What Zen Buddhism Has to Do with Marketing Your Business

October 2, 2022

By Chris Franks

This is the eighth post in a blog series about how to launch an eCommerce business years 1-3. You can view the previous week’s post, “Everything You Need to Know about Email Marketing (in 3 Steps)” here


There’s a term in Buddhism, “Shoshin,” or “beginner’s mind.” It means approaching a subject with openness and lack of judgment, like a beginner. Someone with a beginner’s mind will throw out everything they think they know about a subject and start from a clean slate, ready to learn.

This is the mindset you should be in when you enter the testing phase—an exciting and unforgiving stage in your startup journey where many battles are lost and many victories are won. In this stage, you’ll probably get the heady feeling of taking in more knowledge than you know what to do with.

Having a “beginner’s mind” can help make the testing phase much easier and save a lot of hurt feelings when things inevitably don’t go your way. At CleverFunnel, we think of this as “being humble in the face of data.”

Take me, my professional life has just been one long lesson in the importance of humility. Sure, I fought it at every turn, but over the years I’ve finally begun to accept that no matter how confident or bull-headed or uniquely intelligent any of us think we are, we’re going to be wrong a LOT.

If we don’t prepare for this moment, it might sting more than it should. Now, there’s a poisonous idea in the startup world that to be a great leader, you have to be an asshole visionary. A recent example of this is the mythical story of Steve Jobs. I’ll say it: The legend of Steve Jobs set the startup world back a decade.

There’s this idea that Apple’s founder possessed some magical sense of what was right and wrong. But when you look at the reality of it, Steve Jobs messed up more than most. Yes, he overcame failure after failure, but his ability to overcome has more to do with his exceptional resilience than it does a psychic ability to predict the future.

The notion of the asshole visionary is 100% false. Having a massive ego does not make you a great leader. You’ll save yourself and the people around you a lot of heartache if you practice humility and approach new subjects with a “beginner’s mind.”

The numbers don’t lie, even if at times we wish they would. But if your ultimate goal is building a great business—not nurturing your ego, or the illusion that you’re some infallible, one-in-a-million visionary—numbers will be your best friend.



Starting an eCommerce business is like building a rocket in your garage and expecting it to take you to the moon—it might not work, and even if it does, there’s a good chance you’ll get hurt along the way. 

The good news is you’re not the first person crazy enough to try this. There are many others (myself included) who have tried, failed, and tried again. By learning from our many (many) mistakes, you can launch an eCommerce business that makes it safely to orbit and beyond.

In this blog series, you’ll get a step-by-step guide to creating and launching your eCommerce business years 1–3. We go over how to create a functional brand, set up your website, and develop an advertising strategy that scales with you. We’ll go through the various pros and cons, so that you can feel empowered to make the best decisions for your business.

My name is Chris Franks, and I’m the founder and CEO of CleverFunnel, a digital marketing agency that focuses on using straightforward, data-driven strategies to drive real results for our clients.

I’m also an avid lover of indie music, fly fishing, baseball, and sunscreen (although that’s more of a genetic necessity). I wrote this with the hope that my story could help other young entrepreneurs achieve their goals, without losing their savings (or their sanity) in the process. If any bit of this helps you, it’ll have been worth it.