Category Archives: misfits

The Envy Cure (Redux)

Caddy

Friday, 3:23pm
Reno, NV
Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)

Howdy.

I’m republishing this off-beat rant, cuz it’s been one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written over the years.

And it’s a totally counter-intuitive take on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss. Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.

So, enjoy another nugget from the archives:

Friend…

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?

Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?

Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?

Well, then step right up…

Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing.  The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches”…

… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.

And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty.  I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.

Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great.  We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko.  Rooted for ya.  Got yer back.

I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility.  And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.

But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast.  Whoa, there, buddy.  Where do you think you’re going?

And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.  Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.  This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.

The lucky creep.

I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…

And so on.

I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it.  Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.

Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself.  Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before.  Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)

I like that tactic.

However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.

It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.

Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept.  And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.  Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.

Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category.  Fame, skill, wealth… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.

Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail.  I mean, why them and not me yet?  The bastards were too big for their britches…

But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.

Because the better way to look at things… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.

There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.

In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out.  It was win-win, all the way.

Still, though… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…

And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.

I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else.  Maybe I really did invent it.

At any rate… it works.

Wanna know what it is?

Okay.  Here is my…

Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…

… just imagine being inside their skin – really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes.  Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.

And then see if their life still looks so good.

Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real.  When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner.  When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel.  When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.

This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in.  (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 6 years here in the blog.)

Great salesmen lead better lives.  Not because they sell lots of stuff… but because they live in the real world.  You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.

Naw.  You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.  So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.

This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more… while also helping you understand why they do what they do.  You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.

And while you love your fellow beasts…

… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…

… you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.

Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.

I love to read autobiographies and biographies.  (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)

It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.

Wow, does it ever change your outlook.  Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.

The novelists loathed themselves.  The movie stars craved adulation like junk.  The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths.  The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.

Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention.  Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity.  Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.

Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.

They’re also boring as hell.  And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin.  (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires.  In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons.  See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)

You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?

I do, too.  But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.

In fact, I embrace it.  I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.

It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.

You’re alive.  You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later).  You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…

… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.

It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there.  But it’s worth it.

You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”.  Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…

… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.

I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business).  I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see behind the mask.

And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever.  I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity.  I fit well inside my own skin.

And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world.  Really earned it.  Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.

Naw.  I blundered my way into the Feast of Life.  Utterly fucked things up along the ride… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.  That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.

We’re all pathetically flawed.  All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).

Nobody gets out of here unscathed.  You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.

And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto.  When it happens, buy new ones.

Stay frosty (and true to yourself),

John

P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens.  Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself.  Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.

The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better.  Screw that nonsense.

The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly.  Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses.  And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail.  You lived it, dude.  I wasn’t there.

What happened?

P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?

And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life.  Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…

VERY Special P.P.P.S. While not exactly an autobiography, my latest book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” reveals a ton of behind-the-scenes adventures and insider advice aimed straight at the tender beating heart of the struggling entrepreneur.

Get your copy now, either as an ebook or in paperback. For a few measly bucks, you’ll be ushered into a front-row seat to see how I stumbled upon the amazing result-getting lessons of great marketing…

… and I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off along the way.

Get it here: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“.

 

The Envy Cure

Saturday, 3:17pm
Mendocino, CA
Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)

Howdy. I’m republishing this article from 2010, cuz it was one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written. And it’s on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss. Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.

So, enjoy another nugget from the archives. (And I hope you didn’t eat much — again — at Thanksgiving…):

Friend…

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?

Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?

Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?

Well, then step right up…

Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing.  The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches”…

… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.

And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty.  I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.

Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great.  We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko.  Rooted for ya.  Got yer back.

I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility.  And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.

But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast.  Whoa, there, buddy.  Where do you think you’re going?

And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.  Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.  This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.

The lucky creep.

I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…Continue Reading

R.I.P. Elvis Sightings & Exploding Preachers

 

Thursday, 2:52pm
Reno, NV
He was a one-eyed, one horn, flying purple people eater…” (Sheb Wooley)

Howdy.

In the spirit of screwing off as much as possible this fine July, I’m replenishing the blog with another oldie-but-goodie post from the archives.

So you’ve got something good to chew on, while I wander off to the beach to get pounded by merciless surf and fried by an uncaring sun. You know: Good times.

Anyway, I love meandering through the archives here… especially when I find a post that still packs some mojo.

Here’s a nice short one from ’07, on the non-scientific process of finding great hooks for your headlines. At the time, I was bummed that a favorite newsstand shock-rag was ending its run… however, the good news is that WWN is still alive and kicking (just like Elvis) online. (Today’s headline: “Saturn Ready To Explode!” Um… okay.)

The ability to find a way to hook readers (and drag them into your story) is what separates the Big Dog writers from the wannabe’s. And creating hooks (especially from otherwise boring raw material) is an art form that needs to be developed. It’s not a skill that comes with your standard brain equipment.

Here’s some insight to how the best veteran copywriters do it, slightly edited, via the Archive Time Machine, from July ’07:Continue Reading

Cynics, Sociopaths & Garden-Variety Azzholes

Monday, 12:48pm
Reno, NV
Use all your well-learned politics, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.” (Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”)

Howdy.

Today, I’m gonna share with you one of the nastiest, yet most valuable lessons you’ll ever get in your career.

It’s all about the firestorm of conflicting personality types you’ll encounter in the Big Game O’ Biz. It took me ages to figure all this out (and get it into a simple concept that’s easily explained)… and many, many times it has saved my butt from disaster.

This is the mostly hidden part of being in business. The other fundamentals… honing your skills, dealing with technology, managing moolah… all seem to be fairly straightforward.

If only we didn’t have to deal with human beings to get through the day, everything would be just dandy.

However, sizzling underneath every interaction with another Shaved Ape lies a volcanic pit of emotional, physiological/biological, intellectual and metaphysical goo. Experienced professionals intuitively learn to negotiate this roiling obstacle, eventually… but usually can’t explain what they’re doing. They rely on a code of ethics, first, that eliminates or salvages biz relationships with the most common kinds of crooks and monsters out there.

However, waiting for the other guy to violate your code before jettisoning him from your life means you’re a punching bag while the truth about the human capacity for evil slowly dawns on you. (And most folks never really understand any of this. Which is why the neighbors of the freshly-caught serial killer always express disbelief — “He seemed like a nice guy. Always mowed his lawn. Sure, there were screams from the basement sometimes, but…”)

I studied this stuff — and figured it out — only because I was completely on my own in the early part of my career as a freelance copywriter (where I constantly dealt with new people, and needed all the insight to make quick-yet-correct decisions I could muster). I had a smidgeon of a hint, through an otherwise-worthless psychology degree I snagged in my youth…

… but the real breakthrough came because my quest to become an expert in salesmanship forced me to go deep with how people actually react to a sales pitch. This was my introduction to “street level psychology”… Continue Reading

Who Ya Got To Win The Game?

Saturday, 2:24am
Reno, NV
If you see my little red rooster, please send him home…” (Howlin’ Wolf)

Howdy…

Just a quick dispatch here to let you know all is well, and I’ll be getting back to regular blogging soon.

I got waylaid by some things, including my first serious sports injury ever: A major boo-boo in my rotator cuff. Which is a marvel of biological engineering, but nevertheless prone to problems in people who insist on abusing it over a long lifetime.

So, while it doesn’t really qualify as a Shakespearean tragedy (yet), it has still consumed a lot of my time with MRIs, x-rays, doc visits, and now long painful (“Ow! Ow! Hey, that hurts, mofo! Ow, you did it again!“) physical therapy sessions.

Stuff like that can take over your brain for a few weeks. I’m not complaining — I have too many friends with more dire health problems (and I’ve been through other surgery dramas with people close to me many, many times) that puts this in perspective.

In fact, tonight — after another round with that sadistic physical therapist (the bastard) — I’m relatively pain-free, and able to type without problem.

And I’ve got several blog posts mapped out in draft form, waiting for my attentions. (With titles like “The Sociopaths Who Are Eating Your Lunch”, and “Learning How To Brag”… really fun, and essential stuff for anyone looking to live a better life and make more moolah without guilt.)

But it’s already Superbowl weekend, so you’re gonna have to wait a little longer for a real post. I’ve got an old, cherished college pal and his son (to whom I’m kinda like an uncle) coming up for what is now our rock-solid tradition: We find the sleaziest sportsbook in downtown Reno, settle in, and enjoy the chaos and pompous nonsense of the grand game amongst the weirdest set of characters this side of a Fellini movie.

God, it’s fun. And I expect Madonna’s halftime show to rile up the geezers in the crowd (and we can only hope for a few wrestling matches between blowhards and bums as people take the game personally).Continue Reading

The Lost Art Of Rumination

Wednesday, 12:36pm
Reno, NV
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watchin’ the tide roll away…” (Otis Redding)

Howdy…

Mark, a lifelong pal of mine, lived with a girlfriend many years ago who taught us both a very devastating lesson.

At the time, Mark and I were hard-core slackers — lamely cruising through our late twenties, we took jobs without ambition to pay the rent and keep the fridge stocked with beer, and were pretty much maintaining the same lifestyles we’d had in college.

Care-free losers, if you need a label.

Susie, on the other hand, was roiling with ambition. Had a good job, with a plan to either rise quickly in that biz or seek better positions elsewhere. Her friends talked about the future a lot, and openly competed with each other over acquisitions like new cars, new clothes, expensive wine and all the grown-up Yuppie shit that sent shivers down my spine.

Cuz I was still going to clubs to see bands (and who can blame me, since it was that primo era when the Pretenders, the Police, Elvis Costello, the Jam, and Talking Heads were on their first west-coast tours)… still driving a 10-year-old decrepit Datsun truck… still dressing like I’d been shopping drunk at the Goodwill store… and still loathing the idea of “growing up”.

I knew something was wrong, of course. I was just floating on the surface of life, at the mercy of other people’s ambitions and without any goals or dreams or sense of purpose.

And I absorbed a lot of harsh criticism, both from others and from myself, for not doing anything constructive with my life.

However, looking back, I see things very differently now.Continue Reading

Cross-Cultural Exam #9: Boomer v. Xer. (With PRIZE!)

Monday, 8:28pm
Reno, NV
Just take those old records off the shelf, I’ll sit n’ listen to ‘em by myself…” (Bob Seger)

Howdy…

At the end of this post, I’ll explain how you can win a bitchin’ prize that will make you the envy of all your friends forever.

First, though — let’s learn something about marketing to humans, whadya say?

Here’s two quick “how to deal with the screaming chaos” tips for everyone in business today who’s just a tad freaked-out at the way things seem to changing so damned FAST:

Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #1: If you’re older, you need to cultivate solid relationships with younger folks who can help you understand the Zeitgeist of the dominant culture out there.  (Yes, even if you hate it.  Especially if you hate it, actually.)

And I’m not talking about having your nephew program your TV remote while you mow the lawn.

Nope.  I’m talking about entrepreneur-minded young adults, who just happen to be totally wired into the Grid…

… and can translate current trends while offering you some solid, smart perspective.

And…

Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #2: If you’re a young entrepreneur, you need to cultivate relationships with geezers who can give you some perspective on how we GOT to this current state of affairs.

Key thing to remember: Continue Reading

And a fine happy birthday to ya…

Saturday, 8:44pm
Reno, NV
They’ve all gone to look for America…” (Simon & Garfunkel)

Howdy.

I want to wish the country a happy birthday on this fine July 4th.

She’s looking not too shabby for 235 years old.  I’ve been here for a lot of those b-days, too… and here are a couple of random thoughts (before I get drowned out by fireworks):

Random Thought #1: I’m not gonna discuss politics, and I hope you have the presence of mind not to start in on it yourself in the comments.  However… as far apart as we seem today on the multitude of problems faced… I can tell you it has ever been thus.

At our very best, the country has always been like a dysfunctional family forced to co-exist at a perpetual holiday dinner.  My own family shows signs of it occasionally — somebody gets hot about some subject, voices rise, someone gets called an idiot, feelings are hurt…

… and then, minutes later, all is well and we’re laughing about some story from the family archives.  (I had uncles who couldn’t get through a game of gin rummy without throwing cards across the room and giving us kids an excellent lesson in swearing like a sailor before the aunts corralled them back into some semblance of civilized behavior again.  I miss those old farts, and a whiff of beer and cigars can take me back instantly…)Continue Reading

Thieving Bastards

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Sunday, 7:36pm
Reno, NV
A thief believes everybody steals.” (E.W. Howe)

Howdy…

For those of you bugging me about the next Quiz…

… it’s coming, it’s coming.

Soon.

Tonight, though, I’ve gotta get something off my chest.

And so, a Rant.  By little Johnny Carlton:

Ahem.

There seems to be a parasite bug infecting the brains of many marketers out there.

Let’s call this bug… “Theft“.

It’s not going away anytime soon.

In fact, the very word has been mutating for a long time now… so that what would have easily been labeled “stealing” in the bad-old pre-Web days…Continue Reading

Photo Orgy

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Thursday, 10:06pm
Reno, NV
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” (Ansel Adams)

Howdy…

I grew up in a photo-loving family.

Pop still has his trusty Kodak folding camera — a true antique now — and I cannot yet bring myself to dig through that box in the garage with all my old cameras (cuz I know it’s time to start assigning them new fates somewhere else).

I swear to you I still have a box of Polaroid film in the butter drawer of the fridge. Might even be the last batch they ever made (and R.I.P. Polaroid, dear departed friend).

Mom was the photo archivist of the family, and even as other families gravitated toward 16mm film, I retained a purist’s preference for the snapshot over the home movie.

(Side note: I remember meeting someone 20 years ago who mentioned that they were on video from the moment of their birth, and it was unsettling.

Now, it’s rare to meet anyone under the age of 30 who isn’t cataloged on film through their entire childhood. I can’t even imagine watching myself being born. I have a hard time watching old seminar footage of me from ten years ago, for cryin’ out loud.

Anyone out there hauling around a library of self-referenced film with them? What’s it like?)

I believe I fell in love with photography the moment I saw my first photograph… and realized it was actually a moment in time captured forever.

And I formed some very intense ideas about what makes a “good” photograph as a third-grader thumbing through the still-amazing stack of Nazi photos Pop brought home from his stint as a rifleman during WWII.

(There’s no way to tell for sure, but those two dozen shots seem to be a German officer’s front-line cache of “Here’s what I did during the War” snapshots. Fascinating subject material that forced us to imagine what the story actually was behind those uniformed men… especially the one with the open bullet wound in the dorsal lat.)

As I grew up, I would become captivated by very few photos in the piles coming back from the drugstore of family and friends and pets and outings.

I never questioned why I found those few snapshots so iconic.

Later, one of my first jobs in advertising was overseeing the photography for a computer supply catalog every quarter.

That job meant gathering all the equipment (cables, monitors, furniture, floppies, etc) and spending a week or so with a professional photographer in Palo Alto trying to make plastic crap look good.

(I won’t bore you with the hassle that pre-digital photography presented — the need to refrigerate film, manually load it, and nurture it like a fragile duck egg until it could be color-separated and made “camera-ready”, which means ready for the printer to fuss with during the offset process of applying wave after wave of ink until the correct color was achieved.)

(Okay, sorry, I think I just bored you there.)

Anyway… I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography (like using mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream, cuz the real treat wouldn’t survive under the required hot lights for a good shot).

Pro photographers in the ad field earned big bucks. They knew the voodoo.

But you know what?Continue Reading


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