“I’m handy with the love and I’m no fool, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can…” (“Handyman”, Jimmy Jones)
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.
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…
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…
“I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)
For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.
Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…
… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.
For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.
Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…
… particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.
For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…
… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.
We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.
Yet, the opposite is true.
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?
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?
“Nothing is impossible for a man who refuses to listen to reason.” (Gary Halbert)
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.
“Well, excuuuuuuuse me.” (Steve Martin)
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…
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?
Photo, clockwise from bottom left: Big Jason Henderson, Brian Kurtz, me, Stan Dahl, Joe Sugarman, and Scott Haines, Las Vegas, after one of our Platinum Group mastermind meetings.
Several years back, Mongo and I were road-dogging with Gary Halbert in Beverly Hills, looking for a new-fangled television option that had just become available…
… allowing you to project video images onto a huge screen in your home. This was ages before 70″ HD TVs were even a glint in a Samsung engineer’s eye.
As usual, Gary needed to find out every detail of this wondrous new contraption. He loved cameras, movies, and all interesting new technology… especially when it promised to entertain him.
Hanging out with Gary meant exploring the world deeply, with gusto.
Also with lots of irreverence.
We parked on Sunset and wandered across the street to an audio/visual store, where the awesome new projector TV was being sold. Several salesmen descended on us immediately, ushering us into a special room displaying the magic.
We stood there for a few moments, watching some soap opera show play out larger than life on the screen. It was pretty impressive.
Mongo and I looked at each and raised our eyebrows. We both had the same thought.
“Um…” said Mongo. “Do you have any porn you can put on? This soap opera crap is pretty boring.”
Gary nearly choked, laughing. I grinned at the salesman, nodding.
He looked sheepish, then grinned back. “Of course,” he said, leaning close. “We watch porn after-hours on this thing all the time…” and he went over to fuss with the video player.
“Score,” said Mongo.
“I’m gonna buy this thing,” said Gary. And he did. But not until after the demonstration.
So we watched some late-nineties grind-and-slobber video for a while (much more intriguing than the soap opera crap) before getting bored and wandering back outside to see if there was better trouble to get into.
Because that’s what we did, Mongo and I, when we were with Gary. A little research, a little exploration, a little visit to the tavern next door to share tall stories and see what else we could get into on this fine sunny day in Southern California.
Mongo is, of course, my great pal and cohort Scott Haines. After I’d done my several years being Gary’s main road dog, Scotty took over. We both were thick as thieves with Gary, traveling around the country to seminars and biz meetings and chewing up scenery in as many different cities as possible. Miami, San Diego, Key West, Phoenix, LA, Orlando, New York city… it was an education in how the U.S. was cobbled together, as much as an ongoing lesson in dealing with clients in every type of market imaginable.
Scotty earned the prized nickname “Mongo” after the Alex Karras character in the movie “Blazing Saddles”. Scotty was a short, broad shouldered, incredibly strong man — with martial arts skills that would have made him fearsome, if he wasn’t also saddled with a heart as big as any man I’ve met. If you were Mongo’s friend, you had someone who would watch your back and sacrifice himself without hesitation when the chips were down.
I valued him as a pal, and also as a colleague. He was a brilliant copywriter (the only way you could get the road dog job with Halbert), and understood the marketing game as well as anyone. He arrived into our world from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late nineties…
… suffering some serious culture shock moving near Gary in Key West, and then Miami and Hollywood. Sort of a trial-by-fire for a young man eager to tackle the big wide world on his terms.
Scotty and I got along famously, liking each other on first sight. Writers are like that, you know. The “tribe of scribes” is an ancient guild, going back to the beginning of civilization. We’re the dudes and dudettes who get the stories down on paper, who translate the culture into novels and ads, who keep watch over the way history is tracked. It’s a lonely gig, often just you and the blank page…
… and that inherent loneliness bonds us together. We know the drill. We understand what goes into the process, how tough it can be even while seeming like we’re goofing off driving around Hollywood destroying shit.
Writers love to hang with other writers, cuz we never need to answer the question “how do you do it?” We get to skip past the mystery and incredulous quizzing, and just move straight on to our other main job: Drinking and making each other laugh so hard it hurts.
Mongo remained a close friend with Gary, as did I.
And when I decided to become a guru, writing my books and courses and hosting the now-legendary “Copywriting Sweatshop” seminars, I didn’t hesitate to ask Scotty to be my sidekick. He was there for the first three seminars, right beside me, as I faced down 40 marketers who paid $5grand each to have me critique and fix their miserable ad copy. They expected a lot. We delivered more than they ever dreamed possible.
He also was one of the first teachers we hired to honcho a classroom in the Simple Writing System. His students adored him, and he became good friends with many of them.
When I had a problem myself, whether in life or biz, Mongo was one of the first guys I called. Level-headed, despite his shocking appetite for good booze. Fearless when facing problems, despite being a shy introverted giant.
He was the most fun, thoughtful, and generous man I’ve ever known.
And he’s gone. Left this mortal coil today at noon Tulsa-time, surrounded by grieving friends and family, to go see what Gary’s been up to in that Big Marketing Joint in the sky these past ten years.
He was just 46 years old, far too young to leave us so suddenly. The entire writers’ community is in deep shock, emotionally shattered by the passing of a beloved colleague, friend and cohort.
I talked to him the day before he left Austin for Tulsa, to visit with family over Christmas. Twenty-four hours later, he suffered a massive stroke, and was on life support for almost two weeks before his family was convinced by the docs to let him go.
I can still hear his thunderous laughter. We joked and shared old Halbert stories during that call, howling at the misadventures and insanity that wonderful man could generate. It was two longtime pals, talking like we always had. I expected to talk to him again this week, when he got back from the holidays, maybe meet up somewhere for fresh adventures.
Those adventures will have to wait, now.
I’m not a religious man, but I do have a raucous spiritual side, and you can’t tell me I won’t see both Gary and Mongo again, somewhere. In due time.
Life is wondrous, but also heartbreakingly fragile… and you can never predict what the morrow will bring.
Hug your loved ones. Never assume there will be plenty of time later to tell them you love them, plenty of time to enjoy their company, plenty of time left to share your best stories.
Scotty lives on in our hearts, of course. In that ever-growing place where those who have left remain with us. So crowded, that special place.
But that’s what happens when you live large, and embrace life fully. You collect friends, you love them, and sometimes… they have to leave early.
Folks, he’ll never be forgotten…
… but for now…
… Mongo has left the building.
I love and miss you dearly, pal.
Here’s to you.
For the rest of you:
P.S. Feel free to share your own Mongo stories in the comments here. His very large group of fellow writers have been supporting each other since Scott went down, and while we’re grieving, we’re also laughing through the tears… sharing the funny, embarrassing, wild stories and memories of the big guy.
He was a force of nature. A damned good friend.
And someone we’ll all miss for a very long time…
UPDATE: Big Jason Henderson, one of Scotty’s best pals, set up a GoFundMe site to help with the funeral and hospital expenses Mongo’s family is now faced with.
Go here if you want (and are financially able) to contribute. Doesn’t matter how much. Every penny is appreciated.
You are invited to leave comments and stories on the page. You’ll see that many of Scotty’s cohorts, clients, colleagues and many notorious and famous friends have already done so…
“Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)
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?
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.
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.
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…
12:37pm, Christmas Day
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” (Ralphie’s Mom, “A Christmas Story”)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
“Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)
I was going through the archives here, found this bitchin’ post from last September…
… and decided to re-post it. Cuz it’s so good.
Reality checks have been a major tool in my life and career. And believe me, I’ve needed every single one. I started out so clueless, so lost, so desperate for guidance, that my head was filled with all kinds of muddy thinking and dumb-ass notions.
So, if you’re game, here’s a few of the best I’ve gone through myself.
Here’s the post:
Almost everything you encounter today is conspiring to waste your time. Lots of it. Most of it, in fact.
For eons, the distractions of life were put on hold by the sheer requirements of subsistence living. The party animals starved when winter hit.
So we gathered in villages in order to share the burdens of eating every day. There was a time to sow, a time to reap, and so on. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker started specializing, so the rancher, the farmer and the night owls could get on with their end of the game.
Complications were instantaneous, of course. Humans are hard-wired to screw things up, especially once we get into a good groove. (The Primary Rule Of Entrepreneurship, which should never be forgotten, is: The first thing most entrepreneurs do, once they’re successful with a simple idea they’ve turned into a biz, is try to complicate the shit out of it. And ruin it. It’s unconscious, because their lizard brain can’t stand the drudgery of management, and craves the excitement of new ventures. I’ve seen this rule demolish more success arcs than divorce, embezzlement and incompetence combined.)
So, over the long arc of history, the smart alecks started figuring ways to have others do the hard work for them… allowing them more leisure time. Becoming royalty was a good way to get out of the unpleasantly-sweaty parts of life. Concocting empires and war (from afar) was an excellent way to amass wealth and power… which translated to lots of servants, soldiers and lackeys scurrying around doing your bidding. It’s the ultimate con game.
And, voila! Boredom was invented.
Too much time, too little to do.
It’s pretty much a given that most folks, stripped of fulfilling duty, will find a way to wile away the time. Prisoners dig tunnels, trophy spouses shop and have affairs, bosses gamble away the payroll, students hack into Pentagon computers, and so on. We’re just busy little beavers when we latch onto something to do.
In the modern world (and I hope you’ve noticed) the “what to do with your free time” trends have been heavy on entertainment, though, and a little weak on substance.
And, from this old codger’s perspective (after many, many trips around the block)… most folks are squandering a truly great life, by going after what they’ve been sold as a “good” life.
And I say this as one of the guys who has helped feed this travesty, though excellent advertising.
Thus, it may be time for a little Reality Check session here.
On how not to waste your life chasing bullshit.
Reality Check #1: You only get one ticket for a life. There is no “do over” button, no replays, and no options on more game time.
Sure, I know you know this. Like, duh, right?
So why are you living as if you had unlimited time to waste? You’re treating your life the same way you treat your lack of exercise, your refusal to quit bad habits, your putting off of all that critical stuff you need to get after.
Oh, I know. Eventually, you’ll get around to it. Yeah, life’s short, whatever. You’re not gonna die in the next couple of months, at least, so why freak out over missing opportunities and all that crap?
Here’s where your own bullshit blinds you: Your “real” life doesn’t start down the line, after you’ve accomplished that thing you’re putting off. The college degree, the marriage to a hot mate, the new car, the new haircut, the signing of your band… none of that “starts” your life.
No, your life is going on RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Who you are today is pretty much the foundation of who’ll you be tomorrow, even if you win the lottery and can tell your boss to shove it.
And if winning the lottery is your entire plan for a better life, then you’re deep in the dreaded Delusional Swamp. Time to start wading back to dry land, and re-establish a relationship with the reality of your situation.
Reality Check #2: If you don’t change anything, then the next 5 years are probably going to look pretty much like the last 5 years.
And if that makes your skin crawl, then you must face up to a brutal fact of life: If anything is going to change, you’re gonna have to take responsibility for it.
Hey, I’ve known people who were wrenched from their life, drafted into the Army, and shoved into foreign cultures and terrifying situations rife with challenges to their belief systems.
And they came back pretty much the same person. They were so set in “who they were”, that new experiences just bounced off without much effect. They returned to the same job, same neighborhood, same desires.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want.
However, as a consultant and coach, I don’t usually encounter folks who are ecstatic with the way their lives are going.
No. The folks I deal with have made the fateful decision to CHANGE. They’re open to it, they crave it, they’re willing (they hope) to suffer to attain their goals.
They just need a little help doing it right.
To change, you have to actually draw a line in the sand. Up to this second, I was this person. From now forward, I am going to change the way I do things.
You can’t just promise to do this, by the way. Nope. You gotta form some goals to aim for, and implement your plan to go after them. You gotta make a (probably long) list of the attributes you need to nurture or create… like discipline, dedication, firm resolve, follow-through, and a professional’s code of behavior (“You show up where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there, having done what you said you’d do… every time, with no excuses allowed.”).
If you need help, you find it and start implementing what you learn. Mentors, coaching, courses, whatever it takes to get you past your sticking points.
If you need to get the biz working, you start today. Not tomorrow. Today. You set up a schedule and a plan, and you follow it. Even when you’re tired, even when there’s SO MUCH ELSE you’d rather do, even when you have to say “nope” to fun.
In fact, “fun” becomes a reward, not a primary pursuit. The old adage “business before pleasure” is the precursor to “work hard, play hard”. We’ve lost that sense of proportion, as a culture. Too many folks just want to play hard… and maybe squeeze in a little duty on the side.
And success doesn’t function like that. Fucking around is the way you eventually fuck up. (And I say this as a primo fuck up, for much of my pre-career life. I know how fuck-ups operate, the ways they spin excuses and avoid responsibility for mucking things over. I was a master at it. And I had to murder that part of me in order to move forward.)
Today, I have as much fun in my life as I do hard work. But the work is fulfilling, and the fun feeds my soul. And vice versa.
I got to this point by sacrificing long-held beliefs about what I was capable of, what the world would “allow” me to do, and how far I could push into unchartered territory when I set my mind to it.
Reality Check #3: … most of your limitations in life are self-inflicted.
And a lot of it has to do with time. As in, how you spend it.
My line in the sand was drawn one evening while I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, homeless after losing my job, girlfriend and place to live all in a short span. I had driven around the west coast for several months, aimless, clueless and directionless, hoping for some kind of sign on what my next move was going to be.
No sign arrived. What did arrive was a rather abrupt realization that I was standing in my own way. My entire life to that point was full of scattershot, ill-thought-out decisions that happened only when I was forced to choose or suffer another catastrophe. It occurred to me, that fateful evening, that maybe I should start considering my decisions more carefully. And add some actual data and info.
It was a start. I knew that just deciding to be decisive was worthless without good reasons to follow up on a decision. Being decisive, in and of itself, isn’t a good thing. It just means you act quickly. Thinking through the consequences, and including a little research, suddenly meant my decisions had some teeth.
No longer was it “what the hell, let’s do this and see what happens”. Suddenly (literally overnight) it was “let’s examine the options here, and make the call based on something more than just a hunch.”
That meant changing a lot of my habits. I love science fiction, and always had a novel with me. However, during this period of decision-making, I needed to put the sci-fi on the back burner for a while, and read up on stuff like biz, advertising, marketing, salesmanship, and all the other skills and tactics I might need to explore in a freelance career. (Remember: I’d never met a freelancer before I became one, and had only a vague idea of what they did. There were no books on freelancing at the time, no mentors, no seminars, no nothing. I’d have to wing it… but I was still going to put as much info on my side as possible before wandering out there in the cruel advertising world.)
In a very short time — because I was obsessed with this “remake my bad self into something productive” project — I read nearly everything in the library on these subjects. Raced through an Evelyn Woods speed-reading course, figured out I had just enough money to keep me from starving for a few weeks, and dove in. No distractions. Business before pleasure became my mantra, and because I’d drawn that line in the sand, there was not gonna be much pleasure while I loaded up my brain with relevant stuff.
No TV. No visits to the pub. (They wondered where I was.) No long romantic calls with old girlfriends, trying to stir up a little action. No nothing. For a few weeks, I was a monk.
And holy shit, did I ever get stuff done.
The punch line to this story is that, on my very first interview with an ad agency for some freelance work, I walked in thinking my weeks of research had maybe prepared me to not sound like an idiot. However, what I discovered is that I knew much, much more about the history, application and use of advertising and marketing than any of the full-time professionals at the agency. My research made me a freakin’ Ph.D. in the subject, better-read than even the creative director.
They were impressed, and I got the job. I was stunned, and took their fee in a daze. How the hell do you work at an agency, and NOT know about John Caples’ groundbreaking ads from the sixties, Claude Hopkins’ revolutionary work in the 1920s, and all the current heroes of direct response in the print and broadcast games?
So, yes, you cynical jerks out there. The library is your friend, just like Miss Adams told you in the third grade. Knowledge is king. Accessing resources, like libraries or Google or experts (especially experts), gives you an edge… and no matter how “naturally” gifted the next writer you go against may be, you’ll still scorch him with better research every time. Every. Time.
Which, of course, brings us back to time.
How are you spending your time?
If you’re not where you want to be in life… and you’re watching ANY TV at all during the week… then you’re a fucking moron. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
If you’re still partying like a college boy (or girl), you’re the reason you’re not succeeding yet.
And if you aren’t topping off your brain-tank with info, knowledge, skill sets, and insights… relentlessly and with clear goals on how to use all this stuff… then maybe it’s time to just admit you’re not cut out for a successful life.
No shame in that. The world needs ditch diggers, too, just as Judge Smails said. (Caddy Shack. No need to Google it.)
… if you DO crave success, then start with your own bad self. Do a reality-based checkup on how serious you are about moving up a level or two. Are there good biz books on your shelf, sitting there all lonely and forgotten, that you should be reading? Are you still following 3 different sports every season, spending more time on the sports pages than the financial section? Do you have people in your world you haven’t bothered to bond with, cuz it’s “too hard”, and thus you aren’t reaping the benefits of networking? Are you ignoring the opportunities spread out before you?
Are you, in short, still kinda believing that someday, maybe soon, magic will happen and your “real life” will begin in earnest?
You know, like when you were 8 years old and still believed in Santa? (Spoiler Alert: He ain’t real.)
There is plenty of time in your future for binge-watching The Walking Dead… drinking yourself into misadventures with your wayward pals… obsessing on your fantasy leagues… and chasing Susie Q around. No career requires total immersion for the rest of your life.
Still, until you get up to speed, and kickstart your new life as a knowledgeable, decisive, skilled and effective professional…
… time is your main resource. You hold yourself back by squandering it. You want someone to blame for the shitstorms swirling around your head? It’s you.
There. Settled that.
Now, it’s time for assessing your current state — what skills you lack, what attributes you need to adopt, what vacuums exist between your ears that need to be filled with good stuff.
You’ll be astonished what you can put together in just a few weeks. Yes, your buddies at the pub and everyone in your fantasy league will hate you for abandoning them (not to mention Susie Q, wondering why you aren’t harassing her anymore). Don’t look to them for support — they want you to fail, so your “old self” will come back and stop making them feel bad about being unsuccessful themselves. (And, in truth, they’ll get over it when you finally break through your limitations, and start proudly calling you “the guy who got it done”.) (Though, they’ll still try to force Jello-shots on you every time you visit.)
You think you got oodles of it.
Growing up and putting aside the time-wasting pleasures of your youth is just another stage. Doesn’t mean the next stage won’t be even more exciting, entertaining and full of adventures. It’ll just be different.
Okay, scolding over.
What time is it, anyway?
P.S. And when you’re ready to start finding and exploiting the expert-level resources around you…
… there’s no better place to start than the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club. It’s the one online joint where you can access most of the best material I’ve ever created to help entrepreneurs and copywriters.
It’s a one-stop resource where you can get fast expert feedback on any biz, marketing or advertising question you have…
… including the opportunity for ad critiques from me, personally (in the Marketing Brain Cleanse show I host on the site with my longtime biz partner Stan Dahl).
And, I maintain an active online “office” there, where I interact with folks regularly. With specific advice on sales funnels, career moves, and the problems holding you up. It’s like having a direct line to me and the support staff.
Plus, I’ve stashed my entire “swipe file” of ads there (they’re on constant rotation) – which include my commentary and side notes on why they worked (and how to use them as a template for your own ads). Along with the notorious interview series I did with my colleagues like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy, and my breakthrough email marketing course…
… and a ton more. It’s a huge payload of courses, coaching and shortcuts I’ve created to boost the bottom line for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Augmented with a full-time team of experts in the tech, strategies, tools and advice that’s working now in the fast-changing biz world out there.
What’s more, it’s a ridiculous bargain to get immediate access to everything. You’ve spent more on lunch.
Go here to see if this honest “insider’s” resource is for you. It’ll take you less than 3 minutes to understand the full impact of this awesome site.
And I’ll see you there.
Hope you’re enjoying these dog days of summer. Bloated thermometers, singed grasslands still smoldering from fireworks gone bad, outdoor concerts, late evening strolls, gorgeous sunsets and glorious full moons rising like ancient gods lighting up the sky.
Oh, yeah, and politics up the yin-yang. Wouldn’t be an election year without that mid-summer slugfest going on.
But what I want to discuss is something much closer to home.
Specifically: You. And your future happiness.
One thing I see, a LOT, in consultations with entrepreneurs is the steady drumbeat of burnout and personal lives gone to shit from the most mundane problem of all: Working too much.
I don’t have a problem with standard-issue workaholics (who occasionally get overwhelmed with their own over-scheduling), any more than I care if you occasionally get stupid drunk and embarrass yourself and your entire lineup of ancestors stretching back to the dawn of time. That’s your business.
The key to both of these issues, however, is the word “occasionally”. My personal motto is “moderation in all vices“, which has served me well for a very long time (yes, I consider overwork a vice). I like to live near the edge, chewing up scenery and sampling all the pleasures and misadventures offered up by a life well-lived. It’s certainly kept me flush with great stories to tell.
But I don’t go overboard as a steady diet. With work, occasionally you may have to burn the midnight oil on a project. Miss your daughter’s piano recital, not be home for dinner for weeks on end, never have a decent day off. It happens. Running your own biz, or freelancing for clients can play havoc with anyone’s schedule.
However, I don’t usually see the moderate dudes and dudettes when I do “my life sucks” type of consultations.
No. I see the basket cases, who are at the end of their rope and desperate. Another divorce coming down the pike, kids alienated and getting in trouble at school, old friends not even bothering to check in anymore (cuz you’ve blown them off once too often). Plus, another biz crisis plowing up the legacy, threatening to destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for.
That’s the irony. All that relentless time at the job not only destroys private lives… but it also doesn’t necessarily get rewarded in the real world of business. Cuz your brain is thrashed, your energy stores depleted, your creative thinking conked out, your mojo just gone.
All because you lost sight of what matters.
It’s not money.
I know a lot of very, VERY rich individuals… who are absolutely miserable most of the time. They’re damn good at earning profits, but piss poor at building relationships and establishing something to work FOR. Other than the almighty buck.
And trying to get a true workaholic to see the ravages of his evil ways is a fool’s errand. Like the hard-core alcoholic determined to hit bottom, the workaholic has an internal dialog going 24/7 that won’t release him from the need to work until he drops. Every day. Every night. Every weekend. Forever or until biology steps in with a stroke, whichever comes first.
So I never try to “fix” a workaholic. I mean, I have tried, many times before… and after years of experimenting, I’ve given up on “solving” the problem. Can’t be done, not without a drastic life change (like, oh, say, a stroke) that forces the issue. But until the hammer comes down, the workaholic will refuse to even think about alternatives.
I do, however, have a good workaround that’s successfully helped some workaholics “reframe” things enough to sneak in some relaxing time, some time with family, some fun times even with pals who’ve forgotten what you looked like.
Want to hear what this workaround is?
Okay. I’ll tell you.
It’s called “The Big Damn Reframe To Bring Love And Happiness Back Into Your Miserable Life“, and it goes like this:
You know how you treat clients — with all that respect and deference and paying attention to “doing the right thing” by them? Whether it’s a professional’s code, or a personal style of doing business… if you’re successful at business, you’ve found a way to deal with clients, manage their expectations, and work with them to get the best possible result no matter what the situation.
Well, that attitude is both what brings in the Big Bucks, cuz you’re attentive to the details of making a deal happen (and in most businesses, the devil is in the details)… and what creates problems with your life outside of work. You bend over backwards to treat a good client with respect, you meet your deadlines no matter what, you provide excellent customer support, etc. All the things that go into a successful arrangement that keeps profits flowing.
However… you do NOT treat your private life the same way. You shrug off “deadlines” like dinner with the family, or push problem-solving off to your spouse whenever you can, and you seldom leave enough energy from your day to have any fun before crashing into your pillow like a statue falling over.
And therein lies both the problem…
… and the solution.
Here it is: Simply start treating the people and activities you love…
… the exact way you treat good clients.
With respect for fulfilling your promises, yes. With the same energy you’d bring to a critical meeting. With everything you’d do to accomplish great things to impress, persuade, fulfill and help your business relationship thrive.
Yes on all that. Standard advice from any amateur shrink.
But here’s the key to this reframing:
You also SCHEDULE your family, friend and relationship time, right there in your planner next to the “real” clients.
And you treat each scheduled event the SAME. If you wouldn’t blow off a biz meeting, don’t do it for little Tobie’s baseball game. If you wouldn’t skip a phone call to a client waiting for advice or input on a project, then don’t skip that phone call to an ailing pal (even if you “don’t know what to say” or feel awkward). (Figure it out. Just like you do with every client you’ve ever had.) If you know how to save up your energy for a meeting with a client during a busy week, use that same tactic for everything else on your schedule.
And if you have to take on less clients, then that’s what you do. One of the first pieces of advice I give any entrepreneur is to FIRE their worst clients. Don’t let money by your guide — let your quality of life rule this.
When you get going in biz, and your reputation starts bringing in more and more work… get more picky about who you take on. Have a sense of how much you want to work, and don’t push past that boundary by taking on too much. Yes, occasionally “the” great opportunity will come along and upend all your plans…
… but that doesn’t mean every asshole client who drops a check in your lap deserves your attention. Send them to a colleague (maybe for a nice 10% finders fee). Keep an eye on your very LIMITED energy reserves. Charge more, if you need to take on less clients to stay sane. Figure it out.
That’s what the real pro’s at living well do. They figure it out. They NEVER allow their idea of a good life to be subsumed by clients who make them miserable.
And, they know how to keep that work-life balance thing going.
If you aren’t in the habit of doing sloppy work for a client, then don’t buy pizza again when it’s your turn to handle dinner at home. Take ten minutes to google a decent home-cooked meal, bop into the store just like you’d bop into Staples for printer ink when you’re out during a deadline, and whip up something tasty. It ain’t that hard. Mr. Google is crammed to bursting with easy recipes and advice. Heck, I’m the worst cook to ever stumble into a kitchen, but I’ve learned how to make wonders happen on the stovetop… because it fucking MATTERED to me.
Just like creating killer hooks for an ad matter to me. Yes, they take a bit of time to get right. You have to work at it. There are very few shortcuts that don’t require some elbow grease.
So what. You learned to keep your eyes on the prize at work — do good stuff, collect the Big Bucks.
Well, guess what?
It’s the same with everything else. Put in the effort… collect Big Love and Big Happiness.
Yes, this sounds like pop psychology, cuz it is. It’s a simple tactic that anyone can adopt in their toolkit.
But knowing about it is one thing.
DOING it is quite another. If you already knew about this tactic, and you’re not doing it, then shame on you. Give yourself a big slap upside your head, and immediately get busy correcting things.
Life doesn’t “start” at some future point, after you’ve taken care of all your biz commitments.
No. Your life is what you’re doing NOW. THIS is your life, right now, this moment. However you feel, whatever mess you’ve made of things, this is your life right now.
And sometimes, a simple little tactic can make all the difference in the world. As well as providing the very excellence bonus of not burning you the fuck out.
Give your loved ones the same attention, energy and time you give your best clients. Don’t squander your best stuff on strangers who just happen to have enough dough to hire you.
Hope this helps.
Now, go enjoy your summer.
P.S. Bonus coping tactic:
Whenever a client wants more of your time, and it’s going to eat into your “special” time… NEVER explain to them what’s going on. You simply say “Sorry, I’m booked for the next hour (or whatever). Let’s get you on the schedule for tomorrow (or next week).”
You wouldn’t explain to a client that you can’t help them now, because you have another client already booked. YOU DON’T OFFER AN EXCUSE AT ALL. You’re booked. As a professional, you honor your booked clients, no explanation necessary. You’re treating your friends/family/tee time/whatever the same way you’d treat ANY client — with assumed confidentiality, and due respect for the time they booked with you.
Pro’s don’t blow off commitments because something “better” comes along. They honor their promises, and find a way to make everyone happy. Clients know that trying to get extra time outside of what you scheduled for them isn’t something they should expect. They don’t do it for THEIR clients, you know. They’re just trying to get first on your list, and eat up more of your time, because humans tend to be naturally selfish.
No harm in asking.
Big harm, though, in blowing off your other clients (no matter what relationship you have with them) to satisfy someone’s need for extra attention.
My good pal Dan Kennedy has a great saying: “Do not make your crisis my emergency.” In other words, you don’t earn extra time just because you fucked up. He makes sure all clients understand this, too. He’s booked to the max, routinely, with multiple clients. But he works his schedule like a pro.
You should, too.