Geshe Michael Roach has helped to reach annual sales of US$200 million, as one of the founders of Andin International Diamond Corporation, which was recently purchased by Warren Buffett, America’s second wealthiest man.
Roach’s book, The Diamond Cutter (published in 2000), tells the story of how he has used the ancient wisdom of Buddhism (he was the first Western person to be awarded a doctorate from Sera Mey University of Tibet) to create wealth and growth within the diamond company. Over the years, the book has become an international best-seller and has been translated into 20 different languages. Today, over 3 million people around the world use the book as a guide to help them achieve success in the business world, as well as their personal lives. The Diamond Cutter highlights Roach’s corporate experience, as the primary negotiator for the company, in which he also hired, trained and motivated hundreds of employees.
He now travels around the globe to teach people how the secrets of The Diamond Cutter, such as “emptiness” and its hidden potential, can make any business or relationship reach the highest levels of success. He speaks to Vivienne Tang about the key principles of an entrepreneur and how the "Diamond Cutter" knowledge can transform every facet of your life.
What has been your biggest lesson?
Emptiness. Something happened to me in 1975. During meditation I got a direct insight into what emptiness is. You might understand something intellectually, but if you truly understand what emptiness is, you can do anything, you can change anything, you can learn any language, you can make a company successful… I had a very bad bone disease in my leg. I couldn’t walk, and now I do ballet.
What are your key tips for entrepreneurs?
Number one, help somebody else to start his company. Find a poor person and help them. I helped a Tibetan refugee to start his own company, and I spent all my money on that for 22 years. I support poor people to start their business. We believe in karma.
When you say help, do you mean time and money?
First you give them money, and then you give them your own time. If you help a smaller guy, your business will grow.
It’s noble to help other people, but that’s actually not why we do it. It’s actually the best business strategy. Even if you don’t care about religion or spirituality, if you want to be successful, then you still have to help other people. That’s the best strategy. I’m not teaching charity, I’m teaching how to be successful. So if you use this method you will be financially successful, and you will also be noble. [laughs]
Should one specifically invest in someone’s business or is it enough to be generous and give away money to beggars for example?
If I give $10 to someone because I feel sad for them, or they need help or my father told me to do this, we say that there won’t be much result. If you say, “I’m giving you $100. I want to help your business. You will be successful. And I will be successful too, it will come back to me”, then that’s a different approach. So you accept the principle that it’s ok for both people to benefit.
What do you recommend when people still have doubts and fears around their projects or businesses?
In Buddhism, we are not allowed to accept anything by faith. We have to examine, question and experiment. Buddha said, “Don’t believe me. If I make a suggestion to you, try it. If it works, great. But if it doesn’t work, scrap it.” Try… we say, “Give 10% of your profits every six months.” Whatever income you have, 10% out of that. You won’t lose anything by trying.
The only way to get rid of a doubt is to experiment. Or you learn more, education. There are two ways to perceive something. One is direct perception. You give, and money comes to you. Then you have faith, and you believe. The second one is deduction. You can say, “That guy, Geshe Michael, he didn’t go to business school. He didn’t know anything, yet he made a quarter billion dollar company… So maybe he knows. Maybe I’ll try it.” But we say the fastest way to fix doubt is to try. If you have a disaster, if you lose all your money… it’s very helpful. It pushes you to try new things. This economy is great, because people will try new things. When it gets better, people won’t be willing. [laughs]
What does success mean to you? Do you look at yourself as being very successful?
Inside I’m successful. We believe you have to start with “outside” success. You can’t lecture somebody, who doesn’t have food, about meditation. They have to eat, they have to have a house, they have to have clothing. So we start with money. Then they need a partner, they need a family. That’s quite a success. And then they need to be happy. You can have a family, a house, a car, and you can be unhappy. [laughs] We don’t say you should give up your car or family. We say you can have everything, a good job, a nice family and a nice house.