Category Archives: storytelling

The Big Damn Potpourri O’ Good Stuff

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Tuesday, 2:42pm
Reno, NV
“What you want, baby, I got it…” (Respect, Otis Redding)

Howdy…

I’m not bragging here (okay, maybe just a little)…

… but I’ve been maxed out with “friends” on Facebook for years now. That’s because ol’ Zuckerberg sets a limit of 5,000 of your closest BFFs for your personal page, for the very simple reason that…

… well, okay, there isn’t any good reason for it. But FB is Zuck’s playground, and we’re just hogging the swing set on it.

However, you can always “follow” me on FB, and get most of the same privileges that “friends” do. Yes, it’s just that confusing — why even set up these arbitrary definitions if there isn’t much difference in the stratification? I will never understand the uber-geeks running things. (There are currently over 4,600 followers on my page, so you’d have lots of company.)

Anyway…

… I occasionally get a note from someone who isn’t on Facebook (and who in the sane world isn’t wasting time on this amazing slice of Internet hell regularly?)…

… who wants to know why they keep hearing about all this wonderful posting I do there.

I admit it — I tend to write some truly awesome crap on the site. Stuff that, in a universe without FB, would be here, on the blog.

So, to keep things even, I’ve collected a little “Best Of” stew here for you. The better posts I’ve shared recently — or at least the ones that garnered the biggest load of comments and shares and likes. That’s how they measure quality over in Zuck-Land.

Thus, you can consider yourself caught up. Though, I still suggest you go sign up to follow me, anyway. There’s always more on the way.

Enjoy:

Skill Tip #47: Don’t start reading your next biz book until you’ve put at least one thing into action from the last book.
Idea junkies seldom develop actual skills. Don’t be that guy. Read, act, repeat.
There are only a handful of fundamental ideas required to succeed in biz. Putting those ideas into action requires skills, which you master through real-world application.
Movement beats “coulda, woulda, shoulda” excuses every time…

Professional Advice You’ll Hate: You can never have enough idiots in your life.
Seriously. The smarter you are, the smarter your close circle of friends will be… and the further removed from the reality of the marketplace out there you will hover. And labor to understand.
I’m not suggesting most people are idiots. I’m TELLING you most people are idiots. Or, at the very least, have idiotic moments in their quest for more money, a better life, a nicer house, whatever goal brought them into your world.
Even the guys in orange at Home Depot have their opinion of the quality of the human race’s intellect dramatically lowered after a few days on the job. Your doctor thinks you’re an idiot. The clerk at the grocery store (who had to run to replace the carton of eggs YOU broke in the cart) thinks you’re an idiot.
And you know what? We’re ALL idiots on this bus. At times, anyway.
You cannot be a great marketer or writer if you’re isolated from the broad spectrum of idiocy out there. I once hauled a wannabe movie director to the mall, and had him just sit there and people watch. He laughed at the goofy hair styles and clothes, got bored and irritated at the scrawling babies, recoiled at the trail of food left by folks munching as they walked… and kept asking why we were there. “Because these people are your audience,” I told him, finally.
Startled him. He’d been making movies aimed at his classmates at USC film school. No, no, no.
Not those idiots. The OTHER idiots out there. That’s your audience.
Anyway, sorry if I harshed your idealism about the inherent dignity of humans. But you can’t pretend that bullshit is true as a marketer, if you wanna be successful.
Reality bites, indeed. But it’s where the real action is…

Wisdom To Ignore: I never wanted to become some kind of possessionless monk, but the Zen ideas of “letting go” have always appealed to me. Modified for how I actually move best in the world.
What you think you own, actually owns you. There really is joy in giving up the bullshit in life, and keeping things simple and essential. (And yes, you KNOW what the bullshit is in your life.) For years, my banker’s box of “stuff I cared enough about to haul around even when I was living in my car” was a tidy little time capsule of my life up to that point — essential, because the writings, photos and keepsakes really were irreplaceable. And that box grew exponentially along with my success.
Now, we’re talking about multiple storage units.
Which was fine, until recently when it’s not fine anymore. Life doesn’t go in a straight line — there are side trips, deep holes, soaring mountains, and long stretches of desert along the way, and you have to forgive yourself for straying and screwing up and not handling adversity well all the time.
That’s what mid-life crises are for. Stop, rethink things, try some new shit, make some changes. Radical or small, doesn’t matter — the point is that it’s your life, the only one you’ve got a ticket for. When you’re fortunate enough to have someone special enough to come along with you — or you have little ones dependent on you for a while — you adjust. It’s NEVER just about you.
But you’re still the star, the hero, the main character in your movie… and, to a large degree, the director, writer and producer. And you can change the script a lot more than you probably believe possible. Until you try, you cannot imagine the actual power you have over what happens to you.
Modern humans are plagued with unhappiness that possessions and moolah does not fix. And there isn’t such a thing as “lasting happiness”, not really — you have today, and maybe some input over the next short period of time. How you operate, and feel, and move in this limited time frame IS your life. And it all will pass, and change, and morph in ways you can’t predict.
Your script should focus on the things you can do now. And embrace the happiness available to you now… because down the line, the universe has the weirdest shit waiting for you. Count on it.
Live the adventure that is your life. Be kind, take your responsibilities seriously, but claim this biological clump that is you, FOR you.
You don’t have to listen to this strange advice. But I’m telling you (and I’ve been around the block many, many times)… traveling light, seizing the day, and letting go of the bullshit is the only way to go.
Hope you’re enjoying these first days of summer…

Looking for something truly trashy and titillating to read on summer vacation?
Well, stop the search. My book, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“, is just the ticket.
By the pool, on the beach, nursing a hangover in the hotel room… it’s the perfect summer read for the guy who wants to finally kick his boring old life to the gutter, and get started fresh with all the mojo required for massive, almost-embarrassingly-good success.
I think it was also voted “the number one book to be stolen by jealous jerk wads when you leave it on your towel to go pee in the ocean”. Yeah, pretty sure it won that award last summer, hands down.
So don’t get left out! Grab a copy now, while trees still exist (or while the pixels on your virtual reader are still buzzing)…

Gear IQ Test: I have a great shortcut to determine if a kid is destined for working with tools and stuff, or is better tilted toward the creative life. Give him a pencil and paper, and ask him to draw a funny face. Then have him open and then close a short folding step ladder.
I’ve probably tried to either open or close a folding step ladder a thousand times in my life. Never got it right once, without bashing my shins against it, or getting an important part of my body pinched. It is a great, joyous victory when I finally defeat the evil engineering nightmare and can actually use, or put away, the damn thing.
On the other hand, I was a whiz with drawing from my early crayon days forward. And, as a graphic artist (back in my 20s), I got so good with an Xacto knife that I could cut cleanly through a page in the phonebook, WITHOUT scoring the page underneath it.
Okay, you don’t even know what a fucking phone book is, do you. Just think of the thinnest possible paper in existence. Try using a blade to cut through one sheet, without touching the sheet it’s laying on top of. Not just hard — it’s really, really, really surgical-hard. The point is, I got really good with detailed creative stuff.
If I’d been given such a test early on, it would have saved me a ton of grief in the “get a job” phases of my life. But I wouldn’t have all those stories of pissed-off bosses firing my ass, either, I guess. I mean, it takes some world-class fucking up to get fired from a dishwasher position.
So, everything worked out, I guess, after a few decades. Still can’t figure out the damn folding step ladder thing. And collapsible ironing boards. And fixing faucets.
Damn. I’m lucky I eventually found something I could squeak out a living at…

Psych Insight #12(c): Nobody’s got it all figured out.
There’s a major kink in our human operating system (which comes with no manual, btw) that allows us to believe (for brief periods) that we got this existence thang nailed. Then reality intrudes (and yes, the universe does have a very twisted sense of humor) and you realize that what you thought was competence was really just the product of hiding from your consciousness all the uncomfortable crap you hate dealing with.
We’re juggling emotional, intellectual, physical and metaphysical balls every moment we breathe and — again — nobody’s got it all figured out.
If you crave leadership, look for reluctant leaders. If you crave an audience who will buy from you, look for people having the same internal conversations you’re having.

Monday Warning Quarterback #1: I love this quote by Oscar Wilde: “Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” It applies to other things, too… like knowledge.
In life, love and biz, you’ll encounter folks who are well-read, clever and quick with opinions… yet lack the most essential ingredient for good advice: Experience. They’re bursting with common sense that ain’t, specific plans untested in the real world, and theories free of the bothersome complexities of how things actually work.
Some of the most blunder-prone marketers I’ve known had library shelves sagging with books and courses (and ticket stubs from seminars up the yin-yang). The missing ingredient was an inability to “grok” anything — to understand how the lessons applied to their own behavior as they went after goals. They’re like doughy, bloated couch-potatoes who watch every exercise show on the tube — they “know” what to do, but never DO it… and thus, are no help whatsoever for anyone actually hitting the gym to workout.
Beware the clean-handed man advising you on gardening.

Americans have a gruesome love/hate relationship with stress. We say we hate it, but a space alien observing our daily behavior would have to assume we actually love stress…
… cuz we seek it out, gather it in, and never let it go.
Pretty schizophrenic, but very typical of how humans operate. Nobody sane ever said we’re rational beings.
Here’s a nice little zen mind trick: You have 20 things to do today. You’re freaked out with stress trying to get it all done.
So… how would you go about accomplishing everything if you WEREN’T stressed out? Imagine tackling each task calmly, doing the best you can, finishing and moving to the next task. No stress. Just head down, move forward, be productive.
It’s doubtful you’d get worse results than doing this in your normal hair-on-fire mode. And you might even get BETTER results.
It’s happened before.
So what productive job does stress do in this case?
Nothing. Except raise your BP, dump toxic hormones into your system, and fritz-out neurons.
Thus, stress is a choice. You’ve decided, on some fucked-up level, to approach your day freaked out, rather than calmly. Why?
Who cares? Bad training, bad habits, faulty wiring… it doesn’t matter.
Look — for decades now, I’ve climbed up on stages in front of vast snarling mobs of audiences, armed with nothing but a handful of notes and maybe a PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes I have a planned speech, sometimes I just wing it (like when I do hot seats, spontaneously picking people from the crowd).
Most folks list public speaking as their #1 fear. They wake up screaming at night, just imagining having to do it. And I could be freaked, too — but I’d have to choose to do so. I’m calm, and feel pretty much at home on stage, cuz I don’t give a flying fuck what people think of me, or how I do. Win, lose or draw, I’ll have a story to tell, a lesson to learn, and another experience under my belt.
Being stressed over any of it is counterproductive. It’s just a dumb choice to make.
So, just consider your own case. Stressed or calm, you’ve got the same tasks ahead of you today.
Why not enjoy the ride, and take the adventures and misadventures as they come, rather than awfulizing things and dreading the near future.
Make your choices, move forward, and leave the stress to the rookies.
Zen out, man.

Pro Hint #40: Because customer service isn’t “sexy” (in the way a hot new tech fad is), biz owners tend to starve it over time in budgets. (See: Gateway computers, then Dell computers, every cable tv joint in existence, and probably the once-good contractor who fucked up your plumbing.)
Huge freakin’ mistake.
A basic (and mostly ignored) rule of biz: A sale saved, is EQUAL to a new sale made.
Or, as the poker players say, “folding a great hand, when you would have lost, is like winning a small pot”. It’s a little hard to wrap your brain around the idea of expending effort to KEEP money, when your primary focus is mostly on bringing in new money. But it’s exactly what the pro’s do.
You SHOULD have a certain amount of customers asking for a refund, in any biz endeavor. A zero rate means you’re just not marketing aggressively enough, playing it too safe. But a too-high rate means, probably, that your customer service sucks.
People routinely rave about the customer service in the Simple Writing System. Real humans respond real fast, with real knowledge of your situation (meaning: They actually read your complaint). And they have real solutions available (including parting ways, but remaining friendly).
But it’s not just the coaching program (where real pro copywriters guide you through the process of learning how to create killer ads). Our entire biz revolves around customer service — first, providing astonishing value… and then, making sure every customer is taken care of, even on small-ticket buys.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain old human caring.
You know — everything you’re not getting from the majority of the businesses you deal with today.

Deep In The Language Files, Part 37a: Most entrepreneurs struggle to find their “voice” when writing copy for ads, VSLs, webpages, emails, and everything else.
They often resort to “sounding” like a former English teacher (who may have beat them during class), or how they imagine a “smart” person might write.
This sucks, if you want your marketing to work.
Much better to embrace the language that has provided you with so much — cuz whatever you said to your main squeeze, got ’em to give up resisting and marry your sorry ass… and your garbled messages still nailed you that job or career or gig… and you somehow manage to make your point (eventually) when arguing with your drunk uncles around the holidays.
Where would you be without language? Nowheresville, that’s where. Nothing that you enjoy, or thrive from, or rely on for a good life would exist.
So stop treating your Mother Tongue like it’s an ape that just sauntered into your living room and shat on the couch.
Using language is how you find prospects. How you sell them, and nurture their customership, and resell them, and get the book written (which expands your lovable nonsense worldwide), and do everything else that makes life better for you and yours.
I’ve always said that great salesmen lead better lives. Part of the reason is that they’re reality-based — they don’t give a rat’s ass about theory, or how you think the world should work. They care about how things actually get done.
And a big part of that is realizing how important language is to everything you want to accomplish.
So drop the stilted blabber already. The BEST kind of sales writing is a good mix of proper English, hefty doses of slang and insider jargon, mixed with personality and honest empathy.
There’s no second best way to market anything.
How do you find a new “voice”, when all you’ve been able to manage so far sounds like some robot with a wrench up it’s butt?
You read, first of all. Fiction, history, good authors, bad authors, letters-to-the-editor (and all the troll-laden comment sections you can stomach), emails from marketers fighting against stiff competition, magazines, graffiti, song lyrics, ads… everything around you.
Then, you listen. I know, I know, this is soooooo hard to do, cuz you’d rather talk. You’re so witty and everything, and everyone else is so booooooooooring.
It’s freaking excruciating to have to sit there and let them blather on and on, when you’ve got such a GREAT point to make. And you’re not hearing what they’re saying, anyway, cuz it ain’t you talking, is it.
Just stop. You can resume dominating every conversation AFTER you’ve made your imprint on the biz world. For now, listen. Hear the patoi of those around you, the way some folks speak in a sing-song melody, the way others stumble to say even the simple shit, the way most never find the right word, or get tongue-tied when trying to make a complex point.
Listen to the good orators, too. To Alex Jennings smoothly conquer twenty different languages in a session of Jeopardy. To your one drunk uncle who can tell a riveting story. To your pals who can’t shut up, and to your pals who rarely say anything.
Language is all around you, every minute of every day. When you’re alone, there’s a voice in your head droning on and on. When you’re racing through an airport, a thousand conversations hum in the clutches of people you’re bumping aside. When you’re in the theater trying to watch the movie, the idiots behind you are commenting on the plot just like they do at home.
Listen. Hear.
And keep a notebook with you. Write down phrases you like, words you don’t know (and need to look up), make notes on who won what argument, and how…
… and just allow yourself to fall in love with language again. You did love it, once, when you were little and unable to communicate one day, and a little chatterbox the next. And things started happening. You were able to ask for what you wanted, argue your side, tell long aimless stories, talk to your toys, to invisible monsters, to everyone and everything around you.
And it was cool as shit, too. You loved adding new words to your arsenal, swooned when you convinced Mom to give you ice cream (just cuz), swelled with pride when your little gang decided to follow you off on some harebrained adventure because you’d made them believe it would be fun.
And then you learned to lie to Mom about why Jimmy was trapped down the well. Why you were late for supper. Where you were going with Susie Q (hint: Not the drive-in, like you said.) Why your grades sucked. Where you were the last two months, never calling, not even a postcard…
And then you stopped listening, stopped caring about what a doofus you sound like when you try to make a point, stopped working on the one skill with the power to place you amongst the more awesome humans on the planet.
You gotta turn this around.
Language kicks ass. It’s what separates us from all other animals. It’s why our neocortex evolved to the size of a small casaba melon, and it’s why you haven’t starved to death yet.
Give it respect.
Give it love.
And get off it’s lawn. It’s old, and has no time for you if you’re not gonna nurture a real relationship with it…

My colleague Kevin Rogers tells me a trusted health expert sez that people under stress should increase their veggie intake dramatically.
As in, normal vegetable servings per day are, what, 5 for an adult. Stuff a handful of spinach in your yap, chew on some carrots and broccoli, work some lettuce and beans in there during the day. Most of us utterly fail at even this light task, by the way.
But when you’re freaked out — deadline, zombie attack, argument with the ball-n’-chain, identify theft, cops surrounding your house, whatever — you need up to THIRTEEN servings of veggies to battle all that evil cortisol and adrenaline you’re dumping into your system.
You ain’t noshing at the fridge at this point — you’ve sat your ass down in the veggie aisle at Safeway and gorged on everything within reach. Soaking up the toxic wasteland in your tubes with greens and roots.
I’d never heard this advice before. I’m gonna check it out, cuz it has the ring of validity. I’ve gone through years of limiting meat and finding my protein sources elsewhere… and I may have intuitively been keeping stress at bay this way. By accident.
Any of you have info or insight to this theory of veggies dousing out the cortisol fire in your gut?
I SO want this to be true. Easy, natural, no pills, proactive.
Still, I’d enjoy seeing some proof, not just anecdotes…

Not saying I endorse this…
… but, jeez, you gotta respect Homer’s life philosophy. Sometimes, the dude just resonates…
“All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me… so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.” Homer Simpson

And there you have it. Your basic steaming pile of Carlton rants, blurbs, info, advice and blatherings. Some brilliant, some not-so-much.

But it’s fun, right? And laden with real insight and advice you can actually use.

So, you’re welcome. I hope you’ve been inspired to come join us on my FB page.

Hope you have a great July 4th.

Stay frosty,

John

Your Hot New Skill At Writing Killer Ads Starts Here… Right Now…

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Tuesday, 2:08 a.m.
Reno, NV
Is there gas in the car? Yeah, there’s gas in the car…” (Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne”)

Howdy…

Those of you in the loop know we’re re-launching the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again… starting with the free “Express Course” first lesson all this week. (Go here to jump in on that killer experience.)

We rarely offer this hand-holding, personalized, one-on-one mentoring (by coaches who are also successful copywriters). The last session was a year ago.

No idea when another session will come around… if it even does.

We take this one program at a time. It’s notorious among marketing insiders, because of how effectively we’re able to transform almost anyone into a sales-message-producing machine… quickly and efficiently. (Literally thousands have been through the system already.) It’s life-changing, and business-changing mojo…

… and that’s why the top marketers in the game have demanded that the folks in their organization responsible for marketing TAKE this course.

The personalized coaching in the SWS is extremely interactive. Perfect for anyone who knows that hands-on mentoring is the best way to learn the simplest possible system (crammed with short-cuts) for creating all the sales messages needed for a profitable business…

… including all your ads, websites, video scripts, emails, AdWords, blogs and other social media broadsides…

… everything that pumps eager prospects into your Sales Funnel.

So you can close the heck out them. And get filthy rich and deliriously happy, and become the most successful entrepreneur or biz owner possible… because without killer, persuasive copy, you’re not going to find, nor close very many prospects.

Most marketers wander through the wasteland of Bad Business Practices their entire career…

… and never figure out how to SELL anything.

So, no matter how totally hot and good and righteous your product or service might be…

… you still struggle. Or go under.

ALL the top marketers you know about, online and offline, know how to write their own sales messages.

And when it’s really, really, really freaking important that it gets done right…

… they almost always actually DO it themselves.

Now, yeah, sure, they also hire out some of the writing, too. But not because they are clueless about what needs to go into a killer sales message.

No way.

In fact, the top guys are the WORST clients a freelancer can have. Because you can’t bullshit them. They know EXACTLY what a good ad looks like.

The really good marketers are armed to the teeth with salesmanship chops. A freelance copywriter cannot lollygag around with those guys, or he’ll get thrown to the dogs. He’s got to deliver the best work possible, because the client who understands what great ad copy looks like will not accept mediocre crap.

You know what the BEST client is for a freelance copywriter?

It’s the fool who hasn’t got Clue One about what goes into a decent sales message.

The freelancer can toss off the laziest piece of garbage possible… something that barely resembles advertising… and still collect his fee.

And when it fails and dies a horrible death? Well, who’s to say why it happened.

The clueless client sure doesn’t know.

And consider this: Say you somehow manage to hire the most promising copywriter in the universe to come work for you.

Exclusively. He becomes a member of your team. And you teach him all the secrets of your biz, right down to the specs of your product.

I’ve seen this soap opera go down often.

Here’s how it plays out: Once that brilliant young writer gets some experience with you… and learns all your secrets…

… yep. He leaves.

And either starts working for the competition…

… or BECOMES your competition.

And let’s see. Hmmm. You had the biz first. It was your baby. Your product.

But he knows how to create the sales messages that sell it. And you just taught him all your secrets.

Who do you think wins in that match-up?

People… you MUST learn how to create a decent sales message, if you are to survive and prosper in business today.

Otherwise… you’re toast.

And this is why we’re hauling out the Simple Writing System personalized, one-on-one coaching program again. The very deep, yet easily-understood online quick-learning program where recognized, veteran, professional copywriting experts personally coach you through the SWS. Which will finally trick your brain into being able to create killer, persuasive ads and marketing materials…

… whenever you need them.

Is this program for you?

Here’s a simple way to find out: Go here and watch this FREE video. (It’s just me on the video, explaining the details of the Simple Writing System, plus the beginning FREE lessons to you, and it’s not outrageously long. Just the facts.)

This first video (and the couple that follow) is a great “first taste” of what’s in store for you when you follow through. And, these first videos are free. My gift to you — real, honest, simple tactics you can use immediately to create your first killer ad. All on your lonesome, just with a little coaching from me.

Big Bonus: I’ve corralled my closest colleagues into helping out, too… which means you could get personal, interactive feedback from A-List writers like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, Jim Curley, David Deutsch and others. For FREE. Just by jumping on this opportunity. (A point I can’t make enough: The last time we offered this was a year ago… and before that, several years passed without offering it at all. This is a very RARE opportunity… and it’ll pass quickly.)

Soon — if you join us — you’ll get the full story… how you can go through the ENTIRE program at your own pace, on your own schedule… and have a veteran copywriter watching your back the entire way, with personal advice and coaching. And no one is “too busy” to take this course right now — jettisoning a single TV program you watch each week, for a few weeks, is more than enough “found time” to do everything.

And when you come out the other side of this coaching… you’ll have finally learned how to create, from scratch, all the ads and marketing materials you will ever need. The stuff that sells, and pumps up your bottom line, and brings you massive success on a silver platter.

Are you ready for a ride that can change your life forever?

We’re gunning the engine, holding the door open for you…

… but you gotta take that first step on your own. Start here.

C’mon.

It’s more fun around crazy writers who know how teach you the secrets of excellent salesmanship…

… and it’s time you got started on your exciting new life, isn’t it?

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. I almost forgot…

… you can only watch this video for the next week or so.

This new SWS sessions starts very soon. (No, you do not need to “plan” or “prepare” to get involved — you can really can go through the entire program in your spare time, at your own pace… and still get all the personalized coaching from your teacher you need.)

So you need to get over here now… while we’re still accepting students.

I have no idea if we’ll offer another SWS session ever again. It’s been over a year since the last one — it is VERY hard to corral top writers like this.

So take nothing for granted here. Go watch my video now…

That’s Not Funny, Part One

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Wednesday, 8:59 pm
Reno, NV
What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” (Nick Lowe)

Howdy…

One of the first things you hear, when you’re learning about fundamental copywriting and ad creation…

… is to avoid humor like the plague. The great David Ogilvy said “People do not buy from clowns.” This pre-dated Jack-In-The-Box’s latest commercial model (where they’re so obviously going after the stoner market with late-night “Munchie Meal” take-out boxes that it’s funny on multiple levels)…

… yet, overall, most high-end marketers still agree with it.

Even the funniest copywriters I know (and let me assure you that many of the best bust-your-gut-laughing humans alive are, indeed, copywriters) (weirdo bunch, totally) almost never insert humor into their sales copy. Almost. Occasionally, when it’s absolutely safe (like writing to your own house list, full of folks proven to have the EXACT same sense of humor you have, right down to the Animal House reruns and Adult Swim shows you all watch)… they may go off the reservation and aim for making readers spit up their morning coffee over an email.

But it’s rare. More likely, the funny-guy guru’s you follow have a “meta-text personality” that includes some risky guffaw moments here and there, just to position them in their market as too-cool-for-school (and thus intellectually superior to their competition)…

… which they’ll jettison at the point of closing any sale.

Cuz money is serious biz. And most buyers (not looky-loo’s, but buyers) aren’t keen on being the butt of a joke, and tend to distrust salesmen who seem a bit too… funny. (Even the word “funny” means both being humorous, and also being weird, brain-damaged and untrustworthy.)

Now, I’m a fairly humorous fella. (And any brain damage I’ve sustained is all better now.) I’ve made a colleague snort coffee through their nose as recently as… well, yesterday, on the phone. Other writers collect my private emails, and read them to family and friends. (Part of that may be a self-defense strategy against their spouse’s assessment of a life in advertising as being “boring”.) I’ve also caused entire ballrooms to laugh so hard, some attendees almost wet themselves. And I’ve even used “okay, you got me” sarcasm to get my point across to a reluctant client during consulting.

Of all the things I value the most in life… laughter and humor rank in the top five. (Just below sex, In ‘N Out hamburgers, craft IPA beer, and the NBA.) (Oh, and my Jack Russell terrorist dog. Sorry, girl. Almost forgot you…) (And my ’64 Stratocaster. And Turner Classic Movies. And…)

Okay, whatever. It ranks high, anyway. It’s a big part of who I am, and what I bring to the table as a friend, colleague, writer and consultant.

And yet, when a sales process gets down to the shorthairs…

… I’m as serious as a mortician.

Losing a sale because you screwed around is NOT funny. It is, rather, a fucking tragedy.

So all the top writers I know have a strict rule against tickling the funny bone of a prospect… at least, when things get to “that point”.

However, we also really, really, really want to find exceptions to this rule. We figure there’s GOT to be an exception, somewhere.

Which means we’ve all become minor experts on the topic of humor. Because, it turns out, while everyone believes they own a “great” sense of humor… the truth is, few (if any) civilians understand humor at all.

So, I thought I’d share some of the research I (and some of my colleagues) (including writers like Kevin Rogers, who spent a decade as a stand-up comic before getting into advertising) have dug up…

… in no particular order…

… just as a starter guide to why we mostly don’t (but sometimes do) use humor in our marketing:

The Joke’s On Us #1: In the last few decades, Ivy League universities have started studying humor, trying to get a baseline understanding of what’s funny to most people, and why.

And their first biggest discovery was that many people have no sense of humor at all. None.

However, while these funny-challenged folks have no idea why you’re bent over laughing at a certain joke or situation…

… they are often very astute to the social cues of humor, and will be holding their bellies right along with you, laughing out loud.

They’re faking it. Or, more precisely, they wait a beat after observing other people laughing, and join in as a social “bonding” routine. They’re supporting the good vibes that mass laughter brings to any social setting… kinda like nodding in agreement, or applauding.

Researchers figured this out by tricking people in studies — seeding a small crowd with actors who laughed on cue at non-funny things, and recording the actions of study participants. Folks with actual senses of humor would smile in a bewildered way, wondering why they weren’t getting the joke. But the fakers had no such objective judgments — the crowd laughed, so they laughed, too.

Reading about these findings blew my mind. I’d suspected something like this was going on, because I had friends who laughed a bit too hard, or who seemed to mainly use loud guffaws as a way to show dominance in a conversation. So I did some of my own testing, watching closely when fakers actually began laughing (a beat behind everyone else).

If you ask, most people will say they have a great sense of humor. Insider their world, they do. Whatever they find funny (or socially acceptable to laugh at, as a bonding process) is what’s funny. This is how humans operate. All measurements of behavior begin with what you’re doing as the universal standard for normal, or moral, or just “the right way”… and if others don’t agree, then they’re just wrong.

Marketer’s Insight: While no one is sure what percentage of the population is actually humor-challenged, it IS a large chunk of your fellow citizens. So when you’re creating marketing aimed at a large group of prospects, you cannot assume that ANY of them will grok your sense of humor.

Just like half or more will reject your politics (and yes, I know you have a superior understanding of politics to everyone else on the planet). And your religious views.

The rule in bars is “no talking about politics or religion”… because it leads to fights.

For marketers, you can add “no funny stuff” to that list. You simply cannot predict what any list will find funny, or not find funny, or be offended or baffled.

The Joke’s On Us #2: One of the first challenges the researchers found was agreeing on how to “measure” what’s funny.

Turns out it’s not a simple thing at all. In fact, the commercial uses of humor is relatively recent — the stand-up comic was invented during vaudeville, which required between-act ring-leaders to keep the audience happy. Shakespeare and Mozart and other post-Enlightenment entertainers made liberal use of what we now call slap-stick (the term literally refers to Medieval clowns using a paddle on each other) and “low brow” humor to delight certain audiences… and more intellectual mockery and sarcasm to make the sophisticated elites titter.

So the people creating entertainment, or trying to influence public opinion or sway a vote, might know how to get a response… but it was an inexact science. Making one part of the audience laugh might offend another part.

The researchers have gotten lost in the weeds trying to define humor. (Some studies have claimed to be able to determine your socio-economic status by what you laugh at, in fact. Fart jokes and pratfalls for the working class, existential stories based on willful misinterpretations of esoteric knowledge for the elites.) (The flaw in this kind of study, of course, is that semi-illiterate yahoo entrepreneur’s can make buckets of moolah with a good biz, and over-educated snobs may be dead-broke slackers.)

It’s gonna take a while for researchers to get it all straight (if they ever do).

The thing is, humor is complicated.

But it’s also a major element of business and social life, so thinking critically about it gives you an edge.

Here’s how I’ve broken it down (through a long life of observing):

  • There are two basic “professional” uses of humor (in biz settings) — as a weapon to establish a better status position… or as a bonding tool (which can be an innocent way of forming friendships, which may later become alliances). All of my close longtime friends have wicked senses of humor, for example. Others who I consider good people, but whose funny-bone isn’t so funny to me, never penetrate the Inner Circle. This has not been done consciously — it’s just the way things sift out. But it’s very interesting to note, isn’t it?
  • The weaponized use of humor employs mockery, sarcasm, and crude jokes that seek to identify “winners” and “losers” (or “The Other”). It’s very risky when you don’t know your audience (and that political or racist joke falls flat), but it can be nastily effective when dealing with the home crowd (so your insinuation that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals goes over big in Boston every time). (It’s true, by the way, that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals, but that’s another issue.)
  • There are a few broad divisions in the way humor is used that matter to marketers. The first is shock vs. bonding — you get a laugh by purposely violating some social norm (which can delight or offend, depending on your audience)… or you cozy up to everyone’s comfort zone, and we all laugh while agreeing on what’s being discussed. Do not try to use shock humor unless you are very, very experienced with it. Backfires are common. On the other hand, mild bonding humor can go a long way to establishing relationships… or bore the bejesus out of everyone.
  • The second main division is wit vs. jokes. Have you ever been with a group of folks who just toss zingers at each other, piling up the wit like stacking wood? It’s a joy to behold, if you’re witty. There is no preparation beforehand — you’ve got to live by your ability to quickly counter, support or twist whatever is said. It’s freeform funny conversation… which is the opposite of telling memorized jokes. Someone with an arsenal of jokes can quickly take over a conversation (often with the support of the less witty folks who prefer a more stable environment). I’ve seen many high-flying conversations completely gutted by a series of jokes (which require, by design, that everyone remain quiet and respectful while the joke is told).
  • Don’t get me wrong — I like jokes. But I have none memorized, because I prefer free-form wit. I used to know a lot of jokes, though — so many that a couple of friends and I can simply smile at each other and mention a portion of the punch line (not even the whole line), say “Joke number 37”, and get the SAME laugh that telling the entire joke would have generated. (Example: “Well, maybe it’s not like a river…”. Funny, right?)

Marketer’s Insight: Just understanding the fundamentals of how humor is delivered and consumed can help you immensely. If you’re not a witty dude, don’t try to fake it. You can’t. If you like jokes, go ahead and memorize some… and use them when you’re in a situation where everyone is yukking it up over memorized jokes.

But consider the audience, always. Don’t shock when it will offend. Never assume your audience shares your religious or political views (and triple-check your perception of this before wandering down the very dark alley of potentially-offensive jokes). And it’s fine to just be part of the audience, to laugh and enjoy the wit or the prepared humor — you’re actually bonding with your supporting laughter.

Quick Story: A well-known colleague of mine — a really nice guy, liked by everyone, and a killer marketer — once took me aside and asked how he could develop a more interesting personality. He was lost in witty conversations, had no jokes memorized, and didn’t understand why some folks found some stuff so fucking funny.

I took the challenge, and with my pal Kevin Rogers (the former stand-up-turned-copywriter), we gave him a list of things that might help (which included watching George Carlin routines critically — figuring out how each story unwound, and when the laugh points popped up… memorizing a handful of jokes from the Playboy jokes page and also from Reader’s Digest — so he had something a tad ribald, and something very middle-of-the-road… and critically reading witty authors like P.J. O’Rourke or Molly Ivins — one conservative, one liberal.)

It didn’t work. I know you can develop real wit, because I’ve progressed myself from a joke-telling kid (sharing stuff from Mad magazine or jokes my drunk uncles used to shock the aunts), to a rookie good conversationalist, to a high-end witty dude who can hold his own in any crowd. On any subject.

But I think you need to start with a basis sense of humor… which we’ve discovered is not default equipment with all humans.

Still, by all means, learn how to tell a joke properly. Find them written out, and memorize them, right down to the exact words used. It’s like memorizing scripted lines for a play. Some advanced actors may wing it occasionally… but if you can’t do that, don’t wreck the scene by trying. Study the process, if it interests you, but otherwise just follow the path already laid out.

Another Quick Story: Gary Halbert and I loved to mess with each other’s minds on stage at seminars. The ultimate prize was getting the other guy to lose his cool by laughing too hard to speak (or come back with a wittier line). Spitting coffee through your nose was a bonus point.

We’d get vicious, too… using insults, practical jokes, rumors, everything was fair play. It kept us loose and happy during long weekends of Hot Seats.

But it also taught us a good lesson in the limits of humor. During one break, Gary and I were chatting at the side of the stage… and an attendee walked up and leveled a gross, tasteless insult my way. Then he laughed heartily. In his mind, he was inserting himself in the Inner Circle — he’d thought, “Hey, I’m a funny guy, too”, and figured insulting me was an easy way to get special attention.

Cuz, you know, Gary and I were so vicious with each other.

It doesn’t work that way, of course. Neither Gary nor I laughed. We just stared at the guy until he slinked away, humiliated.

Hey — I can call my friend a fuckhead and get away with it. Because that’s how we roll.

But YOU call him a fuckhead, and I’m in your face in a heartbeat. You’re not allowed that privilege.

If you have to ask whether you’re in the Inner Circle or not… you’re not in it. This is pretty much universal in human experience. You can loudly berate your bowling buddies and get a laugh back… but that goofy yahoo on the other team says the same thing, and them’s fighting words.

It’s stunning how often people don’t grok how this simple social paradigm works. And it can ruin business situations for you, handled poorly.

Just a word to the wise…

The Joke’s On Us #3: Finally, for this primer on the subject, never underestimate how much some people value humor…

… while an equal number are threatened by it.

Look critically at long Facebook threads for evidence. You’ll find in-jokes that you cannot possibly understand, because you’re aren’t privy to the back story. You’ll find other people gleefully trying to keep up with the witty back-and-forth’s, who miss the point entirely. (You can get real-world examples of how different people find different stuff funny… and keep in mind the research claiming to predict status by what you laugh at.)

And you’ll find many examples of people trying desperately to disrupt funny threads. Every time someone inserts comments like “First-world problems”, they’re trying to kill the conversation. Ask yourself why they’d want to do that. Often, it’s simply being uncomfortable with the discussion, and yet feeling desperate to comment. Just as often, though, it’s a crude attempt to establish dominance. (It’s the same with comments like “Bang! for the win”, which attempts to control through judgment.)

I consider these kinds of disruption offensive, because they can murder a good thread. Hard to continue laughing about some modern situation when reminded that kids are starving in India. It’s Debbie Downer on steroids.

It’s the same with sarcasm. Shielding cynical comments by claiming “you’re just joking” is a blatant cop-out, and a failure to take responsibility for the consequences of your statements. It works, unfortunately, in politics and personal grievance. “Can’t you take a joke” is the icing on the insult.

Humor evolves on a society-wide level. What was hilarious a decade ago in a movie is now a cringe-inducing example of obliviousness. Outside the US and Britain, stand-up tends to be joke-oriented… whereas our comics and cartoons careen toward the absurd, employing more long-form stories than standard punch-lines.

Humor is very important to some people. It’s my main defense against a heartless universe obviously out to get me.

And at the same time, humor is a very foreign and scary thing to others.

This is why it doesn’t mix well (usually) with serious sales pitches, where money is on the line.

Make sense?

I may do another post on this, if folks are still wanting more.

Meanwhile, love to hear your take and experience with humor in biz situations, in the comments section below…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One last tactic: If you’re going to use humor in biz settings… it’s a good idea to make yourself the butt of any joke. It’s called “self-deprecating” humor, and it allows you to use every shred of your wit, sarcasm and sharp humor to make a point… you simply make yourself the target, rather than risk offending or insulting anyone else.

I make sure my audiences at events understand that I know the answers to so many problems… because I personally failed or got waylaid by nearly every problem possible in life and biz myself. It’s absolutely true… but a less forthright speaker might avoid spoiling his reputation with confessions like that.

If I nail an attendee with some shocking assessments (like calling him an idiot)… I make sure he understands, first, that I’ve been the biggest idiot in the universe myself. Many times. And making mistakes, learning my lessons, and then using those lessons the next time is how I became successful.

In fact, I don’t know of any other way to progress in life and biz.

Do you?

P.P.S. By the way…

… if you’re a victim of what my colleague David Garfinkel calls “intellectual loneliness” (where you’re withering away because you lack witty, funny, smart-as-whips pals… who also happen to share your passion for business, copywriting, marketing and the entrepreneurial lifestyle)…

… then it might be time for you to seriously explore my Platinum Mastermind group.

It’s a small (under 20 members) group that meets four times a year… where we do Hot Seat-style consults on each member’s situation (problems, biz plans, ad copy, anything at all that’s bugging them)… with a focus on GETTING SHIT DONE. No vague philosophy. Just hard-core, detailed, specific brainstorming and sharing of experience that leads to actual things you can do to unclog the moolah spigot, and get your biz and life back on the fast track.

We also have guest experts who come by just because they like the way I operate. And they share, and help brainstorm, and just pour themselves into the weekend. Recent guests: Joe Sugarman… Gary Halbert’s sons (Bond and Kevin)… Jay Abraham… Brian Kurtz (former CEO of Boardroom, Inc)… Dean Jackson (marketing superstar)… Joe Polish… and many more.

Just see what’s up, for cryin’ out loud. The site won’t bite you: Carlton’s Platinum Mastermind.

Oh, yes. This could be the day you remember forever, where everything changed for you…

 

 

Department Of First-World Problems

clivelab

Thursday, 10:37pm
San Francisco, CA
If you want it, here it is, come and get it…” (Badfinger)

Howdy…

Quick post today — I’m hosting my awesome Platinum Mastermind early tomorrow, and have a little prep work left to do.

However, I thought you might enjoy sampling the kind of posts I’m getting global recognition for… on Facebook. So I ripped a recent one from the site, and put it here for your delight and consumption.

Social media confuses most marketers — many refuse to even engage with Twitter or Facebook (or any of the myriad other options online to share silly secrets and post photos you’ll regret later). But I was an early adopter, and eagerly so — I had one of the very first marketing blogs (which you’re enjoying here), one of the first biz-oriented podcasts on iTunes (and if you haven’t listened to the latest free podcasts I’ve been hosting, go to the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers site now and indulge: www.pi4mm.com)…

… and I’ve been breaking every “rule” on Facebook ever since it hit the mainstream. I use FB to have fun, sometimes… but also to share insight, advice, lessons and some of the more obscure (and funny) war stories I’ve gathered in my 30 year career. (I currently have 5,000 “friends” — the limit — plus another couple of thousand “followers”… and I expect them all to show up at my wake and cause trouble. I’ve made them promise, in fact.)

To get the full flavor of what’s up — including the very long comment threads that you are invited to join — you’ll need to pop over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/john.carlton).

However, here’s a nice little taste: Continue Reading

Risky Bidniz

IMG_2258Monday, 2:26pm
Visalia, CA
He wants to dream like a young man, with the wisdom of an old man. He wants his home and security. He wants to live like a sailor at sea.” (Bob Seger, “Beautiful Loser”) 

Howdy.

We’re in for a treat today.

One of the best storytellers in copywriting — my longtime cohort Jimbo Curley — has sent us a riveting tale sure to send shivers up the spine of every entrepreneur alive…

… while simultaneously delivering one of the most primo lessons in getting after your own success. I laughed out loud several times — Jimmy has a real talent for doing that to readers.

Enjoy… and reap the profits of learning the lesson. Here’s Jimbo:

Thanks for the intro John.

Something crossed my mind the other day — just after I ran over my neighbor’s dog.

Here’s what I was thinking: As an entrepreneur, a business manager, or just a plain working stiff, you may not be taking enough risks.

Or perhaps not the right kind of risks.

I’ll tell you about poor Rex in a second. For now, fasten your seatbelt. You’re in for a wild ride.

“Risk” is the base ingredient for success. It’s the secret sauce to landing a spouse who’s outta your league. The mechanism for pole vaulting over your competitors. It’s how you’ll win big, and make your nay-saying friends and family look like idiots for ever having doubted you.

I’m serious. Today I own and operate a couple companies that earn in the millions each year…

… but twenty-something years ago it wasn’t like that. Back in the early 90s I was managing a near half-million dollar marketing budget for a hardware and contracting operation – at $28K a year. I figured I had a secure job, a good title, and would safely “ride my way up” the escalator of success while others risked their necks climbing up the rickety ladder.

Rookie.

I opened my eyes. The media reps who landed me as a client were wearing silk ties and gold watches. The guy running the crumby print shop I frequented was driving a new Beemer. The owners who employed me were living in obscene homes and enjoying three or four lavish vacations a year.

And yet there I sat for 8 to 12 hours a day at a particle-board desk. I ate a bag lunch and drove a 10-year old beater.

I wanted new stuff. I wanted lavish. I wanted obscene.

It began to sink in.

Achieving such noble and lofty goals in total safety was a delusion.

Simple math and ruthless honesty made it clear — I could NEVER get there “working my way up” from $28K a year.

In the “death zone” of Mount Everest climbers must use ropes and ladders to traverse a sheer 40-foot rock-face before they can reach the peak. It’s called the Hillary Step. (It has nothing to do with Clinton, but Sir Edmund Hillary, the first nut-job ever to summit Everest and come back alive.)

One screw-up on the Hillary Step… one minor bobble… and you’re dead meat. 

Yes, you CAN refuse that terrifying climb up the Hillary Step, but it means Continue Reading

Your Own Private Crystal Ball

Scan 112450004

Monday, 6:16pm
Reno, NV
We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when...” (Omnipresent WWII song by Vera Lynn)

Howdy…

A big part of the mojo I bring to the consulting table is simply that I survived a fairly wild-ass lifestyle before and during my career…

… and took notes.

I come from a family of storytellers, and it’s always been second nature for me to concoct the way I’d relate the story of any adventure I was involved in… often while I was experiencing it. More likely, of course, the lasting model of any story came together over a few tellings, as I tossed out the boring bits, highlighted the more exciting or outrageous sections, and found that sweet spot that ended the tale like a punch line.

You don’t get away with aimless, pointless or dull stories in a family like mine. You either grab attention, hold it, and deliver a rollicking good telling… or you get swamped by a better story from a frustrated listener. Best possible training in the universe.

And I can’t think of a better segue into an advertising career. Humans are hard-wired to crave, love and remember well-delivered stories because before the written word, memorized stories were the primary form of sharing information. And persuading folks. And molding the contours of a socially coherent civilization.

Most of us are not great storytellers, however. It’s not a default setting in our brains… and if you don’t hone your chops, you’ll remain a naif at it.

However, if you DO choose to get hip (and I’ve got a ton of posts here in the blog archives on this very subject), then you get past the hulking bouncer at the velvet rope and into the “great storyteller” party.

I actually used to do that, by the way, as a hobby. Talk my way past bouncers. The last time was at a casino, where the Van Morrison concert was sold out. I had a cup of coffee and walked briskly toward the bouncer, saying “I got that coffee for Van” as casually as I could. The guy waved me through. Heck, other folks standing in line stepped back to let me past. I stepped into the venue, and just slumped.

“I can’t do it. Look, man, this coffee isn’t for Van. It’s just a cup of coffee.” The bouncer blinked at me. I wandered off, the fun gone forever in that game. Heck, it just got too easy.

Now, good consulting is also a form of storytelling. Usually, my client comes to me with a mishmash of complaints, problems, nightmares and quandaries… and none of it seems to make sense.

However, I learned long ago that almost everything makes sense when you get the right perspective on it.

But it has to be the right perspective… Continue Reading

Publishers Freak-Out As Freaks Move In

Typewriter and gun

Thursday, 12:40pm
Reno, NV
I write because I cannot NOT write.” (Charlotte Bronte)

Howdy…

I want to cover three important things today.

Important Thing #1: Very exciting news this morning: My first Kindle ebook (“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”) elbowed its way into best-seller territory on Amazon in less than half a day. It’s #4 on the “entrepreneur” books-for-sale chart, with a bullet, and surging on the “business” charts (in the top 35).

This is like watching your latest album climb the Billboard rankings. I labored over the book (with superb editing help from our pal David “Flashman” Raybould) for many months, whipping it into shape and waiting for the right moment to dive into the wonderful new world of self-publishing that has just hit the Big Turning Point.

Now, it’s up to the reading public to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. A little scary, a little thrilling, a lot of fun for a writer who has craved being in control of publishing my own stuff, in my own damn way, for most of my life.

And, as satisfying as it is to read the great buzz-comments on the Amazon page (and in social media) for this new tome… it’s even more energizing to have finally busted my cherry in digital publishing. This first book took a while to finish and get launched. The next one will follow blazingly quick, and there are even more in the hopper.

If you are so inclined, you can check out a free preview of the book (or even, gasp, buy it) here.

Leave a comment, too. And hit the “share” button on the page. The tome is getting rave reviews, which makes sense since it’s a lovingly-revised compilation of my best Rant newsletters (which I mailed to subscribers for 6 amazing years). This is time-tested stuff, the best “here’s what Carlton’s been teaching all these years” resource possible.

Hope you enjoy it, if you buy it. Hope you stay awake all night thinking about it if you don’t buy it, and feel compelled to buy it first thing in the morning. Cuz it’s damn cheap as a digital book, and you really SHOULD own it. (And yes, we’ll be offering a paperback version down the road, but this digital version is what you need right now.)

Important Thing #2: I now know much about self-publishing ebooks that was a mystery to me before.

For example… Continue Reading

K.I.S.S.

Sunday, 3:09pm
Reno, NV
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless you’ve got a black hole handy.”

Howdy.

Nice, short post here today. In keeping with the theme “KISS.”

Veteran entrepreneurs recognize this, of course, as an acronym of “Keep It Simple, Stupid“… easily some of the best biz advice I ever received in my long career. I carefully printed this slogan out, by hand, on a big notecard and had it taped above my desk for years (though, my sign was even more direct and vicious: Keep It Simple, Shithead. I wanted to get my own attention.)

I made good use of slogans during the early days. “Business before pleasure” was also huge for me, since I’d squandered my youth as a party-hardy slacker… and simply re-directing my energy first to biz (and having evil fun afterward, if I still had any juice left) instantly changed my entire existence. I made a vow to myself — my first real vow that I took deadly seriously — to follow that self-administered advice without hesitation or complaint… and to never apologize for basing my career on a hackneyed phrase that few people ever thought twice about. And that’s when things started popping for me, success-wise.

That was a key realization: All those dog-eared rickety slogans, as mocked as they are, have earned their way into the culture…

… because they 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

Do Ya Feel Lucky?

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

Howdy.

What’s Lady Luck done for you lately?

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

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

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

Or is it something much more mysterious and powerful?

You’re really got to settle this for yourself, I learned… Continue Reading


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These testimonials and case studies do not represent typical or average results. Most customers do not contact me or offer share to their results, nor are they required or expected to. Therefore, I have no way to determine what typical or average results might have been.

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