The twelfth day of the crossing – the branding of the desert

It was dawn of the twelfth day of the crossing. I grabbed a cup of coffee and went to be by myself for the morning meditation. I was floating amidst a thousand thoughts when I saw a man who was traveling with the caravan seated alone on the sand. I had already noticed him because he always detached himself from the group. I had never seen him talking to anyone. I decided to approach him. I asked if I could sit next to him and he nodded. I introduced myself and said that I intended to meet with the dervish. He said his name was Farid and he was returning to the oasis, where he was born, after many years to visit relatives. On a day long ago he had departed seeking better work opportunities. He said he had a small stall where he traded grains and spices in Marrakesh’s central market. I made a comment about the excitement I thought he was feeling with this reunion after such a long time. Farid said he wasn’t that excited; in fact, he explained, he was going to see his mother who was quite ill. He confessed he wanted to return only after becoming a rich merchant, so that everyone would admire him. However, he regretted life did not go according to his expectations. He commented his business was not thriving for reasons he did not know, because he is hardworking and honest. That made him sad. I mentioned that I was in advertising, and my agency had helped build many brands over the past few years. Farid said maybe that did not apply to him, because he was just a grain trader. I assured him that the size or the type of business was not important, what matters is the development of a brand that, in addition to identifying him, set him apart from the competition and made him unique. I told him about a motorcycle brand that had added the idea of freedom to its bikes. I also mentioned a mobile phone manufacturer that stated it did not just sell phones, but devices that could change the world. He looked at me with dismay and asked if that was honest. I replied that, depending on the way one saw things, it was possible to develop a brand that fully reflected the qualities of the product being offered. I added that those instances I mentioned only reinforced the power of creativity and the reach a well-developed brand could achieve. I further explained that a brand should incorporate three important concepts in their products: truth, innovation and usefulness.

Farid was interested. We paired our camels upon leaving to talk during the march. He asked a number of questions that I could answer easily, due to my experience. I went further in clarifying the three concepts by explaining that truth builds a relationship of trust between the parties, innovation allows for possibilities previously unforeseen, and usefulness turns the experience into a pleasant one. 

Farid was more and more excited. His curiosity filled me with questions. I was quite entertained with our chat and gave him some ideas about what he could do to develop and consolidate a brand to his business.

In the middle of the day, the caravan stopped, as usual, for a light meal and a brief rest. I saw Farid talking to one of the pilgrims with whom, few days ago, I had had an argument. I thought that odd, because the grain trader was normally by himself. I removed from my mind the bad thoughts, because I know how much harm they cause to life. When the caravan resumed its march, I noticed Farid did not seem to be the same person. He was less talkative, gave monosyllabic responses to my questions and was sullen.

In the early evening, we stopped to set up camp for the night. At supper time, I looked for Farid and found him in animated conversation with the same group of pilgrims. I tried to approach them but was discouraged by the way they looked at me. I went to the tent where the meal was served, filled up my bowl and moved away to eat by myself. A discomforting sensation enveloped me. It didn’t take long, and Farid came to talk to me. He had a sullen face and the tone of his questions had changed. They were more like accusations. He heard I charged a lot for my services and that my agency had a track record of failures. I explained it wasn’t like that, that at no time I had thought about charging him for consulting of any type, that my purpose was to have a friendly conversation, even as a way to make the journey less boring. About the advertising campaigns my agency ran, we offered our services to the best of our capacity, and we charged a price we believed was fair. The client had the liberty of not accepting. Yes, some campaigns fell short of the intended purpose. However, many others were shown to hit the target, so much so many brands were leveraged beyond our expectations. Risk is part of the business; risk is part of life. Not satisfied, Farid said he was terrified in knowing I charged a percentage of the profits of brands we had developed. I rebutted by stating that was a lie. Upset, he turned around and left.

I felt bad. That had caught me as a thunderstorm that falls suddenly and with intensity. It was all so absurd it seemed unreal. I needed to relax. I went over to the good tea man. He greeted me with his usual politeness. He said he had noticed some changes in my aura. He offered to prepare a herbal infusion that would help me rebalance. However, he explained, I would have to do my part: “Soothe the heart and smoothen the mind. This is the essence of healing; tea is just a palliative of love.” I said it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. Once the tea was ready, I drank it slowly and thanked him. I was feeling a bit better than when I arrived. When I was leaving, I noticed the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes watching me from afar. I tried to get closer to her, but there were some people on my way and, when I looked back to where she was, she had disappeared.

I sat on the sand in a place away from everyone. Little by little, feelings and thoughts settled in their places. I could not let storm from others be strong enough to cloud the sun that shone in me. To that end, I had to understand that the actual cause of objection by others is almost never due to my choices. Conversely, my intolerance with the rest of the world is not to be ascribed to the world, but to me. This soothed me, but a bit of unbalance still remained. I got a fright when I realized the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes was seated next to me. I asked her about her appearances and disappearances, as if by magic. She smiled and answered: “This is one of the features of my brand.” I laughed heartily and said the day had been awful because of brands. She smiled in response. Then, I poured out every detail of all that had happened on that day, of how I bad I had felt and how I had improved. 

She made a comment about Farid: “The emotional instability of the trader accounts for his inability to make friends. It also signals the poor results of his business. These situations typically go hand-in-hand. In fact, he floats adrift as a ship without a rudder, because he does not know how to sail. He chose as a destination an abstract situation. ‘I will go back home when I become rich’ is to let oneself be moved by pride and vanity. There is nothing wrong in making money, but there is an array of much more interesting wealth to be amassed on the road back home. Returning home is going back to his origins and, in a way, to his own self, where the gold of life awaits, the gold he, subconsciously, looks for in the world. Thus, in not knowing who he is, he does not know where to go. He is a broken man; a man who wanders aimlessly. He is a man with no brand.” 

Next, she spoke about the uneasiness I was feeling: “Not allowing that the shadows of others to turn off our light is a remarkable breakthrough, essential to plenitude. We already have too much trouble with our own shadows. We cannot nourish them with the shadows of the world.” I said how the good tea man had been kind and amiable. I emphasized how cozy it was to sit and have a cup of tea with him. The woman explained: “It is part of his branding to show how the world can be a good place.” 

As I was puzzled by her insistence in a matter that had generated all the controversy on that day, she expanded her reasoning: “We came to the planet to experience our essence, each one their own. This is what causes you to be a unique brand. To build this brand is the part each one of us is in charge of in the art of living.”

“You look at the caravanner and find in him a brand that is solid because of the assurance his character conveys. The desert, in turn, is a brand destined to destroy outdated brands and build brands unthought of before.”

Then, she asked: “What are the attributes of a brand?” I answered that in advertisement we learn there are three: truth, innovation and usefulness. She nodded in agreement and continued: “In life it is no different.” Much to my surprise, she repeated the three words I had said earlier in the morning to the grain trader, the rationale for each of the attributes, as if she had actually listened: “Truth builds a relationship of trust between the parties, innovation allows for possibilities previously unforeseen, and usefulness turns the experience into a pleasant one.” 

However, she went deeper in her reasoning: “Truth is connected to the honesty one must have in dealing with others and sincerity in our behavior. Truth unites the parts. It is about simplicity in being and living; humility that does not let you be delusional about being bigger than others; purity to put away slander and prejudices at the moment of making choices. This makes the spirit stronger to face adversities innate to life, before the evil of the world, and creates a bond of trust and well-being with all those who are around.”

“Innovation, in turn, relates to the required transformations we must operate, each one of us on our own self, so that we can continue to evolve. There are no problems for brands that are well developed to be improved as their creators transform themselves. Expanding awareness and the ability to love are pillars for constructing a different, better person on each passing day. Every day until the endless day. But that is not enough. It is necessary that each one, in their own way, be the triggering cause of change of whoever is around. From their example, not their discourse. Always out of free will, never out of imposition or demand. The idea of flight inspires us to have wings. What encourages the caterpillar in the cocoon is the idea of becoming a butterfly.”

“Finally, usefulness. Usefulness speaks of love. Love for oneself and for everyone. To be useful is to make sense of existence, it is planting flowers every day in the garden of humankind, even if the limits of the planet is the corner of the street your house is on. It is mercy overflowing from the heart of those who are willing to give a hand, open a door, put a sign on the road, give shelter during a storm, put out a fire. By diving deep to find oneself, one finds an entire life; by presenting the other cheek, one gives room for a new, still unknown part of oneself. Care for the other, the usefulness one has for the world, however simple and humble, will always be the perfect forge to transform the enlightened soul.”

“Life, to be useful, has to be a true, innovative and pleasant experience.”

She gazed her blue eyes into my overwhelmed eyes and concluded: “This is how we create our personal brand. Each one with their unique self of incomparable beauty, everyone necessary to the work. Just check the good tea man or the caravanner, they use nothing external to them to develop a successful brand.” And added: “By the way, have you started to create your own brand?” 

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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