By Andrew Neitlich

The importance of non-judgment and non-attachment in sales and entrepreneurship

By Andrew Neitlich

The last blog post talked about the importance of failure.

There are two mindsets that makes failure acceptable and bearable, and they are non-judgment and non-attachment.

Both of these mindsets mean that you can go all out to get your business going, or to make a sale — but you stay a bit detached. You don’t judge yourself. You don’t take things personally. You don’t wrap your ego up in how things go, and instead drive to the outcome.


If things work out, great! If they don’t, you observe what happened, learn, make adjustments, and try again.

Many people misinterpret non-attachment to mean that one is passive. That’s not the case. You still move forward powerfully and with full intent. You still give it your all. But you don’t add the junk that so many people add — like tying your sense of personal worth to your success or failure.

A friend and business partner and I recently invested lots of money in a business that didn’t quite work out. I mourned it for a while, and then moved on. He is still kicking himself about the result. What’s the point?

There is a Zen story about two monks crossing a river, when they meet a beautiful naked girl. She asks for help crossing the river. The older monk picks her up and crosses the river, while the younger monk looks on in shock (as monks are supposed to be celibate and avoid beautiful naked girls). A mile or so down the river, the younger monk is still in shock, and can’t stop thinking about the older monk’s behavior. The older monk says something like, “I crossed the river with that girl a mile ago and left her there, yet you still carry her.” I think lots of people still carry their burdens of long and not so long ago.

There is a great book called the Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Galloway that everyone should read — tennis player or not. In it, Galloway talks about a Self 1 and a Self 2. Self 1 is our rational, thinking self. It is the self that gets all wrapped up in ego and judgment. It is the self that causes players to talk to themselves on the court, or throw their racket when they miss a shot. Self 2 is the self that actually gets things done, and hits the ball — without thinking, but simply by doing. His approach is about trusting and developing Self 2.

The same applies to business. The more you can let your Self 2, your non-judgmental and non-attached observer and doer, do the job, the happier and more successful you will be.

Another fine book to read is Money and the Meaning of Life — which gets into our attachment to and judgments about money. How we think about money has a lot to do with our enjoyment and ultimate fulfillment and success.

Failure means nothing. Success means nothing. Striving for excellence and fun — that’s everything (and also nothing).

Hopefully this does not come across as too fluffy or mystical. It is a very crucial point, and a hard one to put into practice.

  • dleal

    A beautiful and inspiring post. Thank you for that, Andrew.

  • I just loved that story about the Monks Andrew :) Great post as usual!

  • Your Zen story reminds me of a personal experience. When one is first learning meditation there’s a tendency to get repeatedly distracted and want to get up from the meditation chair. And the meditation instructors tell you that no matter how many times you get distracted, whenever you catch yourself in your distraction you just “go back to the chair”.

    As a web person who spends a lot of time in front of a computer, I often feel like I’m getting distracted from business and having to remind myself to go back to my chair.

  • Gator99

    I got lost after “the last blog post”. I guess you’re the Hunter S Thompson of web design.

  • DavyT

    The young monk was just thinking about what come’s next when reached the other side of the river…

  • A.N.Onym

    Those are indeed some great points – it is amazing how little they are mentioned among the web dev circles.

    Thank you for sharing them :)

  • cubfan

    Thank you for this post. You really hit on a critical point that I know a lot of people struggle with. Separating success/failure from your core self worth. I am going to have a talk with Self #2;)

  • aneitlich


    If your alias refers to the Chicago Cubs, then failure is certainly something with which you are familiar!


    (Devil Rays Fan — So I also know failure in baseball)

  • tonysmith2

    A great book that I would highly recommend is Paul McKenna’s ‘Change your life in seven days’. The monk story is in there, along with lots of other great advice and self-improvement gold.
    I was tempted to put my amazon affiliate link there for you all to click-thru and buy it, but I thought I’d get in trouble.

    A great article Andrew, many of us do need to heed your words and indeed eat ourselves up a little less!

  • Zen

    CARRYING A GIRL ACROSS A RIVER – a Zen Buddhism Koan

    One day, a Buddhist Monk named I-hsiu (literary, “One Rest”) took his young student to go to town to do some business. As they approached a small river, they saw a very pretty girl walking back and forth looking very concerned.

    “Lady”, asked I-hsiu, “you look very concerned. What is troubling you?”

    “I want to cross the river to visit my dad who is very sick, but the bridge had fallen. Where is the next nearest bridge?”

    “The next closest one is many miles away. But, don’t worry, I will carry you across the river.”

    So I-hsiu carried the girl on his back and walked across the river stream. Once they reached the other side, he put her down and, saying farewell to each other, went on their ways separately.

    Observing the whole thing, the young student was rather uneasy. He thought, “the Master taught us that women are man-eating tigers (see the story “Women are Tigers” in this site) yet today he carried a pretty girl on his back across a river! That does not make any sense. Isn’t the Lord Buddha teach us to keep a distance from a stranger girl?”

    Over the next couple of month, the whole thing was still bothering him in his mind. Finally, the student could not stand it any longer and raised the issue with I-hsiu.

    Upon hearing this, I-hsiu bursted into laughter: “I had put down the girl ever since I had crossed the river. You must be very tired carrying her around for the last two months!”

  • aneitlich


    Thanks for a much more accurate retelling.



  • Dynamic

    Great post Andrew! I know many people who carry around their burdens (and even the burdens of others) and never seem to live a full or happy life because of it. People in general just need to learn from the past and then live their lives for the future.

    Okay… that’s enough deep philosophy for a Friday! Have a great weekend everyone!

  • cubfan


    yes, the cubs give me hours of uninterrupted failure on end. if I was a buddhist monk, I could say that I’ve been carrying them around for 34 years.

    alas, watching how bad they actually are, it makes me feel much better about the work I do;)

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