Q&A: CBS’s Zen Spinmaster

Though he calls it “one of the worst-kept secrets in business,” at least a few readers of Stanley Bing’s sharp-tongued send-ups of corporate life in Fortune and his satiric “business guides” (What Would Machiavelli Do?) might be surprised to learn that Bing is actually Gil Schwartz, CBS’s top P.R. exec. This month, while Schwartz is celebrating Letterman’s decision, Bing is plugging his new book, Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up, a guide to controlling “the elephant” (your boss) with Zen Buddhist principles.

For a long time very few people knew your true identity. How does it feel to be “out”?
I’m continually annoyed. For more than ten years, I attended parties as Bing. Now I have to disguise things better, and to avoid insulting people. Some people, anyway.

Since Viacom took over CBS, you’ve probably stopped writing about Sumner Redst – – I don’t mention specific elephants by name. Particularly my beloved elephants.

Why is Zen the key to boss-management?
To manage your boss, you need to take a religious leap of faith, to get into a zone where you can just not give a shit. With Zen Buddhism, you train to not think. I do that in meetings anyway.

How do you practice Zen?
Of course, I’m a complete liar. I wake up at three in the morning. I read the newspaper every day with my heart in my mouth.

So, what’s it like dealing with a media pile-on like the Letterman affair?
It’s like skiing double black diamonds – not that I’ve ever done that. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes you think you’re going to die, but when it’s over, you’ve done it.

Q&A: CBS’s Zen Spinmaster