Do Ya Feel Lucky?

Saturday, 2:21pm
Reno, NV
Well, do ya, punk?” (Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry”)

Howdy.

What’s Lady Luck done for you lately?

Humans have a strange relationship with Luck. Rome conquered the known world, yet firmly believed in a goddess named Fortuna who ruled over their fates. More modern successful folks than you can count consider luck to be a con-game. “I make my own luck,” is a common refrain… and yet these same smug studs often indulge in stark superstitious behavior.

I imagine more than a few folks have earned a PhD or two going deep into the concept of luck. Is it a random thing in the universe (like snake-eyes rolling exactly when you call it)…

… or part of a pre-determined script you’re just playing out (so of course the dice came up ones — it was part of your life’s plot-line)?

Or is it something much more mysterious and powerful?

You’re really got to settle this for yourself, I learned… because it’s in your wiring, and can affect the trajectory of your life.

However, if you look for advice from others about luck, or research it in any direction… it’s just a bottomless pit. You’ll find hard-core physicists talking about luckily stumbling upon some discovery they could easily have overlooked…

… and starry-eyed romantics believing that Fate brought them love when, actually, it was all part of a well-planned seduction. (Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning fizzy, had a beatnik’s appreciation of the mystical side of life… and I think it was Cary Grant who notoriously won the swooning love of a major — and majorly reluctant — actress by staging a mugging, so he could “save” her… which triggered her “White Knight” adoration pump. And he never told her it was all a set-up.)

It’s a very dangerous concept, too. I’ve seen obsessions with Luck ruin people, who believed they were swamped with the “bad” version of it and just gave up. And I’ve seen the positive side of it propel others to riches and fame, because they believed they were Lucky and had the confidence to match.

This is on my mind, because I’ve been ruminating lately on the turning points in my long career. Deconstructing how the big breaks happened, and how I ended up where I am. I’m tempted to say I’ve been a very, very lucky boy…

… except that, once you break it down and examine the details, every single big break happened through proactive movement on my part.

It may have looked like Luck from the outside, but there was a shitload of preparation, skill-building, and high-alert observation that preceded every level-jump I enjoyed.

And yet, I’m also very aware that things could have easily turned out completely differently. A second thought on a decision here, a hesitation there, an overlooked opportunity or frozen-by-fear moment of inaction there…

… and I have a hard time imagining what kind of life I’m leading now. I might be a warehouse manager in San Berdoo, or a dirt-poor wannabe writer in Sacramento pouring cappuccino at a dive coffee bar, or struggling cartoonist in Portland, or…

… I shudder to think about just how bad it could have been. Especially since the multiple game-changing events that started when I was sleeping on friends’ couches, broke and hopeless…

… were all fragile moments of fleeting decision-points.

I remember a story some guy once told me: In a big city, he hailed a taxi… but before he climbed in, a beautiful woman asked him if she could take it instead. Gallantly, he let her have the cab.  She hesitated, settling in the back seat, and asked him if he wanted to share the ride uptown. “No,” he said. “I’m headed downtown.” The cab took off… then stopped, as she rolled down the window to say one more thing: “You know, you will never know what might have happened if you’d taken me up on that offer.”

And the cab pulled away, leaving him with a Big Damn Question that would haunt him for the rest of his days.

I also had a friend who skipped going to a Jimi Hendrix concert, even though he had a ticket, because something important came up. To this day, he cannot remember what was so damned important… but he very much remembers missing seeing Jimi play live, because the great man died soon after. Perhaps this is a trivial example, but it touches on the larger point.

These stories remain swimming in my mind, after so many others fade away, because they remind me of the constant possibility for adventure and plot changes in our lives.

I’m appalled when I meet folks who are bored with life. Are you fucking kidding me? Bored? We’re a race of brainy, built-to-endure loonies on a spinning orb in the middle of a vast universe…

… with absolutely nothing or no one holding the power to control what you do next. Sure, there are laws, steel bars, fences and scowling mates (plus your own sense of decency and fear) abounding everywhere…

… and for most, the decisions to survive, to go along to get along, to take the easier path, to avoid rocking the boat… all makes perfect sense. And if you succeed too much at this, yeah, you can find yourself bored and wondering what the hell happened to your life. You’re too nice and safe and warm and free of dangerous excitement.

No shame in living that way, of course. Unless it eats at you. (That would be the first clue that you have entrepreneurial blood in your veins, you know.)

The folks who seem to exert actual control over their lives can be scary. I’m reading Steve Jobs biography, and the dude was worth $100mil in his twenties, and almost blew it all with his half-crazed need to keep pushing the envelope. He was driven. He took risks… big ones, that often ended in disaster. He eventually nailed down his place as a Hall of Fame super-success story… but it wasn’t a smooth ride.

This is why I urge all entrepreneurs to read lots and lots of biographies. You need to understand the process that great people put to use in their lives of adventure… grabbing opportunity, losing many times over, always having Achilles heel-type deficiencies that creates chaos in personal relationships, and never, ever, ever arriving at their moments of glory by an easy route. Some seek out greatness, others have it thrust on them…

… and most just seem to have been guided by something akin to Luck, being in the right place at the right time, and succeeding where others had failed just a short time before or after.

The thing is… you’ve got to come to terms with how you perceive your ability to spot opportunity, to deal with the thin air in the higher levels of adventure swirling just out of reach right now, and to understand exactly why your “Luck” is either going in a good direction or a bad one.

The tales below may or may not help you out. As trivial as they seem, they represent major shifts in the way I confronted the possibilities of life and career. This is personal shit here. I wouldn’t be sharing it, if I didn’t think it might help some dude out there struggling with the same issues (or missing some big break because of a twitchy, unnecessary fear).

Here’re the 3 turning points I experienced that helped me come to terms with Lady Luck:

Feelin’ Lucky Point #1: I played organized baseball until I was 16. Superstition is rife among athletes… as it tends to be in any group where competition is brutal, and losers suffer humiliation while winners enjoy endorphin dumps and wild euphoria.

And you’re faced with constant challenges to your physical skills, your mental state, even your notion of who you are and what worth you provide to the planet.

It’s even worse when you’re a shortstop. I clutched at the barest minimal skills required for the position, holding the job on my Colt League team by my fingernails. The majority of infield grounders and line drives came my way, and I was often the first guy to get dirty each game by diving for balls just out of easy range.

In the sandlot, baseball is fun. (My favorite game of all-time is over-the-line, two on two. I played this well into my twenties, after work, with games that went on until the darkness forced us to quit.)

Under the lights of a real ball park, in full uniform, with announcers and crowded stands and a real scoreboard…

… not so much fun.

I felt out of control… and became convinced that Luck played a huge role for me in every game. And I developed the most bizarre superstitious behavior imaginable.

It went far beyond not stepping on the lime chalk lines heading on and off the field. I had my rabbit’s foot, I had my belt clasp very precise on the left side, I pounded my glove exactly three times as I settled into my spot before each pitch…

… which was all fine. The catcher pounded his cup, the first baseman spat on the bag, and the center fielder shook himself like a wet dog… all before the next pitch. Routines. We all needed a little Luck on our side, with so much chaos impending with each swing of the bat. (My favorite scene in baseball involves a bases-loaded stretched-out triple to the gap — the entire field explodes into action, and even the most disciplined teams descend into madness during the play.)

However, my superstitious rituals started getting out of hand. I remember noticing, as the pitcher wound up, that there was a big dirt clod a foot in front of me. So I quickly stepped on it, and got back in position. Ball one.

Then, I saw another dirt clod, big as a shoe, to my left. Bam, got it. Ball two.

Then, oh Mother of God, I realized that I was surrounded by dirt clods. They were everywhere.

And they all needed to be stomped.

For weeks, I was able to attend to the endless task while warming up before each inning, and I was careful to always be back in position during the game before the ball arrived at the plate.

But those fucking dirt clods kept multiplying. Pretty soon, I was out there dancing and stomping like a Dervish before every pitch, muttering to myself and looking like a complete idiot.

At the same time, my fear of somehow not pacifying Lady Luck really got out of hand. I was so convinced that my performance at shortstop depended on crushed dirt clods that it affected my already meager skill levels. And began to bleed into life outside the ballpark (to the point I couldn’t have a dime in my pocket — bad, evil coins! — and stepping on a sidewalk crack would ensure a full day of nameless horror.)

I woke up during sweaty nightmares full of taunting clods and grounders skipping between my legs while the galleries laughed and laughed…

And I am so proud of what I did next. I was just a kid, but I figured what the hell — if this superstition crap was gonna get me, let’s give it full access. So, the next game, I just let the dirt clods be, and put myself at the total mercy of the Gods of Superstition.

And I had a normal game.

At that point… at that tender age… I made one of my first life-long vows. I vowed to never fall victim to superstitious rituals again. If I ever suspected that future outcomes depended on me performing some unrelated task or action…

… then I purposely violated that ritual. Just to see what cosmic wrath awaited.

I’ve never been let down. Cosmic wrath has, for decades now, demurred from crushing me. And, in fact, I feel I’ve led a fairly “lucky” life… as in, being pretty happy about how things have turned out. The “bad” luck I’ve experienced almost always presented amazing lessons to learn, which then helped me get even more done. And any “good” luck I’ve stumbled upon is just icing on the cake.

I can’t even imagine what kind of nervous, stress-addled nutball I’d be today, if I hadn’t crushed those superstitious feelings early on.

Superstition is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of being out there all alone with no magical back-up. This hurts you twice — first, it sets you up to accept failure as a “punishment” rather than as just one of many possible outcomes…

… and, second, it robs you of any sense of accomplishment when you win. It ain’t the rabbit’s foot. It’s you, and the preparation and skill-building and focus you put into the task, that made things happen.

I like mystery, don’t get me wrong. I have a very deep spiritual side, and I do not believe for a moment that I’ve got life “figured out”.

However, I do know that superstition sucks. And it’s got nothing to do with finding a big break.

Feelin’ Lucky Point #2: While in college, my wayward pals and I gathered up our meager extra bucks and drove to North Shore Tahoe to try a little “adult level” gambling. We were all experienced poker players, so we weren’t exactly babes-in-the-woods…

… but I’d never been inside a real casino before. It was exciting, and I had no illusions that I would return a rich man.

However, a very important lesson was awaiting me.

My friends all trooped into the Crystal Bay Club through a side door, but I wanted to go in properly, through the main gates. Before I reached the entrance, however, a guy slightly older than me approached…

… and offered me his very nice leather coat for ten bucks.

It was snowing. He had on a tee shirt under his coat. I raised my eyebrows.

“I just need ten bucks to get even at the tables,” he said. “C’mon, it’s a good coat.”

I was barely 21, and in no position to either judge the dude or offer advice. So I declined the offer, and went into the casino.

That scene has stayed with me my entire life. Right there, in a feverish 30-second encounter, was a mini-soap-opera on addiction, and all the insanity that comes with a belief system about “changing your luck” or “getting back in the game”.

Now, I enjoy gambling. I’ve tried most of the vices available in modern civilization, and gambling is one of those once-in-awhile pleasant departures from the grind of living sensibly. However, I can get the same thrill from playing dime-ante poker (with a $2 max burn) with longtime friends… or working to win spare change from Pop and siblings in our frequent rummy games… or playing a quarter-a-hole golf… as I ever got from an all-night crap game in a sordid Vegas low-life casino. (The now-demolished Frontier, if you must know, had a never-advertised $1 craps table with 10x odds that attracted players from all over the globe. I went a few times with a pal for the pure Hunter Thompson story-value, and it was like being in a Fellini movie, surrounded by grotesque hard-core gamblers from far-flung corners, drinking heavy and praying for one more long roll before the sun came up…)

I love competition. Against another player, against the odds, against all rational possibility. But it’s not a lifestyle, and it’s no Master Plan to live a good life. It’s just training.

The lesson: Go up against impossible odds once in a while. Learn how your gut handles the pressure, learn how your mind works in losing situations, learn how your system reacts to pulling off feints or destroying your opponent.

These are good tests, both to judge where you’re at as a human being in an unpredictable world… and whether you can evolve new skills required for advanced gamesmanship (which include losing well, assessing risks, and understanding why so much of life follows game-like rules).

You can do this playing chess, too. But I like the added risk-taking of having money involved — even dimes and quarters.

It’s that attitude — of seeing how I played a hand given the stakes (and losing a quarter to Sis is easily as bad, emotionally, as dropping a Franklin to a blackjack dealer) that led me to the “Gun To The Head” theory of professionalism. With a gun to my head, I wouldn’t dare write an ad that strayed from the proven fundamentals of great salesmanship.

However… and this is important… one of those fundamentals is TAKING RISKS with your knowledge of the market, the prospects, and the competition. You can’t “play it safe”. You just don’t take wild risks that don’t have a chance in hell of working.

But you DO risk things… like pushing the boundaries of what your client and marketplace expects.

And I know my gut, and I know how much risk I’m okay with taking… because of all those gin rummy and late-night poker games where I had to make decisions loaded with consequences. (I was very, very lucky to grow up in a loving but INSANELY competitive family. Sis taught me to never pass up a chance to gain the upper hand, and never offer mercy. It’s the best kind of competition, and it mimics real life in the business world.)

So, yeah, pray for the Jack of Spades, and feel lucky if you grab it and win the hand. And know, from experience (not guessing) that sometimes you can win with skill and a good plan…

… and sometimes you can win by sheer wild fortune, without having a clue what you just did. (Or, just as easily, lose to someone else the same way.)

Just be sure to learn your lessons when they land in your lap. Both the good ones, and the painful ones.

Feelin’ Lucky Point #3: Last point.

One of the best moves I made, early in my freelance career (when I was living month-to-month), was to stay hyper-alert to anything that might be an opportunity to make money as a writer.

Today, after an exciting and fruitful 30-year-career, I can confidently tell rookies that maybe — MAYBE — one or two big opportunities will arrive in their lives. But these opportunities will not announce themselves. They will come as whispers on the wind, easily missed.

And they will often arrive as confused, non-obvious situations that defy logical possibility.

I first met Gary Halbert at a party at Jay Abraham’s house that I had no intention of attending. I was leaning toward not going, and then heard that Halbert was going to be there… for a short time (as was his habit).

Now, I barely knew about Halbert. He had just come back on the direct response advertising scene (after a vacation in Boron, courtesy of the The Man), and had just started publishing his newsletter (which he continued to write right up until his death a few years ago).

I was in a very different part of the advertising world at that point, working with corporate clients and agencies. But I felt drawn more to the entrepreneurial side, where Gary excelled. Less rules, more risks, more payoff if you won, more fun all the way around. (Being a “fun” dude in a corporation pretty much ensures you’re never gonna get anywhere, you know.)

And so, I sensed that meeting Gary was something I needed to do. Even with no idea of the consequences. So I went to the party, and introduced myself to him, as he sat with his new red-headed girlfriend in a corner, happily insulting everyone who ventured near.

He was the most arrogant, abrasive, and manipulative guy I’d ever met… and I liked him immediately. We did not “hit it off” right away… and it would take another year of dancing around each other before he asked me to join him in his marketing adventures. And, just to complete the story, I had to turn my back on a fortune to do so — I was one of the rising stars in the corporate direct response world (working with game-changers like Jim Rutz, Gary Bencivenga, and Steve Barwick), and fees were rising like crazy.

But I took one look at the boring life I’d lead as a writer for the big mailers… and another look at the sheer pandemonium and excitement of a stint with Halbert…

… and never looked back.

Was it “lucky” of me to meet, and eventually become one of Gary’s closest friends? There was a brief window there, where this could happen. I didn’t plan it. But I jumped on the opportunity when it presented itself (and pushed my skill levels even higher during the time we sniffed each other out, knowing I needed max professionalism to earn a spot on his team).

No superstitious rituals needed. No banging my head against the wall, and no lamenting the cruelty of Fate.

Maybe Luck exists. I’ve certainly felt lucky before… both with good luck that thrilled, and with bad luck that crushed my spirit.

But the best lessons I’ve learned along the way all point to a very Zen-like answer: The universe is both precise and rational… and totally unpredictable and full of surprises.

And here we are — fragile little bundles of brain and guts and nerves, easily smashed by large rocks and bad business moves alike. Sometimes struggling, sometimes cruising, always one event away from being in a totally different and scary situation.

I’ve “created” Luck out of thin air, and I’ve had it slam up beside me unannounced and deliver a bounty. And I’ve had it vanish just when I needed it most, or stupidly assumed it would hang around forever.

I’ve built up my relationship with Lady Luck over a long time. She’s not as much mysterious, as she is unpredictable.

Don’t rely on her. But don’t ignore her, either.

Get to know yourself… and how you handle the vicissitudes of stress, risk and life’s amazing surprises… and your relationship with Luck will take of itself.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. I dunno. That’s just my take. What’s your relationship with Lady Luck? Are you where you are today because of a stroke of luck, or nothing but hard work, or a combination of the two?

How did you learn to play the game of business?

The comments section is open.

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78 Responses to Do Ya Feel Lucky?

  1. Iris Eben says:

    I love your blog. I am worse than Pavlov’s dog when your post pops up in my Google reader. You are my virtual Yoda.

    As a 23 year old super senior and journalism major, there are those who are trying to scare the shit of young ones like myself who are entering a supposedly dying profession. I shall point them to this post.

    Counter to the saying “The harder you work, the luckier you get”, I believe the more risks I take the luckier I get. There is way more value in being uncomfortable and looking crazy doing it.

    What underserved industries do you feel have not capitalized on web copy and need it the most?

    Thanks John!

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Iris. And thanks for bringing some attitude to journalism — I fear for what has happened to modern reporting, but I think we’re entering a new phase where true journalists are starting to figure out social media and the Web. I spoke, last year via Skype, to the journalism class at the University of Missouri, and loved it. (I also spoke to a biz class at Exeter — it’s totally bitchin’ being a virtual talking head on a big screen via Skype at universities…) Loved talking to the students. Some really smart people, and I hope they stick with it. Journalism was my major, too, until a very special girl in the dorm convinced me to switch to psychology…

      • Iris Eben says:

        Haha I was a psych major, 4 courses shy of graduation, and then switched to journalism.

        Impulse decision.

        Went on a field trip to a radio station hosted by my career center over spring break, changed my major that following Monday.

        *a very special man planted the seed 9 months prior that I ignored and forgotten up until that moment “Why don’t you become a journalist?”

        Given the choice between listening to dysfunctional speak in a box everyday vs writing about dysfunction found “out there”…I pick the latter.

        Best risk I ever took in college and I am feeling quite lucky.

        Thanks for the encouragement John!

  2. This is so good. I’m a believer in a combination of good timing and putting yourself out there. Yes stuff ‘just’ happens. But how does it happen? And why now? I don’t know that we can ever really unfurl it all but one thing is absolutely guaranteed. If you stay at home and never take a risk or have a punt on somethiing then luck is much less likely to find you.

    And there’s something about that positive mindset as well – I was having a conversation with my 12 year old (wisdom from the mouthes of babes for sure!) about how lucky he was and how he always seemed to attract good stuff (like seemingly randomly picking the lego mini figure that was the one he really wanted) and he said “mum, it’s 25% luck, 25% skill and 50% wanting it.” Not such a bad formula!

    Cathy

    • John Carlton says:

      That sounds like one smart kid. Good luck keeping him in line as the hormones settle in, Cathy…

      I have a hard time imagining what some of these kids now growing up and getting dosed with this kind of entrepreneurial knowledge and advice will become. Everyone I came of age with was just clueless… and it was like a rite of passage to discover even bad clues as got older. Now, online, it’s just being ladled out. I think that’s a better plan… but we’ll see.

      Thanks for writing.

  3. John while I think being in the right place at the right time had a lot to do with my success it was also the attitude that said: “I deserve this and want this”

    You need to have your Yin yang thing aligned inside and outside too. It means doing a lot of inner work that takes out all the self sabotage stuff that lots of folks call bad luck.

    We live in a very wyrd universe and I’m not sure if I believe completely in lady luck but by golly I do know when she’s smiling on me.

  4. Marcin says:

    For me luck feels more like destiny. People often say I’m lucky, but I feel like a Buddhist monk “I’m not lucky, it was supposed to be that way”, and I often laugh when people say I’m lucky.

    But this feeling lucky thing kind of stopped me from being successful, and I released this through DRM guys like you John.

    People always looked at me and said “dude you are so lucky, you have what you want, money is there whenever you need it etc.” and I believed it.

    I thought I don’t have to work for anything and I thought it was cool, until at one point I felt I’m not moving forward…

    And then I understood, that successful people actually work their ass’ off, and that that’s cool. I then saw, that to actually get the things I have, I had to work my ass of in the past, I just didn’t connect the dots (if you know what I mean).

    Now I know that a lot of the things I was “wasting” my time on, was actually really hard work, passionate work, that only brought financial outcomes in the far future.

    Now it’s a little similar, the only thing is I believe in myself more and don’t feel I’m wasting my time (although that does also happen). People see me on my computer and remark “again on your computer, you are totally addicted” and then when I hit a deal it’s like “your lucky…” :) anyways…

    Did you see this… http://vimeo.com/4359545 I just watched this a couple days ago, these guys are trying to prove that mind influences matter…

    Thank’s for your post John!

    • John Carlton says:

      I, too, like the idea of “destiny”. But it’s hard to square with the reality of day-to-day goal attainment… and you can get tripped up believing that something magical will happen to solve some of your problems. Best to just solve them yourself, and let THAT be part of your destiny, no?

      • Marcin says:

        Exactly, although I do believe in a kind of destiny, I did get got up in the waiting for destiny to happen, without doing the work myself, now I see it doesn’t work that way…

  5. Thomas says:

    I anxiously await your every post. Your writing style gets to me like a “can opener for my brain”! I usually have to read the post 3 times to absorbed what I missed each previous time, and then I let it simmer.

    I almost always share the post with my son who thinks he has everything figured out. More than once he has thanked me for the timely “read”.

    Keep em coming John!

    • John Carlton says:

      I love hearing that you’re sharing these with your son. Except for the occasional pitch for crap (like the last PS here about the Freelance Course), I’m manning this blog to help people. I really did vow to myself, when I was starting out, that if I made it, I’d help others do it, too. Now that I think about that vow, it was kinda superstitious… like I was appealing to some God Of Business that might favor me, IF I made a pact.

      But more, it was the sense that I was prepared and motivated to plunge ahead no matter what… and so I KNEW I’d succeed, eventually. And that I’d be one of the first freelancers in advertising history to do so, and then share what I discovered. That was cool… it reminded me to take notes… and because I had challenged myself, I got to use a little gamesmanship on myself.

      Anyway, thanks for the note. Makes my day hearing this stuff…

  6. john lloyd says:

    Excellent as always John.

  7. Jeff Waite says:

    CHA-CHING! Another MONEY post from Doc John Carleone…

    But seriously, Thanks Mr. Carlton. Your insights on lady luck have saved me from relentless rumination. Now only one question remains… so…

    Riddle me this…

    I’ve heard the “Hendrix regret” in numerous interviews with Joe Polish and Perry Marshall. But was that “friend” who left the cab for the lovely lady (and headed downtown alone) ALSO you?

    Curiously yours,
    Jeffrey

    PS – as for me? I dont’ worry tooo much about luck. Just think big, start small, and act now.

    • John Carlton says:

      Okay, allow me to explain: There are actually TWO Hendrix stories. I use the one my old friend Bob N told me, because he really did say “I don’t remember what was so damned important, that I had to miss that show”… and this was just a few years after Jimi died. I, too, had a similar story… but I mostly don’t regret missing that particular Hendrix show, because it was tear-gassed by the evil San Berdoo sheriffs. I was even on my way there, but back then a lot of things happened to me on a Friday evening, and it was easy for another adventure to intervene with prior plans. So I usually relate Bob’s story, because it makes the point I want to make. Occasionally, I’ll use my first-person version, but it’s more complex.

      And, the details of the story are almost irrelevant, anyway — the point I’m getting across is learning to value what’s truly “important”, and what’s just louder “noise” on your radar at any given time. It doesn’t do any good to live a life of constant regret — learn your lesson early, and start making better choices, so you don’t have to regret anything. (Also, almost everything is adjustable in life… especially “important” meetings, or stuff you “gotta” do.)

      The story about the lady and the taxi is the same thing — I first encountered it down in San Diego, before I started my career. It galvanized me to start looking more closely at opportunity, and that’s the lesson. It might be an urban legend, but the guy telling the story said it was true. And, again, it doesn’t matter. Even if it’s fiction, it gets the point across.

      Make sense? There’s a larger issue here of scrupulously staying with the truth when you relate things… but also allowing a little poetic licence to occur when it’s appropriate. Sometimes (like with my Hendrix story), the tales are just too cumbersome to relate entirely, so you edit and compress and trim it down. Like in the post (in the archives here somewhere) where I explain how to tell a joke (to prepare writers for writing pitchy copy): You ruthlessly deicide what’s important and what can be left out. A duck walks into a bar… doesn’t matter what kind of bar, or what town, or what kind of duck, or anything else. Just stay within the bounds of good storytelling, to hold interest and GET THE POINT ACROSS.

      Make sense?

      • Jeff Waite says:

        Makes PERFECT sense! Seriously John: Thanks for taking the time to elaborate for me (and anyone else following along at home).

        The learning opportunity has not escaped me. And be assured…

        I VERY much appreciate understanding… exactly how… you go from “real-life-anecdote” to “hard hitting lesson on Entrepreneurship.” So thank you (from the bottom of my greedy little heart) for the succinct reminder on how to GET THE POINT ACROSS!

        :)

        Now off to re-read that “how to tell a joke post” you mentioned.

  8. [...] think, is I’m born-and-bred as a 9-5 job type of guy.  I read something interesting today on John Carlton’s blog that spoke to me.  Here’s the copy… … and for most, the decisions to survive, to go [...]

  9. Adil Amarsi says:

    It’s a combination of the two, now my dance is FAR from even getting past the first twirl… but that’s fine.

    I’ve said it countless times and I’ll say it again, it was a concoction of Luck and Hard Work that brought me knowing you and having you impact my life to make me a better writer, John…

    By that alone, it propelled me to work with “Guru’s” like Alex Goad and begin to get noticed by the west coast big boys like Jason Moffatt, Andy Jenkins, David Bass, and even yourself.

    But above all… I’ve said this and have learned it in my basketball career back at high school… Natural talent will only get you so far… hard work and training take you the rest of the way.

    That’s true for my fighting career and my business life…

    Luck plays a part, where I somehow manage to withstand a powerful knock out hit or stop my body being snapped by a great submission move… or when a client doesn’t pay up and talks shit, almost immediately 3 new clients show up with a bag of money to pay me.

    These are all pieces of luck coupled with skill and hard work.

    Brilliant post to remind me of that

    Thanks, John

  10. I feel like it always depends…

    Sometimes it’s an inner nudge you get feeling helpless other times your curiosity sends you on a magic carpet ride.

    Recently I feel luck is more frequent when I surround myself with those who are like minded. Those who will help me grow and teach me something. I guess thats why networking is so big with all these social sites. Easy to get referrals…

    I remember back when I lived in my rowdy frat house I was learning how to build websites to make money for the first time.

    Being a psychology major dozens of my frat bros would always come in my room wondering why I was wasting time and persuading me to drink/smoke…Which was fun but wasn’t really helping me…

    Their view of making cash of the internet was getting scammed and that if I liked computer science so much I should change my major. Its funny how any one can learn business, copywriting, webdesign by reading and using a few practical books. Within a week my first shitty site I ever made was making $1-3 a day.

    It was nothing but beer money but to a guy who never experienced luck with residual income that was the perfect reinforcement for starting the journey…

    There is… like what was said putting all you eggs in different baskets and seeing what prospers but only when you’ve worked to death on it…

    P.S. I think my favorite business book so far is MJ Demarcos “The Millionaire Fastlane”. Its really like taking the redpill and waking up in a new world. Every problem in the world starts looking like an opportunity for an entrepreneur.

    -VM

  11. Hi John,
    I just wanted to let you know I have been a fan and student for as long as I can remember. It always seems like, every time I am having a shitty day, you post something that riles me up, makes me laugh or does something to shake my state of mind. I appreciate everything post you write and of course, in my big ol hairy swipe file, are piles of your material.

    Keep it up!

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Damien. However, when your swipe file starts getting hairy, it’s probably time to see what’s growing in there…

      I’m currently plowing through old files (in another futile attempt at wrangling the piles around me to a manageable size), and there’s always some amazing discovery deep in each corner of my office. Next to the dead spiders (entire generations lived and died without being bothered by me) and the dust bunnies, there will be some piece of writing (mine or someone else’s) that is perfect inspiration for something else I’m doing. I love archives, always have (fond memories of being lost in the stacks of the local library), and while hairy messes should probably be minimized, I do encourage all writers to embrace some form of pack-rat behavior…

  12. Craig says:

    I felt uncomfortable reading your blog post. I’m certainly no prude, but I find it beyond necessary, distracting and annoying to find all the ugly language you use. It’s interesting to see that your replying folks do too… does that mean anything to you? Do you feel using those words gets your point across better? Do you think it appeals to a certain audience? What is your motivations for that language? I’d like to see an entire post dedicated to why you find that necessary, or appealing, or persuasive, or trendy, or whatever your reason…

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Craig. I love language, hate censorship, and am a huge fan of the First Amendment. As such, I embrace the openness of the Web in presenting a forum to speak frankly, without a muzzle.

      I write the way I speak. In the inner circles of biz (and in life in general), this is how high-functioning, real people communicate — with the full brunt and power of the English language, in all its slang-filled, occasionally profane glory. (Though, sometimes, we have to wait until the prudes have left the room before we can relax and speak freely.)

      You’ll find the same language in the best magazines now published in the US — like the New Yorker (great, great mag) and Rolling Stone. (And Shakespeare, I might add.) I never apologize for the way I use language to communicate… and while I understand that skittish elements still exist in society, I’m not interested in mollifying them in the slightest.

      What I do with language approaches art. I can’t believe I’m saying that — being the shy, non-grandstanding guy I am — but it’s true. More than any other professional writer in marketing, I care about language and I slave over everything I write. When I hit my stride, it’s nearly poetry (and very, very quotable, evidenced from the pile of pithy sayings constantly attributed to me by other marketers)… and I am fucking proud of that. I’ve earned my chops as a writer over decades of struggling to master the craft. Nearly every word I use has been consciously and purposely employed… often for emphasis, sometimes for flow, always for precise meanings.

      No one is forcing you to read this blog, Craig. If you’re uncomfortable, that’s an issue you either need to address in yourself, or avoid confronting altogether by skipping these posts. However, you’re also welcome to hang around and hear how the Cool Kids talk.

      • Craig says:

        … or it’s simply pseudo-intellectual grandstanding by one who is full of himself! I have the feeling that I’d like to buy you for what you’re worth, then sell you for what you think you’re worth!

        • John Carlton says:

          Really, Craig? Real-world language upsets you, yet you feel that troll-like insults fit nicely in your tool kit? Especially after I took the trouble to answer your comment in detail?

          I’m gonna leave your nasty little note up here, but if you exhibit any further troll behavior, you’re 86′ed. We run a respectful shop here.

        • Craig,
          I have a sneaking suspicion that we could sell you for what you think youre worth and what you are really worth and combined couldn’t even put gas in the heap to get to one of John’s amazing seminars.

          Show some respect to a guy that’s done some amazing shit in his life.

          Jeezus I hate trolls

      • Oliver Baumbach says:

        Words of wisdom.
        Writing is an art, but not all “writers” happen to be artists.
        There are 2 kinds of people in every occupation, those that infuse their soul into their work, and those that…well don’t.
        If you become part of your work, your work becomes a part of you.
        I wish I was strong enough as a student to get a grade for my soul, but i’m not, so i get Fs for not submitting or As for work that i’m not connected to which ends up dilluting my skills one way or another.
        Isn’t something wrong with the system if education means becomming worse at something the more you love it?
        Sorry, went a little offtopic.

  13. Erim says:

    Groovy post, John. The Hendrix story stuck me in particular. It reminded me of the time in college when I almost went to see Stevie Ray Vaughn, who was touring with Jeff Beck at the time, but then I didn’t, for some reason I can’t even remember now. And then he was dead maybe six months later, and I never got to see him live.

    I recently fired my clients and went all in on the internet bidness, which is what I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve never been a particularly superstitious person, but the fear, which I suppose is a form of superstition, is another thing. It’s back there in my lizard brain, telling me all the reasons I might fail and end up homeless without those steady, boring checks from clients every month. It’s pretty much all bullshit, because life is one big crap shoot from start to finish. I like your take on forming a relationship with the Lady though. Good stuff.

    Thanks for doing what you do. Loved the Copyblogger interview too, by the way.

    Cheers.

  14. Mark Meador says:

    Great post, John … one of your most provocative.

    I’m a big believer in preparation + opportunity = luck. But over the years I’ve come to learn there’s another force at work. Collective consciousness, the Universe, God, whatever one calls it, we attract this force through our actions and it greases the wheels of opportunity.

    The annoying thing is it’s not something one can summon at will. But it doesn’t seem to be random either. Near as I can figure, living a seamless (congruent) life is the best way of providing for its appearance.

    My biggest breaks to date – setting up an agroforestry development biz in Bolivia and launching a lifestyle brand in Hawaii – came about simply by getting on a plane and putting myself into situations I felt compelled to experience.

    Kinda like your first meet with Halbert, I suppose. And I’m sure as hell gonna be on the lookout for a babe in a taxi.

    Cheers.

  15. Natalie says:

    I couldn’t agree more if you held a gun to my head and made me agree more. Luck is all about taking risks and working damn hard to make sure it pays off; and not getting caught up in whether it does or not.

    I’m not talking about not caring about the risk, you have to care, but you also need to be keeping an eye on the future at the same time. One risk may fail but another might win – and big time. If all risks work and you are inundated, well so much the better. If they all fail, try a different tack.

    And if it’s too scary, get off the ride and find a nice, safe corporation to hold your hand. But don’t be fooled by them; risk lurks there as well, it just comes with a severence plan.

    Lady Luck (if she exists), is a bit like God (if he exists): she helps those who help themselves.

  16. Andy Wilson says:

    Remember when I found that dead goat at your last action seminar?.

    Did you know me and my posse had to leave a day early, and race two states south, just avoid getting mauled by incoming blizzard over the Siskiyou pass. (the one between Oregon, and California).

    Which ended up with me bumbling into a hip-homeless dude – who just happened to have inside knowledge about a certain dead goat, that a certain random truck just HAPPENED to throw it overboard while crossing the bridge, just the night before.

    That dead piece of fur put me on the fast-track to meeting some of my most valuable biz contacts in my rolodex.

    Didn’t see that one coming.

    -Andy

    P.S. I still have the goat, his name is Chamberlain. He lives in my closet. Yeah, I’m kind of a weird dude.

  17. Orestes says:

    Hi! John,

    Thanks for another great post.This one is very intersting and very truthful.I just finished reading “The Richest Man In Babylon” by George S.Clason
    and I know now where the good luck comes and it´s just like you´re are saying.At the end of the day you are the one with your destiny..get focus,
    ditermined, persistent, work hard at what you want to achieve, be very realistic that the road it´s not always easy but believe in yourself and be
    very courageuos…and yes always stay sensitive,ready and alert cuz opportunities I do believe comes to all – and then life can be very excite it
    instead of boring.

    Thanks again for your great insights that you always give to us and be very blessed!

  18. Hi John, here for the first time. Glad I came. Thanks for having me. Enjoyed the post. Had a grandfather who effed up a family fortune gambling it all away, believing ONLY in luck. Still love him though. I was a kid and he was my grand-dad, i.e. God in disguise. That, and your post, remind me of this question that propels many peoples’ minds into a confused spin: what’s more important, your arms or your legs? [The correct answer being, "Both are important", of course]. Luck is important and so is, as you point out, you making yourself attractive to Lady Luck, or to the Duke of Luck as the case may be :-] ~Beat

    • John Carlton says:

      Welcome, Beat. Every family — if you’re lucky — has at least one lovable but utterly odd character, who stands in stark contrast to the “normal” relatives. I loved my offbeat uncles (learned to swear with ‘em, in fact) and have become one myself. It’s a worthy position to hold…

  19. Peter Wright says:

    Very good examination of luck and cause and effect there John.

    In a war on another continent many years ago,I was a section commander in an infantry unit. Just back from a 5 day patrol, standing next to my mate, another section commander having a cold beer.

    Our Lieutenant rushes up to me, says we need to set up an ambush immediately, I start calling my men when he turns back and remembers I have just got back to camp. Tells Len, my friend to get his unit ready.

    Len and his guys walk into an ambush, no one injured but Len gets a bullet through the radio strapped on his back as he dives for cover.

    I was taller than Len, imagine how many “what if” questions were going through my mind.

    Was that luck, destiny or fate?

    In a long and exciting life, I have dodged many other bullets both literally and figuratively. Fortunately only some of the latter got me.

    Thanks again John, I always feel good when I read your posts, your stories remind me of all the times I have taken the road less travelled.

  20. Josh Sarz says:

    I could say that I’m pretty luck back in school. I never studied, yet passed all the way through college. Now that I’m working as a freelancer, I don’t think I’m going to keep depending on luck, if it even exists at all. I’ve stepped up, a bit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, John.

  21. I once read a Freud’s saying:

    I’ve had the greatest of luck, nothing was easy in my life.

    that’s exactly how I feel.

    You see when I got to the the age of entering the working market, I got in on the internet, learning the ways of programming and communicating through these new channels and I had the worst of times, my friends all had good jobs and had the money to do things I couldn’t… Like paying for a beer, for.instance… those were tough times…

    Lucky me though, I had no wife or kids so I only had to worry about myself.

    Suddenly internet knowledge became vital I’m my market, and the very few of us who got tough times in the beginning got ourselves a REALLY big break, we’re now managing strategies for big brands and getting handsome rewards for our jobs… Handsome rewards for our market anyway.

    Things are brighter and seem obvious by now, but it didn’t then.

    I am grateful for it, but I know we need more skills, more real strategies, like the ones you get by writing good copy.

    Can you believe in my country info direct marketing has not been well used our exploited?

    In fact, what is direct marketing here is only catalogue work with pictures and short descriptions, no sales letters, no hooks or stories, nada.

    So, I’m on the same quest by now. Partners and coworkers tell me I’m a fool for spending my hard earned money buying confessions of a marketing rebel and they urge me to stop losing time learning abilities that have no sense here.

    Let’s see if lady luck is with me again :-)

  22. Janice says:

    Hi John,
    I do think “Lady Luck” has a good head on her sholders, for some people..and then their are those who has no luck at all. I’m about 50/50 and thats not all the time.If you think positive{which I do}good things should follow..Just hoping it follows me soon.
    Thanks John, always love readin your post, puts a smile on my face…

  23. dANNY8bALL says:

    Hey Johhny,

    ‘Nother great post dude, thanks. Always amazed at how our paths parallel. I played a stint in the farms, and saw great players get completly twisted up by what they thought was controlling thier fate. The pantyhose pitcher comes to mind…a rumor never confirmed far as I know.

    Sammy F. taught his buddies to card count and we began a series of weekend stints in Vegas, systematically ilking out enough cash for more “stuff” than we deserved at that age. All the time watching the folks all around us- desperate and covered in fear sweat, hungering for another shot of that “Luck” we were having. Tried to tell some of ‘em how we do it,where to buy the book but they only wanted more luck, better cards, not the truth.

    I once jumped out of an airplane to “Get Lucky”.

    One night I found myself deep in the bowels of the night, high as hell (on god knows what was laced into that joint), and in the precarious position of playing a single round of russian roulette at a party with some Gypsy Jokers. Just a few minutes later, when stinky fat biker was “shot”, got out of the chair and laughed, I realized it was a blank, but at the time, I was playing for my life and praying for luck!

    Luck, what IS it, how does it make us believe so strongly, then throw us to the curb so mightily? Luck’s a lady? More like a burly bouncer! Or an ex…

    Nowadays, I make my own luck. I have to, as I already used up all the Luck I was born with.

    Gimme a sec, I have to rub that tiki I got from that Polynesian carver…

    Ok, now hand me them dice!

    Thanks for all the thought that goes into your always insightful posts. I like to print them out and read them in the crapper.

    Now that should shock that prude troll!

    Are ya gonna take on PRAYER next????? That should be a doozy…

    • John Carlton says:

      Okay, you one-upped me with the Russian Roulette shit… but I may have tied you with a few other “what the hell” moments, usually barefoot on dirt bikes headed straight downhill, or in off-road Jeeps, or sports cars red-lining RPMs on county roads. The toll: 5 vehicles totaled, one dead, nobody having a “normal” relationship with automobiles anymore. And was all before I started hanging out with bikers…

      I’m deep into my autobiography. (Yeah, I think I deserve one, what’s it to ya?) So all these stories are burbling up to the surface again. I think you (and a few other Boomers) will get a kick out this one… though I’ll certainly shock a few people, too…

  24. Pete Moring says:

    Great post as usual John.

    A soppy little poem here taken from ‘The Poets Lodge’ – about lady luck smiling down when ‘luck’ didn’t seem to be anywhere at that time :-(

    Cheers – Pete.

    It’s Christmas,
    and my presents
    all fit inside a sock.

    I’m thrilled to bits to find some nuts,
    an apple and a pear.
    But wait ….. what’s this,
    another present there?

    A little plastic notebook,
    (real crocodile skin for sure).
    I can write out special secrets now,
    and post them through the door.

    My friend and I are getting old,
    we’re eight now don’t you know.
    The sisters in the big house,
    our love we can now show.

    “Corrinne, Stanley loves you”
    seemed to be just right.

    We crept up to the door,
    slipped it through
    and ran with fright.

    We watched then from a distance,
    behind the hawthorn tree.
    Stanley tried to push me back.
    The thorns all stuck in me.

    It made me scream and shout,
    as Stanley picked me out.
    Then to my despair,
    I saw Corrinne standing there.

    With her sisters she was laughing
    for all her worth at me.
    But I didn’t find it funny,
    falling back into that tree.

    The message from the notebook
    served a purpose, that’s for sure.
    As after that, we were good friends.
    No need to slip notes through the door.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    The notebook,
    “nothing special”,
    I can hear you say.
    But without that piece of paper,
    we’d have missed that special day.

    I might have had a bicycle,
    toy cars, or books galore.
    But the memory of ‘that little book’
    will stay, forever more.

    A gift of LOVE was given.
    It was all could be afforded.

    I took the gift of LOVE with pride,
    and so …… I was rewarded.

  25. Mira Draken says:

    Good posting.
    A tiny little fragment of me believes in luck. The rest of my brains think: take that opportunity and try, if you can keep up.
    I have learned a profession which I didn’t want, just because my parents wished it so. Always wanted to do something artistic.
    Well, family, children, pets, work, all things in my life seemed to indicate that I should bury my dreams.
    I had to pass my 50th birthday, before I started writing in earnest. That was it! My first try to write a novella succeeded in getting a publisher. A small one, but my book was accepted.
    Didn’t sell much, but it was a start. I’m still working in my learned profession, but now I’m a writer as well, and I consider this part of my life a success.
    No luck involved.

    • John Carlton says:

      Congrats Mira. Writers write — whether you’re appreciated now or not is secondary. Those of us who are called to the form are happiest just having an opportunity to write, audience or not.

      Even selling a few books, however, puts you in rare company, you know. Here’s to more success in the future…

  26. Bernie says:

    I have often heard people say…”You can’t change the direction of the wind…just the setting of the sails.” I say get a motor…Are we supposed to let life’s BS push us around?

    Are we supposed to stay in less than optimal settings if we can create other options for ourselves? Most people say yes. I see it all of the time.

    Screw “LUCK.” There is no such thing. Only skill and knowledge.

  27. Dave Bross says:

    Even the real “train wrecks” hold huge lessons.

    Some of your most important ones.

    The trick is to spot the lessons sooner, not later.

    “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous”

    Alexander Hamilton

  28. mark says:

    better get off my ass and just become the writer for musicians i can be. And lead the life I was meant to.

    With calculated smaller risks. So if I lose some money I’m still up by a ton.

    I create my own luck, so to speak john.

    thanks

    Mark, somewhere in cold as a bugger Canada

  29. Mia says:

    Good read, John. Thanks.

    I’ve always enjoyed Amy Tan’s take on the luck vs. hard work (aka fate vs. faith) conundrum:

    My mother believed in God’s will for many years. It was as if she had turned on a celestial faucet and goodness kept pouring out. She said it was faith that kept all these good things coming our way, only I thought she said “fate,” because she couldn’t pronounce that “th” sound in “faith.”

    And later, I discovered that maybe it was fate all along, that faith was just an illusion that somehow you’re in control. I found out the most I could have was hope, and with that I was not denying any possibility, good or bad. I was just saying, If there is a choice, dear God or whatever you are, here’s where the odds should be placed. ~Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

  30. Not to sound rude or anything. But I think that luck are run by chances, no one is pretty much sure about it. Blessed is a better term for it. If you consider yourself blessed then you are more than in luck because good things happens to you all the time.

  31. Katherine says:

    I always pick the bad boys! I’ve chosen John Carlton, as the person to bring me to master copywriter level.

    I lived as a nun in a New Age spiritual community for 20 years. No swearing where I came from. And LUCK, yeah it was all about the Force, karma, destiny, guidance from Beyond/Above.

    Left off from that a number of years ago. Feel a little poorer for it. But wiser. Oh, but how to learn master CW when I barely use “bad words” — being nice so much?

    Not that I’ve not seen it. My artist/painter drinking dad born in Long Beach, CA, was a real “bad boy.” Taught me a lot. Loved him. But don’t want to be like him in so many ways.

    I do want to be a master copywriter! and hope by hanging out here, buying your courses, and applying, I’ll get there in short order.

  32. Sweeney says:

    “But these opportunities will not announce themselves. They will come as whispers on the wind, easily missed.”

    The lightest breeze.. that could have easily been missed had you not paid attention and quickly taken action while it was still there..

    Anyways.. My relationship with luck is explained by my right wrist tattoo “Amor Fati.”

    The basic latin translation: A love of a fate.

    The deeper meaning.. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good. Moreover, it is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

  33. John, usually I play the smartass and try to throw a little comedy into my comments. This time I can’t. This piece on luck needs a much wider audience. I’m thinking The New Yorker or similar.

    And yes, I’m serious. Serious as a blocked left anterior descending artery.

    Well done, my fellow ex-Inland Empire denizen, well done.

    Marc

    • John Carlton says:

      I’ll never forgive them for changing Route 66 to a new highway number… never…

      • Nor should you. I sure haven’t.

        And while we’re musing on the ol’ hometown, I still can’t believe they tore down the old Hofbrau House out on Mission. Or was it Holt?

        Damn it all, I learned to play drums in front of a crowd in that musty old beer garden. Got bit by multiple chihuahuas too. Ill-tempered little fangsters.

  34. Abey says:

    Strangely enough I commented on a similar post – though nowhere near you in expressive flair John – with this image that shows how I view luck:

  35. Ken Ca|houn says:

    Interesting topic… I like your points about being hyper-alert, taking chances, getting out there. I agree with Cathy about “combination of good timing and putting yourself out there”.

    Mastering the fundamentals, and “the harder I work the luckier I get” quote… is all essential for success. And yet… Luck, for lack of a better word (maybe uncertainty principle would be better, or ‘random factor’), uncertain events that occur, does play a role. It’s how we respond, that counts.

    When one of my competitors goes out of business, is that good luck for me? Sure, but my hard work to squash them by offering better-quality stuff to the niche during the competitors’ demise during the last many years, was a key success factor…

    ..or if a product line I sell, stops selling, or my market stops buying, is that bad luck? Well maybe, but since I’ve got a lot of new diverse products in the pipeline, it works as damage control for what could be considered ‘bad sales luck’.

    But there’s something intangible, unpredictable, luck factor yes that’s there. When I won a hold ‘em poker tournament (NLHE) at the Luxor last summer, I would attribute that to a combination of luck (catching great preflop hands), as well as a skill in playing the hands. Luck, the draw of cards definitely impacted my ability to win that time. There’s some luck involved, in certain situations, that, like english on a cue ball, puts some spin on your skills. Or rolls of the dice in board games or craps.

    Goal is to make your skills and business processes as independent as possible, of random/luck factors, to produce consistent business outcomes.

    c’mon lucky 7…

    -k

    • John Carlton says:

      Wait a minute, Ken — you WON a poker tournament? Nice work. Are you of the “sit back, only play great hands, and let ‘em fight it out first” philosophy, or the “be aggressive and psychologically confusing, so they can’t game you” style?

      Me — I play almost every hand, go for inside straights and river flushes (and love the look on other players’ faces when they see I played an off-suit 3-7 hand and filled out the straight). But I play for fun, and enjoy the Fellini-movie quality of the character-watching. I’d get butchered and sold for chops in a tournie. Still, I’m half-assed using Art Of War and NLP and calculated false tells, cuz it’s fun to screw with people’s heads…

      • Ken Ca|houn says:

        Hey John, yeah but it was just a 5-table tournament at the Luxor… still, it was undeniably fun to have all the yellow/big chips at the end of the game. Definitely an ABC-style straight ahead player here, using Negraneu’s small ball and Harrington’s training. Favorite games in Vegas are at the Venetian (best poker room in town), and MGM. Bellagio I play at a lot because it’s my favorite hotel in the world, too.

        I play conservatively in cash games, aggressively in tourneys, my favorite phrase in the world is “I’m all in”, and then I whisper “watch this” with a wicked gleam in my eye to the rest of the table… lots of fun to be the table captain and watch ‘em fold.

        Or I use a fake tell like saying “I should’nt have done that” out loud, when I’ve got trip paint or better post-flop. Or if they’re good, I’ll say “bring it” and gesture with my hands.

        Sounds like you play more hands than I do, like 3-7 offsuits or fills. I end up folding most hands preflop, esp. if out of position, unless they’re decent.

        My favorite personal “Bad beat story” (from Bellagio): I was playing heads up against a pretty local blonde, should’ve known she was a player by the way she did advanced flip-chips in her hand preflop. Board was JJJ, I had AKo. River comes K, and I push all in (cash game, just $200 total). She had the J. I said “f me” out loud in the room, everyone laughed. I mean come on. Getting a full house JJJKK is a great hand. Unless you’re up against quads. Doh! Live and learn.

        Agree character-watching and NLP and sun tzu are all great fun, it’s a terrific place to study human nature. Now if only I could win at poker more than losing… (I’m still not net profitable in my poker, still learning).

        to the game,

        “all in” Ken

        • Ken Ca|houn says:

          and btw thanks a million for your earlier training on speaking w/words/thoughts that are deeply targeted/relate in the niche you’re talking to… that previous post about the bad beat would instantly resonate with fellow hold’em players and go whoosh over the heads of all non poker players. that’s one of the most valuable things you’ve taught me, John… genuine thanks for that. your teaching is transformational for fellow biz owners.

  36. Abrundige says:

    Greetings my Esteemed Rebel; Human beings are not the strongest species on the planet. We’re not the fastest nor maybe even the smartest. Our saving grace is our inherited spirit. And our ability to negociate,cooperate and work joint ventures to produce remarkably incomparable achievements,technology,breakthroughs,advancements. Benefiting all wholehearted,We recognize ourselves in one another and are empathically programed for compassion,heroism,love.It’s these attributes that make us stronger,faster,smarter.It’s why we’ve survived,progressed,advanceed in the circle of life.It’s why against all odds we continue to strive and advance…as a planet. Our outcome is what we make,it’s not dictated to us.World Change Does Not Mean World Domination http://youtu.be/5zn8MRKOskw Live righteously and treasure the journey,thanks for askin’.=>Stay Frosty! http://youtu.be/t7PZVYG57UQ

  37. I actually enjoyed reading this. I can see and feel the openness, which is very unlikely for me to encounter. Great writing!

  38. Oliver Baumbach says:

    So I have enterpreneurial blood in me? nice !….

    I mean my attitude on luck has allways been
    “Good things do fall into your lap, but you have to position yourself just right and have to have huge balls to spread your legs wide enough”
    I’m 16 and live by that attitude, and believe me, amazing things do happen.

  39. Rob says:

    From: RJ
    Glenelg,SA
    5045
    10 minute walk from the beach

    Dear JSC

    First comment I want to make is I enjoy the full use of words found in most good dictionaries…for people like ‘Craig’ need to be little less friggin rude…

    Here is why, with no disrespect Craig…who the frig are you to lecture John and to what great things have you done in the direct response community which would give you any right to bust johns chops?

    that to me is way more offensive than anything I’ve encountered…in my life…

    …people like you have been wrapped up in cotton wool all your life…second you are exposed to how life really is and how real people communicate you get on your high horse…

    …well shit for brians…you picking on John you pick on us all…we are as writers, band of brothers and sisters…

    Doing what you dream about while jerking off to last months playboy issue you stole while the real people who secretly make biz the big bucks plough threw all the b.s. in life…

    …maybe you need to go to few biker bars and sit and listen to the salt of the earth…go get your heart broken and loose everything than get back on your feet…

    …it’s clear to me you have never washed your own backside…if you have you would smell like anyone else…

    It’s astonishing how you sit behind a keyboard and electronically beat up one of the worlds foremost experts on the subject of copy and marketing…

    …what you don’t understand is this blogg is seen by ALL those who have been schooled by the great man…

    I don’t care who you are or who you think you are being so rude and so fucking disrespectful to John is not on mate!

    …let’s hope you will learn a lesson buckwheat…johns inner most wisdom is appreciated and looked upon by us who understand and value people like John…

    John does not have to do squat to help anyone but he does, he is only dude I know who can walk into ANY seminar and NEVER have to worry about buying a beer or a meal…

    …there are not too many people I know that have that status in any area of expertise…so suck it up and get a grip…

    Maybe when you stop jerking off…and start getting hip to how life really is than you’ll appreciate every ounce of wisdom John does share…

    It’s wisdom and insight that money or best schools of education can ever offer…

    Sorry John this dickwad needs to be told….

    Now to your post…screw luck, I agree with your thoughts however I’d like to offer my two bobs worth,..

    You life is what you make of it and sometimes opportunity comes at in-opportune time…you arethe creator or your success and if your life sucks…

    Change your mindset…

    Later big dog…

    PS if any of you have a pulse and you sick to damn death of not knowing johns inner most secrets in writing copy…get his freelancer course….two days after completing it, I hooked my first client and done so by knowing how to be the adult in the room…I have many other copywriting systems from well known and respected writers, nothing I had was even close to simple secrets of a marketing rebel…you would be brain dead beyond anything else if you did not get copy of johns course it ironed out all the bumps in my education, it showed me things that would taken me decades to grasp…I now feel complete as a writer and will say if you are serious about being freelancer or a writer than getting a copy for such a low price mad me feel so guilty, for few days only to than understand John is not doing this to make money he is doing this because he gives a shit about next generation of writers…he wants us all to do well, if you fail to get a copy it will cost you time and money here is what NOT getting johns course has screwed me out of, do far trying to nut this out on my own has cost me 6 years of my time, easily lost 1/4 to half mill or more in fee’s, missed out on time with my kids, time for me to do shit I want to do on my terms, now I have to catch up on those lost 6 years with sweat f-all income, buying everything I could when I could, spending entire weekends writing headlines, bullets, etc etc, spending entire week watching and re-watching rare as unicorn shit, seminars….you can short cut that in one weekend, or pass this up, I had to wait almost a year to get updated copy and I hassled john so much, I thought he was gonna get the FBI to send in the sway team to arrest me…first time I passed up the chance was when the freelance course was $5k and I still have the original pitch in my files….get off your back side and pop out that credit card and just buy the damn thing, I’ve already got my first check…something I could never have done if it was not for John and I’m high school drop out with shitty child hood, poor attention span and I’m a single dad of three…so if a dumb ass like me can get good,get connected,get paid first…than my friend you have more than better chance, unless you like doing shit the hard way….

  40. Stan Scott says:

    One Saturday morning in 1973, I was out in my ‘65 Mustang convertible, cruisin’and playin’ the radio, with no particular place to go (thanks, Chuck Berry).

    I parked at a Tic-Toc market in Glendale (one of my weekday customers) where the manager, with her usual dramatic gestures and speech (to this day I believe she had been a stage actress once upon a time) advised me to drive back down to the Santa Monica freeway and through the tunnel out onto the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ll never forget her words, “Adventure will find you!”, spoken with a flourish of an upraised hand and inspiration from the cosmos. I did as she suggested…

    On the PCH, just 100 yards north of the tunnel, I picked up 2 ladies and agreed to drive them as far as Santa Barbara. On stopping in Santa Barbara for gas, I spontaneously determined to drive them home… to Mill Valley.

    I had no idea it would result in several years of weird and wonderful memories…

    • Like standing back of the amps behind a jamming Grateful Dead, peering out at a sea of mesmerized, gently swaying faces.
    • Like being told to run for the door if the drug hazed gay and transvestite crowd turned violent at a gig the girls played (the girls were members of an all-girl rock band).
    • Like touring a hidden Victorian mansion in Sonoma and meeting the strange, wise, wealthy and powerful matron who lorded over that estate. (Local police were AFRAID to approach her about the ten foot high Cannabis plants growing amongst the corn in her garden.)

    Luck? Perhaps. But that Mill Valley trip was taken on a spur of the moment. At the time, I was bored and had a 3 day weekend with no plans.

    Was it luck that I decided to stop at that market? Was it luck that I stopped for those ladies? Was it luck that I made it back for work at 4 AM Monday morning when I didn’t have money for gas and no one in the bay area would cash a check?

    I believe we make decisions based on “perceived” best outcomes, taking into account our risk tolerance and whatever knowledge we possess at the time.

    I didn’t know how much gas it would take to get to Mill Valley and back. I didn’t know whether I could drive up and back over a weekend (I’d never done it.) I didn’t know if that car would make the trip. But I was willing to take the risk as I “perceived” it would be an adventure and I would have fun.

    If I had known how far Mill Valley was, I might not have made that trip. If I had known what the future held, I would have barreled up in a heartbeat.

    Common sense and sound judgement don’t always apply when we think we are making the best possible decision. Ask the guy who’s sticking up a bank. Ask the guy who shoots his wife’s lover. Consciously or unconsciously, it seems the logical thing to do… until they’re arrested or worse.

    You gamble in every decision you make. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. Even a gambler who knows the odds are against him may choose to sit at the table. if he decides he can beat them. It’s just a decision.

    Anything beyond that gets into Chaos theory and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which would choke this blog.

  41. Marlo says:

    Early luck is a killer and don’t make mature people.

    And bad luck really teaches a lot of things. One of which is you get better at preparation.

    Nice post, as always.

  42. Traci G says:

    Hey carlton, I have a question for ya

    In your book “Kick Ass Copywriting Secret of a Marketing Rebel”,
    you told us to use the here’s phrase to frame our offer.

    But in the website selling that same ebook
    http://www.marketingrebel.com/copywriting-salesmanship-closing-the-deal/john-carlton-kick-ass-copywriting/

    You don’t use the technique you teach.

    What is up with that?

    Don’t you believe in what you teach?

    Why didn’t you use it?

    • John Carlton says:

      Uh… first, I do not know what the “here’s phrase” is that you reference. Are you thinking of the “here’s what I have for you” example? If so, that’s both a literal technique, and a “modelled conversational attitude” to take when explaining your offer. You don’t have to use the exact wording to accomplish the same goal. That’s pretty clear in the manual.

      Second, there is no ebook. It’s a physical course, printed and shipped. This, also, is clear if you actually read the copy.

      Third — I didn’t write the final copy on that website, anyway. It’s signed by the author. But he lays out the offer very clearly, regardless.

      Fourth… what’s up with this “don’t you believe in what you teach” bullshit? Purge this nascent cynicism from your system asap, or it will take you down a nasty path in life. You don’t have to buy into everything anyone tries to “teach” you, or advise you about… but do try to go below surface-level observation, especially when bitching about strategies that will help you succeed. Your attitude is troll-like, and based on purposely mis-reading things.

      Jeez Louise — I’m seeing more and more cynical nonsense lately in the comments. What is up with that? I spend a lot of time — for free — sharing insights and tactics here, and I’m active in the comments section. How that ignites anger and resentment is baffling…

      • It’s the times, Uncle John. They’ve tested and stretched us all into beings we never intended or wished to become.

        Take that shit with a grain, my man. You have far more folks out here who love and respect you than the magnified few malcontents.

      • rob says:

        From RJ
        Feeling groggy after long day marching…(we have just had our memorial day called ANZAC day)

        JC

        I dont know what the frig is going on, all I can say is more and more ‘hack’ writers who have not done there 10,000 hours are trying to short cut…their education want the answers before doing the ‘real’ work in learning…

        It shits me to tears that there seems to be more disrespect on your blog…if they dont get it than screw em…

        It would not hurt to cull the heard little let all the deadwood drift by…it’s simply not worth it…

        If this chic really had your course she would be out there doing it for real…not muffling her questions and wasting your time..

        To those deadbeats who dont get what one of the world class writers have to say than you are beyond all hope…

        John Carlton has been at the pointy end of the world of marketing for lot longer than most and one of the few guys who where around when the informercials started to kick off and when the web was startin out…

        If you buggers can’t see the wisdom and pure fat chunks of gold John shares with us go get regular job at wallmart as a door greeter…

        Because you are not cut out for being a professional writer…

        That is all.

        RJ

  43. jery says:

    is this what passes for blog writing nowadays? you need an editor. seriously. and drop the ellipses. it makes you look unprofessional. yeah i know the audience for seminars and guru-ism and sales letters for IM isn’t the most sophisticated, but this is practically unreadable by today’s standards.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yes, “jery”, this is what passes for the kind of blog writing that is read world-wide by thousands of people. What are your credentials that allow you to troll as Grammar Cop (especially since you seem to not know how to capitalize or use commas) and leader of “today’s standards”? (As if there ever were standards in the wild world of blogging.)

      I allow all non-spam comments to stand in this blog… except for one time when I jettisoned a comment from a troll who just wanted to pick a fight with another commenter. I’m proud that for all these years, it’s mostly been a civil conversation here.

      However, the cynicism seems to be mounting online. I would guess (from experience) that “jery’s” bitterness comes from inner turmoil regarding his own perceived levels of success and respect and powerlessness. Which is exactly the wrong attitude to take, if you want to progress in your career. “Jery” sees no value here, just an affront to his sense of what is “right”, and he demands obedience to his way of thinking as if he could will it so. No persuasion, no supporting evidence, no rational argument. He’s not alone, either. But he is, thankfully, in the minority.

      I’ll have to do a post soon on this increasing cynicism. It’s destructive and ugly.

      Oh, and “jery”? Go fuck yourself.

    • Oh, “jery”… You should’t have said (written) that. Now you look stupid.

  44. I feel like slapping them in the face! I’m talking about those guys who imply that whatever success I have is due to luck…

    Yeah it’s luck, but while you were partying I was working.

    Luck? Yeah it’s a bonus that comes with work.

    (You post gold every time, John! Thanks!!!)

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