Category Archives: entrepreneur

Real Wealth’s Best Friend

Friday, 12:30pm
Reno, NV
I’m handy with the love and I’m no fool, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can…” (“Handyman”, Jimmy Jones)

Howdy.

There’s a lesson here somewhere: I use a certain well-known phone company for my Interwebs access, and over the years I’ve learned…

not to trust them.

Their customer service is all talk and no action. Everything I’ve wanted done has required multiple calls to agents who sound nice, promise immediate action, apologize profusely for past transgressions…

… and who then proceed to fuck up the simplest of transactions.

I gotta believe some of them are doing it for spite, just because they’re bored.

The others are simply incompetent fools.

Anyway, the better customer I prove to be, the worst it gets.

I pay my bills on time, and never bother to try gaming the system. Which means I occasionally get mired into obsolete billing models, where I’m paying more for less.

And when it’s discovered by some agent while she’s trying to un-fuck whatever the most recent mess is, they act like it’s my fault I’ve been ignored and abused.

In their world, any customer who does not obsess over their phone bill, constantly fussing with the options and sucking up the deals, is complicit in any bad deal that develops.

Sigh.

I just want the phones and Web to work.

So, you know, I can do my job, and help civilization progress another iota along the slow crawl to oblivion.

I don’t buy things on sale, because that’s a sucker’s game — I buy what I need, when I need it, and happily pay more for a fair value.

In other words…

… I’m a high-end, diamond-plated, near perfect customer.

Which, in the phone company’s eyes, makes me a chump to be exploited, over and over.

Shame on me, I know.

I toss everything they send me, except the bill. I don’t trust them to do the right thing in any deal they offer, and I will bolt for the first hint of a competitor who has better customer service…

… when and if such a competitor arrives. No luck so far.

I went through this in the 90s with first Gateway computers, and then Dell. I’ve bought a couple dozen computers in my time, and I always get the most hot-rodded model possible. Add on every gewgaw and dangling option they’ve got (and then add some of my own).

But I require good customer service. At first, Gateway rocked. Nurtured me through every new computer buy, and were there for me when the occasional problem rose.

Then they did some finagling with their model, and thought “Hey, why are we paying so much to staff the customer service division? Let’s cut ’em all loose. That’s the FIRST place to save real money.” And they ditched their super-excellent customer service department. Sent it all overseas, where non-English-speaking folks struggled to even answer the damn phone when you called.

After a lengthy battle to get them to fix the shoddy-ass new computer I’d purchased, I was done.

Went over to Dell, their main competitor. And, for a few years, I got great service again.

Then, some shit-for-brains MBA weaseled his way into the hierarchy and gutted their customer service.

Not “cost effective”, you know.

With a monopoly — like the cable company (which I hope is swallowed up by a passing black hole soon) — you can get away with Soviet-style customer service (or lack thereof). At least, until other options appear (like abandoning cable altogether and just finding shows elsewhere online) (or, God forbid, finding something better to do with your limited time on earth, and eschew TV altogether).

Meanwhile, don’t you DARE treat your customers like the Big Dogs do. Entrepreneurs are closer to the action, and should know that finding ways to keep that sliver of a percentage of your best customers happy can bring in a fortune.

Chasing the mobs of looky-lou’s who are dead broke and prefer stealing your content anyway is a fool’s errand (which is all too common in biz today).

Know where your real wealth comes from. Hint: It’s quality, not quantity.

Some of the more successful entrepreneurs I know have the tiniest lists imaginable…

… but those lists are stuffed with the best customers any biz could wish for.

And they trust each other.

They’ve earned it.

Just think about it, as you ignore customer service for another day.

That sudden draft of cold wind is another opportunity leaving your world for better prospects elsewhere…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. For more insight to making customers get all excited about giving you money…

… be sure you’re armed with the right info. Start here

P.P.S. Yeah, the photo above is me, back at the beginning of my freelance career. First big computer buy. This was in the mid-80s, way before Gateway or Dell’s computer-shipping concept was even viable.

I had this computer put together piece by piece — a bulky monitor (orange dots on a black screen only as the interface), two IBM floppy disc drives stacked (and we’re talking REAL floppy discs, 5-1/4″), and a slooooooow dot matrix printer. I had to load DOS, then load the word processing software (MultiMate, now extinct)…

… and then load up a blank floppy to work on.

It was like being on the flight deck of the starship Enterprise, though. Just amazing technology. The prior day, I’d been writing my ads on an IBM Selectric typewriter. If I wanted copies made, I had to drive to the “copy making place”, usually a small printer. Nobody had Xeroxes in their home office at that time.

You laugh, now — but back then, this was the height of computerized entrepreneurialism.

I’ve been around the block a few times. It’s been a blast, but also very disorienting at times. I mean, my iPhone has more computing power than NASA used for the moon shots in ’69. Stunning…

Special Gift For New Blog Fans!

Friday, 2:09pm
Cleveland, OH
Momma’s all right, Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird...” (Cheap Trick, Surrender)

Howdy…

I sure hope you were in Cleveland last night, and caught the “Old Dogs Bark” show that Dan Kennedy and I did onstage at his huge event.

If you were… congrats. You witnessed something people should be talking about for years to come.

And if you didn’t…

… well, shame on you for missing it. How often do you think the geezers of the marketing world (the guys with all the best stories, and most reality-based profitable advice) are going to be around to share this stuff?

Time to make the effort to gobble up the great advice and golden stories while we’re here to tell ’em. 

This blog is a great place to start, too.

And hey — I’ve got a little gift for everyone.

If you’re new to the this blog, you’re in for a treat. Twelve years of free archives, for your education and enlightenment, are available 24/7. Jump down two posts below, and you’ll find an article entitled “How to give this blog a good ‘test drive’… in just 3 minutes”. Blow through that post, and you’ll be totally hip to everything this blog has to offer.

And even better…

… if you sign up right now, you’ll not only get notices for new posts (and other cool stuff I’ve got going on you should be interested in)…

… but you also get a free gift. A free report called “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now”.

It’s a brilliant short-course reality check that should help you avoid murdering your future, quickly and efficiently.

All the common mistakes I see entrepreneurs and freelance copywriters make are in there…

… identified, deconstructed, and solved.

Best damn special report I’ve ever written. Killer stuff. All the best angles and solutions I use in my lucrative consulting biz.

And…

… it’s free. Just for signing in.

And if you’re already a sign-in fan of the blog, just sign in again to get that free report. We’ll take care of duplicate sign-ins easily enough. No hassles.

Here’s how to get your free report: Just fill in the box below…

… and you’ll get your free report emailed to you post haste.

Meanwhile, check out everything else here. The posts below are a great intro to what you’ll find in the 12-year-deep archives. And if you don’t have my books, well, get on that right now (in the right hand column). Plus, lots of other goodies.

Have fun. Don’t hurt yourself in the archives — I’ve seen people get obsessed with reading everything all at once, and it can lead to brain-freeze.

Pace your bad self.

I’ll be back here with a fresh post soon…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. We just switched hosting companies, so all the comments here were left in the dust.

Please feel free to comment on any post — I hang out enough to usually answer every one, if you have questions or just want to share something.

We had a great, long run with Host Gator as our blog hosting company, but they’re gone way downhill lately, to a dangerous place where the site was down a lot. So we’ve moved to Liquid Web, which so far is a totally bitchin’ outfit. Very professional, very much on top of making sites like this work smoothly. I’m happy now…

Congratulations. Now, Stop Being A Wuss…

iPhone09-2 225
Monday, 1:32pm
Reno, NV
But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”)

Howdy…

It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…

… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

So, without further ado… here’s the sixth redux of that post:

Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.

That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.

See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…

… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…

… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.

I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…

… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?

Naw.

While today’s graduates are facing similar grim economic times, there’s been a significant change in the concept behind a college education. Somehow, over the years, a bizarre mantra has taken hold in kids minds: “Get a degree, and it’s a ticket to the Good Life.

A job is expected to be offered to you before the ink is dry on your diploma.

And it really, really matters WHICH school you get that diploma from.

You know what I say?

Bullshit. Okay, maybe if you go to Yale or Harvard, you can make the connections on Wall Street and in Washington to get your game on. Maybe. (More likely, those connections are already available, if you’re gonna get ’em, through family bloodlines… and the Ivy’s are just playing up their famous track records in a classic sleight-of-hand. And good luck to you if you’re not an insider.)

Put aside the advancement opportunities offered to spawn of the oligarchy, though… and the realities of life-outside-of-academia do not jive at all with the propaganda doled out by the university systems.

Many of the richest guys I know are drop-outs. Some are HIGH SCHOOL drop-outs. The few friends who did go to the kind of school whose name causes eyebrows to rise…

… are ALL working far outside their major. To the point that nothing they learned has proven to be even remotely useful to their adult life. (Unless they stumble upon another over-educated dweeb at a cocktail party and get into a bare-knuckle Trivial Pursuit marathon.)

Too many people get all confused and bewildered about “education” as opposed to “going to college”.

It’s not the same thing, folks.

Some of the most clueless individuals I’ve ever met have impressive diplomas… while nearly all of the most savvy (and wealthy) individuals I know done got educated all on their lonesomes.

I learned more about history, business and psychology in 2 weeks of serious pre-Web library surfing (with a speed reading course under my belt) than I did in 4 years of college.

And I learned more about life in 3 months of hanging out with street-wise salesmen than I did from ANY source, anywhere, up to that time.

By all means, go to college if that’s part of your Master Plan to having a great life. You’ll meet interesting people, and it’s a Rite Of Passage for many Americans these days.

But don’t do it blindly. Just cuz The Man says it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.

Do some critical thinking before you jump in.

And if you really want that degree in Russian literature, or women’s studies, or political science, or whatever… then fine. Go get ’em. Grrr.

Just KNOW that you can probably educate your own damn self on those subjects… and even get a deeper understanding of it all… by reading every book written about it, and interviewing a few experts. And if you can get private mentoring from someone, even better.

This can all take place during evenings and weekends, over the course of a few months, while you hold down a day job. Even if you buy the books, instead of hitting up libraries, you’ll have spent less on this specialized education than you’d pay for a single semester in “real” school.

And, unless you’re the laziest screw-up ever, you’ll actually learn MORE in those few months of intense immersion… than you would with a full-on degree.

You know how I can make this bold claim with a straight face?

Because this is what I’ve been doing as a freelancer for decades. Every time I wrote for a new market, I spent weeks immersing myself in it… learning everything I could about it from the inside-out. And this process often made me more of an expert than the client himself.

And I did it over and over and over again.

It was just part of the job. All top freelancers do this.

Once you lose your fear of self-education…

… you can finally let it sink in that WE LIVE IN THE FREAKIN’ INFORMATION AGE. The joint is crammed to bursting with books, ebooks, videos, websites, courses…

… the whole world is CRAZY well-stocked. There are teachers and coaches and mentors available if you need supervision. (I’ve partaken of this opportunity frequently over my life.) Boards and fan-zines and forums and membership sites abound (for bitching and moaning, as well as for networking with peers).

It’s a cornucopia of knowledge, experience and adventure out there.

Yes, there are blind alleys and pitfalls and wrong turns…

… but once you’re committed to learning something, these are just brief excursions off the main drag… and you can use even your failures as advanced learning tools as you gain expert status. (In fact, it’s really required that you screw up at least a little bit. Otherwise, you never get perspective.)

And best of all…

… you can engage with life as you go. And skip the jarring nonsense of the Ivory Tower bubble.

(One caveat to self-education: You must, early on, read up on how debates are actually taught. Or join a debate club.

I’m serious. Best thing I’ve ever done. As you sample debating, you should demand that you get to defend the OPPOSITE viewpoint that you currently hold for any subject. This forces you to look beyond your petty biases, and open your mind to other points of view.

This is a HUGE advantage to have in your toolkit throughout life. Everyone else will be hobbled with un-examined party-line nonsense and indoctrinated crap they can’t even begin to defend when challenged…

… while you — with your rare ability to walk in anyone’s shoes, and to feel the pain or glory of alien thought patterns — will forever more see beyond the sound bites and cliches. And be able to eloquently explain anything, to anyone.

You will actually begin to sense vestiges of “truth” in the wreckage of our modern culture.

I don’t have to tell you how that might apply to marketing, do I?)

Most people will not go this route of self-examination and immersion-learning, of course. The concept of taking control of your own education seems kinda threatening and foreign to the majority out there.

We spend the first years of our lives sitting quietly in classrooms, being brainwashed to believe we don’t know shit (and that Teacher knows everything). That’s excellent training for hitting a groove in college and post-grad pursuits…

… but it’s piss-poor preparation for Life In The Concrete Jungle.

Again, nothing wrong about going with the status quo. No shame.

Just don’t expect to learn much about the way the world works. You’re learning how academia works. Different animal.

Wanna hear my short speech on how to prepare yourself for life? (I’ve edited this from a recent post I wrote for the Simple Writing System mentoring program. Lots of great stuff keeps coming out of that gig…)

(Okay, quick plug: Click here to start your own adventure as a high-end sales master, if you’re so inclined…)

Here’s my mini-rant: I’m extremely prejudiced about this subject, of course. If I ran the world, everyone would get at least a taste of being an entrepreneur, during their formative years.

It will taste bitter to most people. And that’s fine. No harm, no foul. Move on to getting that job with The Man.

But for some… it will be sweet nectar. A thrill like nothing else they’ve ever experienced before.

Being an entrepreneur takes balls.

But you don’t have to “be” a ballsy kind of person.

You just have to understand how to implement your goals… which requires a little savvy about getting stuff done in the face of opposition and obstacles. Which is the definition of “ballsy”. Most folks who are successful at achieving goals were not born with the necessary attitude.

They learned the skill of living life with guts, just like they learned every other important skill associated with the gig.

I OFTEN intervene even with long-time professionals (like freelance writers, or veteran biz owners) who are screwing up their efforts to be successful.

My main advice: “Stop being a wuss. Everyone is scared. The successful ones acknowledge that fear, put it aside, and just get busy taking care of business.”

It really is that simple.

Life beyond childhood is for grown-ups. If you’re scared, you can take a regular job somewhere, and stay far away from the risks and realities of being your own boss.

On the other hand… if you’ve got entrepreneur’s blood in your veins… and you really DO want to be your own boss…

… then allow the reality of doing so to wash over you, and embrace it.

Everyone is unsure of themselves out there. There are no guarantees in life for anything… and getting into biz is among the riskiest things of all to do.

A tiny percentage of skydivers will die each year while jumping… but a vast chunk of rookie business owners will fail.

This is why you pursue the skills of salesmanship. Learning how to create a wicked-good sales message, how to close a deal, and how to bond with a target market is the PRIMARY weapon you want walking into ANY business environment.

Will you still fail? Maybe.

But you will NOT fail because you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. If knowing how to persuade and influence can make your business sizzle, then learning salesmanship means you’re armed to the teeth. Like everything else in life, having the right tools for the job at hand is the best way to put the odds in your favor.

MOST people are not meant to be their own boss. The world needs followers, too.

Here’s what I tell students in the Simple Writing System, when doubts about their future bubble up: “Just by diving into the SWS, you have shown that there is something different burning inside you. No one held a gun to your head and forced you to come here to learn these skills. You decided to join all on your own.

“Even if you’re not yet sure why you’ve joined us here… you need to understand that MOST people would never even consider doing anything like this.

“Independence freaks most people out. The thought of standing up and taking responsibility for the birth and success of a business is terrifying… and most will refuse to even entertain the thought.

“This is, by the way, why you should always enter the entrepreneurial world WITHOUT relying on your current crop of friends for support.

“They will not applaud your efforts. They think you’re batshit crazy for daring to even consider being your own boss. They will (consciously or unconsciously) sabotage your progress if they can, and rejoice in your failures… because if you DO succeed, that kills their main excuse for not succeeding themselves. Most folks believe success is all about luck and magic. When you dig in and actually do the work necessary to succeed, you piss all over their world view that The Little Guy Can’t Win.

“If you’ve made friends or started a network of fellow travelers here in the SWS, great. Most entrepreneurs have to operate alone (until they stumble on places like this, where they can find help, advice and coaching). That loneliness just intensifies the fear and sense of risk.

But I’ll tell you the truth: As scary as being independent is…

“… once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be hooked.”

Most entrepreneurs who enjoy even a little success instantly become “unemployable”. After thinking for yourself, after taking responsibility for your success or failure, after engaging the world fully aware and experiencing the thrill of living large…

… you’re worthless to a boss. He can’t use anyone who thinks for themselves.

Are you wracked with doubt?

That voice you hear — the one knocking you down, digging a knife into your gut and highlighting your worst fears — is JUST A VOICE.

In psychoanalytic talk, it’s your “Super Ego”… the scolding parent’s voice, the doubter of your abilities, the whiny little bastard bent on keeping you down.

And it can easily be sent packing.

Most people allow others to rule their lives. Rules and bad advice and grim experiences dating back to childhood somehow become “the way it is”…

… and regardless of any proof otherwise, they will obey that voice until they die.

And yet, all you have to do…

… is acknowledge the voice (“Yes, I hear you, you little shit”), realize it’s not your friend… and lock it in a dungeon deep in your brain, where you can’t hear it anymore.

I speak from experience on this subject. I was ruled by The Voice Of Doom for the first half of my life. I didn’t even try to take responsibility for my success, because The Voice told me it was hopeless. That I was hopeless. That Fate had nothing but failure in store for me.

Then, I realized that The Voice was actually full of it. I proved it, slowly at first, by setting a goal outside The Voice’s warnings… and then achieving it. And then doing it again.

It’s like superstition. I used to be the most superstitious guy you’ve ever met. Literally, my life was dominated by superstitions.

Then, one day, I just decided to see how real those superstitions were. So I violated every single one of them. On purpose. If I had previously thought some action was “bad luck”, I would do it, blatantly, just to see what kind of bad luck occurred.

And, of course, no bad luck ever appeared.

The human brain is crammed with nonsense like this. Superstitions, bad rules, dumb beliefs, unfounded fears and ridiculous feelings of guilt and shame.

Especially guilt and shame.

You know what a fully functioning adult does? They don’t approach life believing it should be a certain way, or wish that life was a certain way.

No. They engage with life the way it really is. You make your own luck. Rules sometimes make good sense, but deserve to be broken when they’re clearly stupid. Belief systems often have nothing to do with reality. (You can “believe” you’re gonna win the lottery with all your heart and soul… and it won’t change reality one tiny bit.)

Fear is a natural part of our defense system… and it can get out of hand in modern times.

So you need to dig in and get to know your fears. Some are fine — don’t walk down that dark alley if you’re not prepared to deal with the things that happen in dark alleys.

Others are counter-productive — you had a bad experience once when you were 12, and so what? Get over it, put on your Big Boy or Big Girls Pants, and re-engage with life.

And shame? Guilt and shame are useless. On the road of life, feeling guilty about something is like setting up camp and refusing to move or progress any further.

Instead, try “remorse” — recognize when you’ve done something wrong, clean up the mess, fix what you’ve broken as best you can, and make amends to people you’ve hurt.

And don’t “vow” to do better next time.

Instead, actually DO something to change your behavior or habits. Promises are bullshit. Action is the only way to move through life in a positive way.

Don’t promise to do better. Just do better. This will probably involve learning something new — a new skill, a new way of dealing with life, a new set of behaviors.

Doing this will set you apart from the majority of other people out there, too.

The modern Renaissance Man or Woman is something awesome to behold. While the rest of the world increasingly sinks into a snoozing Zombie-state — indoctrinated, fooled, manipulated and played– you have the option of becoming MORE aware, more awake, more alert and ready to live life with gusto.

However, no one is going to force you to do this.

If you want to join the Feast of Life, you have to step up and earn your seat at the table. You will not be invited in. You will not stumble in by accident, or stroke of luck.

Nope. You must take responsibility for your own life… figure out what you want… and then go get it.

It’s a daunting task for most folks… too daunting to even contemplate.

For the few who know it’s what they want, however… it’s all just a matter of movement and action.

Yes, it can be scary. Life is terrifying, at times.

It’s also only worth living, for many people, when you go after it with all your heart.

There are no replays on this game. No second tickets for the ride.

You’re allowed to sleep through all of it. Most folks do.

If that’s not good enough for you any more, then welcome to the rarefied air of the entrepreneur world.

It’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s scary, and there’s no safety net below you.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s the commencement speech I’d give.

Put you to sleep, didn’t it.

Okay, my work is done here.

What would YOU tell new grads? Lay it out in the comments, below…

Stay frosty,

John “The Prof” Carlton

The Most Awesome Lesson I Learned From Gary Halbert

Wednesday, 1:50pm
Reno, NV
Nothing is impossible for a man who refuses to listen to reason.” (Gary Halbert)

Howdy…

I learned a lot from Gary Halbert, but the lesson that most affected my life had nothing to do with copywriting.

Rather, it was about living well.

I began my freelance copywriting career back in the “dark ages” of the mid-eighties, when direct response advertising had gone out of fashion and there were just a handful of us “true believers” in the game, devouring the ancient (and often out-of-print) books on advertising while doing the hard work of becoming masters at old school salesmanship…

… so we could relentlessly obliterate our clueless competition in every market we went after.

I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles at the time… because multiple large agencies had just opened up branches there and were starved for competent copywriters. I quickly became the guy the creative directors snuck in the back door to do the work their house staff couldn’t pull off (because none of them studied the craft).

Then the large mailers back east caught wind of my work, and I found myself moving in the “A List” crowd of now-legendary copywriters like Gary Bencivenga and Jim Rutz (who I ghost-wrote for).

However, the corporate world bored me to tears. It was primarily financial and health newsletters with the large mailers, and insurance and equipment sales with the agencies. Yawn.

That’s when I met Gary, at Jay Abraham’s house. He was the most arrogant, vain and outrageous person I’d ever met in the business world…

… and I liked him immediately.

I began doing odd writing jobs for him, and the day arrived when he asked if I was ready to become his main full-time writer.

The lesson I learned was hidden inside of the ensuing dilemma. I was a rising star in the corporate world, and the fees (with royalties) were quickly entering “small fortune” territory.

If I went off with Gary, I’d be turning my back on a million-dollar career.

But what Gary offered was a chance to be true to my own mojo. With him, we’d be working mostly with entrepreneurs, and each new gig would be wildly different than the one before. And we’d be ushered into the back-rooms of powerful businesses, to observe and influence how entire markets operated.

I realized how little I was motivated by money. And how alive I felt in the entrepreneurial world, where rules were constantly broken and reinvented, and we could field-test our wildest ideas (the ideas that made the corporate beasts squirm).

Without Gary’s unique vision of how fun and exhilarating advertising could be, I might have stayed in that corporate world.

But we have such a short ride here on earth. And sometimes, the riskier path is the one you need to take. And damn the torpedoes.

What I learned from Gary over the ensuing decades was both financially and intellectually fulfilling, to the point of being ridiculous. I got to watch the growth of direct response in the nineties from a ring-side seat, and I became a pioneer in online marketing when it became viable in the early aughts. Gary and I produced some of the very first marketing seminars, we invented the Hot Seat method of “speed consulting” with new clients, and we influenced the way nearly all successful copywriting is now used all over the world.

The lesson I learned is simple: Find out what rocks your boat, and go for it with everything you have.

Gary was the first living example I’d ever met of someone who went for the gusto, every time.

And after 30 years of sharing what I’ve learned, I’m still not done tapping into the deep well of tactics, insight and savvy gathered from the raw wonder of working with the man.

The only way you can measure the worth of your life is later in the game, looking back. With Gary, there were as many misadventures as good ones, and what saved our butts time and again was our brutal sense of humor.

No one here gets out alive, and you gotta play the hand you’re dealt. There is no room for regret or wishful thinking when you’re deep into life.

Sometimes, the riskier path is the only sensible one to take.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Would you like to see what it’s like to have your OWN “speed consulting” Hot Seat, completely focused on you and your business and whatever’s holding you up or bugging you?

Then pop over here, and feast…

 

 

 

You’re Excused.

 

Saturday, 3:53pm
Reno, NV
“Well, excuuuuuuuse me.” (Steve Martin)

Howdy.

One of the very bright dividing lines separating happy, successful folks from the unhappy wannabe’s…

… is the role of excuses in moving through life.

Dudes and dudettes who get stuff done stare down obstacles and find ways through or around them…

… no matter how long it takes, or how many times they fail at it.

They’re the minority.

Much more common is the notion that having a good excuse lets you off the hook for getting something done.

Our bollocked-up school system encourages this — oh, your dog ate your homework? Okay, you can have an extra day.

And it just gets worse in adult life — oh, sorry I T-boned your car there, but I just broke up with my girlfriend and was re-reading her last text to me… sniff…

At some point, most civilians will be on their death-bed, looking back on their failures and crushed dreams, and have to find cold comfort in the idea that at least they had good excuses.

They tried, sort of, and had their feelings hurt or their efforts rebuffed, and what can you do?

Life’s hard, right?

Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.

You might garner a bit of sympathy from some folks, but you’ll just continue to be disregarded by anyone feasting on life and getting stuff done.

Start with being late. If you think it’s okay, as long as you have a plausible excuse (the traffic lights were absolutely conspiring against you, or gosh, clocks are just hard to understand, you know?)…

… then move to the back of the line right now.

You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…

… but if being late is “who you are” (and yes, you are judged harshly and continually in the biz world on this stuff)…

… then consider WHY it’s a habit.

Look deep. It may be passive-aggressive behavior you picked up as a kid. It may be a symptom of happiness-corrupting disorganization (which no potential client wants any part of). It may be undiagnosed ADD, or even the first ripples of real cognitive disorder.

But usually, it’s just a habit. You keep getting away with it — or you THINK you’re getting away with it (and really, the people around you just stop relying on you, and consider you a liability).

The consequences seem mild — maybe somebody gets pissed off once in a while, or you miss a flight. Whatever. Life is hard, right?

Get off my case.

The problem, of course, is that if you want to play in the level above you — in biz, romance, sports or just generally effective living — you are going to pay dearly for your bad habits.

Top clients won’t put up with sloppy non-professional behavior. Self-respecting potential romantic partners will avoid committing to you.

And a whole bunch of cool life experiences will vanish…

… all because you think having a good excuse absolves you from the responsibility to be where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there… prepared to do what you said you’d do.

Getting away with something is NOT the same as “succeeding”.

Highly effective people, who get shit done and succeed at life, rarely allow excuse-artists into their lives in any meaningful way.

Buy a fucking watch. Add twenty minutes to your estimation of how long you’ll need to get somewhere (or more)…

… and if you’re early, find a spot to kick back and check email or Facebook or just relax. Or read a book. There’s no such thing as “wasting time by being early”. Be prepared for it.

And it’s worth repeating: Yes, the people operating in the level above you ARE judging you by these small behaviors.

Maybe other folks in your world are just character actors, whose time isn’t worth much. (That’s the way stone-cold sociopaths think, you know.)

However, the successful crowd you want to be dealing with will not put up with that bullshit.

Okay, you better get moving. You’re gonna be late…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The foundation of living effectively…

… is really just a bunch of simple insights, rules and strategies that are easy to adopt…

… once you figure out what they ARE.

Simple shortcut to finding them out, right here.

P.P.S. Yeah, I drew the cartoon at the top. College days, when I was the staff doodler at The Cal Aggie Times in Davis.

This was my idea of wickedly insightful humor.

I dunno… what do you think?

How To Weasel Out Of A Deadline (When You Seriously Must)

Saturday 3:08pm
Reno, NV
Do the least damage possible to the client.” (Me.)

Howdy.

Recently, a good pal (and damn fine copywriter) had a bit of a meltdown…

… because Life inserted some truly cruel and unusual shit into his day, and he was in danger of missing a deadline. (That’s a photo of a deadline, above. Nasty thing.)

This is a no-no among most top professionals of all persuasions. You don’t miss deadlines.

People are counting on you. As a freelancer, entire businesses may be counting on you.

Back when I wrote for the largest direct mailing outfits in the world, a missed deadline might mean tens of thousands of bucks wasted, as printing presses sat idle. If my piece was meant for a print ad, even more money could potentially go down the tubes — my deadline was attached to a publication deadline, and no magazine or newspaper waits for you to get your shit together.

You don’t get your ad in on time, you don’t go into the publication. And you still have to pay (at least a penalty, and maybe the whole ad cost).

It’s serious stuff.

Still…

… because we’re all humans living in an essentially hostile world (full of danger, unpredictable risks, and lots of other gruesome horrors)…

you need a plan.

A plan for that day (which hopefully never comes) when… shudder… you may be forced to miss a deadline.

My colleague is a true pro. He understands that clients and printing presses and budgets and biz plans are counting on him to meet his deadlines…

… and over a decade as a freelance copywriter, has never to my knowledge missed one.

And yet, here he was…

… cornered by Life, and needing some advice on what to do.

So, I whipped out a short list of options.

And it was so good, I thought I’d share it here.

For you to use NEVER… unless there is absolutely no other choice.

So, ONLY for your deep Bag O’ Tricks-Maybe-Needed-Down-The-Line (and never for regular use), here’s that advice:

How to get out of a deadline…

… when you absolutely have to (cuz you’re faint from loss of blood, or space aliens kept you locked up all night doing anal probes, or your eyes fell out…

… which, by the way, are the ONLY real excuses a true professional would ever let get in the way of a deadline. Other than life-or-death emergencies.)

Let’s begin with the stark fact that I, for one, have never missed a deadline. Never. In a 30-year writing career.

A few colleagues have expressed shock over that. Cuz, from the complaints I’ve fielded over the years about my cohorts, the average copywriter misses approximately half his deadlines. From rookie to top dog. It’s appalling.

But it also opens up a huge opportunity for writers who want to stand out (as all the “A Listers” do). One of the reasons I earned the global reputation I enjoy, in fact… is by meeting my deadlines.

Deadlines are sacred. I made a vow early in my career, “biz before pleasure”, and I stuck to it.

Without that attitude, I would be just another run-of-the-mill copywriter. No fame. No fortune. Not worth much.

In fact, the whole notion of meeting ALL your deadlines caused me to create what I call “The Professional’s Code”. It’s good for anyone in any kind of job where people count on you.

Here’s that code: You are where you said you’d be… when you said you’d be there… having done what you said you’d do.

It’s just that simple. In biz, romance, hobbies, getting your hair cut, everything you do… you follow the code.

If you crave the respect (and rewards) of BEING a true pro…

… you move heaven and earth to make this code REAL in your life.

You become That Guy who can be counted on. Who follows through. Who you can trust with your life. Or the life of your business.

Still…

… nevertheless, there may come a time in your career when life interferes so drastically…

… that you are forced to miss a deadline.

If that happens, here are your options:

Option #1: Arrange for an extension. You do not reveal details of your emergency. You’re not looking for sympathy. You’re a professional who is admitting that you cannot meet the current deadline…

… and something else needs to be arranged.

If they refuse your request for an extension, then: (a) return whatever fee you’ve already been paid, and deal with the professional shame of missing a deadline…

… or (b) hand in whatever you’ve completed up to this moment (if it’s even close to being what the client needs)…

… or (c) combine (a) and (b).

You may lose the client if what you give them isn’t something they can use… but then, who needs clients who don’t respect the fact that — once in a while — life hands you a bummer? (And, to be fair, what client needs a writer who misses deadlines?)

This is assuming you haven’t made a habit of missing deadlines. You may have earned some slack, IF your rep is clean up to now.

If missing the deadline causes a huge problem for the client, then your reputation has taken a massive hit…

… and your job, for the next few years, will be to try to repair your reputation. It will be hard. And dependent on you never missing another deadline.

If you take the hit, face up to it. It’s a setback. You’ll have to work to fix it.

It is what is. (Good Zen advice for living imperfectly in a rough world.)

Getting an extension is the best possible option.

But it only works if it works for your client, too. 

If you must face the reality that you will not meet the deadline…

then own up to it as soon as possible. Do not try to keep a fee you haven’t earned.

And — most important — do not vanish on the client.

The WORST thing you can do is go radio silent, leaving your client in the dark… just because you’re too embarrassed to admit you’re missing a deadline.

This compounds the error, essentially tossing your reputation into the toilet.

Own up to the situation. Again, you do not need to share details — what’s important to the client is not what’s happening to you, but what’s to become of his campaign. He paid you to do a job, and you’re not doing it. There are no “good” excuses for missing a deadline…

… but there are missed deadlines, even the most perfect of worlds.

Option #2: Gear up, do the best job possible in the time you can give to the gig, working overnight if you must, and meet the deadline with something resembling a complete ad. Meet the deadline despite the crises. 

Schedule time to get at least some sleep, and to deal with the interfering emergency…

… but give the rest of your available time to the job. Make it happen.

I’ve even resorted to jamming out an ad in a couple of hours, to meet a deadline. Normally, I want weeks to carefully craft an ad… to research it, edit it, come up with multiple headlines, carefully craft the whole thing. However, I’m also capable of writing quickly, without the days of obsession and editing.

I prefer to have time to do it right.

But when time is not available, I do the best job I can inside of the small block of time I do have.

When you jam stuff out… what you end up with is what it is.

Just know that a top writer working at 70% is worth a lesser writer at peak output — which means, if you’re a veteran writer, this rushing to meet the deadline at the last minute can still produce “good enough” copy.

If you’re not a veteran writer… then you’ve got to make the call: Can you craft a complete ad — even an inferior one — in the time you do have available?

If you can’t, then this isn’t a good option for you.

Side note: The great Gary Halbert used to routinely finish ads, writing by hand on a legal pad, in the passenger seat of a car speeding to the client’s office. I’ve written speeches in the airplane, flying to the event I’d be speaking at. I know writers who’ve recorded themselves talking out copy while in the shower, and editing the transcription in the lobby of the client’s biz.

And I’ve written ads (and made major biz decisions on the phone) in hospitals, taking a break from attending to the loved one I was there to see. I never neglected my duties as part of the support team. But there was always time to break away for 20 minutes or an hour (when they were sleeping).

You do NOT need your usual “safe space” to create good copy, once you become a true professional. You use what you have.

Especially today, with modern technology. I’ve written ads on my iPhone, typing with thumbs.

No excuses.

Option #3: If you have even a day to spare, hire a ghost writer, and meet the deadline.

If the emergency forcing you to miss the deadline is also taking you away from your ability to do ANY work at all…

… but there is still time for SOMEONE to do it…

… then this is the best option.

Early in my career, I worked for copywriting legends like Jim Rutz (inventor of the magalog), Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert in these exact situations. Sometimes, even for my very first jobs with them…

… so we had no history, and they had no idea of I could deliver quality or not. But they hired me, because I was willing to throw myself into the fire, work all night (for several nights, if needed), and move heaven and earth to help them meet their sacred deadline. And they’d heard from other marketers that I met my deadlines…

… even when they were unreasonably short.

It was a great way to kickstart my reputation as a writer you could count on. And it got me inside their operations, where I soon held high-status positions.

If you need to hire a ghost writer, hit up your network and pay what you need to pay to meet the deadline. It might be all of your fee…

… which is acceptable, because this is an emergency situation.

Oh, wait. You don’t have a network yet?

Well, why not?

One of your priorities in life should be to cultivate and nurture a network of colleagues who are in your biz. If you’re a writer, then that network should be full of your writing peers — the sort of professionals you can hit up when you’re forced to hire a ghost writer.

And those are your options.

Bottom line: Do not be bullied or guilt-tripped by the client — for your own peace of mind. Rest on your laurels if you have to — if your reputation is clean (because you’ve made meeting deadlines a professional habit), then this one time missing a deadline or returning the fee won’t harm you much.

Recite: “It is what it is. Under normal conditions, meeting this deadline wouldn’t be an issue. It is an issue, however, this time.”

Then make your decision on the best option, and engage the client in conversation if you’re backing out of the gig. The sooner he knows, the more he can mitigate the problems you’ve caused.

Seek the least damage to the client.

Side note: The best way to AVOID this travesty, of course, is to avoid agreeing to hard deadlines in the first place. Smart clients pad their deadlines, so they’re not actually “hard”, in the sense that missing it creates a disaster.

A “soft” deadline means there is still time after you turn in your manuscript before the ad runs, or gets printed, or the project starts. You’re not turning in your copy the day before the launch or the print date.

That doesn’t mean you can miss soft deadlines with impunity, though. The extra time is usually reserved for your copy being reviewed, fact-checked, and proofed. All very necessary stuff.

Top pro’s who’ve had experiences with deadlines prefer this arrangement. If there’s a problem — especially one in miscommunication between client and writer (including bad info, incorrect facts, and totally misunderstanding some essential part) — it can be caught early, during one of the multiple soft deadlines in the funnel.

It gets complicated, when writers don’t want early drafts of their work seen by the client. I certainly do not want this.

However, it’s very smart to insert soft deadlines where the client must get all info to you (so you can start writing)… where all facts (from phone numbers to links to research info) are double-checked… and where you float your hook (especially if it’s outrageous) or sale-closing angles (including guarantees).

This saves everyone a lot of problems.

It also forces the writer not to wait until the last minute to start writing (which is why sudden emergencies cause such havoc). If you’ve got all the info double-checked, and you’re sure of the facts you’re working with, AND you’ve cleared your hook with the client…

… then having to finish up in a hurry (when unexpected shit hits your fan) becomes much, much easier.

Top writers know how to navigate life and business at a level far above how regular civilians operate.

Because people are counting on you.

Hope this helps.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Want more good advice like this, specifically for copywriters and consultants?

The “Freelance Course” is crammed with it.

Go here to check it out.

Many top working writers used this course to break away from the pack, and start earning the Big Bucks as their reputation grew by leaps and bounds.

Take your career seriously. This is a great place to start.

Wisdom Roundup #3

Monday, 2:21pm
Reno, NV
Are you ready for a brand new beat?” (Martha & The Vandellas, “Dancin’ In The Street”)

Howdy.

Just cuz I’m such a nice guy, I like to gather recent Facebook posts I’ve published and lay them all out here on the blog…

… so you lazy types who can’t be bothered reading social media will still enjoy the advice, tactics and weirdness I lay out for everyone else.

So here, in no particular order, is a fresh pile of the good stuff from the last month or so:

Pro Chaos Theory Tip #1: Freelance copywriters learn quickly that the level of functional insanity among biz owners…

… is astonishingly high.

A client who (rightly) wouldn’t dream of interfering with his dentist, or plumber, or mechanic (“Here, let me drill for a bit on my molar — you’re doing it wrong”)…

… will routinely muck up and alter ad copy, no matter how accomplished the copywriter.

I’ve only had a tiny handful of clients in a 30-year career who resisted changing essential copy. The majority indulged in this ad-murdering habit (often after consulting with their English Lit major daughter, or the boys down at the local watering hole).

There are multiple ways to deal with this situation (the primary one is to establish yourself as “the adult in the room” early)…

… but first you have to realize what’s happening. You can’t “fix” dumb, and you can’t soothe irrational rage…

… but you can (as a First Option) learn to identify who’s gonna be trouble down the road, and choose not to play with dumb or irrational players.

Seems obvious. Isn’t. If you don’t stay aware, chaos will consume you.

Why are so many top writers introverts, I’m asked.

Easy.

It’s an extroverted world. Introverts, to survive, must observe, understand and adopt extroverted models. This strengthens your Empathy muscles to absurd degrees.

The basic ingredient of good, persuasive writing is (aha!) empathy.

Extroverts are under no such pressure to study or change behaviors…

… and just get pissed off when forced to deal with introverts, who seem inscrutable and closed-off.

So, at least for writing, introverts have the advantage.

It’s only fair, as the world tends to bully introverts in most other categories.

One of my goals is to become “That Uncle I Never Had” — a worldly guy who would have taken ME aside back when I was so tortured by the challenges and choices of life…

… and just laid out a good reality check. Not tell me how to live, but show me the OPTIONS.

A single freaking clue or two would have gone a long way helping my bewildered teenaged-self cope.

For example: The entire extended family was working class — we traded physical labor for wages. A noble lifestyle that valued hard work, sweat equity, and not getting too big for your britches.

However, I was a near-sighted, introverted thinker. Turning off my brain and rolling up my sleeves to concentrate on hauling, hammering, lifting and building was doable, but difficult. My dairy-owning cousins seemed to revel in it, and mocked my mental exhaustion from blocking critical thought.

It didn’t dawn on me to pursue “brain work” until I hit 32. All my energies, up to that point, went into figuring out why I didn’t fit in, pushing uphill against the micro-culture of being working class.

I felt like a traitor, and a weenie.

I finally got my own clue, said fuck it, and became a freelance writer.

And, surprise, I suddenly worked harder and with greater sweating glee than I ever thought possible. This square peg had finally quit trying to fit into a round hole.

Letting my brain off its leash launched the career I should have always pursued…

if I’d ever gotten a clue it was even possible.

“That” uncle I never had would taken me aside and said “Johnny, me boy, you’re different. And that’s not just okay…

… but it’s something to CELEBRATE. And pursue with gusto. Think, and write, and debate and go down dark mysterious philosophical alleys to your hearts content…

and NEVER be satisfied with mediocrity.

Or conformity. Just don’t expect anyone to applaud your choices. You’ll catch grief all the way… and that’s to be seen as a badge of honor, not shame. Go your own way, and let your freak flag fly.”

That’s all most of us need in life — a clue. A hint that we’re not wrong to want something else, or abnormal to not even know what you want yet…

… but that it’s okay to wander away from the herd to find out.

I’ve met precious few people along the way who qualify as “that” uncle. So we can all use one.

This is why I write these long posts, and have kept the blog going for ten years. It infuriates some folks, but I’m writing for those who can use the advice and clues.

The truth is, going your own way won’t always make you rich. And you gotta be okay with that, if you’re gonna unleash your brain and heart.

Cuz sometimes, you will stumble upon wealth and happiness you cannot even comprehend now.

Life is one long risky adventure. And if you think you can make it safe and without drama, you’re deluded.

Much better to embrace reality, prepare yourself for the game, and work hard on a solid, ethical and deliriously happy ride.

Big bonus if you help others and make the joint a better place.

Do you have smart friends who always seem to make dumb-ass decisions?

Are — ahem — YOU one of these miscreants yourself? (Confession: I am. More often than I care to admit.)

Well, gather ’round. I believe I’ve stumbled upon a solution.

Here it is: When you have an important decision to make…

… just ask yourself this simple question: “What would a smart person do?”

Then, go do that.

Do NOT (as so many of us somehow seem to do) ask “What would a blithering idiot do?”…

… and then go do that.

No, no, no. This is your self-intervention moment.

Don’t be the blithering idiot.

Do be the smart person.

Sounds too simple and obvious to work, doesn’t it?

Stunningly, it works.

Pass it around.

 

Random thoughts I probably should just keep to myself: It’s the birthright of every American to bitch and moan about how things are run.

Heck, the country was birthed in a snit, and didn’t last a generation before dissolving into civil war.

Still… as anyone who’s ever had to meet a payroll knows…

… it’s ridiculously easy to complain and insist you could do a better job…

… but it’s infinitely harder to roll up your sleeves and actually get something done.

All pro copywriters who’ve had a client insist their changes made the ad “better” know that look the client gets when the results come in…

… and they’re suddenly faced with the harsh reality of their doofusness.

It’s similar to the look the drunk who thinks he’s a great singer gets when he finds hisself onstage with a karaoke mic, exposed for the clueless wreck he actually is.

The world is divided into 3 groups: Those who know what they’re doing, and do it well.

Those who don’t know what they’ve doing, but figure it out.

And those those who refuse to acknowledge they are incompetent maroons, yet insist on being in control.

This is why true experts like to hang out with each other. Because the rest of the time, they’re dealing with aggressive stupidity, misplaced overconfidence, and stubborn ineptitude.

Let the bitching and moaning commence.

No one can predict the future, but the universe always lays out hints…

I may have stumbled onto a scientific way to add MASSIVE productivity to your week.

It’s just freaking amazing how awesome this tactic is.

In fact, it adds the equivalent of a entire EXTRA day to your workweek!

Wanna hear what is?

Okay.

Here’s the secret: I woke up today thinking it was Friday. Was kinda bummed that I hadn’t accomplished quite as much as I’d intended to this week…

… until I discovered it’s actually Thursday.

Voila!

Entire extra day added!

Think I’ll use this found time to goof off.

I mean, I earned it. Being a productivity scientist and all…

If you agree with everything you read… then you ain’t reading the right stuff.

There’s a baked-in bias in our brains that seeks consensus. And that’s fine for civilians, whose shallow thinking usually causes little damage outside their social circle.

But when you’ve swum into the deeper part of the pool — whether in biz, politics, or celebrity — each new decision and action is fraught with larger consequences.

It’s fine to be hard-headed when you actually know what the hell you’re talking about.

It’s pretty screwed up, however, to take your industrial-level naïveté (the polite word for raw ignorance) onto the Big Kids playground where maroonity is challenged and a real handicap to getting shit done.

Read more stuff that pisses you off, but don’t GET pissed off. Instead, walk a mile in their shoes, and try to determine what is actually rankling you.

Our default internal mechanism of blindly rejecting the Other represents the worst of our tribal tendencies. The grand arc of civilization has been a relentless battle against that destructive thinking, but it requires disciplined effort.

Surrounding yourself with people and info sources that agree with you may seem the comfy way to go.

But it’s a trap for anyone seeking to live fully and with gusto.

Life is rife with challenges. Instead of dodging them, embrace them.

It may make your brain buck and resist at first, but growth is never easy.

If growth bothers you, best to swim back to the shallow end.

And that’s it for this session, folks.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Don’t forget to solidify your position as a true bad-ass in your niche…

… by quickly learning how to write everything you need to persuade, sell, and nurture your customer base AND your future prospects.

Best way to pull that off: Take the Simple Writing System at-home program.

At your own pace, using your own best learning style, we’ll simply and efficiently install murderously-good writing skills into your brain.

No matter how stubborn you are, or how convinced you’ve been that you “can’t write”. That’s nonsense. We’ve taught thousands of entrepreneurs, biz owners and rookie writers how to write at the most awesome level possible…

… and if THEY could do it, then you can, too.

It’s time to up your game.

See what the fuss is all about here

 

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (Redux)

IMG_0853

Wednesday, 6:50pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)

Howdy…

I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular annual tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

It’s a good one, worth rereading even if you’ve read it before.

What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…

… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

So, even if you’ve seen this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2016, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…

… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits. I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis. It’s timeless, classic stuff that will never let you down.

So let’s dive in. Here’s the relevant part of the post (slightly edited):

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

Yeah, yeah, I know a chat about goals can quickly turn into a boring, pedantic lecture. But then, so can a chat about space flight.

And, in reality, both space flight and your goals are VERY exciting things.

Or should be.

It’s all in the telling.

What I’m not going to discuss are “resolutions”. Those are bogus pseudo-goals that have the staying power of pudding in a microwave.

No. It’s merely a coincidence that I’m suggesting a review of your goals in January, just after the New Year’s supposed fresh start.

I mean…there’s not much else to do, so why not sit down and plan out the rest of your life.

This is, of course, a very damp, cold, and bleak time of year. The depths of winter and discontent.

A good percentage of the population suffers fleeting depression because of lack of sunlight… thanks to the geniuses behind Daylight Savings Time, who arrange for dusk to arrive around 2:30 in the afternoon in these parts.

We also just got slammed with back-to-back-to-back world-class storms, each one dumping a massive load of snow on us. I sent photos to friends, and many emailed back wondering when I’d gone to Antarctica to live.

We had a little cabin fever brewing. Didn’t help when the local PBS channel ran a special on the Donner Party, either. Three feet of snow drifting down, the lights flickering, enough ice on the road to make the SUV sidle like a Red Wing goon slamming someone into the boards.

The safest place was home… but man, the walls start to close in after a few days.

I’m telling you, I had excuses up the yin-yang for allowing my senses to get a little dulled. The natural response is to turn your mind off, and hibernate until March. And I succumbed. Started moping around, binge-watching The Wire on HBO GO instead of reading a book, surfing the Net for stuff I didn’t care about… you know the drill.

I’m sure you’ve done your own version of it now and again.

And I’m also sure you already know that no amount of “buck up” happy talk will mitigate the gloom.

In fact, there are a few enlightened health pro’s who say we should let our bodies wind down every year or so. Get a full system-flush type of cold, crawl under the covers for a few days and let the demons and other bad stuff bubble to the surface. So you can purge the crud. Evacuate the used-up bacteria and tube-clogs out of your pipes, physically. And shoo the whispering monsters out of your head.

We’re not perfect creatures. We need to sleep, we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to stop and get our bearings. At least once a year. So don’t beat yourself up for the occasional down period. We all have them, and the healthiest folks just roll with it. It’s not good to repress this stuff.

It only becomes a problem when you sink into clinical depression. That’s the cold, empty state where nothing looks good, and hope is an absurd memory.

I’ve been there. Several times. The year I turned 30 (for example) I lost my job, my girlfriend and my place to live all within a 45-day stretch.

That shit can wear you down.

Now, I have two things to say about this:

Thing Numero Uno: If you think you’re losing a grip on your mental state, seek professional help. Don’t head straight for pharmaceutical land, though — give “talk therapy” a try with a real, qualified psychotherapist.

Choose this therapist carefully. You’re going to dump every secret you have on them. You may need to plow through a couple to find one that clicks with you (just as you might have to try out several dentists or plumbers to get a good match). (And yes, you should regard this therapist just as you would your dentist — they’re not gonna become your new best friend, but they will bring a professional expertise to the table during the time you need them. And you only need to see them until you get your head straight… which might be a short time or long time. Again — just like you may need serious dental work, or just a cleaning once a year. Figure it out.)

Keep in mind the fact that everyone goes through bumpy emotional states. And that the percentage of people who actually do lose it every year is rather small.

That’s why talking about your problems with someone who has perspective can be so beneficial — the first thing you learn is that you aren’t alone. And what you’re going through is not abnormal.

Most of the time, you’re probably going to be fine. Even when your problems seem overwhelming. There are tools available to help your brain cope. You don’t often come across these tools on your own.

This kind of talk-therapy is one of the few times the “science” of psychology earns its keep — because finding out how others successfully dealt with the same nonsense you’re suffering through can change everything. Seriously — often, just discovering that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, that others have successfully navigated similar troubles, and that the folks who study human behavior and thinking patterns now have really simple (and super-effective) ways to obliterate feeling overwhelmed can solve much of what’s currently holding you back.

A good book to read (while you’re waiting for the spring thaw) is “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. I’ve recommended it before, and it deserves another nod. (The blurb on the back cover, from the New York Times Book Review, starts with “Vaulted me out of my funk…”)

I haven’t read the book in a few years, but I remember the main lesson well. A study, explained up front, stands out: Someone tested the “happiness” quotient of a vast sample of people, including Holocaust survivors.

And it turns out that, at some point in your life, Abraham Lincoln was right — you are as happy as you decide to be.

This is startling news to anyone lost in despair. Because it seems like you’ve been forced to feel that way. With no choice.

But it’s not the case. The happiness study revealed that you can NOT tell from a person’s current attitude what sort of trauma they had gone through earlier in life. People who had suffered horribly could be happy as larks, while silver-spoon never-stubbed-a-toe folks were miserable.

The difference? Attitude. Optimistic people work through setbacks and trauma… while pessimists settle into a funk that can’t be budged.

And it’s a CHOICE. At some point in your life, you choose to either live in gloom or sunlight.

This realization rocks many folk’s boat. Especially the pessimists. They dominate society, politics, business, everything. And they are very protective of their gloom and doom outlook. Invested, heavily, in proving themselves right about the inherent nastiness of life.

Maybe you’re one of ‘em.

If you are, you’re killing yourself, dude.

The guys in lab coats who study this stuff say that heart disease rates are HALF for optimists over pessimists. So, even if you doubt the ability to measure “happiness” — and it is a rather rocky science — you still can’t deny the stats on dropping dead from a gloomy ticker.

Now, I am most assuredly NOT a clear-eyed optimist. I get creepy feelings around people who are too happy all the time.

But I do prefer having a good time, and appreciating the finer things in life (like a deep breath of cold alpine air, or the salty whip of an ocean wave around my ankles, or a secret smile from the wonderful woman I live with).

I’m just good at balancing out the bad with the good.

Being in direct response helps. Lord knows, there’s a LOT of bad with every piece of good news in this wacky biz.

Gary Halbert and I had a term we used for years: We’re “pessimistic optimists”. (Or maybe we’re optimistic pessimists. I forget.)

How does that work? Easy.

We expected horrible atrocities at every turn… and rejoiced when we defied Fate and unreasonable success rained down on our undeserving heads. We grooved on the good stuff in life… and just nodded sagely at the bad stuff and moved past it as quickly as possible. Maybe cop a lesson or two as we scurried by the wreckage.

If you focus on the bad things that can go wrong, you’ll never crawl out of bed in the morning.

When you finally realize that — not counting health problems — pretty much everything bad that business, or relationships, or politics can throw at you will not kill you… then you can begin to relax.

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

Have you ever had your heart broken? Hurts like hell, doesn’t it. Feels like your life is over.

Well, from my perspective, sitting here at “way past 50” and pretty darned happy, all those romances-gone-wrong that broke my heart long ago look just plain silly now. And my resulting deep depressions — where I was sure my life was over — are just tiresome lessons I had to get through.

Not a one of those ladies was worth a burp of angst. They were fine people, I’ll agree to that. A few were exceptional (and very skilled at certain man-pleasing arts).

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m now a certified realist. My youthful idealism has drained away, and my brushes with hate-everything-cuz-it’s-not-perfect dogma never took.

And guess what? Contrary to what an embarrassingly huge number of self-righteous folks would have you believe… being a realist has not dented my passion for life one little bit. In fact, it has opened up a whole new world of unexplainable spirituality (which cannot be contained within any formal religion).

I’m not against religion. Let’s have no “save my soul” emails here. One of my favorite friends to argue with has a doctorate in theology. And I have many other friends committed to various belief systems ranging from fundamentalist to Buddhist to humanist. We get along because, on a deep level, we understand that true spirituality transcends whatever way you choose to express it or appreciate it.

I loathe black-and-white views of the world. It’s a shame that our great country has descended to this “you’re nuts if you don’t agree with me” mentality… but it’s part of the pendulum that’s been swinging back and forth ever since we left the jungle.

The far edges of our institutions — political, religious, cultural, all of it — are in spiritual and emotional “lock down”. They’re sure they’re right, they’re positive you’re wrong, and neither facts nor logic will sway their position.

Mushy liberals seem astonished that anyone would ever not love them, or want to destroy their culture. Repressed conservatives seem intent on crushing everyone who pisses them off (and that’s a lot of people).

It’s “whatever” versus “blind obedience”. And neither works so hot in the real world. I have no use for dogma, or idealism, or punishingly-harsh rules that have been cooked up by hypocrites.

Hey — I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live their life. I’ve screwed up plenty, and if I have any wisdom at all, it’s only because I’ve survived some truly hairy situations.

But I don’t believe anyone else is in a position to tell you how to live, either. That’s gotta be your decision.

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

Fortunately, while I can’t tell you how to live, I can move some smooth (and proven) advice in your direction. Take it or leave it… but give it a listen anyway, cuz my track record on successful advice-giving is fairly impressive.

And I’m telling you that having a hateful, brooding attitude will stunt your growth. It will make you a smaller person, a less-wise person, an older and feebler person. And you won’t grow. Not spiritually, not physically, not emotionally. Not in your business life, either.

Most people don’t want to grow, anyway. Growth only comes from movement and change… and the vast majority of the folks walking the earth with us today are terrified of change.

You can’t blame them, really. Change is a form of death. Whatever was before, dies. And whatever comes next must be nurtured with devotion and sacrifice.

That’s hard. That’s a hard way to live, always dying and being reborn.

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

I suspect, if you’re reading this, you are not afraid of change. But you may not yet understand the power that REALLY giving yourself to change offers.

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

That’s a subtle point many people gloss over. Rookie goal-setters often get stuck on stuff like quitting smoking, or vague concepts like “become a better person”.

Or “get rich”.

That seldom works. Goals need to be specific… and they need to involve profound change in order to take hold.

Halbert often talked about “image suicide” — the necessity of killing and burying the “self” you are so heavily invested in, before you can move to a new level of success.

I see this all the time in my consultations. Biz owners refuse to do even slightly risky marketing, for fear of damaging their “reputations.”

And my question to them is: What reputation?

Unless you’re the top dog in your niche, no one gives a rat’s ass about what you think or do. No one is looking at your marketing for inspiration or condemnation, because you aren’t the guy to look at.

No. What these scaredy-cats are talking about when they say “reputation” is what their family and friends think of them. And that’s a sure sign of a losing attitude. That ain’t Operation MoneySuck.

My colleague Ron LeGrand, the real estate guru, is one of the best natural salesmen I’ve ever met. The guy understands the fundamental motivating psychology of a prospect at a master’s level. And he knows that one of the major obstacles he faces in every sale… is what the prospect’s spouse (usually the wife) will say.

She can nix the sale with a sneer. Or she can nix it in the prospect’s head, as he imagines that sneer.

Ron counters both sides of the objection expertly. He encourages the prospect to get his spouse involved in the decision, so she becomes invested in it. Or, he suggests waiting until the first big check comes in… and letting the money explain to her about what you’re up to.

This is the reality of most people’s lives. As much as they want what you offer… they are terrified of making a mistake. Cuz they’ll pay dearly for it at home.

It’s a huge deal-killer.

That’s why you include lots of “reason why” copy in your pitch — to give your buyer ammunition for explaining his decision to the doubters in his life. However, as Ron knows, the best (and simplest) “reason why” is results.

Money, as they say, talks.

The top marketers seldom give a moment’s thought to what a risky tactic might do to their “reputation”. They don’t really care what people think about them. You can’t bank criticism.

I know many marketers who are involved in projects they are passionate about… but which bore their spouses to tears. Some (like Howard Stern’s former wife) are even deeply embarrassed. But they don’t complain too much. Because the money’s so good.

Aw, heck. I could go on and on about this. The story of Rodale’s shock and dismay at the brutally-honest ad I wrote for their timid “sex book” is a great example. They refused to mail it, because of their “reputation”. Yet, after it accidentally did mail, and became a wildly-successful control for 5 years, they suddenly decided their reputation could handle it after all.

The people who get the most done in life are all extreme risk-takers. They embrace change, because growth is impossible without it.

But you don’t go out and start changing things willy-nilly.

You need goals.

And you need a plan.

Now, there are lots of books out there that tell you how to set goals. I recently found, in a moldy banker’s box, the ad for Joe Karbo’s book “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” that I’d responded to back in 1982. The exact ad! With the order form torn out… it was the first direct mail pitch I’d ever encountered, and it changed my life forever. Joe’s book was essentially a treatise on setting goals. And it’s good.

It was a wake-up call for me. I’m having that crinkly old ad framed. Can’t imagine why I kept it, but I did. Pack-rat riches.

If you can’t find that particular book, there are dozens of newer goal-setting guides on the shelves. But they’re all based on the same formula:

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

3. Read the list often, imaging as you read that you have already achieved each goal.

What this does is alter the underpinnings of your unconscious. When one of your goals is to earn a million bucks this year, and that goal burns bright in the back of your mind, each decision you make will be influenced.

So, for example, you won’t accept a permanent job somewhere that pays $50,000 a year. Cuz that isn’t going to help you attain your goal.

The problem is this: To earn a mil in a year, you need to average around $50,000 every two weeks. This is why it can take a while to get your goal-setting chops honed. As I’ve said many times, most folks don’t know what they want.

And they aren’t prepared for the changes necessary to get what they want, once they do decide on a goal.

What kind of guy earns $50,000 every two weeks, like clockwork? It takes a certain level of business savvy to create that kind of steady wealth. It doesn’t fall into your lap.

What kind of guy makes a windfall of a million bucks in one chunk? That’s another kind of savvy altogether.

In that same moldy banker’s box, I also found a bunch of my early goal lists. And I’m shocked at how modest my aims were. At the time — I was in the first months of going out on my own, a totally pathetic and clueless rookie — I couldn’t even imagine earning fifty K a year. My first goal was $24,000 as a freelancer. And to score a better rental to live in. Find a date for New Year’s. Maybe buy a new used car.

Listen carefully: I met those goals. As modest as they were, it would have been hard not to. I needed them to be modest, because I was just getting my goal-setting chops together. And I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time even bothering to set goals.

Let me assure you, it was NOT a waste of time.

The lists I found covered several later years, too. And what’s fascinating is that many of the more specific goals I set down were crossed out — I wanted those goals, but didn’t feel confident about obtaining them.

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

A couple of decades later, I realize that I’ve attained every single one of those “forgotten” goals. The big damn house, the love of my life, the professional success, even the hobbies and the guitars and the sports car.

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and you don’t have to belong to a religion to realize this. The whole concept of “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened” was well-known by successful people long before Luke and Matthew wrote it down.

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

Back to making a million in a year: Some guys know what they need to do to make this goal real. They’ve done it before, or they’ve come close.

Setting the goal is serious business for them… because they are well aware of the tasks they’ve assigned themselves. Take on partners, put on seminars, create ad campaigns, build new products. Get moving on that familiar path.

I’ve known many people who started the year with such a goal… who quickly modified it downward as the reality of the task became a burden. Turns out they didn’t really want the whole million after all. Half of that would suffice just fine. To hell with the work required for the full bag of swag.

Other guys don’t know what they need to do to earn a mil. So their goal really is: Find out what I need to do to earn a million bucks.

Their initial tasks are to ask, seek, and knock like crazy. And change the way they move and act in the world. Because they must transform themselves into the kind of guy who earns a million bucks in one year.

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

So, for example, reading “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” suddenly becomes an “A” task, while remodeling the kitchen gets moved to the back of the burner. Sharpening your ability to craft a killer sales pitch becomes more important than test-driving the new Porsche.

More important, even, than dating Little Miss Perfect. And test-driving her new accessories.

Tough choice?

Nope. When you get hip to the glory of focused change, you never lament leaving the “old” you behind.

It will be hard, sometimes, no doubt about it. Especially when you discover your old gang no longer understands you, or mocks your ambition. They liked the old, non-threatening you. They want him to come back.

But you’ve changed. And hot new adventures are going to take up a lot more of your time now.

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

Every January 15th, I sit down and write myself a letter, dated exactly one year ahead.

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2016, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2017.)

It’s a subtle difference to the way other people set goals. Took me a long time to figure it out, too.

For many years, I wrote out goals like “I live in a house on the ocean”, and “I earn $24,000 a year”. And that worked. But it was like pushing my goals.

Writing this letter to myself is more like pulling my goals. For me, this works even better. Every decision I make throughout the year is unconsciously influenced, as I am pulled toward becoming the person I’ve described.

But here’s where I do it very differently: My goals are deliberately in the “whew” to “no friggin’ way” range. Mega-ambitious, to downright greedy.

There’s a sweet spot in there — doable, if I commit myself, but not so outrageous that I lose interest because the required change is too radical.

I’m pretty happy with myself these days. Took me a long, hard slog to get here, and I earned every step. And I want to continue changing, because I enjoy change. But I don’t need to reinvent myself entirely anymore.

So here’s what makes this ambitious goal-setting so effective: I don’t expect to REACH most of them.

In fact, I’m happy to get half of what I wanted.

There’s a ton of psychology at work there. The person I describe a year away often resembles James Bond more than the real me. Suave, debonair, flush, famous, well-traveled… and in peak health. I hit all the big ones.

However, long ago I realized that trying to be perfect was a sure way to sabotage any goal I set. Perfectionists rarely attain anything, because they get hung up on the first detail that doesn’t go right.

Being a good goal-setter is more like successful boxing — you learn to roll with the punches, cuz you’re gonna get hit.

You just stay focused on the Big Goal. And you get there however you can.

I’m looking at last year’s letter. I was a greedy bastard when I wrote it, and I didn’t come close to earning the income figure I set down.

Yet, I still had my best year ever.

And — here’s the kicker — I would NOT have had such a great year, if I wasn’t being pulled ahead by that letter. There were numerous small and grand decisions I made that would have gone another way without the influence of what I had set down.

I didn’t travel to the places I had listed. But I did travel to other, equally-fun places. I didn’t finish writing that third biz book. But I did position it in my head, and found the voice I want for narration. That’s a biggie. That was a sticking point that would have kept the novel from ever getting finished.

Now, it’s on power-glide.

There’s another “hidden” benefit to doing this year-ahead letter: It forces you to look into the future.

A lot of people make their living peering ahead and telling everyone else what to expect. Most do a piss-poor job of it — weathermen are notorious for getting it wrong, as are stock market analysts, wannabe trend-setters, and political prognosticators.

Yet, they stay in business. Why? Because the rest of the population is terrified of looking into the future. That would require some sincere honesty about their current actions… since what the future holds is often the consequence of what you’re doing right now.

If you’re chain-smoking, chasing street hookers, and living on doughnuts, your future isn’t pretty. For example.

Or if you’ve maxed out all your credit cards, and haven’t done your due diligence to start bringing in moolah, your future isn’t nice, either.

No one can “see” into the future for real. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, it’s easy, when you have a little experience in life.

Things you do today will have consequences tomorrow. If you put up a website today for a product, and you do everything you can to bring traffic to it and capture orders… your consequence can be pretty and nice.

Sure, you may get hit by a bus while fetching the morning paper… but letting that possibility scare you off of trying for something better is for pessimists (who are scheduled for early checkout).

You have enormous control over your future.

And once you realize that, you can set out to start shaping it.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’re one of those people who’ve been skimming blogs like this… never reading anything carefully and slowly, and digesting what’s on the page… then I have one more suggestion for you: Stop doing that.

Most of the uber-successful folks I know (and I know a lot) have both skimming skills AND “deep reading” skills. And they know when to use them. You skim to get overviews, which may turn out to be flawed (because you missed something crucial in your skimming). You deep-read when you want to absorb something important, and you need to make the impression of what you read stick in your brain.

Right now, there are readers here who should be seriously considering the courses and opportunities I offer in the right-hand column of this blog. This is the stuff that has launched freelance careers, transformed biz owners into ad-writing monsters, and armed both rookie and veteran entrepreneurs with the fundamentally awesome skills of success. Quickly, and with the surety of proven-in-the-real-world tactics and advice.

So stop screwing around. If you need further help in getting your career going, or in crafting the kind of marketing that will boost profits through the roof… then consider the offerings on this page an essential task in your new list of goals. This is the real deal. No fluff, no nonsense — just honest, solid, proven stuff from a respected veteran of biz success.

Meanwhile, get busy with your January 15th letter.

P.P.S. One of your main goals, if you’re a serious entrepreneur and you haven’t mastered slamming out world-class copy yet for your bad self… is to GET bad-ass at it as soon as humanly possible. I don’t care how you do it — find a mentor, start experimenting with one of the many courses or coaching programs out there…

… or, as I recommend, just join our mastermind. We’re going into our ninth year of it, so we’re doing something right. To get the details, go here.

Give yourself at least the OPTION of deciding yes-or-no, with some background, by going to this page now and seeing what’s up. At the very least, read some of the testimonials, to get a taste of how powerful the transformation in your life and career can be when you finally get hip to the stuff no one told you about before.

I’ll be checking into the comments here, if you have questions about any of this…

Did You Enjoy Your Free Copy Of “There Are Only 3 (or 4) Marketing Problems In The Entire Universe”?

 

3or4marketingmistakes

12:37pm, Christmas Day
Reno, NV
You’ll shoot your eye out!” (Ralphie’s Mom, “A Christmas Story”)

Howdy.

Hope you’re having a great holiday, and all your dreams have come true.

If you’re here after grabbing your FREE copy of the book that Dean Jackson and I just released, welcome. Our gift to you took just 90 minutes to create, per Dean’s brilliant “90-Minute Book” magic. Well, 90 minutes, plus the four years since I first proposed the book to Dean…

… but since we dawdled away those years never actually writing any of it, this sudden burst of creativity for 90 minutes actually represents a Christmas miracle.

I’m stunned we got it out.

Sure, it’s in need of some editing, which we’ll do later (when the book is sold on Amazon), because it’s a transcription, and my brain-to-mouth process works much differently than my usual brain-to-keyboard process. But for now, today at least, this somewhat raw first edition is your free gift from us.

Get your free copy at www.3or4problems.com… if you missed the announcement of it on Facebook last night.

And welcome to the blog. Be sure to sign up for alerts, top right. Right there. No, your other right. Yeah, right there, inside the little box. Just type in your email address — the good one you always check, not the fake oaddresse you use to throw folks off your trail. You want to hear from me. I won’t deluge you with email, and I swear you’ll love every message you do get from me. (I’ll never share it, either.)

PLUS — you get a cool free special report when you sign up, jammed with info you can put to use right away to make yourself and your biz glow with profits. Yet another freebie gift for you. The goodies are just piling up.

There are tons of great posts for you here on the blog — over a decade’s worth of advice, tips, strategies, insight and pro-level marketing secrets… all in the archives. Which you can access in the lower right column. Yes, just below where you left your email address.

Also, check out the books I offer, the great deals on the courses, all of it.

Oh, and just for now, I’ve slashed my normal Skype consults (where I personally solve your entrepreneurial biz problems, and even critique your copy if you want, in real time, digitally face-to-face). Right now, you can get a full-on consult for $999 — which includes your hour on Skype with me, personally, plus an email exchange for anything you want me to look at. I normally charge $2,500 for these. But I’m feeling the holiday spirit, big time.

To get the details, just email my assistant Diane at diane@john-carlton.com. Write “I want to know how to get a personal consult with John” in the subject line. We’ll get right back to you with the details. And get you on the schedule fast.

The new year is right around the corner. How rich and happy you get over the course of 2017 depends on how you approach the opportunities and problems you have in front of you now.

One of the best ways to kick it up a notch is to get your sticking points unstuck, your problems solved, and your plan for the year double-checked by a respected, well-known pro. I’ve been doing this stuff for over 30 years now, and the list of folks who owe their wealth and happiness to me is long (and full of some very famous people).

But enough of that.

If you’re ready to goose your fortunes for the coming year, great. I can help you in ways you can barely imagine right now.

Today, just enjoy your Christmas gift from Dean and me.

Hope you and yours are having a great day.

Stay frosty,

John

Gratitude, Schmatitude

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

Howdy…

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

Like it’s magic or something.

It ain’t.

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

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

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

But a little perspective, please.

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

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

Which is, of course, pure bullshit.

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

So why do they even say it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,

John

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


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