July 21, 2012

When a Prominent Yoga Studio Owner avoids Paying Her Bills.

Integrity in Mindful Business Community: Walking our Talk when the Going gets Tough.

(Walking our Talk) (Sucks, Sometimes). (But it’s far better than the alternative) (Not being able to fully respect he or she we see in the mirror)

A few years ago, I had a big happy (stressful, tiring) business called a magazine. Humans paid to read it, nationally, in Whole Foods and Pharmacas and Book Stores and such. Yadayada. Then, we jumped online. Which meant, suddenly, I’d killed millions of dollars of value. I had to let my staff go, and give up my office. I got rid of my car (I prefer biking anyways). My home went into foreclosure. It was like a cowboy song…you know, I lost just about everything.

And in our transition only a few businesses stuck with us. I didn’t blame our longtime partners for deserting us in our hour of need—after all, we had no readers, online, at first. They had no one to advertise to.

But I reallllly appreciated those few folks who, in return for an insanely wonderful deal, stuck with elephant, getting an ad for a year. It’s now been 3.5 years, online, and one of those heroic friends still hasn’t paid his bills. Instead, experiencing financial difficulty of their own, they’ve paid us $20/month, or something, for years. They owe us $140, now, and have declined to pay in full, though said teacher travels extensively and gives talks and interviews about yoga and the business of yoga. I get that he needs to promote himself, and his studio, in order to succeed. But…$140. It’s been years.

It pisses me off, to put it straightforwardly. It’s been a bit of a timesuck for my accountant and myself and one of our staff members.

It seems a bit out of the line of personal integrity, to put it more constructively.

In the months and first years after I killed our print magazine and took things online, I frequently had to click on an email, turning it from bold to normal font, or pick up a phone call from someone I owed money to. I did it every time. It was hard as f**k to pick up a phone and have nothing but my heart, and word, and character to offer. But in picking up the phone or answering that email—though I felt like avoiding such—I found that I liked my heart, that my word meant something, that I had character. That was a strangely somehow surprising and welcome discovery. “I’m not a douchebag! Whew.”

And that’s our yoga. Our path. Our meditation. Our prayer. Our seva. Our service. Our word: when the going gets tough, we cowboy up. Not out of machismo, not with false words, but with simple honesty.

I’m happy to be able to say that elephant and my word is gold. We’ve paid everyone back from our days as a magazine…(I’m still paying the IRS back, on monthly autopay, that is, for not having paid taxes on my nearly-foreclosed-now-barely-fine home/office for 1.5 years, but that’s none of your business, get outta here)…and in so doing I gained in self-respect. And that’s a gift I’d happily pay for.

Moral of the story: let’s answer that tough call. Open and respond to that tough email. Let’s settle our debts.

So let me repeat: other people are other people. They have their good, and bad situations. I can’t know why we’re not getting paid by my friend. But…we each are responsible for our own integrity.

Without it, what do we have left?



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