Saturday, June 29, 2013

(Updated) Free copy of Zen Entrepreneurship for Recent and UPCOMING College Grads!

I recently attended a college graduation ceremony here in Silicon Valley (like most things in my life, I wasn’t actually planning to attend this particular ceremeony, I just went to campus for a walk at sunset and found myself in the middle of a graduation ceremony!).
It made me think about the number of young people who have told me that my book, Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior has had an impact on them and how they view the world.  I think this new generation is much more attuned to ideas of integrity, holistic values, and finding and doing meaningful work in the world than we were at that age. I also think they integrate what we think of as traditional Eastern and Western philosophies into their lives naturally, without having to rebel (as the baby boomers did) or look at it just as a matter of getting ahead in life (as subsequent generations did), and aren’t caught up in the wave of terrorism and war and religious strife that was present in the last decade.
 While the book is great for people of all ages who are looking at making a change in their careers or bring more spirituality in their work, I think the story particularly calls to young folks who are just starting out and looking to find their path in life.  Moreover, the story in the book took place when I was 23 and had just graduated from college and was trying to start my very first business, so I think people in that age can relate much more easily.
So, if you just graduated recently (I’ll leave the definition of recently up to you, but the last few years is OK), or you’re about to graduate in the next year (or like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, you dropped out and have no plans to graduate!), or you’re generally of that age and are interested in “thinking different”, I’d like to offer you a free copy of Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior.  I remember how tight money was in those days (of if you'd like to send the book as a gift to someone of that age and money is tight!).
Just email me at and include the following information:
  • Name of person receiving the book
  • College name/graduation date/Field of study (or other circumstances if you or the recipient didn't or are not attending college)
  • A few sentences on how you heard about the book and why you think you’d like to read it
  • Address for the book to be shipped to. [For international, be sure to indicate address1, address2, city, state, postal code, and phone number which amazon requires for international shiopments].

And that’s it!   I’ll send you a confirmation email once I have the book sent out to you!

[UPDATE: I'd like to expand this free offer to all college students who are interested in getting a free copy of the book, not just recent grads! Just send along the information above].  

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Superman, Aliens, and Not Fitting In: 5 Moments in Man of Steel that (Unexpectedly) Touched Me

Last weekend, I went to see Man Of Steel, the new Superman movie directed by Zach Snyder.   I’ve always been a big fan of Superman movies – as a kid I watched each of the old Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve over and over (even the one with Richard Pryor as a computer genius!).  In those days, superhero movies were few, unlike today, when you can’t drive by a movie theater without bumping into one (or two playing simultaneously!).
But Man of Steel actually touched me in a way that most other films don’t these days.  It had nothing to do with the special effects or the over-the-top action sequences in the last third of the film.  Rather it had to do with not fitting in, as a kid or as an adult!  
Here are 5 very special moments from Man of Steel for those of us that don’t fit in: 

1.             A Young Clark Kent asks: “Mom, What’s Wrong With Me?”
Early in the movie a young Clark Kent, who realizes he’s different from other kids and can’t fit in at school, hides in a closet at his elementary school. When his mother (played by Diane Lane) comes to rescue him, you can sense his inner turmoil when he cries out: “Mom, what’s wrong with me??”
Whether we say it out loud or not, most of us who grow up different ask that question at some point in our childhood.  In my own case, not only did I not look like the other kids and have a different religion, I was always drawn to geeky subjects (back when being geeky wasn’t cool).
I think that one of the reasons that stories of heroes like Clark Kent (or for a later generation, Harry Potter) appeal to so many kids is that they reassure us that it’s OK that we’re not “like everyone else”.  Secretly, it gives us hope that maybe we have other abilities – not exactly superpowers or magic – but other gifts that make us special.   Maybe it’s the ability to do math or write computer programs, maybe it’s the ability to dress weird and sing strange songs, or simply the power to imagine whole worlds in our heads that others can’t see or fathom.
Lady Gaga, in her Monster’s Ball concert in New York City, talked on stage about how she still feels like “a loser kind in high school” because of the way others treated her - she clearly didn't fit in.  And if like me, you were different enough that you couldn’t get a date in high school, remember words of wisdom from journalist Lester Bang from another film, Almost Famous: “That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem.”

2. John Kent asks: What kind of man are you going to be?
There’s a great scene where a slightly older (but still young) Clark Kent is being bullied by school kids.  His father, John Kent, played by Kevin Costner, comes up and the kids move away to reveal that Clark is holding on very tight to a fence and holding back his anger and power.  You know he just wants to belt those kids.  And you knew he very well could!
Anyone who’s been bullied (whether in the schoolyard as a kid physically, or as an adult verbally by bigoted or opinionated people) knows this feeling of wanting to fight back!  As a kid this might mean curling up that fist and smashing them in the face. As an adult it might mean some more sophisticated form of revenge, or maybe, you still just want to belt them!  But like the teenage Clark, you don’t, because that’s not the kind of person you want to be.
As John Kent tells the confused young man at that moment:  “One day, you’re going to have to make a choice.  You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be.  Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.”  .  I believe we all have to make choices like these and collectively how we choose affects the course of the planet.
What really touched me about Superman wasn’t that he was able to punch out General Zod in the skies of Manhattan and save the Earth.  It’s that the young Clark Kent saved all those kids in the schoolbus, even after they had been bullying him and calling him a freak.  That must’ve been tough.  Forgive, be kind to others, and as Kevin Costner says, “think about the kind of man you want to grow up to be.”

3.  Lois Lane tries to publish a story about UFO’s in the mainstream media.
In Man of Steel, when a respectable reporter, Lois Lane, discovers that there is a UFO and an “alien” (i.e. Clark Kent before he becomes Superman) hiding in plain sight, she attempts publish an article in her respectable newspaper, the Daily Planet.  The editor refuses to print it, saying “I’m not going to print a story about Aliens walking among us!”  She has to turn to some fringe conspiracy website as her only way to get the story out!  Now of course, this would never happen in real life...would it?  
When respected investigative journalist Leslie Kean got a call from retired members of European military saying that there was something to the UFO stories that have been proliferating and that they were putting out a report about this she got all kinds of warnings from her colleagues (spoken and unspoken) about the stigma around the subject, which she feared might be career suicide.  She wasn’t fitting in.  Luckily, she kept at it, and eventually wrote a New York Times bestseller that is a great book the subject for believers and skeptics alike: UFO’s: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On The Record.
When the late John Mack, a psychiatry professor at the Harvard Medical School (and Pulitzer prize winning author), made waves by writing that abduction phenomenon should be taken seriously back in the nineties, he was subject to all kinds of “harrumphing” by his colleagues at Harvard. To paraphrase Alan Dershowitz, a well known Harvard Law professor: There were certain things that you were and were not allowed to study as a Harvard professor.  Angels? That was a fine.  Aliens? Not so much.  Angela Hind wrote, "It was the first time in Harvard's history that a tenured professor was subjected to such an investigation." 
Again, you are free to write or study whatever you like, as long as it fits in. Sometimes, I feel that to be considered “respectable”, we are given a modern, socially enforced, equivalent of Henry Ford’s choice about the Model T: you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black!

4.    The young Kal-El escapes from a dying Krypton.
The scenes of Krypton in Man of Steel were visually stunning and moving, a virtual “film within a film”. But there was something else about this story that moved me.
The idea of escaping an advanced civilization during or just before a cataclysm is really the latest incarnation of a very popular old idea.  Somewhere, in our collective unconscious, as Jung called it, is the mythology of an advanced, dying civilization and the dual archetypes of the wise “old man” who foresaw its destruction and the “child” who escapes.   These patterns repeat themselves in stories that humans have been telling for thousands of years, ranging from the Lost Continent of Atlantis, Aeneas escaping the fall of Troy to found Rome, Noah escaping the Flood, the stories of the Anunakhi from the Sumerian texts, and numerous Native American myths of coming from “over the water” or “under the earth” after escaping a cataclysm (of fire, or water) to start a new civilization here in North America.
Most popularly it’s called the “Atlantis myth”, and if you imply that it might be something more than that among historical scholars - well, let's just say you won't fit in any longer!   In the modern view, civilization and technology advance linearly from simple to complex (like a very straight arrow).  But times like the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome, the loss of complex building techniques after the fall of Egypt, the loss of the library of Alexandria put a lie to this myth – the true path of advancement may be much more circular or spiral.
Whether it’s simply a collective psychological archetypal story that appeals to us, or an actual genetic memory of some long lost event in humanity’s deep past, there is something seriously worth studying in this collective mythos of an escape from an apocalypse (not to mention, in this latest version, as in some versions of the Atlantis myth, the Kryptonians misused the resources of the planet and this was responsible for the catastrophe).  How do we know, for sure, that we’re not living in an extended dark ages after the fall of some advanced civilization like a Krypton or Atlantis?  Don't ask.  You won't fit in.

5.    “Come on!  I grew up in Kansas. I’m about as American as you get!”

After being very skeptical of Superman, the humans (all Americans in this film), seem to realize that he brings them some benefits along with his “otherness”.  But this doesn’t stop them from trying to use surveillance drones on him to find out what “he’s up to”.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Unlike Snowden in the recent NSA spying scandal, the government doesn’t go after Superman  for “opting out” of the government spying program.  It’s too bad you or I can’t opt out.
In my opinion, this movie depicts an undertone in America against those who are “different” going way back:  Irish-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Jewish Americans, Catholic-Americans were all questioned  about their “Americanness” and had to “prove themselves”.  And if, like Superman, a Kyrptonian-American, you weren’t born here, so much the worse!  Hell, in Obama’s case, he was born here but still had his “American-ness” repeatedly questioned (though after the recent spying revelations, you might argue, like the New York Times did, that he’s proving himself just fine by becoming, in effect, George W. Obama).
This last scene of the film moved me personally.  In the aftermath of 9/11, I was shocked at the kind of questioning and looks I got whenever I left the big city, simply for being a Pakistani-American.  Sadly, I felt I had to be careful and diplomatic, not cause any waves, and not always say what I was thinking.  What was I really thinking? 
Honestly, I wanted to throw up my hands, as Superman did, and say: “Come on! I grew up in Michigan. I’m about as American as you get!”

These five moments in Man of Steel (among others) had a profound resonance for me (and I hope for others who don’t “fit in”).   Maybe that’s why I like speculative and fantastical fiction in general, it allows us to see truths about ourselves without ruffling any feathers since it’s “obviously fiction”!

So, maybe these 5 moments in the story may not be the same ones that appeal to the majority of the movie-going audience, or even to traditional Superman fans.  After all, I’m not talking about Life, Justice, and the American Way here. 

Or am I? After all, I never was very good at “fitting in”!

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our Fathers, Our Companies : Thoughts on Father's Day and Entrepreneurship

On this father’s day, I have been thinking about my own dad and his influence on my life and career as an entrepreneur.   In fact, the dedication I put onto the new edition of Zen Entrepreneurship, launched just last week, was:  “For my Dad, who brought us from the East, into the West”

My father was an immigrant from Pakistan, who packed up the family and brought us, back in the 1970’s, to the auto capital of the world, Detroit, where he hoped to put his economics background to good use.  From that time, he subtly and not-so-subtly encouraged us to think big, be ambitious, and even steered us towards tech entrepreneurship.

One Saturday in the early 1980’s, in the cold landscape of North Dakota, where we’d moved to because he couldn't find a decent job in Detroit during the recession,  he brought both us into his office. They had just bought an Apple II computer, and he wanted to show us that this would be the “next big thing”.  I still remember the first BASIC program that he taught us to write:

10 Print “Hello”
20 Goto 10

Well, after that I was hooked.  My brother and I competed to see who could build the better Tic Tac Toe games on the Apple II at my Dad's office after school.  Eventually we got our own Commodore 64 to program in.  The graphics were terrible – blocky lines that we used to draw X’s and O’s, but I remember my excitement when I figured out that I could have the computer play against a person (It didn’t occur to me until I saw WarGames with Mathew Broderick that you could have the computer play itself!).

My dad also brought out a copy of Time magazine that had a very young Steve Jobs on the cover with an apple on his head and showed it to us.  This was the only cover of Time that I remember him ever showing us (I just looked up the date – it was February 15, 1982), and the only cover of any magazine other than Mad that I remember from when I was kid.

Though my father wasn’t an entrepreneur himself, he always had an entrepreneurial mindset, and I think this had a lot to do with both my brother and I becoming entrepreneurs.   There was another side to this encouragement, of course - like most Asian parents that immigrated back then --  there were only a few “acceptable” professions for their kids: an engineer, lawyer, doctor, or entrepreneur. 

When I proudly announced that I was thinking of becoming an actor in high school, I remember him reprimanding me with some practical advice - if you want to be an actor, that's fine, but get an engineering degree so you can have a "real job" and make a living.  I listened (it turns out I was much better at computer programming than I was at acting!).  The funny thing is that my tech entrepreneurship eventually led me to be an angel investor in startups, which eventually led me to becoming a producer of independent films,  so it's call come back full circle.  

On this father’s day, I wonder what role encouragement from one’s dad (or mom, but we’ll talk about that on mother’s day!) plays in the (unconscious) decision to become an entrepreneur?

My co-founder in my very first (and most recent) company, Mitch Liu, had grown up with his dad running a small business in Seattle.  I also recall in my book that Mitch’s father had given us the funding so that we could afford to go to our first trade show, which launched our first product.

Years later, when I was at Stanford Business School, Steve Ballmer came to speak to to us.  He told us that Bill Gates had wanted Steve to leave business school to join Microsoft full-time. Steve’s own father wasn’t so sure since the company was just a fledliging startup at the time.  When Steve hesitated, Bill brought out the big guns to convince him that Microsoft was an opportunity that Steve couldn't pass up: Bill’s father.  According to Steve, whenever there was a serious negotiation in those early days and someone needed convincing, Bill would make them have dinner with his father, which would usually do the trick!

One of Bill Gates' neighbors, Naveen Jain, whom I met recently, co founder of Intellius and Moon Express, wrote a nice piece about his children becoming entrepreneurs at a very young age on Forbes:
If their father hadn’t been such a successful entrepreneur and such an influence on them, I wonder if would they have become so entrepreneurial at such an early age?

Scott Walker, himself founder of Walker Law Group, tells us a cautionary taleabout his own father, who had started and took a telecommunications company public, making milions, and then losing them in a great read on this father's day: “3 Lessons for entrepreneurs on Father’s day”:

As I think about it today, while I don’t believe that genetics has anything to do with it, I can say that most of the people that I know who’ve become entrepreneurs had some serious influence come down from their fathers.  So, on this Father’s day, as we appreciate our Dad’s, let’s also think about the influence we are having on the next generation - it could be a key factor in what direction they end up going down in their own path in life.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Zen Entrepreneurship : Second Edition Now Available and a Bestseller!

“I started meditating, a path of personal growth, because I thought it could help accelerate my career. By the time I was done, I would begin to view my career as a way of accelerating my personal growth. I realized I had it backwards.”
                        -from Zen Entrepreneurship, Rizwan Virk

The second, expanded edition of my book, Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior – was launched on Amazon recently and I'm happy to announce it's become an international bestseller in four countries!

Buy it on now:
Special Promotion - Get hundreds of dollars in free gifts:
Follow the book on Facebook:

What is this book about?

Zen Entrepreneurship reads like 3 books rolled into one:  a business tale, a spiritual adventure, and a handbook.

On one level, it’s the story of my very first startup, which I founded with my  good friend from MIT, Mitch Liu.  We didn’t really know what we were doing, but were very ambitious and to our surprise, the startup took off, and for a while it was one of the hottest startups on the East coast.  We had numerous articles written about us and Information Week called us one of 8 startups that CIOs of major corporations should watch. One this level, the book can be read as an interesting “startup tale”.

On another level, it’s a book about a path of spiritual growth.  Around this same time, I started meditating and working with a set of spiritual teachers and learning about “the hidden worlds”.  Back in those days, I didn’t care much about spiritual growth – or topics like dreams, finding my calling in life, karma, energetic patterns, synchronicity – I just wanted something that would help me mentally focus and have the mental stamina that a startup requires.  What I found was that the two were interrelated - more than I realized.  At this level, you can read it as a "tale of power" of a student being mentored - like The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, or the Teachings of don Juan. 

The third level, which is the most important in my opinion, is that this book is a handbook for bringing spiritual development and your work into one.  The Buddha once said: “Your work in life is to find your work and give your heart to it!”.  Rather than having your personal growth “over here”, while your work and your career is “over there”, the book describes the “Path of the Career Warrior”, which is a way to integrate the two paths into one.  In fact, the issues you are struggling with in your personal life and/or your meditation, are the same issues you will likely be dealing with in your career. If you have a startup, it’s even worse!

What have people said about the book?

“Tales of Power meets the Peaceful Warrior... in Silicon Valley! It's entertaining, humble, insightful and valuable - not just to entrepreneurs, but to anyone looking to manifest their dreams and make a difference in the world.”

           —Foster Gamble, Creator and Host, Thrive: What on Earth Will It Take

“You will come away with insight about yourself, guidance … and knowledge that you may not be able to acquire anywhere else save the mountaintops of the Himalayas.”

 “Riz Virk brings the wisdom of ancient Eastern traditions into a purely Western setting. The result is an often hilarious but always insightful book that will change how you view career success and help you discover and walk your own unique path.”
—Marc Allen, author of Visionary Business, CEO and co-founder of New World Library

“Zen Entrepreneurship changed my life, it confirmed for me that 'clues' exist in the world around us and are powerful. I shared this book with every one of my clients from that point forward. Powerful. A must read... it reinforces that there is a bigger guide within us if we choose to listen”
—Lorin Beller, author of From Entrepreneur to Big Fish: 7 Principles of Wild Succes

What’s new in the second edition?

There’s at least 50 pages of new content based on feedback from readers in the years since I wrote the first edition  The new content transforms the book from a “fun story tor read” to a handbook, with summaries, principles, and exercises at the end of each chapter.

Many readers have told me they go back to the book every year to “refresh” on some of the business and spiritual principles described in the  story.  The second edition is  definitely the one to do this with – this edition is both a story and a manual for living the 14 principles of the Career Warrior.

Where can I get it?  What’s special on June 4th!

If you buy the book June 4th, you will receive a set of bonus gifts, worth hundreds of dollars from myself and other bestselling authors, spiritual and business coaches/advisors.  This includes a preview of my next book about synchronicity, Treasure Hunt,  an ebook from Betsy Chaisse, co creator of the wildly popular film, What the Bleep do we know?, Magical mystical images from visionary artist Ellen Mcdonough, and many, many more!

Special Promotion is here:

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