Monthly Archives: July 2008

Bad Bread And Circus

Monday, 5:08pm
Reno, NV
“Once more into the breach, dear friends…” Henry V (by the Bard)

Howdy…

I’m a little ticked off here, so forgive me if I start ranting.

And you may disagree with me completely.

If you do, good — I want to hear your rebuttal.

Here’s what this is about:

Do you watch TMZ?

What do you think of it?

It’s addictive, I’ll tell you that much. I was just walking by the boob-tube last night, minding my own biz, when I caught sight of a single clip on some train-wreck celeb being bad.

Man, I think we’re hard-wired for gossip and shit like this. I just stood there, mesmerized, for half an hour.

I escaped, finally, during a long commerical break (hah!).

But just barely.

The show — if you’re mercifully unaware of it — is an hour, each Sunday evening, of a “behind the scenes” meeting of a typical tabloid/papparazzi staff of idiots. They talk smack about celebrities, while airing the nastiest video they can buy, steal or swindle.

It’s red meat for our celeb-obsessed culture.

And you watch it, mouth agape, the way you might watch an actual train wreck in progress.

If you’re lucky, after watching all this dirty-laundry crap, you just shrug off any larger meta-implications about our civilization and go to sleep.

If, like me, you’re not lucky that way…

… you start to wonder about when — not if – the hammer of history is coming down on us.

For me, last night, the epiphany came while the smarmy producers were ragging on two musical heroes of mine.

These two guys were doing nothing but being themselves. Weird, outlandish, and abnormal, yes. But they’ve never pretended to be anything else.

They were:

1. George Clinton – the Godfather of Funk, founder of the group Funkadelic, and all-around rhythmic bad ass.

2. And Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone.

If you’ve never seen the Family’s live version of “Take You Higher” from the Woodstock (1969 edition) movie, your soul is just a little bit poorer for the lack.

It’s goooooooooood.

And, for those of you paying attention, I’ve been asking the sound guys at seminars to use Funkadelic’s “We Got The Funk” as my intro music when I hit the stage for a lecture.

Gets the crowd in the right mood.

My own life would have been infinitely more dismal without these two greats contributing to the soundtrack of the last half of the twentieth century. They’re both in the Rock Hall of Fame, and deserve to be there.

Back to TMZ…

The rat-bastards on this show pretend to be hipper than thou. “Oh, look at Suzy Starlet, puking in the alley behind Spago’s, she’s such a loser tee hee hee…”

Sure, there are no lack of celebrities out there dying to have their sex tape, or their latest brush with the law, or their inside story of rehab prominently displayed on TMZ and the other trashy shows and magazines feeding the mob.

But you go too far when you spit on the reputation of folks just being themselves.

Really.

Who the hell are you to giggle at dudes like Sly and George Freaking Clinton?

The TMZ doofus producers have no talent. And they seriously confuse real “coolness” with the false bravado of sarcasm.

They pretend to a hipness they do not possess. They are clueless about the actual “value” of the beauty around them, and obsess on the ugliness they can laugh at.

This is the kind of attitude that made so many of my generation eager to drop out of society, and go try something else.

Yes, George Clinton is a startling sight at age sixty, in his day-glo wig and flowing robes. So what?

And Sly may or may not be cross-dressing a bit these days. Again — the cat’s a frigging genius. And he’s not hurting anybody being weird.

In fact, we are better off as a civilization with artists like this challenging our smug certainties and zombie stupification.

At some point in my lifetime, the whole concept of what is “cool” slipped from describing your attitude about life — your mindset and philosophy and willingness to engage with gusto, even if it entailed risk — and morphed into being about fashion.

So let’s get straight: You are not “cool” because you dress well, or look good.

“Cool” is in your head and your heart. It requires a functioning brain and a feeling heart — attributes the yo-yo’s at TMZ have never brushed up against.

It’s been twelve hours since I accidentally saw that show last night… and I’m still seething.

None of those tittering TMZ nabobs have produced anything of value in their entire lives.

If life plays out the way it should, all of them are headed for karmic blow-outs designed to force-feed a little humility and respect into their jaded skulls.

Man, I’m steaming.

I gotta go listen to some funk, and mellow out…

Love to hear what you think about all this.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. In case you’re wondering about the title here, “bread and circus” was the way The Man kept control in ancient Rome — by feeding the mob with free bread, and entertaining them at the Coliseum with gladiator fights and lions eating Christians.

Funny to think our modern “high tech circus” is a direct descendant of killing people. It includes the Olympics (as well as every organized sporting event, at every level), Vegas, rock shows, and every single second of television ever transmitted.

It’s all mob control.

Say Bye-Bye To The “Bag of Tricks”

Monday, 3:22pm
Reno, NV
“All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain.” Bladerunner

Howdy…

There are just two ways to feel about restructuring your business.

You either hate the process, and fight it every step of the way…

… or…

… you embrace change and enjoy the thrill of entering new territory.

Not much middle ground, I’m afraid.

Me? I’m an “embrace” kinda dude.

Early in my career, I knew a big change was coming whenever I got too comfortable with the status quo.

This is a very different feeling than being lazy. I am fundamentally lazy, like a big ape sunning himself in a nice, cushy clear spot in the jungle.

However, I’m only “good” at being lazy for short bursts.

Then, for whatever reason, my body rebels against doing nothing… and craves action.

Lots and lots of hot and heavy action.

It’s actually a biological reaction. My brain starts foaming, and I ache for change.

This probably describes a lot of entrepreneurs out there.

And probably also appalls many non-entrepreneurs (who spend their lives searching for a situation where everything is so predictable and comfy that they can “relax” and stop fussnig with ambition).

My entire career arc looks like a chart of hiccups.

I get settled into some routine, or reach a certain goal… and then, pow!, it’s time to shake things up.

This explains why I’ve lived in so many different cities, why I’ve left lucrative business situations for unproven new ventures, and why we’re now causing upheaval over at my “main” website, www.marketingrebel.com.

Back in the good old days (before the Web sped everything up), marketers could nurse vast fortunes out of a single product for half a lifetime.

(I once met the guy who imported the infamous Spud Gun — which fired pieces of potato at BB-gun force — from overseas, and sold it regularly in comic books for forty years. Never changed a word in the ad. I think the illustration even showed a kid in a beanie, ala early 1950s, which looked absurdly dated for decades. And yet, it sold at a predictable clip.)

(There’s a marketing lesson there, and also a product development lesson: Kids do not require cultural relevance to desire destructive toys. Not sure what to do with that insight, though…)

Now that we all live in Web World 2.0, however, the consumer hordes move past at an alarming pace.

And like caring for a chained monster in your cellar, you need fresh meat constantly just to keep things under control. (Don’t ask where that metaphor came from. I’ve been watching some bad horror movies lately…)

Thus, we are once again embracing change here at Marketing Rebel.

With gusto.

The new stuff about to be unveiled is exciting, stunningly unique… and I swear it will offer you the most fun you’ve ever experienced while honing your marketing chops to a dangerous sharpness.

However…

There is some sadness, too.

Because, as always with the arrival of a new kid in town… the old status quo must leave the stage, and slink off as gracefully as possible into the sunset.

In this case, it’s the 3 killer packages now offered at www.marketingrebel.com.

All of which are slated for the dustbin of history.

We’re retiring all three packages… and there are zero plans to ever make them available again. At any price.

Why?

Well, to make room for the new model, of course.

But also because… well, those packages were just too generous.

Especially the notorious “Bag of Tricks”… which included personal, private attention from me. My time is the most precious — and scarce — resource I have… as evidenced by the current consulting fees we charge for a single hour of attention. ($2,500 if you want both Stan and I focusing on your stuff.)

So here’s the story: Right now, we have this coming Friday inked in as the “bye bye” date for ceasing to offer the current 3 packages at www.marketingrebel.com.

Soon after that date, we will introduce the steamy new material.

However…

… until we do clear the stage…

… those 3 packages are still available.

We will honor all commitments, and deliver on all promises on those 3 packages. There will be no shortchanging on my watch.

But this is your last chance to take advantage of these overly-generous offers.

So…

… buzz over to http://www.marketingrebel.com right now, and check out the soon-to-be-gone packages there.

I know many folks have been lusting for the “Bag of Tricks” for a long time, because I hear about it whenever I hang out at seminars and events.

Well, lust is one thing.

And action is another.

If you know, in your heart, that your ambitions and goals really do require the advice, tactics and specific tools included in those packages (which include personal attention)… then you need to get your butt in motion now.

While it’s all still available.

Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

However, availability after Friday… not so much.

Hurry.

Pitch over.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Oops — pitch re-engaged:

Almost forgot — if you have already purchased one of the smaller packages, you can upgrade to a larger package… and apply what you’ve already paid. That’s more than fair, and it’s an easy to get into the “Bag of Tricks”.

If you have already purchased one of the two smaller packages at www.marketingrebel.com, and wish to upgrade… please email my assistant Diane directly at this special address: upgrade@marketingrebel.com.

Be sure to write “Blog upgrade offer” in the subject line, so we know why you’re writing.

And in the email, give us your full name, which package you bought before (though, we can find out in our records, if you’ve forgotten), and which package you want to upgrade to. Diane will get right back to you, using the email address you sent your email from (so be sure to use one you check often).

We’ll take personal care of you, to make sure you get the best upgrade deal possible.

That’s it.

Remember — all 3 packages have a date with the hangman on Friday…

Shakin’ All Over

Thursday, 5:31pm
Reno, NV
“Quivers down my kneebone… I got the shakes in my thighbone…” Guess Who (“Shakin’ All Over”)

Howdy,

Have you ever been so freakin’ nervous you almost lost control of bodily functions?

Two things made me suddenly think about this unseemly subject.

First Thing: We have an Afghan hound in the house with a bark that rattles windows four blocks away… and he has come thisclose to eating the mailman, the Fed Ex guy, three neighbors, and a flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses who dared knock on the door.

And that’s just over the past month or so.

But here’s the kicker: He will break down into a sobbing lump of useless self-pity if Michele or I so much as look at him cross-eyed.

His bark is a mask for the social vulnerability he suffers.

He doesn’t really want to rip out your throat.

Deep inside, he’s just a confused, awkward puppy, trapped in an adult dog’s body. Scared shitless of the world. (Literally shitless, whenever fireworks or lightning are nearby.) (Yeah, it’s a mess.)

Second Thing: I was recently advising someone about “getting his ass out in the marketplace as an expert”… and the guy actually started shaking.

Just the thought of stepping onto the metaphorical stage of life, and performing… sent this poor guy into a stuttering implosion.

He not only had no “bark”… he had no cojones, either.

This got me thinking about my own journey from stuttering fear-meister to swaggering bluster-bomb.

It’s relevant… because, in business, my line is: If you truly have a great product that your prospect should own… then shame on you if you don’t step forward confidently and BE that guy he needs you to be… so he can feel good about buying.

You can’t sell from your heels, people.

(I love to trot out the old quote by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones: “It’s not that I’m all that great of a guitar player, you know. It’s just that I can step out in front of ten thousand people and DO it.”)

(Talent comes in WAY behind cojones when it comes to carving out your niche.)

Anyway, back to me…

I am not an extrovert by any stretch.

In fact, I chart pretty heavily toward “total thumb-sucking, light-avoiding, cave-dwelling introvert” in basic personality tests.

You can tell an introvert from an extrovert pretty easily: When the extro is around people, like at a party, he gets energized. The introvert finds it a chore, and leaves the event drained.

It’s all about energy transference.

Now, I was lucky to grow up with a sizeable contingent of good friends — who I went all the way from kindergarten through high school with — which saved me from having to “make” new friends until I hustled off to college.

And, in college, for whatever reason, I was immediately taken in by a group of goofballs who somehow saw my potential for furthering their goofball yearnings.

However, it took me a long time to get to “know” most of these people.

Seriously. It was decades before I finally felt comfortable around most of them.

Nearly all of the people I’m close to, I’ve been close to for half my life. (I’ve known my business partner, Stan, for 25 years, and our contract writer, Mark, since we were nineteen.)

I tell you this to illustrate how ill-equiped I was to become a guru.

I stuttered as a kid… and frequently found myself getting stuck on words as an adult whenever I encountered uncomfortable situations.

Meaning, any new situation where people I didn’t know were looking at me.

In grade school — back when I was convinced that everybody else knew things they weren’t sharing with me (and that’s why life seemed like such a mystery) — I even burst into tears in class math competitions. (One little girl — Peggy The Bitch, I call her — repeatedly tripped me up with the question “What’s 5 times 0?” I nearly always said “5!” before realizing my blunder and being told to sit down while the rest of the class continued the competition.)

(Ah, childhood humiliation. What a concept.)

As a teen, a good (longtime) friend convinced me to learn guitar so we could start playing in bands. He wanted the excitement and recognition of being on stage. I just got a thrill from playing music.

So he fronted the many bands we formed, happily, from center-stage… and I happily lurked near the far edge, out of the limelight, content to concentrate on the tunes.

I was kinda like Garth, from Wayne’s World. Thrust into the action on the coattails of a raging extrovert.

Freelancing was a natural for me. It required long, lonely hours inside your head… and you were excused from looking like the regular “suits” in the agencies because, as a writer, the more outrageous you appeared, the more they believed you must possess the “goods”.

Idiots.

Halbert, of course, was THE uber-extrovert. He publicly listed his main hobby as “finding new methods of self-aggrandizement”.

I stayed behind the scenes as much as possible. My main job, in fact, during seminars was to handle everything but the actual delivery of the action onstage.

It was Halbert’s show, and I liked it that way.

I had defined myself as an introvert, and never considered it could be any other way.

I even had a “defining moment” — back in college, when I was introduced to my first “real” girlfriend’s beloved sister, I started laughing uncontrollably. Not because anything was funny… but because my body betrayed me, and just went off in an inappropriate spasm.

I was humiliated, because after lamely stuttering about why I had burst out with guffaws (I could come with nothing good to explain myself), the awkwardness just got deeper and deeper. My girlfriend forgave me (and even sorta found it endearing — I was her “bad boy” artistic-type boyfriend, so weirdness was expected).

But her sister forever thought I was an A-Number One Doofus Jerk-Off.

Rightly so, I might add.

Around uncomfortable situations, I was that guy.

However…

After, oh, around thirty gazillion private consultations and Hot Seats and meetings with clients once I became a sought-after pro… all of whom initially tried to “alpha male” me into submission, because they wanted the writer (me) to be their slave…

… I started to think that maybe I had unwisely “defined” myself.

As anyone who has gotten freelance advice from me knows, I quickly learned to walk into a new client’s life and OWN the bastard. I knew that I held all the cards — he needed copy, couldn’t produce it himself to save his life, and thus was in zero position to be dictating terms to me.

I ain’t shy, professionally.

Now, my technique may or may not help others. (I developed a “stage personality” for these consultations I called Dr. Smooth… and let this “alternative John” take over.)

(And damn, but that Doctor was good at taking control and bullying clients.)

It’s a standard tactic, adapted from acting. No big deal, nothing revelatory about it.

However…

What it did for me was immediately obliterate that old “defining moment” that I had regarded as my “fate”.

I wasn’t really a socially-retarded loser.

I just played one in life.

Cuz I thought I’d been… assigned… the role.

If you’ve ever seen me speak at seminars, you know I’m no wallflower these days. I’m totally comfy in front of any size crowd, because the “mystery” of what’s going on has been solved in my mind.

It’s not about me.

It’s about the content of what I share.

(Plus, of course, I know so much about the people in the audience nowadays… from all those decades of delving into the psychology of salesmanship… that I don’t even need to imagine anyone naked to be calm.)

(It’s just us folks in the room. Good people looking for good info, plus maybe a little entertainment along the way. And a speaker line-up of “just-plain-dudes” having fun in the limelight.)

My point: You can do what you need to do.

If your market is crying out for someone to stand up and be the go-to-guy… you really can do it.

Like Keith Richards, you can get your chops honed to a degree that gives you enough confidence to be “onstage” (however you define the stage — it can be your website, an actual stage, or infomercials or any other media)… where you will deliver what the folks paid to see.

There are vast armies of “experts” out there (especially online) with no more real skill or insight or knowledge than you have.

Often, they have less.

What they DO have, that so many others refuse to cultivate, are the cojones to step up and BE that guy the audience needs you to be.

I can tell you this with absolute certainty (because I personally know it’s true): Most of the top guru’s in the entrepreneurial world — especially online — are former dweebs, stutterers, social outcasts and semi-dangerous nutcases.

They are, essentially, gawky and lonely and scared little kids trapped inside an adult’s body.

What they have done, however…

… is to re-define WHO they are when it counts.

Everyone, at some time or another, feels the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over their head. Life is tough, business tougher. Hamlet’s slings and arrows constantly rain on everyone’s parade, and NO ONE gets a pass.

However…

… the winners define themselves.

I’m still an introvert. I still have my awkward social moments. I still occasionally stutter.

But those things do not define me.

Long ago, I threw away the role “assigned” to me… and just created my own new one. Which allows me to do whatever needs doing to further my goals… including climbing up on stage alone and engaging a thousand people as a ringleader.

Life sucks when you’re crawling around under the weight of unnecessary self-loathing, self-pity and self-expectations you can never meet.

Life rocks when you re-cut the jigsaw of your personality, and make something new according to who YOU want to be.

Just food for thought.

Love to hear your experiences with self-defining moments.

It’s heartening to hear so many commenters in past blogs finally come to grips with internal battles they’ve sometimes struggled with for years.

Hey — it’s fun when this stuff starts working.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton
www.carltoncoaching.com

P.S. We are very close to finishing up a new venture here that — if you crave rollicking adventure in your business life — will absolutely light up many people’s worlds.

It’s a limited opportunity… but the folks who truly know, in your heart, that one of the spots was meant for you… will instantly understand what has to happen to get involved.

Just a few more days…

The Moment Your Life Changed Forever

Thursday, 9:35pm
Reno, NV
“Are you a good witch… or a bad witch?” Glenda, The Good Witch of North Oz

Howdy…

I’m hot on a deadline here, writing a new pitch (I’ll let you know when you’re allowed to hear it)…

… and, as always with selling crap…

… there comes a moment when the concept of “opportunity” must be broached.

Now, never mind the pitch. That’s something for another post.

However… it occurs to me that, as human beings, one of our primary relationships…

… is with opportunity.

How’s your relationship going?

There are good opportunities, and bad ones. They almost never reveal their true nature until long after they’ve passed, though, so you never quite know what you’re dealing with when you need to deal with it.

Thus, you are left with relying on your instincts.

And your instincts about opportunity will absolutely suck, unless you’ve been busy exercising them.

You do this by recognizing opportunity when it knocks… and reacting to the choices in front of you. As you gain experience, you will note (and you really should be taking lots of notes along the way, so you can study your results) that you’ve jumped on a few bad opportunities, which either didn’t pan out as expected, or led you someplace you didn’t want to be.

And there will be good opportunities you passed up for excellent (excellent!) reasons… which later turn out to exactly what you really did want after all.

And vice versa. And versa vice.

The first rule, of course, is to learn to recognize opportunity. It will almost never announce itself, while arriving with shocking irregularity and without any warning whatsoever.

The only way to prepare for it… is to engage it, in as many forms as possible, and hone your chops in dealing with it.

Everyone has an uncountable number of opportunities that present themselves each and every day. You know you’re dealing with a zombie when they tell you their lives are opportunity-starved. It simply isn’t true. (More painfully, if you sit back at this point and have to mentally squint to remember the last opportunity that tapped you on the shoulder… well, you done been zombified. Time to sit back more often, and reflect on what’s going on around you.)

Consider: Tomorrow morning, you have an opportunity to wake up an hour earlier, and start writing that novel that’s been burning up inside you for years. Or start excercising before you get to work, slough off some of that unwanted beef. Or spend the hour googling job offerings in Paris, while getting your resume in order.

Nothing’s stopping you. Those opportunities, and a bazillion more, hover just outside your grasp… available, ready to cooperate, plump with promise.

If you were but to grasp for them.

Or, you could wake up early — say, just before dawn — dress in black, drive downtown with a bunch of tools, and break into the bank. Or murder your business rival. Or set a building on fire.

You laugh?

Here in Reno, just in the past year or so, all of those opportunties occured to certain people, who gleefully jumped on them. (Among them were a multi-millionaire, a lady with multiple suitors, and a college student.) (Sounds like a Gilligan’s Island reunion, doesn’t it?)

There are good opportunities… and bad opportunities.

Now, most folks have a weak (at best) relationship with opportunity. They quickly lose sight of the role of “choice” in every action they take. Caught up in the panic, or the enthusiasm, or their own sense of inevitability (“I didn’t have a choice” is a common refrain), they abandon critical thought… and do some truly stupid shit.

Again — how’s your relationship with opportunity?

Copywriters know they’re supposed to mention opportunity in every sales pitch they create. But most of the time, it’s a desultory wave as they roar by the subject on the way to the close.

Yet, if you study salesmanship… you’ll see that even if the word itself is never mentioned… the concept of opportunity plays a huge role in the best and most effective pitches.

But hey — let’s forget about potential opportunities for right now. Never mind thinking about what might or could happen tomorrow.

Think, instead, about what has already happened in your life.

How has opportunity shaped who you are… and you aren’t today?

Pick any period of your life. There aren’t really any hard categories here. I often look back on my own life as being cataloged depending on which city I was living in at the time. But then, I’ve moved around a lot.

For you, a period may be nothing more than the standard “ages” — childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, etc. All the way to geezerhood.

What matters is that you remember, and consider, how your relationship with opportunity sent you off in one or another direction. You jumped on some, avoided others. Mangled many, smoothly surfed a precious few.

Like Sinatra, we all have regrets. Some more than others.

It’s relative, of course. I have vast numbers of regrets… but as a percentage of regret-versus-“glad I did it”, I’m way ahead.

And that’s because I had an opportunity, late in my teens, to sort of wake up and “see” how my choices were affecting my life’s direction.

The details of this are rather grisly: I was a passenger in an off-road jeep that rolled near the top of a very steep mountainside. Because I wasn’t strapped in, I was thrown clear — sort of, anyway. The jeep actually rolled over me, and the roll bar hit my head with enough force to shatter my glasses… but not crush my head. The driver was buckled in, and after rolling the length of three football fields down into a gulley, was minutes from dying when we finally reached him.

It was my first brush with death — both my own, and the passing of a friend.

The shock wore off right about when school started, a few weeks later. It was my senior year of high school, and I was slated to be a student body officer, and a low-ranking member of the football team. These “jobs” had seemed inevitable, because I had never considered the idea that I had chosen a path that included them.

I was a zombie. I felt like life was something that happened TO you. I honestly felt I had been assigned a role to play. Nothing had ever been stated outright — there was no overt pressure from anyone.

But simply considering — for the first time as a teenager — what I wanted to do, rather than what I believed was “expected” of me, changed my life forever.

I mean… I had been inches away from death just weeks before. Life suddenly took on new angles, as if the lights had been turned on suddenly.

I didn’t feel good drifting anymore. I wanted a say in how it played out.

I quit the team. Like a good wannabe athlete, I hadn’t allowed “quit” into my vocabulary before. I thought the stress of struggling to attain status among jocks was something I was supposed to want to do.

And I had no idea what the consequences of just quitting would be. I’d never known anyone who’d quit a team before. (Cut, sure… but never quit of their own free will.)

Yet, instead of lightning bolts from the sky, I felt this enormous relief wash over me.

I felt… there’s no other way to describe it… free. Free to make a choice, and live with the consequences.

Giddy with newfound power, I then blew off my “duties” as a student body officer. Hey — it was 1969, and there were more… pleasant… opportunities presenting themselves, if you know what I mean.

I had ended my junior year, just months prior, as one of the “nice” kids in school. Full of respect for authority, good grades, a solid citizen.

And then, three months into my senior year, I was publishing an underground newspaper that ridiculed and challenged school rules… got expelled for refusing to cut my hair… got jettisoned from the short list for homecoming king (and earned the wrath of the socially-blessed set) by not playing by the “rules” when I hooked up with one of the cheerleader-types… and (best of all) nearly got into a fist fight with one of the athletic department mucky-mucks.

The coach had hate in his eyes. He saw my rebellion as a personal affront. It got ugly, too. I was that-close to getting permanently expelled. (Which would have meant instantly being gobbled up by the draft board, and hustled over to Viet Nam.)

The disasterous date with the cheerleader should have been humiliating, under “normal” circumstances. Instead, somehow, I weathered it just fine.

There were too many other opportunities popping up, all over the place, to care about a public dissing, no matter how hot she was.

There were, in fact, hotter ones on the horizon. (Non-social types, too.)

Anyway…

Sorry for the lapse into personal stuff.

My point is that when you look back on your life, there will be moments that were like crossroads — you either went one way, or the other.

And the rest of your life floated on the consequences.

I regret much of the open rebellion I manifested during the two or three years it took for me to work out what was making me so pissed off at authority. (And regret can be a good thing, too — I long ago worked hard to re-earn the respect and love of the people who got caught in the whirlwind of my “Rebel Without A Cause” period. I had the opportunity to punt on the “face up to the damage” stuff, and decided instead to suck it up and make amends. That decision, too, shaped me greatly.)

But I do not regret for a second jumping on what I saw as my first opportunity to live life on my terms.

I was pathetically bad at it, at first. I broke hearts, I insulted people who were only doing their jobs, I taunted danger. I flamed out, spectacularly.

Looking back, it’s what I had to do to get on the path that eventually led me here.

And, as I said, in the final tally, I enjoyed many more “good” adventures and experiences than I did “bad” ones. I was like a bull in the china shop of life, but eventually I started to appreciate the artisty of good china.

I had many friends, however, who were appalled at my willingness to dive into every adventure that presented itself. Only much later did I realize that their relationship with opportunity was fearful and stubbornly rooted in the status quo.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of those guys are still friends. They don’t have a lot of stories to share about wrestling life into submission… but they’re good people.

The road less traveled is less traveled because it’s a hard trek.

If everyone jumped on every opportunity that peeked over their shoulder, the world would be total chaos. Somebody’s gotta drive the bus.

We all have a love/hate thing going with opportunity.

But the reason it resonates so powerfully in a good sales pitch… is that most people have never come to grips with their personal relationship with it.

I get to hang out with many of the top entrepreneur marketers online. And if you listen to their stories carefully, you’ll notice that their success started with a single, simple opportunity taken.

It might have been a book. Or a decision to attend a seminar. Or — no kidding — it might have been a simple decision to get up an hour earlier, and create their own opportunity by devoting some time to learning the ropes of self-employment.

Of course, the reason I know so many of these guys… is that I started teaching writing skills, and wrote “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, which fell into their hands at some point.

And I wrote that damn book by relying on my very polished relationship with opportunity to help me out. I was at a period in my career where I craved new challenges.

However, I also had an opportunity to go hang out in Holland for a long stretch at the same time.

Back when I had a haphazard acquaintance with opportunity, I would have been torn over those options — slave over writing a book on copywriting and marketing… or go soak up another culture, deeply? How the hell do you decide?

But I felt comfy with opportunity, after a lifetime of looking for it, entangling with it, and studying it.

And it was easy to choose between those options.

Easy.

Holland is still there, as is the rest of the world and all its wonders. And writing that book has allowed me to see much more of the world, than I would have without it.

Look back on your own life.

Spend a little time cataloging the moments that changed things forever for you. Not just the biggies, like divorce and getting drafted and earning your first bundle.

Much more critical are the opportunities that almost slipped by, and maybe went unnoticed even when you took advantage of them.

The little decisions. To do this, and not that anymore. To say yes, or no, with wildly diverging paths leading from each utterance.

Sometimes opportunity knocks.

And sometimes you roust it from the ether yourself, and create opportunity where none existed before.

We all have a relationship with opportunity. Good, bad or indifferent.

How’s yours?

Love to hear about one of the defining moments in your life.

Hearing how other people embrace, shun or just deal with opportunity is always a learning experience. The horror stories are often just as instructive as the happy endings.

The comment section is waiting for y’all…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Don’t forget that the notorious “Bag of Tricks” offering at www.marketingrebel.com is going away soon. (We had it slated for demolition around now, but it’s gotten a slight reprieve because the replacement package is still being edited.)

No penalty for jumping on that sweet offer now. You can always upgrade, for cheap.

The “Bag of Tricks” was just too generous.

But it IS an opportunity…

Truckin’…

Monday, 4:01pm
Vegas/Myrtle Beach/NYC/Reno
“…like the Doo-Dah man…” Grateful Dead

Howdy,

I’m baaaaaaaack

Long damn trip, too. Kept my chin up, my mind focused, and my greedy “experience gland” on full power — I wanted to suck up every trace of fun, adventure and just plain hard-edge living available.

Have you ever tried to live for 11 days on the road out of a single suitcase? (And I had to bring a sports coat and slacks and good shoes, too, because I spoke at a seminar in South Carolina mid-trip.)

Quite a feat, I’m here to tell you.

And yet, I arrived home with one pair of jeans un-worn, and an extra pair of clean socks. I over-packed. Boggles my brain.

I had a bit of an epiphany, too, about living well with limited crap to haul around.

I mean, I’m a World Class Pack Rat at home. The manuscripts and notebooks make sense to keep — these are my legacy (should I ever attain one).

But I’ve also kept nearly every book I’ve ever read (or meant to read).

And the knick-knacks… yowza. I’m living in a combination antique/goodwill store here. (I kept the freaking bag they gave me at the Empire State building three years ago when D. Deutsch and I followed King Kong’s trek across NYC and I bought key chains.) (Cool bag, though, black with a nice art deco representation of the skyscraper on it. I tossed it, then retrieved it. It’s on probation right now, mocking me from the shelf across from my desk…)

There are banker’s boxes crammed with floppy discs (both the hard-shell 3-14 and the actual soft ones), cassettes, cassette players, vinyl records (including the first 45’s I ever owned) (“Lightning Strikes” by Lou Chrisie, “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians, and “Doo Wah Diddy” by Captain Beefheart), and high school text books. (Scary to see how outdated my basic education has become.)

(Side note to self: Why are all those floppies and cassettes and files so mysteriously marked? I can’t tell WHAT the hell I thought I was doing by labeling stuff “Mutterings, late in the decade”, “Non-jazz jazz”, “Work file, ’89”, or the classic “Important stuff”.

I should be shot.)

And then there are the racks of clothes I’ve forgotten I owned. Shoes I never wear. Camping equipment. (My last camping expedition: 1995. Ten mile trek into the wilderness, in August. Snowed three feet the first night. In August. I haven’t unrolled the sleeping bag since.)

It’s not good, people.

On the road, I had everything I need — clothes, computer, phone, access to files, easy contact with the virtual office, shave kit — in one carry-on plus a backpack.

Who needs all that… junk… in their lives?

So, when I got home, I got vicious.

I’m not being stupid about it (cuz there are some books I want to have around just because I enjoy knowing they’re nearby) (Kerouac, Jung, Hopkins, Kesey, the I Ching…)

But the rest are on their way to recycling heaven. (And I’m gonna fire up the Kindle, which may mean I’ll never actually need to buy a new paper-and-ink book again.)

I blew through my office bookshelves and closets, attacking each pile and hidey-hole and box, and making the hard decisions. We’re talking mutliple trips to the Goodwill.

I’ll bet I dispatched half the crap I’ve been hauling around for decades. (I found SIX cassette players. SIX!)

And I still have too much left.

Just before I began my freelance career, I was living out of my car. (That beautiful Celica orgre.) There were a few other boxes of books and tidbits stashed around the state, but not much.

I was “clean”. Two guitars — one acoustic (which travelled with me) and one electric (hidden safely away in a trusted girlfriend’s closet). One duffel bag of clothes. (I currently own more tee shirts, alone, than existed in my entire dorm back in college.) Dopp kit. Small box of tools. One hat. Two pairs of shoes, including the sandals.

Zero kitchenware. No electronics. (I used the car stereo.) No bookshelves. No phone. No pictures on the wall. No Rolodex.

One key.

One fold-up camp chair. An icebox (leaky). One coat, one sweater, one spare pair of glasses.

I’ll tell you what — I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it.

I was almost a Bodhisatva, living by my wits with a small trundle of gear to get by. Almost, anyway. (I’m not gonna go into it here, but when I was 19 I hitchhiked up and down the coast with a half-full backpack, no money, and no plan. And yet I lived like a king in many ways, or at least like the hero of a rollicking adventure story that never seemed to hit a lull…)

I go into the garage today and see three sets of golf clubs, sixteen storage boxes crammed with things I can’t remember packing (or ever owning), stacks of Ramparts magazines (last published: 1972) and National Lampoons (last issue: March 1980), and enough gardening tools to stock half a lane in Home Depot…

… and I get to thinking.

You know?

Certain things are irreplaceable, I suppose. Though, you can put all your old photos into digital thumb drives (or store ‘em online via Picassa). I have a Drinky Crow model still in the box — they don’t make those anymore, so it’s rare and I’m keeping it. My Homer Simpson dressed as Santa singing doll is staying, too.

Hey — I even have a brick from the old pub in my college town where I used to play in bands. They tore the joint down ages ago, and a buddy grabbed a few bricks and notated ‘em. You can’t store that kind of shit digitally.

Maybe you don’t need it, either, though. A brick is not the building, and that building is still standing in my memory.

And I have more than a few long-lost friends I’d give up all this treasure for, just to be able to hang out with one more time. Shared memories beat flippin’ through photo albums every time.

Tim Ferris, in “The 4-Hour Workweek”, challenges you to consider how you’d work if you had a health crisis that forced you to work just two hours a day. Then just two hours a week. What would you do?

What’s really important?

And what’s just plain old bullshit?

It’s worth thinking about, hard.

One advantage of getting older, you know, is that you get to finally jettison those dreams that require youth (or at least naive stupidity) to go after. I’m not gonna bike across Europe (and may never have really wanted to… I just thought I did). Not gonna be a novelist. (I can still slam out a couple of novels, but they’ll be hobby stuff — I have no interest in a career like that anymore. No money in it, for one thing.)

The rock and roll career thing is on permanent hold, too.

It’s actually a relief to unload goals like that. (As long as you’re fulfilling the main ones.)

Life is short, but you don’t realize that until it’s too late. When you’re pressed under deadlines, and your calendar is booked through next year, you can trick yourself into believing you HAVE to live forever, because otherwise you’ll never get everything done.

That illusion will rob you of the good things in life.

It’s summer, dude.

Are you having fun yet?

This road trip was a joy from start to finish, because we kept an eye on having fun while getting lots of solid work done. (Always helps to travel with a friend, too, of course. Doubles the fun opportunities.)

(And no, I’m not gonna tell you about how we went off-roading in a rental car at midnight in South Carolina dunes, one step ahead of the federales…) (Sebring hard top, if you must know.) (No one got hurt.) (Though we did break Stan’s GPS…)

We saw a Yankee game from fabulous seats. Saw old friends, and made new ones during networking orgies. Worked, played, navigated planes, subways, taxis and long stretches of city sidewalk like pro’s, and slept the sound sleep of vagabonds each night.

I never even turned the TV on the entire time.

I WAS the Doo Dah Man.

Yeah.

And now, to settle back in here after nearly two weeks on the road, I just wanna give a shout-out to some folks, and leave the deep insight crap for later.

First: I LOVE reading the comments section to this blog.

If you haven’t been following the various threads, you’re missing out on half the fun here. Comments on other blogs tend to be short, boring, and self-serving. Yawn.

On this beast, however, the writers come out of the woodwork. Good stories, great insights, lots of thoughtful posting goin’ on.

Now, I kinda fell off the grid during the trip a little bit. I surfed the Web for half an hour or so, but I never found time to post or reply to anything.

So, belated “Howdy” to the old friends whose emails I missed: Garf in SF, Parris Lampopolous in NY (dude, I got your email after I left town — next time, we’ll set something up beforehand), Harlan, Lorrie, Joe Polish, the Halbert boys, and the Irish Hell-Raiser Caleb (couldn’t track down your phone number while I was in the Big Apple).

And, no, Steve, I’m not gonna start Twittering. All my buds are into it, but not one of the top marketers I spoke with in Vegas (Filsaime, Walker, Casey, Houston, Starak, et al) could produce a shred of evidence that Twitter has any true business potential.

Besides, it’s just one more opportunity to send something into the world that should have stayed a secret. (I like to sit on most things I write, to make sure I really want a million people reading or seeing it.)

I can just see me in the House of Blues some late evening, after a third Guiness, Twittering some inane piece of info that will require the rest of my life to live down.

And I’m just the guy to do something truly stupid like that, too.

Brian (of copyblogger.com fame): We have a lot more to discuss about the blog-o-sphere, and I’ll be contacting you soon. You’ve inspired me yet again.

Fred: Great story about your ’72 Monte Carlo coming back into your life after decades away. I have a recurring dream where my ’62 Impala (first car) shows up in my driveway, Stephen King-like, and the door opens, inviting me to drive it again.

The cars and guitars in my life have played huge roles… nearly as central to who I am today as the people I’ve known.

Always nice to hear from Ken and Lorrie.

And Sindy, over at Rodale, knows exactly where I’m coming from. (Sindy, are those books on classic rock albums gonna continue? Please tell me that project wasn’t shelved…)

Jay-Mo, as always, cracks me up with his stories. This guy, when you meet him, doesn’t reveal any hint about how prolific he is with his writing. He’s still a kid, really, and yet already has a remarkable legacy of video and written material worth studying.

Of course, I am majorly pissed-off that he’s down in SD surfing and partying with Kern, while I broil in Sierra mid-summer heat. Ah, the consequences of our choices…

Okay, I know I’m missing a few folks, but I gotta hop offline for now.

We’ve got something BIG to share with you, in a few days.

And we’re all hot on the final prep stages.

So for God’s sake, stay tuned.

And, of course, stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. All right… there IS one little thing. We’re overhauling the www.marketingrebel.com site (where I offer all my junk for sale)… and the big news there is this: We’re decommissioning The Bag of Tricks package (probably soon after Stan comes back from Europe — he’s at the North Sea Jazz Festival).

That package is just too generous.

However, until we officially take it off that site, we will honor new orders.

Even better… you can upgrade when we bring out the new packages. So you get the benefit of the great former deal, and you can slide right into the new stuff (when it’s ready) knowing you got a spectacularly screaming deal.

To see what the fuss is about, go here: http://www.marketingrebel.com


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