethics and Compassion into Business Life" - a feat that perhaps only the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel laureate could unite in a sentence without inspiring an eye roll - His Holiness urged the 4,000 who filled the university's Leavey Center to focus on helping others instead of being "self-centered."

His stop in the valley - his last on a three-day visit to the Bay Area that has included appearances in San Francisco, Berkeley and Richmond - comes at a time when concerns about the region's wealth disparity and the displacement of longtime residents have become national news.

But the Dalai Lama, speaking barely above a whisper and often through a translator, did not rail on the evils of capitalism. Though some in the crowd said he was inaudible at times, they were charmed by his engaging laugh and wry sense of humor. He even laughed heartily - after a translation - at a fellow panelist's joke about a prostate exam.

However, he demurred several times when facing business-related questions. Instead, he appealed to the better nature of all, whether rich or poor.

'Social animals'

"Basic human nature is more generous," he said softly. "We are all equipped with affection. We are all social animals."

Every human being, he said, has "the seed of compassion." He called for eliciting that compassion by formally including the teaching of "warm-heartedness" in the school system instead of just leaving it for people to figure out on their own.

Starting in "kindergarten, we must include teaching of compassion, the teaching of warm-heartedness," he said. "It is not just for a spiritual education."

Moderator James Doty, the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University, said that while valley businesses may be creating much new wealth, it is coming at a cost. Doty said the fallout of job-related stress and depression costs tens of billions of dollars annually.

While many companies may think they're helping employees by giving them free meals and exercise facilities at the workplace, they're instead tethering workers to their jobs for unhealthy amounts of time, Doty said.

Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean, who shared the stage with the men, said it's important to understand an employer's intentions when it comes to workplace amenities.

"If the intention is that people never leave work," that's not healthy, Dean said. "Whether you are giving me a free dinner or not, you are helping me to increase stress."

Simple approach

The Dalai Lama offered a more simple approach.

"Compassion brings mental peace, mental comfort," he said. While business may bring "physical comfort ... we need both."

His Holiness made a reference to the power of a smile. He recalled the time when he was seeing a doctor and the physician's smile "made the medicine work better," he said. But, he allowed, there are other kinds of smiles, like "sarcastic smiles."

Dean said one time you might not want to see a smile on the face of a health care provider is after they put on a rubber glove for a prostate exam. The audience tittered - and they laughed even harder when the spiritual leader bent forward chuckling after the story was translated.

"That," he told Dean, "was an excellent example" of a smile you don't want to see.

After hearing the hour-and-45-minute program, Alexis Cantos, a 32-year-old who does marketing for startups, said that while the Dalai Lama "didn't tell us anything all of us don't already know, hearing him say it - and who he is - makes it so much more profound.

"It kind of jolts you back into the things that are important," said Cantos, who lives in San Francisco. "And living in Silicon Valley, you sometimes get wrapped up in all kinds of other stuff. It's important to hear that again."

Joe Garofoli is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @joegarofoli  original link:

Paid Blog Tours are a Waste of Time & Money

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2014

I've done two virtual blog tours. Both were for different contemporary fiction titles. Tours lasted for 14 days and they were with two different blog tour companies.

The second blog tour company has been around longer than the first, but longevity doesn’t mean scrupulousness. For my second tour, my optimism was shattered after receiving the interview questions. On five out of seven questionnaires, I was asked what inspired me to write my book?

Guess the blog owners didn't tax themselves when it came to thinking up questions. Copying the questionnaires in a Word document, I read the rest of the prosaic queries. Then it struck me: not one single question pertained to my book. They'd all gotten free copies of it, had seen the cover, had received the blurb, and had ample time to read or at least skim it. Yet there was absolutely no level of interest in a novel that took me years to write and rewrite and have edited. I also checked out the various bloggers' sites and noticed that most of them had a boilerplate template where they asked the same questions repeatedly and only the answers differed.

While I was aware that many of the bloggers preferred romance/YA novels and its subgenres, I also knew that a contemporary novel wasn’t that far of a stretch for blog owners to promote. As the second tour company allegedly had an extensive list of bloggers I thought that they would be able to effectively match up my book to blogs that were also contemporary fiction-friendly.

Yeah, right.

Another problem was the size of the blogs: some had as few as 20 followers while others had more than 2000. But how accurate was that? I'd once sent a nonfiction book to a blogger to review who had 500 followers. Sales of my book increased and there were also several comments on the book review and giveaway. But that never happened to me on either novel tour. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t giving enough of an incentive [bribe] for readers other than free PDF copies of my novels. No Amazon or B&N gift cards, no free Kindles or Nooks, nothing of any "value" other than my eBooks.

I was told to provide three excerpts and some of the interviewers asked for other excerpts making the total seven plus one blog topic of my own choosing. As the second tour progressed, I began seeing the excerpts repeating themselves. In some cases, bloggers were adding two excerpts instead of just one.
Blog tours are coordinated several weeks in advance, yet more than once during the first tour, I had to contact the blog tour owner and ask why my scheduled interview/excerpt/review hadn't been posted.

Instead of opting for a review-only tour, I went for tours that featured interviews, excerpts, and reviews. The first time I garnered four reviews, but in my second foray in virtual booktourland I received one generic review.

I'll admit it: twice I made time-killing mistakes. I spent a few hours answering the questions. I wanted to be sure they weren't repetitive, which is tricky when faced with many similar questions. I opted for lighthearted answers to keep the content enjoyable for the reader. As a "veteran" of one blog tour with little upsurge in eBook sales, I wasn’t expecting anything different the second time around. As the tour limped on, I knew I was right but not in a good way.

I was paying to give any available blogger the tour company lined up free material. My writing was helping promote their blog. It was getting them page views, ad revenue and touted their own books and/or products. They got fresh content that only required them to format each post. Aside from the money and time spent on the blog tours, the sheer lack of interest became apparent -- a blogger/reviewer often won't bother to read your book. There are reviewers who'll read an entire book and write a lucid review—but I have no idea what percentage that covers—it's just the luck of the draw. Weeks after the second tour was over, I happened to look up my book to see how it was doing on Google. Randomly clicking a link to a blog where I'd contributed an excerpt, I saw the page was now blank -- the blog owner had removed the post.

And that summarizes how I feel about doing a third paid virtual book tour…it's not an option I would consider again.