Gratitude, Schmatitude

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Friday, 2:22pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)

Howdy…

Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.

Like it’s magic or something.

It ain’t.

Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).

Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me. I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work. Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.

So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.

But a little perspective, please.

For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude. They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.

So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.

Which is, of course, pure bullshit.

The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit. I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.

So why do they even say it?

Sometimes it’s just habit, from the old scripts they used to read. The job requirements included big smiles, friendly demeanor even in the face of rudeness, and a steady stream of patter to calm folks down while the jet screamed through the heavens eight miles high.

So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT. And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.

And AT&T robots love to drone while you’re on hold, about how grateful they are to have you as a customer. It’s all please and thank you and yes, sir. The gratitude practically drips from the phone…

but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint. I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned… to cull the mob down. Just part of the biz strategy created by evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.

Yeah, get real. Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases. Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.

The worst are businesses that hire some PR firm to write up a “mission statement”. This is all the rage every so often, as the MBA schools recycle old tropes on doing biz. Not understanding what a USP is, and possessing no clue on how to actually deal with a prospect or customer, dazed biz owners will spend a lot of time and money positioning a statement out that is supposed to “define” the “culture” of the joint.

So we get lots of vague “the customer is king” and “you’re the boss” crap… which sounds great, but is just blabbering babble if not put into action.

Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back. Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.

If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT. Don’t talk about it. Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises. Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

Yes, you’re VERY thankful to the grubby dude from the garage who drove out to fix your car in the rain. At the time he’s getting things done, and you’re sensing you’re gonna get out of this ordeal after all, you want to hug him. And you say, over and over again, how grateful you are that he exists.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re not grateful enough to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner, are you? You gonna help him move to a new apartment next weekend? Go watch the big game with him at the garage?

No, you’re not. Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over. But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.

A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake. He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.

On the other hand, he may demure and not come at all, if he’s all creeped out over your slobbering hugs of impotent gratitude.

Lying is lying. The small lies in life set up the big ones. Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time. You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.

In fact, one of the old street maxims is: Take whatever the guy says, and figure the opposite is true.

In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem. The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse. The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling. The joint is filled with liars.

This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there. Just be honest, without making a big damn deal about it. In fact, don’t even bring it up. Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.

Your audience will let you know what your reputation is, soon enough.

Don’t be like that pilot blabbing about choices when there aren’t any. He is announcing to everyone that he is, at best, a mindless corporate shill. And if he wanders into the cabin during the flight and tells you something about not worrying, everything’s just dandy…

… you will be excused if your next act is to look for a parachute.

Consequences matter. Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business. Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.

Don’t turn yourself into a lying shit heel, just because you want to sound all corporate-like.

It matters. Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.

Thanks.

No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Make sure you check out all the goodies available in the right hand column here. My books and courses make excellent Christmas gifts, you know…

The Entrepreneur’s Checklist

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Friday, 2:15pm
Reno, NV
I read the news today, oh boy…” (John Lennon, “A Day In The Life”)

Howdy…

One of my favorite quotes from the legendary Gary Halbert: “There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by a man who refuses to face reality.”

You laugh, but he was dead serious. One of the reasons we became fast friends was our mutual outlook on life – whenever reality was inconvenient to our goals, we just ignored the facts, lowered our head, and bulled forward.

That photo, above, is me in high school (from the yearbook), taking a jump shot. I’m the guy in the thick glasses. I loved basketball, and was good enough to become the captain of the “B” squad my junior year…

… however, as should be evident in this photo, I ran into a brick wall trying out for the varsity a year later.

The guy guarding me as I took that jumper is taller than me by a foot. I was the smallest guy on the squad…

… and really, at some point a caring coach probably should have taken me aside and said “John, I know you love the game… but look at your family. No one is taller than 5’10”, and basketball is a sport for tall folks. You’re not going to magically grow into the size they want on the varsity team…

I wouldn’t have listened, anyway. I’m like a Jack Russell terrier – a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body. Tell me I can’t do something, and you get a prolonged snarl (and maybe a quick nip).

Eventually, in sports, my poor eyesight and lack of height stopped me…

… but I had fun for a couple of years in the meantime.

Later on, as I was gathering my courage to try copywriting, an actual professional copywriter earnestly informed me that I should not even try.

“It’s too hard,” she said. “You’ll never be a pro writer.”

That was, of course, the BEST thing she could have ever told me. I doubt I could have survived the first years without that internal motivation of needing to prove her wrong. It fueled me during the tough early years.

I call it “negative motivation”… and it’s actually one of the most powerful forces available for getting stuff done. I never saw that writer again, and don’t even remember her name…

… so it wasn’t a need to flaunt my success in her face. It was all internal for me – I used her as the “face” of the obstacles in front of me, and I even laughed when I later realized I was in a position to tell her “Fuck you, I made it anyway.

Yes, my internal ego is an immature twerp sometimes. Chip on the shoulder, testy underdog attitude, and an almost stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face reality.

I am so grateful for it, too.

(By the way… I nailed that shot in the photo, above… and ended up with 20 points while also hitting the winning basket. Easily my finest moment in a futile, doomed effort to be a “real” basketball player. A has-been at 16.)

Now, you do not need to be a belligerent rebel to be a good entrepreneur…

… but it can help sometimes.

Certainly, given the choice of sitting down to dinner with the business types in suits, who are uber-polite and careful in their conversations…

… or the rowdy crowd of rule-breaking ne’er-do-well whack-job entrepreneurs who may easily get kicked OUT of the restaurant….

… well, you know which group I’d pick.

I was Halbert’s sidekick for a very long time, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the gig was strutting into a new client’s offices and creating massive chaos. In a rational world, none of the buttoned-up biz owners we dealt with would have tolerated us for more than a few minutes…

… but, because we brought the “magic” of ads that worked, they HAD to not just tolerate us, but sometimes coddle us and even pay us more than they were going to earn themselves in the project.

We weren’t mean. Perhaps arrogant at times. But both Gary and I had wandered into the entrepreneurial world precisely because we didn’t “fit” in the normal corporate environments. We were outlaws by nature, outrageous by temperament, and adventurers who ate risk for breakfast by choice.

Again – you do not NEED to be a half-crazed rebellious lunkhead to succeed in biz…

… though, I’ve noticed that a great number of the dudes and dudettes at the top of the entrepreneurial game don’t easily fit into nice, tidy molds. They don’t behave themselves in polite company. (Y’all know who you are.)

So I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what you DO need to be a successful entrepreneur. In my mastermind, there have been many members who were unclear on what it “meant” to be an entrepreneur…

… and we’ve helped every one of them get over their fears, stop obsessing on the wrong things, and become much more confident (and successful) marketers. Mostly, they are stunned by the magnitude of profit that comes from doing things right.

It’s all a matter of hanging out with veterans who can commiserate with your stumbles, help you correct the damage, and reveal the secrets of getting into a solid success-groove, and riding it all the way to wealth and happiness.

My goal is to, eventually, have a comprehensive menu of things you can do at every step of your business life. That’s gonna take a while, though…

… so, for now, I have a starter checklist here you might find helpful.

Let’s just get into it. Here (in no particular order) are the main things you’ll need in your “toolkit” as an entrepreneur:

[] Survival resources. This includes books (both the ones you read for general knowledge and put on your shelf… and the ones that stay on your desk, dog-eared, because they are tools that help in your day-to-day work)…

… an ever-expanding network of experts, mentors, colleagues and go-to-guys (including tech geeks, hosting services, spies, friendly competitors, and helpmates in your quest for animal-level contentment)…

… and whatever courses, seminars, and tutorials you need to attain a mastery of the details of whatever biz you’re in.

[] Goal-setting skills. You need to understand, clearly, where you’re headed and what you want from both your journey and your final destination.

It’s okay, early on, to not be clear on you ultimate goals. Sometimes, you work hard to attain something, and only then realize it wasn’t what you wanted after all. That’s how life works when you decide to swim in the dangerous part of the pool. You will constantly re-adjust your long-term goals as you go.

Short-term, however, you need to get good at breaking down the best path to your target, while also learning how to fix problems and deal with unexpected emergencies.

[] Thick skin. You simply need to put your ego aside when entering the entrepreneurial world…

… cuz you’re gonna get stomped, bullied, abused, insulted and assaulted. Often. In new and fascinating ways that your civilian pals will never believe possible.

Your motto must be “eyes on the prize”, at all times. There will be setbacks, disasters and breathtaking failures.

You know you’ve “arrived” as a true entrepreneur when all of this becomes just part of the process, and you even enjoy the constant challenges raining down on you. (You’ll have the best stories at the bar during seminars, too.)

[] Risk tolerance. This is what sets most entrepreneurs apart from civilians. Against the advice of your drinking buddies (who really do not want you to succeed, because that will destroy their own belief that the little guy can’t win)… and contrary to the fears of your family (who are terrified that your wild-ass biz plans will bankrupt the joint)… and in utter defiance of your own Red Flag danger alarms…

… you’re going to have to lay your reputation on the line, and climb into a fight with the forces of capitalism armed only with your wit, meager skill sets, and raw determination.

And no one else except other entrepreneurs will even vaguely understand what you’re going through. Working without a net. Daring the universe to slap you down. Going into situations, over and over again, where you’re a complete rookie, apt to make embarrassing mistakes.

In short, living with risk. And the consequences of risk, which can include failure.

Of course, a true entrepreneur regards “failure” as just another step on the rocky path to breakthrough success. It’s a process. Few get it right the first time.

So, you need to assess your capacity to accept, and deal with risk. If the very notion of taking a risk terrifies you into inaction, it’s probably a sign from God that you need to get a job somewhere safe.

[] Your basic bag of tricks. You may have to learn the basics from books at first, or by observation… but no matter how you learn them, you need to understand the fundamentals of a sales funnel (qualified leads are captured and closed)…

… the details of fulfillment and customer management…

… and how to craft a sales message that can be easily communicated to prospects.

It’s not rocket science, but you’re an idiot if you think you can “fake it” as you begin marketing your biz for real.

Fortunately, there are a lot of courses out there to shortcut your efforts…

… or, you can dive into the many books out there on these subjects. In a weekend, you can begin your self-education by reading one on marketing, one on sales, and one on writing copy.

Your first choices may be the wrong ones to read, but that doesn’t matter — because you’ll have started the process, and that’s the critical part of this step. Next weekend, read three different books on the same subjects. Rinse and repeat until you feel you have a toe-hold in each subject, at least.

The longest journey begins with a single step. Just try not to fall on your face immediately, all right? Read critically and intelligently, and continually seek out authors you can trust and identify with.

[] A budget, or war chest. You will need cash in your biz adventures. No getting around that.

I’m not a great role model. I started my freelance career with one last tank of gas in a rattle-trap car, one month’s rent paid, and enough spare change to feed myself for a couple of weeks. I had no Plan B.

Much better to have a planned budget, and the money to meet it for at least a few months. If you’re already in business, and you want to expand or get into a new project…

… then have a “war chest” of cash you can invest in the adventure. Don’t go in broke, or clueless about what you may need to pull out of your existing biz.

Most entrepreneurs hate budgets and planning.

Do it anyway. There are plenty of misadventures awaiting you in biz — don’t stumble on stuff like budgets, which you have control over and can figure out easily.

[] Ability to judge what’s worth doing, and what’s going to hold you back.

This is a biggie. You may suck at it right now, but one of your goals must be to get pro-level good at judging client requests, job offers, new projects, partner assessment (in both biz and love), and all the little and big decisions that will cascade upon your head every single day.

One tactic: Use the 1-10 “pain scale” measurement many doctors use in assessing patients. Use it on yourself: What level is the value… the risk… the reward… and the danger of any decision you encounter?

Is it a big deal, or a little deal of no lasting consequence?

Get good at this, as fast as possible. One of the main failure points of unsuccessful biz owners is a lack of prompt, good decisions.

[] Stress management. You’re going to encounter stress as an entrepreneur. That’s a given.

Ignoring this stress is a very, very, very bad idea. It will never leave, it will build up, and in due time it will fry your brain like an egg in a skillet.

You are not a superman. Your body and mind are vulnerable to the ravages of poor diet, lack of exercise, and constant hormone dumps of adrenaline and other bad chemicals.

Massage, meditation, lots of vacations, reading good books (not biz books) to relax, having “safety zones” in your week where you are free from the tentacles of your biz (no phone, no email, no nothing)…

… the tactics for battling stress are easy to find and experiment with. Find what works for you, and give it PRIORITY status in your life.

For example, I began getting weekly massages early in my career… long before I started buying better clothes, a newer car, or eating out more often. Massage “re-set” my physical stress levels, and I’m convinced it has saved me from ulcers and worse. And kept me mega-productive for decades.

I started out with a “business before pleasure” mindset… but included in “business” was de-stressing and being a good animal (loose, strong, well-fed, lots of restorative sleep, etc).

And finally (for this short “starter list”)…

[] Have an exit plan. Go after your goals like a terrier after a squirrel, with total focus and commitment.

However, realize that sometimes your goals need to adjusted, or even abandoned.

When the facts and circumstances change, your goals change. (This includes sudden changes in technology, like Google slaps… booming new opportunities that didn’t exist earlier… even realizing you no longer crave what motivated you so desperately before.)

I’m not suggesting you have an easy “bail out” plan, that you can take whenever things get dicey. Like Cortez burning his ships upon his conquest of Mexico, a lot of entrepreneurs do better when there is no turning back.

Rather, I’m talking about visualizing your life after success. Many entrepreneurs, right after “making it”, immediately begin to sabotage the biz. Because the fun is in the building up of the thing, the adventures of tackling challenges and working without a net.

Once you’ve been successful, you either need to pivot to management of the biz (yawn)…

… or consider the consequences of cashing out, selling your biz, moving into something else, or just becoming an “intrapreneur” like Steve Jobs did at Apple.

At least consider what your life will be like when you succeed. And consider lots of options for yourself.

Okay. That’s the starter list. Not a bad checklist to have on the wall above your desk as you move forward, either.

One last thought on reality: Yes, I ignored the reality of who I was, and what I brought to the game, as I plowed through life going after unrealistic goals.

However, there is ONE reality I never ignore.

That would be the reality of results. I love seeing how ads and tactics work, or don’t work, through actual sales numbers (and click-through and open rates, and so on).

However, I look at these results CRITICALLY. I don’t accept them blindly. They are tools for moving forward. Where did, or where could the ad have failed? Can we fix it? What other things can be done to navigate a sales problem? Where IS the main problem, anyway?

My stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face certain realities has served me well over the years. If I’d listened to the nay-sayers, or even my own fears, my life would have been much less exciting and happy. And rich, in every respect.

Still, all vices in moderation. That’s my motto.

Find out what works for you.

I hope this list is a good starting point.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Did I leave anything off the list that should have been on there?

Love to hear your take on the matter, in the comments section below…

P.P.S. Need a good suggestion for a book to jump-start your quest for the Big Bucks?

Start right here on the blog, in the far right column. Grab “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” right now on Amazon. Or order “Success Secrets No One Told You About”, also available digitally (and it costs just a couple of bucks).

And when you’re ready to join the best mastermind operating, check out the Platinum Mastermind. I’ve personally been hosting this notorious group for over 8 years now.

Don’t be that guy who refuses to help himself, with opportunity staring you in the face. I’ve been transforming the lives of entrepreneurs for over 30 years now… to conquer obstacles, earn massive success, and start enjoying life on all levels…

… and the FASTEST way to make it real for YOU, is to take advantage of the help I offer.

You’ll figure everything out so much faster (and with so much less grief) when you get some honest mentoring from a grizzled pro who knows his shit.

Again — love to hear from you in the comments. I hang out there often…

How To Stop Being Taken For A Ride (Which, If You’re Honest, You Are Right Now)

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Sunday, 2:22pm
Reno, NV
Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)

Howdy.

I was going through the archives here, found this bitchin’ post from last September…

… and decided to re-post it. Cuz it’s so good.

Reality checks have been a major tool in my life and career. And believe me, I’ve needed every single one. I started out so clueless, so lost, so desperate for guidance, that my head was filled with all kinds of muddy thinking and dumb-ass notions.

So, if you’re game, here’s a few of the best I’ve gone through myself.

Here’s the post:

Almost everything you encounter today is conspiring to waste your time. Lots of it. Most of it, in fact.

For eons, the distractions of life were put on hold by the sheer requirements of subsistence living. The party animals starved when winter hit.

So we gathered in villages in order to share the burdens of eating every day. There was a time to sow, a time to reap, and so on. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker started specializing, so the rancher, the farmer and the night owls could get on with their end of the game.

Complications were instantaneous, of course. Humans are hard-wired to screw things up, especially once we get into a good groove. (The Primary Rule Of Entrepreneurship, which should never be forgotten, is: The first thing most entrepreneurs do, once they’re successful with a simple idea they’ve turned into a biz, is try to complicate the shit out of it. And ruin it. It’s unconscious, because their lizard brain can’t stand the drudgery of management, and craves the excitement of new ventures. I’ve seen this rule demolish more success arcs than divorce, embezzlement and incompetence combined.)

So, over the long arc of history, the smart alecks started figuring ways to have others do the hard work for them… allowing them more leisure time. Becoming royalty was a good way to get out of the unpleasantly-sweaty parts of life. Concocting empires and war (from afar) was an excellent way to amass wealth and power… which translated to lots of servants, soldiers and lackeys scurrying around doing your bidding. It’s the ultimate con game.

And, voila! Boredom was invented.

Too much time, too little to do.

It’s pretty much a given that most folks, stripped of fulfilling duty, will find a way to wile away the time. Prisoners dig tunnels, trophy spouses shop and have affairs, bosses gamble away the payroll, students hack into Pentagon computers, and so on. We’re just busy little beavers when we latch onto something to do.

In the modern world (and I hope you’ve noticed) the “what to do with your free time” trends have been heavy on entertainment, though, and a little weak on substance.

And, from this old codger’s perspective (after many, many trips around the block)… most folks are squandering a truly great life, by going after what they’ve been sold as a “good” life.

And I say this as one of the guys who has helped feed this travesty, though excellent advertising.

Thus, it may be time for a little Reality Check session here.

On how not to waste your life chasing bullshit.

Let’s begin:

Reality Check #1: You only get one ticket for a life. There is no “do over” button, no replays, and no options on more game time.

Sure, I know you know this. Like, duh, right?

So why are you living as if you had unlimited time to waste? You’re treating your life the same way you treat your lack of exercise, your refusal to quit bad habits, your putting off of all that critical stuff you need to get after.

Oh, I know. Eventually, you’ll get around to it. Yeah, life’s short, whatever. You’re not gonna die in the next couple of months, at least, so why freak out over missing opportunities and all that crap?

Here’s where your own bullshit blinds you: Your “real” life doesn’t start down the line, after you’ve accomplished that thing you’re putting off. The college degree, the marriage to a hot mate, the new car, the new haircut, the signing of your band… none of that “starts” your life.

No, your life is going on RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Who you are today is pretty much the foundation of who’ll you be tomorrow, even if you win the lottery and can tell your boss to shove it.

And if winning the lottery is your entire plan for a better life, then you’re deep in the dreaded Delusional Swamp. Time to start wading back to dry land, and re-establish a relationship with the reality of your situation.

Reality Check #2: If you don’t change anything, then the next 5 years are probably going to look pretty much like the last 5 years.

And if that makes your skin crawl, then you must face up to a brutal fact of life: If anything is going to change, you’re gonna have to take responsibility for it.

Hey, I’ve known people who were wrenched from their life, drafted into the Army, and shoved into foreign cultures and terrifying situations rife with challenges to their belief systems.

And they came back pretty much the same person. They were so set in “who they were”, that new experiences just bounced off without much effect. They returned to the same job, same neighborhood, same desires.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want.

However, as a consultant and coach, I don’t usually encounter folks who are ecstatic with the way their lives are going.

No. The folks I deal with have made the fateful decision to CHANGE. They’re open to it, they crave it, they’re willing (they hope) to suffer to attain their goals.

They just need a little help doing it right.

To change, you have to actually draw a line in the sand. Up to this second, I was this person. From now forward, I am going to change the way I do things.

You can’t just promise to do this, by the way. Nope. You gotta form some goals to aim for, and implement your plan to go after them. You gotta make a (probably long) list of the attributes you need to nurture or create… like discipline, dedication, firm resolve, follow-through, and a professional’s code of behavior (“You show up where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there, having done what you said you’d do… every time, with no excuses allowed.”).

If you need help, you find it and start implementing what you learn. Mentors, coaching, courses, whatever it takes to get you past your sticking points.

If you need to get the biz working, you start today. Not tomorrow. Today. You set up a schedule and a plan, and you follow it. Even when you’re tired, even when there’s SO MUCH ELSE you’d rather do, even when you have to say “nope” to fun.

In fact, “fun” becomes a reward, not a primary pursuit. The old adage “business before pleasure” is the precursor to “work hard, play hard”. We’ve lost that sense of proportion, as a culture. Too many folks just want to play hard… and maybe squeeze in a little duty on the side.

And success doesn’t function like that. Fucking around is the way you eventually fuck up. (And I say this as a primo fuck up, for much of my pre-career life. I know how fuck-ups operate, the ways they spin excuses and avoid responsibility for mucking things over. I was a master at it. And I had to murder that part of me in order to move forward.)

Today, I have as much fun in my life as I do hard work. But the work is fulfilling, and the fun feeds my soul. And vice versa.

I got to this point by sacrificing long-held beliefs about what I was capable of, what the world would “allow” me to do, and how far I could push into unchartered territory when I set my mind to it.

Turns out…

Reality Check #3: … most of your limitations in life are self-inflicted.

And a lot of it has to do with time. As in, how you spend it.

My line in the sand was drawn one evening while I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, homeless after losing my job, girlfriend and place to live all in a short span. I had driven around the west coast for several months, aimless, clueless and directionless, hoping for some kind of sign on what my next move was going to be.

No sign arrived. What did arrive was a rather abrupt realization that I was standing in my own way. My entire life to that point was full of scattershot, ill-thought-out decisions that happened only when I was forced to choose or suffer another catastrophe. It occurred to me, that fateful evening, that maybe I should start considering my decisions more carefully. And add some actual data and info.

It was a start. I knew that just deciding to be decisive was worthless without good reasons to follow up on a decision. Being decisive, in and of itself, isn’t a good thing. It just means you act quickly. Thinking through the consequences, and including a little research, suddenly meant my decisions had some teeth.

No longer was it “what the hell, let’s do this and see what happens”. Suddenly (literally overnight) it was “let’s examine the options here, and make the call based on something more than just a hunch.

That meant changing a lot of my habits. I love science fiction, and always had a novel with me. However, during this period of decision-making, I needed to put the sci-fi on the back burner for a while, and read up on stuff like biz, advertising, marketing, salesmanship, and all the other skills and tactics I might need to explore in a freelance career. (Remember: I’d never met a freelancer before I became one, and had only a vague idea of what they did. There were no books on freelancing at the time, no mentors, no seminars, no nothing. I’d have to wing it… but I was still going to put as much info on my side as possible before wandering out there in the cruel advertising world.)

In a very short time — because I was obsessed with this “remake my bad self into something productive” project — I read nearly everything in the library on these subjects. Raced through an Evelyn Woods speed-reading course, figured out I had just enough money to keep me from starving for a few weeks, and dove in. No distractions. Business before pleasure became my mantra, and because I’d drawn that line in the sand, there was not gonna be much pleasure while I loaded up my brain with relevant stuff.

No TV. No visits to the pub. (They wondered where I was.) No long romantic calls with old girlfriends, trying to stir up a little action. No nothing. For a few weeks, I was a monk.

And holy shit, did I ever get stuff done.

The punch line to this story is that, on my very first interview with an ad agency for some freelance work, I walked in thinking my weeks of research had maybe prepared me to not sound like an idiot. However, what I discovered is that I knew much, much more about the history, application and use of advertising and marketing than any of the full-time professionals at the agency. My research made me a freakin’ Ph.D. in the subject, better-read than even the creative director.

They were impressed, and I got the job. I was stunned, and took their fee in a daze. How the hell do you work at an agency, and NOT know about John Caples’ groundbreaking ads from the sixties, Claude Hopkins’ revolutionary work in the 1920s, and all the current heroes of direct response in the print and broadcast games?

So, yes, you cynical jerks out there. The library is your friend, just like Miss Adams told you in the third grade. Knowledge is king. Accessing resources, like libraries or Google or experts (especially experts), gives you an edge… and no matter how “naturally” gifted the next writer you go against may be, you’ll still scorch him with better research every time. Every. Time.

Which, of course, brings us back to time.

How are you spending your time?

If you’re not where you want to be in life… and you’re watching ANY TV at all during the week… then you’re a fucking moron. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

If you’re still partying like a college boy (or girl), you’re the reason you’re not succeeding yet.

And if you aren’t topping off your brain-tank with info, knowledge, skill sets, and insights… relentlessly and with clear goals on how to use all this stuff… then maybe it’s time to just admit you’re not cut out for a successful life.

No shame in that. The world needs ditch diggers, too, just as Judge Smails said. (Caddy Shack. No need to Google it.)

However…

… if you DO crave success, then start with your own bad self. Do a reality-based checkup on how serious you are about moving up a level or two. Are there good biz books on your shelf, sitting there all lonely and forgotten, that you should be reading? Are you still following 3 different sports every season, spending more time on the sports pages than the financial section? Do you have people in your world you haven’t bothered to bond with, cuz it’s “too hard”, and thus you aren’t reaping the benefits of networking? Are you ignoring the opportunities spread out before you?

Are you, in short, still kinda believing that someday, maybe soon, magic will happen and your “real life” will begin in earnest?

You know, like when you were 8 years old and still believed in Santa? (Spoiler Alert: He ain’t real.)

There is plenty of time in your future for binge-watching The Walking Dead… drinking yourself into misadventures with your wayward pals… obsessing on your fantasy leagues… and chasing Susie Q around. No career requires total immersion for the rest of your life.

Still, until you get up to speed, and kickstart your new life as a knowledgeable, decisive, skilled and effective professional…

… time is your main resource. You hold yourself back by squandering it. You want someone to blame for the shitstorms swirling around your head? It’s you.

There. Settled that.

Now, it’s time for assessing your current state — what skills you lack, what attributes you need to adopt, what vacuums exist between your ears that need to be filled with good stuff.

You’ll be astonished what you can put together in just a few weeks. Yes, your buddies at the pub and everyone in your fantasy league will hate you for abandoning them (not to mention Susie Q, wondering why you aren’t harassing her anymore). Don’t look to them for support — they want you to fail, so your “old self” will come back and stop making them feel bad about being unsuccessful themselves. (And, in truth, they’ll get over it when you finally break through your limitations, and start proudly calling you “the guy who got it done”.) (Though, they’ll still try to force Jello-shots on you every time you visit.)

Time.

You think you got oodles of it.

You don’t.

Growing up and putting aside the time-wasting pleasures of your youth is just another stage. Doesn’t mean the next stage won’t be even more exciting, entertaining and full of adventures. It’ll just be different.

Okay, scolding over.

What time is it, anyway?

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. And when you’re ready to start finding and exploiting the expert-level resources around you…

… there’s no better place to start than the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club. It’s the one online joint where you can access most of the best material I’ve ever created to help entrepreneurs and copywriters.

It’s a one-stop resource where you can get fast expert feedback on any biz, marketing or advertising question you have…

… including the opportunity for ad critiques from me, personally (in the Marketing Brain Cleanse show I host on the site with my longtime biz partner Stan Dahl).

And, I maintain an active online “office” there, where I interact with folks regularly. With specific advice on sales funnels, career moves, and the problems holding you up. It’s like having a direct line to me and the support staff.

Plus, I’ve stashed my entire “swipe file” of ads there (they’re on constant rotation) – which include my commentary and side notes on why they worked (and how to use them as a template for your own ads). Along with the notorious interview series I did with my colleagues like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy, and my breakthrough email marketing course…

… and a ton more. It’s a huge payload of courses, coaching and shortcuts I’ve created to boost the bottom line for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Augmented with a full-time team of experts in the tech, strategies, tools and advice that’s working now in the fast-changing biz world out there.

What’s more, it’s a ridiculous bargain to get immediate access to everything. You’ve spent more on lunch.

Go here to see if this honest “insider’s” resource is for you. It’ll take you less than 3 minutes to understand the full impact of this awesome site.

And I’ll see you there.

Wise-Ass Wisdom Round Up, Part Deux

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Sunday, 4:39pm
Reno, NV
Knowledge is Good.” (Farber College, “Animal House”)

Howdy…

As a public service, I like to occasionally collect the best of the insane/brilliant/outrageous/decent advice and observations I spread around Facebook, and post it here for your frenzied and happy consumption.

It’s the least I can do, since a few of you have absolutely refused to join us in Zuck’s digital playground. I don’t blame you — Facebook can suck enormous quantities of time from your life, and take you down dark holes to the fever swamps of the worst of human thinking…

… but then again, some of the crap there is really cool.

So, at any rate, here’s a round up of the last month or so, in no particular order. I promise, no cat videos…

Friday Mentoring Session #33: One of the small advantages I had when I started my career as a freelance copywriter was having my then-soon-to-to-be-ex-girlfriend throw a lamp at me as I ducked out the door for the last time.

She was mad that I was devoting so much time to the gig, and I realized I needed to fly solo for a while if I was gonna successfully navigate the rocky early-career months.

Now, I’ve helped many a married-with-kids rookie get their mojo going in this same career — there’s no requirement to live like a monk (and I didn’t, either).

But any sweetie who wants to come along needs to be VERY clear on the time/energy/focus commitment that IS required. A rookie has an enormous amount of reading, video-watching and audio-listening to do for many months (I took a year to feel I’d “arrived”, but I had zero help and was inventing the entire process as I went)…

… and if you’re also juggling a “real” job, there just ain’t gonna be much time for lovey-dovey and relationship nurturing.

It’s not a permanent status, though… and any couple that has gone through military deployment, for example, will understand that during crunch time, you just gotta buck up.

Becoming an entrepreneur requires an entirely different mindset than “normal” living — and you need to understand this as you commit to deadlines (which you can NEVER miss) while your family/significant-other/new-squeeze needs to have the self-confidence and respect for your career that gives you room to move through the early months.

Cuz you’re gonna be frustrated, you’re gonna fuck up, you’re gonna be obsessed to distraction with problems, and you’re gonna be used and abused by clients.

After a period of self-hazing and chaos, if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the hang of the gig, and your productivity will zoom while time-commitments drop…

… and you can start planning deadlines and time-boxing projects so you again have plenty of time to get busy with your sweetie(s).

Just sayin’ — this isn’t a normal kind of job. Your entire brain chemistry is going to transform and your lifestyle will be obliterated (so you can rebuild it how you choose).

My first breakthrough was making “business before pleasure” my mantra (which completely harshed my former partying/slacker habits).

I’ve since counseled many writers and entrepreneurs through the burn-out and destroyed relationships that occur from miscommunication, selfishness and narrow-minded/short-sighted thinking (which is rampant in our culture, btw).

Fore-warned is fore-armed. For someone with entrepreneur’s blood in their veins and a writer’s soul, there isn’t a better gig in the universe.

But you seldom travel solo. With the right partners, it’s a dream ride. With the wrong ones, it’s like hacking through jungle with a butter knife.

Be sensible. Communicate. Prepare yourself and everyone around you, and enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of moving into the world of success and goal-attainment.

Observations From The Sludge Days Of Summer: My energy levels fluctuate like crazy — mostly, I’m a total sloth, following the great “dog wisdom”: Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never just lie there when you can snooze.

However, when I get moving, I go from Neutral straight into fifth gear, with a natural walking pace somewhere between a meth addict and a New York hedge fund asshole with bidniz to get to.

Yesterday, though, the heat woulda killed me at that pace. So I purposely slid it on back to cruise levels while bopping around on errands. And you know what? There’s something truly luxurious and wonderful about moving slow.

I mean, little old ladies fresh from eye surgery passed me in their Caddy behemoths. A squirrel mocked me by running faster across a lawn than I was driving. I made sure not to hold anyone up, even pulling over when a wild eyed guy in a thrashed Buick tail-gated my ass for four feet. And I walked with a slow-mo pace that felt languorous.

Y’all just get on your way, don’t mind me. I’m cruising today, thanks. Just truckin’ through the ether, moseying on down the line.

It was great. It was really great.

I’m gonna be that guy who pisses off everyone else by taking things slow now, as much as possible.

Slow rocks.

Happy Fourth, folks.

Remember: Light, then TOSS the firework. Don’t hold on.

Work Hack #47: Did you know that many top writers use sleep as a productivity tool?

You’ll get more done, at a higher quality level, in one hour after a power nap… than you’ll ever drag out of your brain in five hours of exhausted effort.

Plus, you can easily teach your subconscious to write FOR you. Some of my best headlines burbled up after a nap. I just asked my brain to distill all the info and ideas I’d crammed into it while I snoozed, and deliver a good headline when I woke up. Voila!

Cool part: Once you get hip to this hack, naps are technically “work”.

So you can toss the guilt, and legitimately tell folks you’re working while hitting the couch.

I love my job.

Department Of STFU, memo #24: Can you keep a secret?

Can any of your friends, family or colleagues?

Of course YOU can keep a secret. You’re a totally trustworthy dude… except maybe for that one time you let a secret slip. But it was just that one time. And it was SUCH a good secret, you know what I mean?

Okay, maybe a few other times, too… but no more than a dozen. Or so.

Okay, fine. You’re a freaking slack-jawed sieve. A virtual walking tabloid of juicy info.

Relax. You’re not necessarily a “bad person” if you occasionally blurt out shit that should remain buried. Humans are social animals, and keeping good info to ourselves isn’t standard equipment in our emotional makeup.

Still, if you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to get a handle on this.

One of the vows I made when I started my freelance career was to BE that guy you could trust. It just seemed natural. In the “real” jobs I’ve had, approximately none of the working stiffs around me could be trusted with anything.

Heck, untrue (and hard to believe) rumors spread like wildfire. The true stuff was treated like first draft ideas that required embellishment to meet the fundamental requirements of being whispered about at lunch.

Your secret wasn’t just spread around like cheap mulch. It was was dressed up like a French streetwalker and highlighted with fireworks.

I discovered that actually keeping a secret was kinda empowering. I enjoyed locking away a Big Story. It changed my own opinion of myself.

Plus, when my rep spread, it helped me slip into inner circles and behind closed doors. A trustworthy dude is hard to find.

Still, the urge to share is almost overwhelming.

People tell you things when you’re perceived as someone who can keep a secret. Especially in those inner circles and behind those closed doors.

Folks in powerful positions are eager to talk… but seldom have anyone around they can safely spill to. They’re forever waiting for the blabbers to leave the room, so they can relax their guard. Hopefully with a trusted fellow insider around, who they can dish with in confidence (often like 7th grade girls on the playground).

It’s lonely at the top.

You want to rise in your chosen profession? You crave the excitement of being on the inside? The thrill of moving and shaking with the movers and shakers?

Then learn to shut the fuck up. Love and trust your close friends with all your might…

… but KEEP the secrets entrusted to you.

It’s part of the job description when you start being a responsible, trustworthy dude or dudette.

Yes, I know it’s hard.

If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.

Extra Bonus Lesson: It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one slip-up to destroy it forever. Never forget that.

As Close As I’ll Get To Politics: I have no answers for the current sad state of affairs in the world (and especially here in the States)…

… and you don’t, either.

Nobody does. The ideologues, the idealists, the conspiracy nuts, the whack jobs and the serious elites all have their fave theories (and bones to pick).

But it’s all futile. It’s not comforting to know this isn’t new shit going on, but at least it helps with a bit of perspective.

First, this current upheaval doesn’t even begin to match the turbulence of the sixties. Just in ’68 alone, we had the police riot at the Chi-town Dem convention (and no one was ever held accountable)… the assignations of Kennedy and King, within months of each other… the Tet offensive in Viet Nam (which signaled the end of illusion about “winning” the war, and the start of the 7-year grind to get the hell out)…

… and an encyclopedia’s worth of other gruesome shit that just went on and on and on.

Cities burned — Watts, near LA. ‘Lanta. Detroit. NYC was becoming a wasteland. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered, always. Jim Crow wasn’t letting go without a lethal fight.

We could be entering another period of chaos like that. Or not. It’s a brave new world, with one superpower and a whole new kind of battlefield (virtual, digital, grid-wide). No one knows what’s gonna happen.

That floating anxiety you feel? Get used to it. Knock it down by tending to your own garden, affecting the things you have some control over. For the Big Picture stuff, you’ve just got to breathe deep and hope our luck holds out.

Second: There are no special factors creating the messes we’re now seeing daily. A lot of it is biology — we’re still essentially shaved apes, fresh from the primordial jungle, inventing wonders with our advanced cerebral cortexes and mis-using them with our lizard brains.

Eat, fuck, defend territory, fear change and The Other. That’s the subliminal message sent through your system, undetected unless you work hard to raise your self-awareness.

Sure, you look nice in your new duds, drinking expensive wine and all caught up on the latest gossip. But beneath the groomed, clean, perfumed surface lurks a survival-minded eco-system of biological imperatives that care not a whit about civility or fairness.

We aren’t doomed to succumb. The history that brought Americans to this high stage of civilization is a gore-strewn mess, and we may never be done with the bloodshed. Cuz that’s our nature — to fight when oppressed, to protect what’s “ours” against all threats, to huddle up in tribes that require real power to thrive.

It’s really kind of stunning we’ve lasted this long, especially with the nukes, chemical weapons, and grid-destroying computer viruses now available. And the way sociopaths tend to rise to leadership positions in all political systems.

No answers. But lots of hope.

We’ve worked our way through similar shit before. We may pull it off again. Beneath the nihilism, there remains the strong urge to survive, to make better choices that help rather than destroy.

I’m betting on good beating evil right now. I’ve been through this crap before, and seen how time can heal and rancid politics can swing back to rational governance.

Meanwhile, choose your battles carefully. There are a lot of us on the planet right now, and you may be in a minority more than you think. We’re not living “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet.

Reality can suck, big time. But calmly being proactive can work at solving horrendous problems. You gotta give it time, though. There’s no magic. You keep your head down, choose your goals wisely, and do the right thing.

Above all, do not give in to panic, or that withering fear the assholes like to exploit for drastic moves that are not conducive to a good solution.

Never let the bastards win. But never expect them to stop trying, either.

Good night, and good luck.

(Side note: Don’t post anything overtly political here. I don’t agree with your cultural spin, don’t wanna hear your fever-swamp conspiracy theories, and will delete all trolls. This is NOT the time to thrash togetherness.)

Nice little “how did I get here?” exercise: Quick now, recall your ten favorite summer memories.

Good stuff, I’ll bet.

Now, chart where most of them came from. Certain time frame, certain group of people, particular place frequently visited, particular recurring state of mind, perhaps.

Whatever you discover… whether it was youthful indiscretions on vacation, mid-life crises gone well, a period of discovery, whatever…

… it is a clue to who you are today, and how you got here. Your bad memories also count, but this is more fun.

Most people never question who they are. Top creative minds are forever consumed with it. If you crave maximum wealth with happiness (not just one or the other), such critical thinking about your past is essential.

I’ve never agreed with folks who insist on no regrets and no nostalgia. Screw that. A life well lived is a long-form tale worth sharing, and those stories take shape through the retellings.

Embrace moments of recalling good times. You’ll still have plenty of time left each day to get your shit done…

Wait — how did you not know we’ve put up a brand new Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast?

You fools! It’s being shoved into Insiders’ ear-holes at this very moment all over the globe… causing all kinds of awesome havoc amongst entrepreneurs who thought they were doomed to be uninteresting people for the rest of their days.

Not so, it turns out. We actually deliver a FORMULA for murdering your boring tendencies…

… which opens huge opportunities to up your game (and results) with more interesting copy, hooks, stories and offers.

Plus, you’ll be sought after at parties, instead of avoided.

I’m telling you, this is life altering stuff.

Go listen now at www.pi4mm.com. And accept the burdens of being an awesome storyteller…

Lifestylin’ Question #14: What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent living out of a backpack?

I lived out of my car for several months while homeless… hitchhiked with just a canvas pack for over a week at a time for a few years (after reading “On The Road” at 19)… logged a fortnight in Boy Scouts out in the hinderlands… and spent a good part of my career living out of suitcases in hotels (which doesn’t count).

Absolutely loved it all. Though occasionally scary, often a bit desperate, and always unpredictable, low-rent travel really does shave off the idealistic crap in your brain.

Seeking out adventure as a young, broke, and enthusiastic hormone-drenched young person used to be a requirement for growing up. Live by your wits, see some of the world from street level, meet whacky characters and have no clue where you’ll be tomorrow…

… there’s something to be said for that kind of dramatic journey.

I’m hearing, though, that it’s becoming rare with the new crop of kids. I hope it’s just another bullshit meme by the snarky press…

… cuz, if true, it would be a damn shame.

What’s your story?

Get Your Shit Together Memo #15: Did you know we completely revamped the Simple Writing System “at home” course? Reshot it in HD, updated every detail, made it just more awesome than it already was all the way around.

And this SWS 2.0 version has just been released… in a very limited amount, while we make triple-sure all the glitches are ironed out in the delivery system. (You get to watch the videos online, on any device, at your convenience… plus you get some serious time in the Marketing Rebel membership site, where I have a permanent virtual office.)

I’m a bit older in the videos (yes, I’m personally delivering every lesson), but wiser. As good as the SWS was (and we’ve put thousands of entrepreneurs, writers and biz owners through it), each of the simple steps is now even more powerful…

… because we’ve learned a few things in the 8 years since first launching it (including all the feedback from students and celebrity teachers — like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, David L. Deutsch and so many others).

Plus: Bonuses up the yin-yang.

Anyway, if (like every breathing marketer on the planet) you need to up your game with the written parts of your biz… including email, ads, VSLs, social media, speeches, and everything else… then here’s your first stop.

It’s a permanent resource, once you get it. A freakin’ bargain, too, considering the way these simple skills can immediately change your life (as they have so many others).

Just check it out: www.simplewritingsystem.com.

Dept. Of Political Standoffs, Memo #17: What’s the matter, Bunky? All this political discord infesting the media got you down?

One of the best things to ever happen to me in college was taking a debate class. I thought “Oh, boy, I’m gonna demolish my opponents with totally bitchin’ arguments that cannot be refuted!”

But the teacher had other plans.

The entire semester, she forced me to present the opposite side of any issue we debated. Total WTF moments for me. To prep, I had to get into the head of people I despised, disagreed with, and never wanted to hang with.

But I also wanted to win the debate. So I bucked up and crawled into the mindset of the opposite side.

Result: An awesome jolt of empathy powers. Equal to the mind-expanding acid trip I’d taken earlier that month. (Relax, it was the seventies.) Completely opened up my mind.

And I totally destroyed my opponents with bitchin’ arguments that could not be refuted.

Did it change my politics? Nope.

But I saw the other side with stunning clarity… including the humanity and sincerity of their positions.

My sense of a black-and-white world of easy decisions, obliterated. My compassion for people who thought differently, massively expanded.

And my ability to persuade… multiplied by a factor of a gazillion.

Shouting at each other accomplishes nothing. Refusing to entertain the thought you may be wrong and (shudder) the other guy is right is a habit of dunces. (See: Dunning-Kruger effect.)

The world is full of subtlety and nuance, whether you recognize it or not.

Being open minded ain’t a handicap, Bunky. It’s the only way for thinking folks to live well.

Okay, now back to the blood-sport shouting on the tube…

Jeez, almost forgot it’s “Piss Somebody Off” Monday!

Here’s my contribution: Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies. And one of my fave quotes from it:

“Jim, you’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

Now, I grew up in both the West and the South — the tiny town of Cucamonga in southern California — and my extended family and neighborhood was rife with Oakies, hillbillies, Texans and some of the most aggressively-naive blowhards you’ve ever met.

But they were, at heart, good people, most of them. Casual bigots, sure. And suspicious of anyone who got “too big for their britches” or acted snooty (whatever that was).

Now, I’m no genius, but I’m damn proud of every neuron I’ve managed to squeeze some IQ units out of, and I’ve worked hard to get myself all educated and shit.

And I’ll tell you that it’s awful lonely out there in the real world sometimes… cuz if you value intelligence and critical thinking at all, you’ll be in the minority in most groups outside of your silo.

And it pays to remember that, often. Blazing Saddles was offensive, outrageous, puerile and gut-wrenchingly funny. It was also stuffed with observational truisms about life in these United States that you don’t get from Reader’s Digest.

If you can at all handle it, try not to be a total maroon. More than ever, we need to stop disrespecting intelligence and thoughtfulness. I know it’s hard, folks, but “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”… (guess that quote, and you can sit at the bar with us next time we’re at the same seminar)…

Busy day. I just trashed the dry cleaner who ruined some of my new shirts, on Yelp.

Lakeridge cleaners, here in Reno, if you want to see how a pro writer eviscerates someone.

I used them for years. They told me go screw myself after they botched a job badly. Good call — lose a great customer, be a total jerk was about it, and irritate a writer who knows how Yelp works.

My main job in life is to help good entrepreneurs and biz owners. Part of that includes helping to rid the joint of bad businesses. Like Batman, if he understood marketing.

Though, from the other reviews, I see they’re doing pretty good at committing biz suicide all by their lonesomes…

Uncomfortable Discussion #8: Here’s the thing about change — learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess. And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…

and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.

And then the world changes. In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.

You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.

But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…

… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).

I marvel at my Pop’s life (he’s 94 and still kickin’). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and I’m gonna do a Skype video call with him later this afternoon. On his PC. He’s impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), still reads the entire newspaper every day (but fact-checks the editorials on Google, the lying bastards), and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he’d be the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knows how make stuff and fix machines).

Mostly, though, I sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tries to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He’s not bitter, and reveals a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.

And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.

There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit. You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).

The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.

You are not required, however, to change your “core” self… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.

Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.

It doesn’t. The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways. Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.

Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?

I’m seeing a lot of fear in the news lately — some of it real, lots of it imagined, most of it overplayed. The battle for eyeballs and clicks has turned the entire media circus into a rabid dog fight.

Couple of rules for staying sane:

  1. Remember that the news story you’re reading has been written by a single person (or, at most, two people). Maybe an editor did some fact checking (increasingly not, though, as staffs get trimmed to bare bones everywhere).

God did not write the article. Neither did Satan. Nor was it penned by a genius, or even a particularly bright individual in many cases. It’s a regular dude or dudette with biases, neuroses and an overwhelming fear of being disliked, fired or (worse, for a writer) ignored.

So take it all with a grain of salt. If the topic interests you, go find several other takes on it by other writers in other venues. (Yes, even the dreaded “other side” of the political spectrum.)

(This all goes double for TV talking heads, by the way.)

  1. The idea of “aggregate” info gathering has real merit in today’s confusing environment of instant news and sensationalism-posing-as-journalism. With opinion polls, for example, it’s best to never take a single poll as meaningful — get the aggregate of multiple polls (like Nate Silver and several other sources do), which will present a more nuanced view of what “the truth of the matter” is.

The same idea goes for understanding statistics that get thrown around to bolster or shoot down arguments. Any savvy disruptor can cherry-pick stats to fit his narrative. Much better to see what the context is, and learn how stats about “real life” work.

Just remember that the talking heads on TV, and the bloviators on the radio, and the writers for online and tree-killing news sources are TRYING to punch your buttons. Dog fight.

  1. Best tip: Figure out what is beyond your control, and what is within your control. No, your vote, nor your angry letter to the editor, nor your heated argument with the guy on the barstool next to you will change anything about world events.

Unless you’re a player on the world stage.

However, you can be a player in LOCAL events quite easily. If you truly believe you have answers and solutions, then the school board, the city council, and even the neighborhood watch program needs you.

Reality has a way of weeding out the big talkers, cuz when it’s time for action they tend to wander off, bored.

  1. Movement solves problems that sitting around being scared creates.

Literally, you can walk off a lot of stress. Put on your sneakers, get out and chug up some hills. Have those internal conversations while you’re burning up calories.

You’ll feel better later, I promise.

Paranoia is like a leach on your mojo. Once it gets its claws into you, it won’t easily let go. You’ll need to spend twice the time murdering it, than you spent acquiring it.

But that’s the game. You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sitting around wishing you had a better one is useless. Learning how to maneuver with what you have available in resources, skill and savvy is the ONLY way to win consistently.

  1. Stop whining. We’re all in this together. However it goes (and I admit, the news looks pretty anxiety-provoking… as it has since I was a kid), we’ll either muddle through or die trying.

Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards win.

Shh. Big Brother is listening: Back in the old days (before the turn of the century), the standard advice was never to write anything in a letter you didn’t want to see in a headline in the next day’s newspaper.

Good advice.

Then those new-fangled voice message machines appeared, and you had to add that to the list: Don’t leave a voice trail, either.

Also good advice.

Then we added email. Common sense, right? Then, with the NSA gaining muscle in the Grid, we added phone calls.

Now, with video cameras covering most of the public (and much of the private) spaces in the modern world, you should probably be careful about your actions, too. Don’t write, say, or do anything you wouldn’t want blasted across the Web tomorrow. Or in an hour from now.

All good advice.

Which leaves me with one question: Are we already in a world where you cannot exchange ideas with someone else… without the risk of that conversation becoming public? And not through hearsay, but through paper, voice, digital and video trails?

Are we really there already?

Disturbing Reality Check #4: For the most part…

… baring true interventions of nature (such as trees falling on you or zombies assaulting you unawares)…

… you are exactly where you’ve designed your life to be at this point. That may be hard to swallow, if where you’re at sucks right now.

Still, when you stop fighting the reality of how you got here, and accept that you’re responsible for much (or all) of the damage currently roiling in your life…

… you can finally stop blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and get busy fixing what’s broken.

To really get in a primo Zen groove, you should also get busy cleaning up whatever messes you’ve made, while filling in the gaps (in knowledge and skills) that will eventually round you out as a Dude (or Dudette) To Be Reckoned With.

The first rule of Reality Checks is: Reality checks suck. They bitch-slap your ego, demolish the excuses that have been propping you up, and rub your nose in the stark fact that your choices are now “change or rot in place” if you truly lust for a better life.

But the pain of exiting your former deluded self is brief… and the rewards so outweigh the inconveniences… that once you get in the habit, you’ll continue to morph and become a better and better person for the rest of your days.

One ticket. That’s all we get, folks. No do-overs, no replay buttons, no time machines. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve got decades left ahead of you, or only a few seasons… if YOU don’t seize the day and gobble up the opportunities around you, nobody else is gonna do it for you.

Just sayin’…

Heads Up Alert #13: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…

… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.

Not everyone likes you, remember. You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.) There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.

And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.

Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world. Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)

When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin. Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.

Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked… and it can escalate fast if you engage. Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of. When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…

… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose. Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.

Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:

  1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations. Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers. Yes, even if they’re wrong.

Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career. All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff. But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.

  1. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game. Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)

And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)

Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.

Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.

  1. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”

Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.

Sorry for the long post. It’s hard to explain some of this crap without needing extra paper…

Stress-busting tip: Life got you down? Sales tanking, creditors swarming, job going south, angst bubbling up in your gut?

Worse, is your brain locked in a hellish loop, obsessing and freaking out?

Time to intervene. Write yourself a letter, outlining all your troubles & all your immediate plans. Be specific, just get it all out of your head (where it’s causing trouble) & onto the written page (where you know it can found, so you can forget about it).

Then take a break. Hide the letter for 24 hrs. Let your unconscious work on solutions. When the loop starts, remind yourself that it’s all safely written down, so you don’t need to memorize details.

Your unconscious has a remarkable talent at organizing things and getting perspective on what’s important and what’s fluff. But you gotta give it elbow room to maneuver.

So back off for a day. Or even a few hours, if deadlines are approaching.

You’ll be stunned at how sensible and efficient your brain can be, when you stop fussing and awfullizing everything.

It works.

Hey, did you know I’ve got a book on Amazon?

Yeah, you can order it and read it and use it as a doorstop or throw it at the mice in your closet. Or use it as kindling for the fireplace (what with winter only 5 months away and all).

I mention this only because, if you do NOT own this book, your life will be one long miserable slide into horror and boredom. And I don’t wanna be responsible for something like that.

Anyway, after more than a year on the charts, it’s still bubbling up in the best-seller lists (for starting a biz, entrepreneurs, etc). This makes me happy. And a happy John is a productive John.

Go here to get it.

I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?

Most folks never think about their legacy. The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.

Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?

I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.

There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. They’re like separate John’s, completely different people.

Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.

I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).

I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.

The flip side: I could write the biography of MANY friends…

… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life. I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.

It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.

It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge secrets.

And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do.

As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.

And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.

They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask back. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.

But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.

Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.

It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives. No one had ever asked before.

And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.

It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly). Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…

… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.

It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.

Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.

Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.

Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.

And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them…

Psych Insight #439: The one consistently shocking piece of advice I give rookie freelancers is… if a prospective client says “money is no problem”, then you can be sure it very much IS a problem. Larger lesson: We are creatures of denial & masks. Deconstructing “who” a man is reveals what he fears and desires most. Heavy, but essential to great salesmanship.

Really Petty (But Important) Pet Peeve: People who have no sense of time when they say “just one second”, or “give me two minutes”, or a dozen other random time periods…

… who then get mad when called on it in one second, or two minutes, or whatever.

I know they’re just really saying “I need an indeterminate amount of time here before I can deal with you”…

… but what they’re actually doing is making their lack of awareness MY problem. Cuz now I gotta cool my heels for some multiple of the time period they want — it’s never a second or two minutes — and that’s fucking irritating. Especially when it gets into half-hour territory.

Top pro’s respect other people’s time. Even back before cell phones, Gary Halbert and I would pull over and call a client from a pay phone if we were gonna be ten minutes late from traffic…

… a significant hassle that could add five minutes. But it stemmed from the knowledge that being late was one thing, but eating up someone else’s time by keeping them waiting in the dark was quite another.

Being purposely late is a power game tactic, a whole different lesson. It’s a move you better be prepared to handle the consequences of. (It can ruin a reputation fast when misused.)

Even if you’re always the first person to arrive by being on-time, DO it if you want to be considered a pro. And learn to judge time, for crying out loud. Don’t say “just a sec” when it will actually be ten minutes. You’re just setting up resentment and arguments, and you gain NOTHING.

Grow up. Learn how time works.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope you enjoyed the short articles, pieces of advice, and other crap collected here. I’ll be back in a few months with another round up. Meanwhile, you can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/john.carlton.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’d like to learn how to write EVERYTHING you need for your biz to flourish… from emails to ads to VSLs to speeches and regular old pitches… then you need to check out the Simple Writing System right freakin’ now.

I poured my heart and soul into creating this unique at-home learning course, and it’s the bomb. On your own, at your own pace, you can quickly master the very straightforward skill set behind writing the best possible copy, under every possible circumstance, for every possible situation. Step by step, easily and simply.

Go here to see what’s up (and get a glimpse of some of the thousands of entrepreneurs and pro writers who’ve used the SWS to make their world happier, wealthier, and more awesome all the way around).

Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. Don’t stall any longer on finally goosing your life and career into the next level.

 

Can’t Buy Me Love…

 

IMG_3233Monday, 6:48pm
Davis, CA
“… everybody tells me so...” (Beatles)

Howdy.

Hope you’re enjoying these dog days of summer. Bloated thermometers, singed grasslands still smoldering from fireworks gone bad, outdoor concerts, late evening strolls, gorgeous sunsets and glorious full moons rising like ancient gods lighting up the sky.

Oh, yeah, and politics up the yin-yang. Wouldn’t be an election year without that mid-summer slugfest going on.

But what I want to discuss is something much closer to home.

Specifically: You. And your future happiness.

One thing I see, a LOT, in consultations with entrepreneurs is the steady drumbeat of burnout and personal lives gone to shit from the most mundane problem of all: Working too much.

I don’t have a problem with standard-issue workaholics (who occasionally get overwhelmed with their own over-scheduling), any more than I care if you occasionally get stupid drunk and embarrass yourself and your entire lineup of ancestors stretching back to the dawn of time. That’s your business.

The key to both of these issues, however, is the word “occasionally”. My personal motto is “moderation in all vices“, which has served me well for a very long time (yes, I consider overwork a vice). I like to live near the edge, chewing up scenery and sampling all the pleasures and misadventures offered up by a life well-lived. It’s certainly kept me flush with great stories to tell.

But I don’t go overboard as a steady diet. With work, occasionally you may have to burn the midnight oil on a project. Miss your daughter’s piano recital, not be home for dinner for weeks on end, never have a decent day off. It happens. Running your own biz, or freelancing for clients can play havoc with anyone’s schedule.

Occasionally.

However, I don’t usually see the moderate dudes and dudettes when I do “my life sucks” type of consultations.

No. I see the basket cases, who are at the end of their rope and desperate. Another divorce coming down the pike, kids alienated and getting in trouble at school, old friends not even bothering to check in anymore (cuz you’ve blown them off once too often). Plus, another biz crisis plowing up the legacy, threatening to destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for.

That’s the irony. All that relentless time at the job not only destroys private lives… but it also doesn’t necessarily get rewarded in the real world of business. Cuz your brain is thrashed, your energy stores depleted, your creative thinking conked out, your mojo just gone.

All because you lost sight of what matters.

It’s not money.

I know a lot of very, VERY rich individuals… who are absolutely miserable most of the time. They’re damn good at earning profits, but piss poor at building relationships and establishing something to work FOR. Other than the almighty buck.

And trying to get a true workaholic to see the ravages of his evil ways is a fool’s errand. Like the hard-core alcoholic determined to hit bottom, the workaholic has an internal dialog going 24/7 that won’t release him from the need to work until he drops. Every day. Every night. Every weekend. Forever or until biology steps in with a stroke, whichever comes first.

So I never try to “fix” a workaholic. I mean, I have tried, many times before… and after years of experimenting, I’ve given up on “solving” the problem. Can’t be done, not without a drastic life change (like, oh, say, a stroke) that forces the issue. But until the hammer comes down, the workaholic will refuse to even think about alternatives.

I do, however, have a good workaround that’s successfully helped some workaholics “reframe” things enough to sneak in some relaxing time, some time with family, some fun times even with pals who’ve forgotten what you looked like.

Want to hear what this workaround is?

Okay. I’ll tell you.

It’s called “The Big Damn Reframe To Bring Love And Happiness Back Into Your Miserable Life“, and it goes like this:

You know how you treat clients — with all that respect and deference and paying attention to “doing the right thing” by them? Whether it’s a professional’s code, or a personal style of doing business… if you’re successful at business, you’ve found a way to deal with clients, manage their expectations, and work with them to get the best possible result no matter what the situation.

Well, that attitude is both what brings in the Big Bucks, cuz you’re attentive to the details of making a deal happen (and in most businesses, the devil is in the details)… and what creates problems with your life outside of work. You bend over backwards to treat a good client with respect, you meet your deadlines no matter what, you provide excellent customer support, etc. All the things that go into a successful arrangement that keeps profits flowing.

However… you do NOT treat your private life the same way. You shrug off “deadlines” like dinner with the family, or push problem-solving off to your spouse whenever you can, and you seldom leave enough energy from your day to have any fun before crashing into your pillow like a statue falling over.

And therein lies both the problem…

and the solution.

Here it is: Simply start treating the people and activities you love…

the exact way you treat good clients.

With respect for fulfilling your promises, yes. With the same energy you’d bring to a critical meeting. With everything you’d do to accomplish great things to impress, persuade, fulfill and help your business relationship thrive.

Yes on all that. Standard advice from any amateur shrink.

But here’s the key to this reframing:

You also SCHEDULE your family, friend and relationship time, right there in your planner next to the “real” clients.

And you treat each scheduled event the SAME. If you wouldn’t blow off a biz meeting, don’t do it for little Tobie’s baseball game. If you wouldn’t skip a phone call to a client waiting for advice or input on a project, then don’t skip that phone call to an ailing pal (even if you “don’t know what to say” or feel awkward). (Figure it out. Just like you do with every client you’ve ever had.) If you know how to save up your energy for a meeting with a client during a busy week, use that same tactic for everything else on your schedule.

And if you have to take on less clients, then that’s what you do. One of the first pieces of advice I give any entrepreneur is to FIRE their worst clients. Don’t let money by your guide — let your quality of life rule this.

When you get going in biz, and your reputation starts bringing in more and more work… get more picky about who you take on. Have a sense of how much you want to work, and don’t push past that boundary by taking on too much. Yes, occasionally “the” great opportunity will come along and upend all your plans…

… but that doesn’t mean every asshole client who drops a check in your lap deserves your attention. Send them to a colleague (maybe for a nice 10% finders fee). Keep an eye on your very LIMITED energy reserves. Charge more, if you need to take on less clients to stay sane. Figure it out.

That’s what the real pro’s at living well do. They figure it out. They NEVER allow their idea of a good life to be subsumed by clients who make them miserable.

And, they know how to keep that work-life balance thing going.

If you aren’t in the habit of doing sloppy work for a client, then don’t buy pizza again when it’s your turn to handle dinner at home. Take ten minutes to google a decent home-cooked meal, bop into the store just like you’d bop into Staples for printer ink when you’re out during a deadline, and whip up something tasty. It ain’t that hard. Mr. Google is crammed to bursting with easy recipes and advice. Heck, I’m the worst cook to ever stumble into a kitchen, but I’ve learned how to make wonders happen on the stovetop… because it fucking MATTERED to me.

Just like creating killer hooks for an ad matter to me. Yes, they take a bit of time to get right. You have to work at it. There are very few shortcuts that don’t require some elbow grease.

So what. You learned to keep your eyes on the prize at work — do good stuff, collect the Big Bucks.

Well, guess what?

It’s the same with everything else. Put in the effort… collect Big Love and Big Happiness.

Yes, this sounds like pop psychology, cuz it is. It’s a simple tactic that anyone can adopt in their toolkit.

But knowing about it is one thing.

DOING it is quite another. If you already knew about this tactic, and you’re not doing it, then shame on you. Give yourself a big slap upside your head, and immediately get busy correcting things.

Life doesn’t “start” at some future point, after you’ve taken care of all your biz commitments.

No. Your life is what you’re doing NOW. THIS is your life, right now, this moment. However you feel, whatever mess you’ve made of things, this is your life right now.

And sometimes, a simple little tactic can make all the difference in the world. As well as providing the very excellence bonus of not burning you the fuck out.

Give your loved ones the same attention, energy and time you give your best clients. Don’t squander your best stuff on strangers who just happen to have enough dough to hire you.

Hope this helps.

Now, go enjoy your summer.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Bonus coping tactic: 

Whenever a client wants more of your time, and it’s going to eat into your “special” time… NEVER explain to them what’s going on. You simply say “Sorry, I’m booked for the next hour (or whatever). Let’s get you on the schedule for tomorrow (or next week).

You wouldn’t explain to a client that you can’t help them now, because you have another client already booked. YOU DON’T OFFER AN EXCUSE AT ALL. You’re booked. As a professional, you honor your booked clients, no explanation necessary. You’re treating your friends/family/tee time/whatever the same way you’d treat ANY client — with assumed confidentiality, and due respect for the time they booked with you.

Pro’s don’t blow off commitments because something “better” comes along. They honor their promises, and find a way to make everyone happy. Clients know that trying to get extra time outside of what you scheduled for them isn’t something they should expect. They don’t do it for THEIR clients, you know. They’re just trying to get first on your list, and eat up more of your time, because humans tend to be naturally selfish.

No harm in asking.

Big harm, though, in blowing off your other clients (no matter what relationship you have with them) to satisfy someone’s need for extra attention.

My good pal Dan Kennedy has a great saying: “Do not make your crisis my emergency.” In other words, you don’t earn extra time just because you fucked up. He makes sure all clients understand this, too. He’s booked to the max, routinely, with multiple clients. But he works his schedule like a pro.

You should, too.

 

The Big Damn Potpourri O’ Good Stuff

IMG_3201

Tuesday, 2:42pm
Reno, NV
“What you want, baby, I got it…” (Respect, Otis Redding)

Howdy…

I’m not bragging here (okay, maybe just a little)…

… but I’ve been maxed out with “friends” on Facebook for years now. That’s because ol’ Zuckerberg sets a limit of 5,000 of your closest BFFs for your personal page, for the very simple reason that…

… well, okay, there isn’t any good reason for it. But FB is Zuck’s playground, and we’re just hogging the swing set on it.

However, you can always “follow” me on FB, and get most of the same privileges that “friends” do. Yes, it’s just that confusing — why even set up these arbitrary definitions if there isn’t much difference in the stratification? I will never understand the uber-geeks running things. (There are currently over 4,600 followers on my page, so you’d have lots of company.)

Anyway…

… I occasionally get a note from someone who isn’t on Facebook (and who in the sane world isn’t wasting time on this amazing slice of Internet hell regularly?)…

… who wants to know why they keep hearing about all this wonderful posting I do there.

I admit it — I tend to write some truly awesome crap on the site. Stuff that, in a universe without FB, would be here, on the blog.

So, to keep things even, I’ve collected a little “Best Of” stew here for you. The better posts I’ve shared recently — or at least the ones that garnered the biggest load of comments and shares and likes. That’s how they measure quality over in Zuck-Land.

Thus, you can consider yourself caught up. Though, I still suggest you go sign up to follow me, anyway. There’s always more on the way.

Enjoy:

Skill Tip #47: Don’t start reading your next biz book until you’ve put at least one thing into action from the last book.
Idea junkies seldom develop actual skills. Don’t be that guy. Read, act, repeat.
There are only a handful of fundamental ideas required to succeed in biz. Putting those ideas into action requires skills, which you master through real-world application.
Movement beats “coulda, woulda, shoulda” excuses every time…

Professional Advice You’ll Hate: You can never have enough idiots in your life.
Seriously. The smarter you are, the smarter your close circle of friends will be… and the further removed from the reality of the marketplace out there you will hover. And labor to understand.
I’m not suggesting most people are idiots. I’m TELLING you most people are idiots. Or, at the very least, have idiotic moments in their quest for more money, a better life, a nicer house, whatever goal brought them into your world.
Even the guys in orange at Home Depot have their opinion of the quality of the human race’s intellect dramatically lowered after a few days on the job. Your doctor thinks you’re an idiot. The clerk at the grocery store (who had to run to replace the carton of eggs YOU broke in the cart) thinks you’re an idiot.
And you know what? We’re ALL idiots on this bus. At times, anyway.
You cannot be a great marketer or writer if you’re isolated from the broad spectrum of idiocy out there. I once hauled a wannabe movie director to the mall, and had him just sit there and people watch. He laughed at the goofy hair styles and clothes, got bored and irritated at the scrawling babies, recoiled at the trail of food left by folks munching as they walked… and kept asking why we were there. “Because these people are your audience,” I told him, finally.
Startled him. He’d been making movies aimed at his classmates at USC film school. No, no, no.
Not those idiots. The OTHER idiots out there. That’s your audience.
Anyway, sorry if I harshed your idealism about the inherent dignity of humans. But you can’t pretend that bullshit is true as a marketer, if you wanna be successful.
Reality bites, indeed. But it’s where the real action is…

Wisdom To Ignore: I never wanted to become some kind of possessionless monk, but the Zen ideas of “letting go” have always appealed to me. Modified for how I actually move best in the world.
What you think you own, actually owns you. There really is joy in giving up the bullshit in life, and keeping things simple and essential. (And yes, you KNOW what the bullshit is in your life.) For years, my banker’s box of “stuff I cared enough about to haul around even when I was living in my car” was a tidy little time capsule of my life up to that point — essential, because the writings, photos and keepsakes really were irreplaceable. And that box grew exponentially along with my success.
Now, we’re talking about multiple storage units.
Which was fine, until recently when it’s not fine anymore. Life doesn’t go in a straight line — there are side trips, deep holes, soaring mountains, and long stretches of desert along the way, and you have to forgive yourself for straying and screwing up and not handling adversity well all the time.
That’s what mid-life crises are for. Stop, rethink things, try some new shit, make some changes. Radical or small, doesn’t matter — the point is that it’s your life, the only one you’ve got a ticket for. When you’re fortunate enough to have someone special enough to come along with you — or you have little ones dependent on you for a while — you adjust. It’s NEVER just about you.
But you’re still the star, the hero, the main character in your movie… and, to a large degree, the director, writer and producer. And you can change the script a lot more than you probably believe possible. Until you try, you cannot imagine the actual power you have over what happens to you.
Modern humans are plagued with unhappiness that possessions and moolah does not fix. And there isn’t such a thing as “lasting happiness”, not really — you have today, and maybe some input over the next short period of time. How you operate, and feel, and move in this limited time frame IS your life. And it all will pass, and change, and morph in ways you can’t predict.
Your script should focus on the things you can do now. And embrace the happiness available to you now… because down the line, the universe has the weirdest shit waiting for you. Count on it.
Live the adventure that is your life. Be kind, take your responsibilities seriously, but claim this biological clump that is you, FOR you.
You don’t have to listen to this strange advice. But I’m telling you (and I’ve been around the block many, many times)… traveling light, seizing the day, and letting go of the bullshit is the only way to go.
Hope you’re enjoying these first days of summer…

Looking for something truly trashy and titillating to read on summer vacation?
Well, stop the search. My book, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“, is just the ticket.
By the pool, on the beach, nursing a hangover in the hotel room… it’s the perfect summer read for the guy who wants to finally kick his boring old life to the gutter, and get started fresh with all the mojo required for massive, almost-embarrassingly-good success.
I think it was also voted “the number one book to be stolen by jealous jerk wads when you leave it on your towel to go pee in the ocean”. Yeah, pretty sure it won that award last summer, hands down.
So don’t get left out! Grab a copy now, while trees still exist (or while the pixels on your virtual reader are still buzzing)…

Gear IQ Test: I have a great shortcut to determine if a kid is destined for working with tools and stuff, or is better tilted toward the creative life. Give him a pencil and paper, and ask him to draw a funny face. Then have him open and then close a short folding step ladder.
I’ve probably tried to either open or close a folding step ladder a thousand times in my life. Never got it right once, without bashing my shins against it, or getting an important part of my body pinched. It is a great, joyous victory when I finally defeat the evil engineering nightmare and can actually use, or put away, the damn thing.
On the other hand, I was a whiz with drawing from my early crayon days forward. And, as a graphic artist (back in my 20s), I got so good with an Xacto knife that I could cut cleanly through a page in the phonebook, WITHOUT scoring the page underneath it.
Okay, you don’t even know what a fucking phone book is, do you. Just think of the thinnest possible paper in existence. Try using a blade to cut through one sheet, without touching the sheet it’s laying on top of. Not just hard — it’s really, really, really surgical-hard. The point is, I got really good with detailed creative stuff.
If I’d been given such a test early on, it would have saved me a ton of grief in the “get a job” phases of my life. But I wouldn’t have all those stories of pissed-off bosses firing my ass, either, I guess. I mean, it takes some world-class fucking up to get fired from a dishwasher position.
So, everything worked out, I guess, after a few decades. Still can’t figure out the damn folding step ladder thing. And collapsible ironing boards. And fixing faucets.
Damn. I’m lucky I eventually found something I could squeak out a living at…

Psych Insight #12(c): Nobody’s got it all figured out.
There’s a major kink in our human operating system (which comes with no manual, btw) that allows us to believe (for brief periods) that we got this existence thang nailed. Then reality intrudes (and yes, the universe does have a very twisted sense of humor) and you realize that what you thought was competence was really just the product of hiding from your consciousness all the uncomfortable crap you hate dealing with.
We’re juggling emotional, intellectual, physical and metaphysical balls every moment we breathe and — again — nobody’s got it all figured out.
If you crave leadership, look for reluctant leaders. If you crave an audience who will buy from you, look for people having the same internal conversations you’re having.

Monday Warning Quarterback #1: I love this quote by Oscar Wilde: “Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” It applies to other things, too… like knowledge.
In life, love and biz, you’ll encounter folks who are well-read, clever and quick with opinions… yet lack the most essential ingredient for good advice: Experience. They’re bursting with common sense that ain’t, specific plans untested in the real world, and theories free of the bothersome complexities of how things actually work.
Some of the most blunder-prone marketers I’ve known had library shelves sagging with books and courses (and ticket stubs from seminars up the yin-yang). The missing ingredient was an inability to “grok” anything — to understand how the lessons applied to their own behavior as they went after goals. They’re like doughy, bloated couch-potatoes who watch every exercise show on the tube — they “know” what to do, but never DO it… and thus, are no help whatsoever for anyone actually hitting the gym to workout.
Beware the clean-handed man advising you on gardening.

Americans have a gruesome love/hate relationship with stress. We say we hate it, but a space alien observing our daily behavior would have to assume we actually love stress…
… cuz we seek it out, gather it in, and never let it go.
Pretty schizophrenic, but very typical of how humans operate. Nobody sane ever said we’re rational beings.
Here’s a nice little zen mind trick: You have 20 things to do today. You’re freaked out with stress trying to get it all done.
So… how would you go about accomplishing everything if you WEREN’T stressed out? Imagine tackling each task calmly, doing the best you can, finishing and moving to the next task. No stress. Just head down, move forward, be productive.
It’s doubtful you’d get worse results than doing this in your normal hair-on-fire mode. And you might even get BETTER results.
It’s happened before.
So what productive job does stress do in this case?
Nothing. Except raise your BP, dump toxic hormones into your system, and fritz-out neurons.
Thus, stress is a choice. You’ve decided, on some fucked-up level, to approach your day freaked out, rather than calmly. Why?
Who cares? Bad training, bad habits, faulty wiring… it doesn’t matter.
Look — for decades now, I’ve climbed up on stages in front of vast snarling mobs of audiences, armed with nothing but a handful of notes and maybe a PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes I have a planned speech, sometimes I just wing it (like when I do hot seats, spontaneously picking people from the crowd).
Most folks list public speaking as their #1 fear. They wake up screaming at night, just imagining having to do it. And I could be freaked, too — but I’d have to choose to do so. I’m calm, and feel pretty much at home on stage, cuz I don’t give a flying fuck what people think of me, or how I do. Win, lose or draw, I’ll have a story to tell, a lesson to learn, and another experience under my belt.
Being stressed over any of it is counterproductive. It’s just a dumb choice to make.
So, just consider your own case. Stressed or calm, you’ve got the same tasks ahead of you today.
Why not enjoy the ride, and take the adventures and misadventures as they come, rather than awfulizing things and dreading the near future.
Make your choices, move forward, and leave the stress to the rookies.
Zen out, man.

Pro Hint #40: Because customer service isn’t “sexy” (in the way a hot new tech fad is), biz owners tend to starve it over time in budgets. (See: Gateway computers, then Dell computers, every cable tv joint in existence, and probably the once-good contractor who fucked up your plumbing.)
Huge freakin’ mistake.
A basic (and mostly ignored) rule of biz: A sale saved, is EQUAL to a new sale made.
Or, as the poker players say, “folding a great hand, when you would have lost, is like winning a small pot”. It’s a little hard to wrap your brain around the idea of expending effort to KEEP money, when your primary focus is mostly on bringing in new money. But it’s exactly what the pro’s do.
You SHOULD have a certain amount of customers asking for a refund, in any biz endeavor. A zero rate means you’re just not marketing aggressively enough, playing it too safe. But a too-high rate means, probably, that your customer service sucks.
People routinely rave about the customer service in the Simple Writing System. Real humans respond real fast, with real knowledge of your situation (meaning: They actually read your complaint). And they have real solutions available (including parting ways, but remaining friendly).
But it’s not just the coaching program (where real pro copywriters guide you through the process of learning how to create killer ads). Our entire biz revolves around customer service — first, providing astonishing value… and then, making sure every customer is taken care of, even on small-ticket buys.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain old human caring.
You know — everything you’re not getting from the majority of the businesses you deal with today.

Deep In The Language Files, Part 37a: Most entrepreneurs struggle to find their “voice” when writing copy for ads, VSLs, webpages, emails, and everything else.
They often resort to “sounding” like a former English teacher (who may have beat them during class), or how they imagine a “smart” person might write.
This sucks, if you want your marketing to work.
Much better to embrace the language that has provided you with so much — cuz whatever you said to your main squeeze, got ’em to give up resisting and marry your sorry ass… and your garbled messages still nailed you that job or career or gig… and you somehow manage to make your point (eventually) when arguing with your drunk uncles around the holidays.
Where would you be without language? Nowheresville, that’s where. Nothing that you enjoy, or thrive from, or rely on for a good life would exist.
So stop treating your Mother Tongue like it’s an ape that just sauntered into your living room and shat on the couch.
Using language is how you find prospects. How you sell them, and nurture their customership, and resell them, and get the book written (which expands your lovable nonsense worldwide), and do everything else that makes life better for you and yours.
I’ve always said that great salesmen lead better lives. Part of the reason is that they’re reality-based — they don’t give a rat’s ass about theory, or how you think the world should work. They care about how things actually get done.
And a big part of that is realizing how important language is to everything you want to accomplish.
So drop the stilted blabber already. The BEST kind of sales writing is a good mix of proper English, hefty doses of slang and insider jargon, mixed with personality and honest empathy.
There’s no second best way to market anything.
How do you find a new “voice”, when all you’ve been able to manage so far sounds like some robot with a wrench up it’s butt?
You read, first of all. Fiction, history, good authors, bad authors, letters-to-the-editor (and all the troll-laden comment sections you can stomach), emails from marketers fighting against stiff competition, magazines, graffiti, song lyrics, ads… everything around you.
Then, you listen. I know, I know, this is soooooo hard to do, cuz you’d rather talk. You’re so witty and everything, and everyone else is so booooooooooring.
It’s freaking excruciating to have to sit there and let them blather on and on, when you’ve got such a GREAT point to make. And you’re not hearing what they’re saying, anyway, cuz it ain’t you talking, is it.
Just stop. You can resume dominating every conversation AFTER you’ve made your imprint on the biz world. For now, listen. Hear the patoi of those around you, the way some folks speak in a sing-song melody, the way others stumble to say even the simple shit, the way most never find the right word, or get tongue-tied when trying to make a complex point.
Listen to the good orators, too. To Alex Jennings smoothly conquer twenty different languages in a session of Jeopardy. To your one drunk uncle who can tell a riveting story. To your pals who can’t shut up, and to your pals who rarely say anything.
Language is all around you, every minute of every day. When you’re alone, there’s a voice in your head droning on and on. When you’re racing through an airport, a thousand conversations hum in the clutches of people you’re bumping aside. When you’re in the theater trying to watch the movie, the idiots behind you are commenting on the plot just like they do at home.
Listen. Hear.
And keep a notebook with you. Write down phrases you like, words you don’t know (and need to look up), make notes on who won what argument, and how…
… and just allow yourself to fall in love with language again. You did love it, once, when you were little and unable to communicate one day, and a little chatterbox the next. And things started happening. You were able to ask for what you wanted, argue your side, tell long aimless stories, talk to your toys, to invisible monsters, to everyone and everything around you.
And it was cool as shit, too. You loved adding new words to your arsenal, swooned when you convinced Mom to give you ice cream (just cuz), swelled with pride when your little gang decided to follow you off on some harebrained adventure because you’d made them believe it would be fun.
And then you learned to lie to Mom about why Jimmy was trapped down the well. Why you were late for supper. Where you were going with Susie Q (hint: Not the drive-in, like you said.) Why your grades sucked. Where you were the last two months, never calling, not even a postcard…
And then you stopped listening, stopped caring about what a doofus you sound like when you try to make a point, stopped working on the one skill with the power to place you amongst the more awesome humans on the planet.
You gotta turn this around.
Language kicks ass. It’s what separates us from all other animals. It’s why our neocortex evolved to the size of a small casaba melon, and it’s why you haven’t starved to death yet.
Give it respect.
Give it love.
And get off it’s lawn. It’s old, and has no time for you if you’re not gonna nurture a real relationship with it…

My colleague Kevin Rogers tells me a trusted health expert sez that people under stress should increase their veggie intake dramatically.
As in, normal vegetable servings per day are, what, 5 for an adult. Stuff a handful of spinach in your yap, chew on some carrots and broccoli, work some lettuce and beans in there during the day. Most of us utterly fail at even this light task, by the way.
But when you’re freaked out — deadline, zombie attack, argument with the ball-n’-chain, identify theft, cops surrounding your house, whatever — you need up to THIRTEEN servings of veggies to battle all that evil cortisol and adrenaline you’re dumping into your system.
You ain’t noshing at the fridge at this point — you’ve sat your ass down in the veggie aisle at Safeway and gorged on everything within reach. Soaking up the toxic wasteland in your tubes with greens and roots.
I’d never heard this advice before. I’m gonna check it out, cuz it has the ring of validity. I’ve gone through years of limiting meat and finding my protein sources elsewhere… and I may have intuitively been keeping stress at bay this way. By accident.
Any of you have info or insight to this theory of veggies dousing out the cortisol fire in your gut?
I SO want this to be true. Easy, natural, no pills, proactive.
Still, I’d enjoy seeing some proof, not just anecdotes…

Not saying I endorse this…
… but, jeez, you gotta respect Homer’s life philosophy. Sometimes, the dude just resonates…
“All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me… so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.” Homer Simpson

And there you have it. Your basic steaming pile of Carlton rants, blurbs, info, advice and blatherings. Some brilliant, some not-so-much.

But it’s fun, right? And laden with real insight and advice you can actually use.

So, you’re welcome. I hope you’ve been inspired to come join us on my FB page.

Hope you have a great July 4th.

Stay frosty,

John

How to get personal mentoring from John Carlton… right now.

Special Announcement: 

The completely updated — and packed with new features and info and bonuses — Simple Writing System program is now available.

And I’m personally teaching the first session. I taught the very first class, which was live (and put on video, which became the core of the original course). This is the first time I’ve taught one of the online classes, however.

Why? Because we’ve had no shortage of “A List” copywriter legends asking to teach the SWS sessions we’ve hosted for over 8 years now. I oversaw the programs, and backed up the teachers… but I never handled an entire class myself.

Now, after spending all of January re-shooting the SWS… and stuffing it with every new thing and update we’ve learned in those 8 years… we’re ready to release the SWS 2.0.

And I want to teach the very first class.

This means you’ll get my full attention, as a mentor and coach, for the entire 8 weeks of the program. I’ll be your personal teacher…

… just me and you and a handful of other classmates. 

I rarely do mentoring anymore, and when I do it’s outrageously expensive. Here, you get me for just the price of this one-time special session. Which is around two entire months long.

You get a lot more, too…

… and I’ve explained everything on the main SWS site: www.simplewritingsystem.com.

Go there now, and take 5 minutes to read up on this very awesome, very limited one-time offer.

I’m inviting you in. But you have to follow through, and sign up. Compared to what full-price coaching from me directly costs, this is a drop-dead bargain.

Don’t let this opportunity slip by.

I’ll see you in class.

Stay frosty,

John

How To Stop Being Taken For A Ride (which, if you’re honest, right now you are)…

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Sunday, 2:22pm
Reno, NV
“Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)

Almost everything you encounter today is conspiring to waste your time. Lots of it. Most of it, in fact.

For eons, the distractions of life were put on hold by the sheer requirements of subsistence living. The party animals starved when winter hit.

So we gathered in villages in order to share the burdens of eating every day. There was a time to sow, a time to reap, and so on. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker started specializing, so the rancher, the farmer and the night owls could get on with their end of the game.

Complications were instantaneous, of course. Humans are hard-wired to screw things up, especially once we get into a good groove. (The Primary Rule Of Entrepreneurship, which should never be forgotten, is: The first thing most entrepreneurs do, once they’re successful with a simple idea they’ve turned into a biz, is try to complicate the shit out of it. And ruin it. It’s unconscious, because our lizard brain can’t stand the drudgery of management, and craves the excitement of new ventures. I’ve seen this rule demolish more success arcs than divorce, embezzlement and incompetence combined.)

So, over the long arc of history, the smart alecks started figuring ways to have others do the hard work for them… allowing them (the smart alecks) more leisure time. Becoming royalty was a good way to get out of the unpleasantly-sweaty parts of life. Concocting empires and war (from afar) was an excellent way to amass wealth and power… which translated to lots of servants, soldiers and lackeys scurrying around doing your bidding. It’s the ultimate con game. You spend your days in leisurely pursuits.

And, voila! Boredom was invented.

Too much time, too little to do.

It’s pretty much a given that most folks, stripped of fulfilling duty, will find a way to wile away the time. Prisoners dig tunnels, trophy spouses shop and have affairs, bosses gamble away the payroll, students hack into Pentagon computers, and so on. We’re just busy little beavers when we latch onto something to do.

In the modern world (and I hope you’ve noticed) the “what to do with your free time” trends have been heavy on entertainment, though, and a little weak on substance.

And, from this old codger’s perspective (after many, many trips around the block)… most folks are squandering a truly great life, by going after what they’ve been sold as a “good” life.

And I say this as one of the guys who has helped feed this travesty, though excellent advertising.

Thus, it may be time for a little Reality Check here. On how not to waste your life chasing bullshit.

Let’s begin:

Reality Check #1: You only get one ticket for a life. There is no “do over” button, no replays, and no options on more game time.

Sure, I know you know this. Like, duh, right?

So why are you living as if you had unlimited time to waste? You’re treating your life the same way you treat your lack of exercise, your refusal to quit bad habits, your putting off of all that critical stuff you need to get after.

Oh, I know. Eventually, you’ll get around to it. Yeah, life’s short, whatever. You’re not gonna die in the next couple of months, at least, so why freak out over missing opportunities and all that crap?

Here’s where your own bullshit blinds you: Your “real” life doesn’t start down the line, after you’ve accomplished that thing you’re putting off. The college degree, the marriage to a hot mate, the new car, the new haircut, the signing of your band… none of that “starts” your life.

No, your life is going on RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Who you are today is pretty much the foundation of who’ll you be tomorrow, even if you win the lottery and can tell your boss to shove it.

And if winning the lottery is your entire plan for a better life, then you’re deep in the dreaded Delusional Swamp. Time to start wading back to dry land, and re-establish a relationship with the reality of your situation.

Reality Check #2: If you don’t change anything, then the next 5 years are probably going to look pretty much like the last 5 years.

And if that makes your skin crawl, then you must face up to a brutal fact of life: If anything is going to change, you’re gonna have to take responsibility for it.

Hey, I’ve known people who were wrenched from their life, drafted into the Army, and shoved into foreign cultures and terrifying situations rife with challenges to their belief systems.

And they came back pretty much the same person. They were so set in “who they were”, that new experiences just bounced off without much effect. They returned to the same job, same neighborhood, same desires.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want.

However, as a consultant and coach, I don’t usually encounter folks who are ecstatic with the way their lives are going.

No. The folks I deal with have made the fateful decision to CHANGE. They’re open to it, they crave it, they’re willing (they hope) to suffer to attain their goals.

They just need a little help doing it right.

To change, you have to actually draw a line in the sand. Up to this second, I was this person. From now forward, I am going to change the way I do things.

You can’t just promise to do this, by the way. Nope. You gotta form some goals to aim for, and implement your plan to go after them. You gotta make a (probably long) list of the attributes you need to nurture or create… like discipline, dedication, firm resolve, follow-through, and a professional’s code of behavior (“You show up where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there, having done what you said you’d do… every time, with no excuses allowed.”).

If you need help, you find it and start implementing what you learn. Mentors, coaching, courses, whatever it takes to get you past your sticking points.

If you need to get the biz working, you start today. Not tomorrow. Today. You set up a schedule and a plan, and you follow it. Even when you’re tired, even when there’s SO MUCH ELSE you’d rather do, even when you have to say “nope” to fun.

In fact, “fun” becomes a reward, not a primary pursuit. The old adage “business before pleasure” is the precursor to “work hard, play hard”. We’ve lost that sense of proportion, as a culture. Too many folks just want to play hard… and maybe squeeze in a little duty on the side.

And success doesn’t function like that. Fucking around is the way you eventually fuck up. (And I say this as a primo fuck up, for much of my pre-career life. I know how fuck-ups operate, the ways they spin excuses and avoid responsibility for mucking things over. I was a master at it. And I had to murder that part of me in order to move forward.)

Today, I have as much fun in my life as I do hard work. But the work is fulfilling, and the fun feeds my soul. And vice versa.

I got to this point by sacrificing long-held beliefs about what I was capable of, what the world would “allow” me to do, and how far I could push into unchartered territory when I set my mind to it.

Turns out…

Reality Check #3: … most of your limitations in life are self-inflicted.

And a lot of it has to do with time. As in, how you spend it.

My line in the sand was drawn one evening while I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, homeless after losing my job, girlfriend and place to live all in a short span. I had driven around the west coast for several months, aimless, clueless and directionless, hoping for some kind of sign on what my next move was going to be.

No sign arrived. What did arrive was a rather abrupt realization that I was standing in my own way. My entire life to that point was full of scattershot, ill-thought-out decisions that happened only when I was forced to choose or suffer another catastrophe. It occurred to me, that fateful evening, that maybe I should start considering my decisions more carefully. And add some actual data and info.

It was a start. I knew that just deciding to be decisive was worthless without good reasons to follow up on a decision. Being decisive, in and of itself, isn’t a good thing. It just means you act quickly. Thinking through the consequences, and including a little research, suddenly meant my decisions had some teeth.

No longer was it “what the hell, let’s do this and see what happens”. Suddenly (literally overnight) it was “let’s examine the options here, and make the call based on something more than just a hunch.”

That meant changing a lot of my habits. I love science fiction, and always had a novel with me. However, during this period of decision-making, I needed to put the sci-fi on the back burner for a while, and read up on stuff like biz, advertising, marketing, salesmanship, and all the other skills and tactics I might need to explore in a freelance career. (Remember: I’d never met a freelancer before I became one, and had only a vague idea of what they did. There were no books on freelancing at the time, no mentors, no seminars, no nothing. I’d have to wing it… but I was still going to put as much info on my side as possible before wandering out there in the cruel advertising world.)

In a very short time — because I was obsessed with this “remake my bad self into something productive” project — I read nearly everything in the library on these subjects. Raced through an Evelyn Woods speed-reading course, figured out I had just enough money to keep me from starving for a few weeks, and dove in. No distractions. Business before pleasure became my mantra, and because I’d drawn that line in the sand, there was not gonna be much pleasure while I loaded up my brain with relevant stuff.

No TV. No visits to the pub. (They wondered where I was.) No long romantic calls with old girlfriends, trying to stir up a little action. No nothing. For a few weeks, I was a monk.

And holy shit, did I ever get stuff done.

The punch line to this story is that, on my very first interview with an ad agency for some freelance work, I walked in thinking my weeks of research had maybe prepared me to not sound like an idiot. However, what I discovered is that I knew much, much more about the history, application and use of advertising and marketing than any of the full-time professionals at the agency. My research made me a freakin’ Ph.D. in the subject, better-read than even the creative director.

They were impressed, and I got the job. I was stunned, and took their fee in a daze. How the hell do you work at an agency, and NOT know about John Caples’ groundbreaking ads from the sixties, Claude Hopkins’ revolutionary work in the 1920s, and all the current heroes of direct response in the print and broadcast games?

So, yes, you cynical jerks out there. The library is your friend, just like Miss Adams told you in the third grade. Knowledge is king. Accessing resources, like libraries or Google or experts (especially experts), gives you an edge… and no matter how “naturally” gifted the next writer you go against may be, you’ll still scorch him with better research every time. Every. Time.

Which, of course, brings us back to time.

How are you spending your time?

If you’re not where you want to be in life… and you’re watching ANY TV at all during the week… then you’re a fucking moron. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

If you’re still partying like a college boy (or girl), you’re the reason you’re not succeeding yet.

And if you aren’t topping off your brain-tank with info, knowledge, skill sets, and insights… relentlessly and with clear goals on how to use all this stuff… then maybe it’s time to just admit you’re not cut out for a successful life.

No shame in that. The world needs ditch diggers, too, just as Judge Smails said. (Caddy Shack. No need to Google it.)

However…

if you DO crave success, then start with your own bad self. Do a reality-based checkup on how serious you are about moving up a level or two. Are there good biz books on your shelf, sitting there all lonely and forgotten, that you should be reading? Are you still following 3 different sports every season, spending more time on the sports pages than the financial section? Do you have people in your world you haven’t bothered to bond with, cuz it’s “too hard”, and thus you aren’t reaping the benefits of networking? Are you ignoring the opportunities spread out before you?

Are you, in short, still kinda believing that someday, maybe soon, magic will happen and your “real life” will begin in earnest?

You know, like when you were 8 years old and still believed in Santa? (Spoiler Alert: He ain’t real.)

There is plenty of time in your future for binge-watching Ray Donovan… drinking yourself into misadventures with your wayward pals… obsessing on your fantasy leagues… and chasing Susie Q around. No career requires total immersion for the rest of your life.

Still, until you get up to speed, and kickstart your new life as a knowledgeable, decisive, skilled and effective professional…

time is your main resource. You hold yourself back by squandering it. You want someone to blame for the shitstorms swirling around your head? It’s you.

There. Settled that.

Now, it’s time for assessing your current state — what skills you lack, what attributes you need to adopt, what vacuums exist between your ears that need to be filled with good stuff.

You’ll be astonished what you can put together in just a few weeks. Yes, your buddies at the pub and everyone in your fantasy league will hate you for abandoning them (not to mention Susie Q, wondering why you aren’t harassing her anymore). Don’t look to them for support — they want you to fail, so your “old self” will come back and stop making them feel bad about being unsuccessful themselves. (And, in truth, they’ll get over it when you finally break through your limitations, and start proudly calling you “the guy who got it done”.) (Though, they’ll still try to force Jello-shots on you every time you visit.)

Time.

You think you got oodles of it.

You don’t.

Growing up and putting aside the time-wasting pleasures of your youth is just another stage. Doesn’t mean the next stage won’t be even more exciting, entertaining and full of adventures. It’ll just be different.

Okay, scolding over.

What time is it, anyway?

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. And when you’re ready to start finding and exploiting the expert-level resources around you…

… there’s no better place to start than the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club. It’s the one online joint where you can access most of the best material I’ve ever created to help entrepreneurs and copywriters.

It’s a one-stop resource where you can get fast expert feedback on any biz, marketing or advertising question you have…

… including the opportunity for ad critiques from me, personally (in the Marketing Brain Cleanse show I host on the site with my longtime biz partner Stan Dahl).

And, I maintain an active online “office” there, where I interact with folks regularly. With specific advice on sales funnels, career moves, and the problems holding you up. It’s like having a direct line to me and the support staff.

Plus, I’ve stashed my entire “swipe file” of ads there (they’re on constant rotation) – which include my commentary and side notes on why they worked (and how to use them as a template for your own ads). Along with the notorious interview series I did with my colleagues like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy, and my breakthrough email marketing course…

and a ton more. It’s a huge payload of courses, coaching and shortcuts I’ve created to boost the bottom line for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Augmented with a full-time team of experts in the tech, strategies, tools and advice that’s working now in the fast-changing biz world out there.

What’s more, it’s a ridiculous bargain to get immediate access to everything. You’ve spent more on lunch.

Go here to see if this honest “insider’s” resource is for you. It’ll take you less than 3 minutes to understand the full impact of this awesome site.

And I’ll see you there.

I Am The Man I Am Today, Because…

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Monday, 12:36pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Howdy.

My father passed away early in February, and because he’d lived such a long and amazing life, he’d outlived anyone in the local area who would have noticed an obituary in the newspaper.

So, I wrote this on Facebook. Nearly everyone who knows me, or my family, and is active in social media was able to see it. In many ways, Facebook has become the new “local newspaper” for things like this… and, because of the way your newsfeed works, these kinds of posts are actually seen by more folks than would normally see a published obit. Hundreds “liked” and responded to this post… so I’ve decided to keep it in the mix by publishing it here on the blog (where it will remain in the archives).

For everyone who sent condolences, thank you. I hope, however, that I have adequately explained just how much I appreciate that Pop was around for so long, with his mind intact and vibrant (despite his body slowly falling apart)… and that, at 95, I prefer to celebrate his long life rather than grieve over his passing. He was ready to go. We’d discussed it for years, he and I, and we were not afraid of the final moment.

Anyway, here’s the post. I’ve written tearful farewells to my mentor, Gary Halbert, and to Steve Jobs (who influenced so many of us) here on the blog, and Pop deserves to stand beside those men in the archives. I can only hope, when the time comes, someone takes the time to a little something for me…

——

I am the man I am today, because of the man who raised me. Pop’s life is one for the history books — born in the Industrial Age (and he mastered several difficult crafts), witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age (while fighting the Hun in WWII), and actually grokked the snarling new Information Age even as a very old man. (We Skyped with each other weekly for years.)

He enjoyed his relatively quiet life — after surviving the Depression as a teen and the Battle of the Bulge (Hitler’s last surge) as a freaked-out 22-year-old infantryman, he was eager to limit the serious drama for awhile — and lived well as a happy working-class warrior… not counting the years he patiently endured the raucous and painfully awkward entry to adulthood of his youngest son (me).

Along the way, he never ceased doing the right thing, always. Even when it involved heavy sacrifice. He put his back into his work, and his heart into family life — his best friend was his brother-in-law, his favorite activities time with the relatives.

He never actually sat me down and said “do this, don’t do this”… which made the lessons difficult to decipher. But eventually, I realized it was the greatest way to impart real wisdom. Making me figure it out forced me to look outside myself, and compare how other’s behavior contrasted to what I saw in Pop. God knows I wouldn’t have listened to a lecture, anyway.

It’s god damned hard to live a life dedicated to being fair, to sharing the wealth, to actively support and fight for the success of other people. We all have a nasty little selfish sociopath hiding inside, and it takes effort to crush the little bugger.
But that’s how you become a bigger man. A better man. Someone who will help shoulder the burdens of life with you, in ways that help you grow.

One of the best tributes I’ve heard the past few days came from a pal of mine from the wild days of our youth. He reminded me how my parents made our house a sanctuary for everyone — nobody ever went hungry around Mom, and every kid (even the raw bastards-in-training) got a fair shake from the old man. So many of my friends had parents who refused to allow visitors, who loathed kids, who had little or no time for their own progeny… and our household showed a different way to do it. An inclusive, safe place where messes were tolerated (but cleaned up), mistakes were shrugged off as learning experiences, and the pleasures of company outweighed the occasional impositions of visitors.

It took me a loooooooong time to grow up. I had to bungle my way through my entire twenties and a few early years of my thirties before I had the epiphany that launched me into the biz world as a freelance copywriter.

And you don’t survive the kind of misadventures I went through on that path without some serious support from someone like Pop. He would have preferred I’d just pick a profession and get busy, but he held his tongue. He suspected I’d eventually get it together, and instinctively knew a little patience (no matter how much he had to grind his teeth) was going to pay off.

He and I talked and wrote to each other, faithfully, for decades. He taught me how to hit a short pitch shot (as well as an inside fastball), and I shared what I learned from Boomer culture about meditation, expanding your consciousness, and getting past hang-ups. He showed me how a man faces adversity, and I gave him a peek into entrepreneurship (which fascinated the hell out of him).

He worked hard, played hard, and never took his eye off the ball. His goal was to live a full life, and he did that. The last good day I had with him, when he was 95, we laughed until our bellies ached, and he beat me 4 out of 5 games at rummy. His body was falling apart, but his mind was as sharp as ever.

R.I.P., Pop. You’ll be missed terribly, but you continue to live in my heart, and my actions, every day.

Edwin Carlton, 1920-2016 

It Ain’t Complicated

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Sunday, 8:15pm
Reno, NV
“I know what I want, and I know how to get it…” (The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy In The UK”)

Dept. Of Culture Shock, memo #1: I’ve been thinking about how Carlton’s First Inconvenient Rule of Entrepreneurship (“Step one is to implement a simple idea that succeeds; step two is to complicate the shit out of that simple idea so it eventually fails”) also applies to the civilization around us.

My father was perhaps one of the last men to actually experience a period where he completely understood — and could recreate and fix — almost everything around him. Born in the Industrial Age in 1920, he’d dug wells for water, tore apart and reassembled car engines, fixed his own plumbing, grew food in the back yard. He built things, including large government buildings, from blueprints. He knew how clocks and toasters and and asphalt and support beams worked.

Most of my colleagues, today, can’t even start a fire from scratch (let alone rewire the electricity in the house). And I clearly remember the day (in the early nineties) I was standing in a lot staring at the car I was about to buy, the hood open, wondering where the carburetor was…

… when the salesman casually informed me that engines were sealed now, and even if there had been a carburetor (which there wasn’t, since cars are all fuel-injected now), I wouldn’t be able to access it. Let alone fuss with it. Owners were no longer allowed to see, let alone touch, the working parts of the internal combustion engine anymore. If anything needed attention, I’d be alerted by a flashing light on the dashboard, and certified mechanics with bizarre tools not available at Home Depot would take care of it.

You? You keep your filthy civilian hands off the merchandise. Even when you own it.

As kids, we used to take telephones and radios and even TVs apart, and some of us could put ’em back together in working order. Not too long ago, an old and very savvy pal (who was handy building ham radios from scratch) admitted that he’d taken a laptop computer apart to see how it worked, and realized he had officially become a completely-clueless tech dinosaur… because there was zero way human eyes could even begin to see the tiny transistors inside.

Analog dudes living in a digital age. Not good. I can hear the Millennials laughing at us.

However, another Carlton Rule is: “There is always a way.” No matter what problem or situation you face, there is a way out. Saul Goodman (the lawyer from “Breaking Bad”) is the primary practitioner of this philosophy, of course (“I know a guy, who knows a guy… who knows a guy who does this”).

But it’s also the basis of all my high-end consulting. In 30+ years, I’ve never met a biz problem (or a personal problem) I couldn’t find a solution to. Or knew a guy who had the answer, one phone call away.

You may not like the solution, but it exists. You may have to change direction (or your attitude or bank account) radically, or entertain options that are distasteful to you… but there is always a way around a problem. My example of this, in “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, is the drug war. Who are you gonna bet on — the multi-gazillion-dollar-funded US border security complex, with the most advanced helicopters, drones, submarines, scanners, weapons and computers…

… or the little Guatemalan farmer with his stash of weed he wants to sneak into the country?

Hint: Take the farmer. He’ll find a way.

And these two rules go hand-in-glove with each other. Yes, the culture (and everything around you) is getting more and more complex, spiraling away from your ability to understand any of it…

and, at the same time, yes, there are ways around being a slave to complexity.

Getting hip to this can save your butt, in biz and in private life.

Let’s take rock and roll as another example. In the early seventies, bands had gotten better and better in musicianship, stagecraft, and working in the studio. Just a few years earlier, garage bands without knowledge of electronics or soundscape management could still weasel their way into a studio and record a record live… and have it sell. “Louie, Louie”, by the Kingsmen, was recorded live in a garage. One take (cuz the lead singer was too drunk to do another). Mono, one mike hanging from the ceiling, a “good at the time” tape machine, no sound check. It was a different time, back when do-it-yourselfer’s could win.

But then things kept getting more complicated. By the early seventies, rock was taken over by bloated musician-heavy bands like Yes and stagecraft-oriented groups like Genesis. The garage bands were hopelessly outmatched in skill, technical ability, and resources.

Then, punk arrived. As a reaction to the bloated sound and restrictive nature of “professional”, expensively attired bands. Suddenly, it was a free-for-all again, and details be damned. Garage bands thrived for a second time.

The music had found a way around the problem.

Today, folks consider moving from an iPhone (phone, computer, web access, personal robot all-in-one) back to a now-ancient flip phone as a brave act of moving away from dependence on the Grid. Of course, they still can’t fix the flip phone if it breaks. It’s an illusionary and futile mission.

And I’ve met my share of pure geeks — guys who make the cast of The Big Bang Theory look like slacker hippies. They DO understand, and can manipulate (or hack) the digital world around them. However, they also tend to be weak on interpersonal skills with their fellow humans. Even freshly armed with state-of-the-art “pick-up artist” tactics, they can’t easily find love or intimacy or any of the interpersonal stuff they crave. And plumbing, growing your own food, and understanding how the infrastructure around us works isn’t on their radar.

In marketing, a few years back, you could build your own website on a laptop, find online traffic for cheap, and create an information product to sell in a weekend. With PayPal, you didn’t even need a merchant account. People were literally starting hot new businesses on their kitchen table, overnight.

Eventually, things got more complex. The rules changed, Google started slapping site owners who didn’t follow the fast-changing rules, Facebook started punishing folks who used their page for biz (after urging them to do so), affiliate mailers started demanding more sophisticated sales funnels with high-production video and pro-level design, federal regulations took aim at online biz…

… and things just got more complicated. Rookie entrepreneurs looking to break into online marketing can be excused for fainting at the sheer volume of stuff they have to learn to just get started. The heady no-holds-barred Wild West days of the Internet have drifted away into memory.

And yet…

… and yet, just like corporate bands forgot that the real magic was in the music, and not in the outfits or stage show or pompously produced records…

… a lot of today’s online biz owners forget that the raw fundamentals of salesmanship are still more important than the gaudy glitz of flashy tech.

It’s still simply about having a good product or service that someone wants… put in front of an audience of hungry prospects… and sold with a persuasive message that covers all the basics of a standard face-to-face deal. A good hook, some believable credibility, a real solution to a problem that is interrupting your prospect’s life (whether it’s something major like needing money, or something nagging like needing special tools to finish your daughter’s swing set out back).

Plus a simple delivery system for the product or service that makes everyone happy. So you can sell more stuff on the back end (where all the real profit is). (You DO have a back-end, don’t you?)

It can all be very low tech, too. Uncomplicated. Sure, you want to eventually test all the ways other marketers are successfully closing their deals — with video, launches, elaborate cross-marketing campaigns, affiliates, the works. All of which require a bit more know-how, probably some hired help, and lots of math.

But you get into that AFTER you establish you’ve got a winner. Make a few initial sales, get good feedback, make sure the value is there, and the profit. THEN move onto more complicated methods… when you have money coming in to pay for it.

A good rule (not mine — it goes way back): Find out as quickly and cheaply as possible if you have a winner or a loser. Ignore hunches and gut feelings — just create a prototype that is “good enough”, and see if people buy it in the Real World. Your house list is fine to go to first. Or do a low-cost Adwords campaign — you can run a few hundred bucks worth of ads, based on the insight to what’s working now from Google searches (which you can access for free via your free Adwords account). Just get moving with the resources available to you now. (And “free” or “cheap” is always a good thing.)

I talk all the time to wannabe entrepreneurs who get it in their head they need $50,000, or $100,000 (or more) just to get started. And you don’t.

There is a way around every problem in biz and life. Including being broke. Save up enough for a “war chest” to test your ideas. A few hundred bucks can do it…

IF you have the basics handled. That would be understanding salesmanship, having a good grasp of how to write your own sales messages (including ads, emails, pitches, etc)…

… and having access to a network of folks who can help you fill in the blanks in your skill set and information.

You CAN make a garage-band-style of entrepreneurship work. And you can still do it from your kitchen table, if you want, despite what all the “experts” are now trying to tell you.

The Web isn’t magic. It’s just another vehicle for helping marketers bring their product and services to prospects. It does this VERY WELL, and because it’s reach is global the number of prospects you can reach with an online message far, far exceeds what was possible in the old days where you only had newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.

What’s more, the costs involved, online, are a fraction of what it takes to run a print or broadcast ad campaign.

But the one thing that never changes, no matter where you present your product or service… is salesmanship. The fundamentals of crafting a damn good sales message that persuades people to buy your stuff.

That’s what this blog has been about since 2004. Smart entrepreneurs of every level (from rookie to veteran rockstar) have been browsing the archives as a daily ritual… because the joint is crammed to bursting with articles on every aspect of being a successful entrepreneur.

So, while it’s still early in the year, why not get into the habit of reading a handful of articles each week, starting today. The education you’ll get — for free — exceeds anything you’d get from a single seminar or book on biz. Even more, in some cases, than you’d get from a couple of years in certain biz schools (cuz the idiot running those classes have never actually been successful in the real world).

The thing is, get started. And know that no matter WHAT your problems are, or what your sticking points are, or what your biggest fears are…

there is ALWAYS a way around them. Solutions exist. And many of them can be found here, in the blog.

Happy reading.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Okay, while we’re talking “cheap”…

… it needs to be pointed out that the membership dues of the online Insider’s Club we run (hosted by my biz partner Stan Dahl, and where I have a virtual “desk” that I hang out at) is still just $29 a month. With no commitment beyond your current month. No sneaky obligations. Nothing standing in your way.

And yet you will immediately have access to the kind of resources that veteran biz owners lust after — coaching on the latest trends and fads, networking with the members and staff (very important), lessons on creating products and ads, archives of great ads to swipe (with instructions on how to do it successfully), interviews with the greats of marketing and advertising…

… plus a wide-open opportunity to get a personal phone consultation with me and Stan. On YOUR biz, or what’s bugging you or holding you back. Copy critiques, business plan help, emergency intervention in campaigns… we do it all, every month.

And, that part is free. Part of being a member. Your measly $29/month covers all of it. (Regular consultations with me run $2,500.)

If you aren’t part of a hot network of working entrepreneurs, writers and experts… then you’re just ROBBING yourself of the main resource successful biz owners enjoy: Networking.

Check it out here: See What The Insider’s Club Is All About.

 

 


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These testimonials and case studies do not represent typical or average results. Most customers do not contact me or offer share to their results, nor are they required or expected to. Therefore, I have no way to determine what typical or average results might have been.

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