Tag Archives: John Carlton

How To Stop Being Taken For A Ride (Which, If You’re Honest, You Are Right Now)

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Sunday, 2:22pm
Reno, NV
Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)

Howdy.

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.

Let’s begin:

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.

Turns out…

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.)

However…

… 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.)

Time.

You think you got oodles of it.

You don’t.

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?

Stay frosty,

John

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.

Wise-Ass Wisdom Round Up, Part Deux

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Sunday, 4:39pm
Reno, NV
Knowledge is Good.” (Farber College, “Animal House”)

Howdy…

As a public service, I like to occasionally collect the best of the insane/brilliant/outrageous/decent advice and observations I spread around Facebook, and post it here for your frenzied and happy consumption.

It’s the least I can do, since a few of you have absolutely refused to join us in Zuck’s digital playground. I don’t blame you — Facebook can suck enormous quantities of time from your life, and take you down dark holes to the fever swamps of the worst of human thinking…

… but then again, some of the crap there is really cool.

So, at any rate, here’s a round up of the last month or so, in no particular order. I promise, no cat videos…

Friday Mentoring Session #33: One of the small advantages I had when I started my career as a freelance copywriter was having my then-soon-to-to-be-ex-girlfriend throw a lamp at me as I ducked out the door for the last time.

She was mad that I was devoting so much time to the gig, and I realized I needed to fly solo for a while if I was gonna successfully navigate the rocky early-career months.

Now, I’ve helped many a married-with-kids rookie get their mojo going in this same career — there’s no requirement to live like a monk (and I didn’t, either).

But any sweetie who wants to come along needs to be VERY clear on the time/energy/focus commitment that IS required. A rookie has an enormous amount of reading, video-watching and audio-listening to do for many months (I took a year to feel I’d “arrived”, but I had zero help and was inventing the entire process as I went)…

… and if you’re also juggling a “real” job, there just ain’t gonna be much time for lovey-dovey and relationship nurturing.

It’s not a permanent status, though… and any couple that has gone through military deployment, for example, will understand that during crunch time, you just gotta buck up.

Becoming an entrepreneur requires an entirely different mindset than “normal” living — and you need to understand this as you commit to deadlines (which you can NEVER miss) while your family/significant-other/new-squeeze needs to have the self-confidence and respect for your career that gives you room to move through the early months.

Cuz you’re gonna be frustrated, you’re gonna fuck up, you’re gonna be obsessed to distraction with problems, and you’re gonna be used and abused by clients.

After a period of self-hazing and chaos, if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the hang of the gig, and your productivity will zoom while time-commitments drop…

… and you can start planning deadlines and time-boxing projects so you again have plenty of time to get busy with your sweetie(s).

Just sayin’ — this isn’t a normal kind of job. Your entire brain chemistry is going to transform and your lifestyle will be obliterated (so you can rebuild it how you choose).

My first breakthrough was making “business before pleasure” my mantra (which completely harshed my former partying/slacker habits).

I’ve since counseled many writers and entrepreneurs through the burn-out and destroyed relationships that occur from miscommunication, selfishness and narrow-minded/short-sighted thinking (which is rampant in our culture, btw).

Fore-warned is fore-armed. For someone with entrepreneur’s blood in their veins and a writer’s soul, there isn’t a better gig in the universe.

But you seldom travel solo. With the right partners, it’s a dream ride. With the wrong ones, it’s like hacking through jungle with a butter knife.

Be sensible. Communicate. Prepare yourself and everyone around you, and enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of moving into the world of success and goal-attainment.

Observations From The Sludge Days Of Summer: My energy levels fluctuate like crazy — mostly, I’m a total sloth, following the great “dog wisdom”: Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never just lie there when you can snooze.

However, when I get moving, I go from Neutral straight into fifth gear, with a natural walking pace somewhere between a meth addict and a New York hedge fund asshole with bidniz to get to.

Yesterday, though, the heat woulda killed me at that pace. So I purposely slid it on back to cruise levels while bopping around on errands. And you know what? There’s something truly luxurious and wonderful about moving slow.

I mean, little old ladies fresh from eye surgery passed me in their Caddy behemoths. A squirrel mocked me by running faster across a lawn than I was driving. I made sure not to hold anyone up, even pulling over when a wild eyed guy in a thrashed Buick tail-gated my ass for four feet. And I walked with a slow-mo pace that felt languorous.

Y’all just get on your way, don’t mind me. I’m cruising today, thanks. Just truckin’ through the ether, moseying on down the line.

It was great. It was really great.

I’m gonna be that guy who pisses off everyone else by taking things slow now, as much as possible.

Slow rocks.

Happy Fourth, folks.

Remember: Light, then TOSS the firework. Don’t hold on.

Work Hack #47: Did you know that many top writers use sleep as a productivity tool?

You’ll get more done, at a higher quality level, in one hour after a power nap… than you’ll ever drag out of your brain in five hours of exhausted effort.

Plus, you can easily teach your subconscious to write FOR you. Some of my best headlines burbled up after a nap. I just asked my brain to distill all the info and ideas I’d crammed into it while I snoozed, and deliver a good headline when I woke up. Voila!

Cool part: Once you get hip to this hack, naps are technically “work”.

So you can toss the guilt, and legitimately tell folks you’re working while hitting the couch.

I love my job.

Department Of STFU, memo #24: Can you keep a secret?

Can any of your friends, family or colleagues?

Of course YOU can keep a secret. You’re a totally trustworthy dude… except maybe for that one time you let a secret slip. But it was just that one time. And it was SUCH a good secret, you know what I mean?

Okay, maybe a few other times, too… but no more than a dozen. Or so.

Okay, fine. You’re a freaking slack-jawed sieve. A virtual walking tabloid of juicy info.

Relax. You’re not necessarily a “bad person” if you occasionally blurt out shit that should remain buried. Humans are social animals, and keeping good info to ourselves isn’t standard equipment in our emotional makeup.

Still, if you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to get a handle on this.

One of the vows I made when I started my freelance career was to BE that guy you could trust. It just seemed natural. In the “real” jobs I’ve had, approximately none of the working stiffs around me could be trusted with anything.

Heck, untrue (and hard to believe) rumors spread like wildfire. The true stuff was treated like first draft ideas that required embellishment to meet the fundamental requirements of being whispered about at lunch.

Your secret wasn’t just spread around like cheap mulch. It was was dressed up like a French streetwalker and highlighted with fireworks.

I discovered that actually keeping a secret was kinda empowering. I enjoyed locking away a Big Story. It changed my own opinion of myself.

Plus, when my rep spread, it helped me slip into inner circles and behind closed doors. A trustworthy dude is hard to find.

Still, the urge to share is almost overwhelming.

People tell you things when you’re perceived as someone who can keep a secret. Especially in those inner circles and behind those closed doors.

Folks in powerful positions are eager to talk… but seldom have anyone around they can safely spill to. They’re forever waiting for the blabbers to leave the room, so they can relax their guard. Hopefully with a trusted fellow insider around, who they can dish with in confidence (often like 7th grade girls on the playground).

It’s lonely at the top.

You want to rise in your chosen profession? You crave the excitement of being on the inside? The thrill of moving and shaking with the movers and shakers?

Then learn to shut the fuck up. Love and trust your close friends with all your might…

… but KEEP the secrets entrusted to you.

It’s part of the job description when you start being a responsible, trustworthy dude or dudette.

Yes, I know it’s hard.

If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.

Extra Bonus Lesson: It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one slip-up to destroy it forever. Never forget that.

As Close As I’ll Get To Politics: I have no answers for the current sad state of affairs in the world (and especially here in the States)…

… and you don’t, either.

Nobody does. The ideologues, the idealists, the conspiracy nuts, the whack jobs and the serious elites all have their fave theories (and bones to pick).

But it’s all futile. It’s not comforting to know this isn’t new shit going on, but at least it helps with a bit of perspective.

First, this current upheaval doesn’t even begin to match the turbulence of the sixties. Just in ’68 alone, we had the police riot at the Chi-town Dem convention (and no one was ever held accountable)… the assignations of Kennedy and King, within months of each other… the Tet offensive in Viet Nam (which signaled the end of illusion about “winning” the war, and the start of the 7-year grind to get the hell out)…

… and an encyclopedia’s worth of other gruesome shit that just went on and on and on.

Cities burned — Watts, near LA. ‘Lanta. Detroit. NYC was becoming a wasteland. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered, always. Jim Crow wasn’t letting go without a lethal fight.

We could be entering another period of chaos like that. Or not. It’s a brave new world, with one superpower and a whole new kind of battlefield (virtual, digital, grid-wide). No one knows what’s gonna happen.

That floating anxiety you feel? Get used to it. Knock it down by tending to your own garden, affecting the things you have some control over. For the Big Picture stuff, you’ve just got to breathe deep and hope our luck holds out.

Second: There are no special factors creating the messes we’re now seeing daily. A lot of it is biology — we’re still essentially shaved apes, fresh from the primordial jungle, inventing wonders with our advanced cerebral cortexes and mis-using them with our lizard brains.

Eat, fuck, defend territory, fear change and The Other. That’s the subliminal message sent through your system, undetected unless you work hard to raise your self-awareness.

Sure, you look nice in your new duds, drinking expensive wine and all caught up on the latest gossip. But beneath the groomed, clean, perfumed surface lurks a survival-minded eco-system of biological imperatives that care not a whit about civility or fairness.

We aren’t doomed to succumb. The history that brought Americans to this high stage of civilization is a gore-strewn mess, and we may never be done with the bloodshed. Cuz that’s our nature — to fight when oppressed, to protect what’s “ours” against all threats, to huddle up in tribes that require real power to thrive.

It’s really kind of stunning we’ve lasted this long, especially with the nukes, chemical weapons, and grid-destroying computer viruses now available. And the way sociopaths tend to rise to leadership positions in all political systems.

No answers. But lots of hope.

We’ve worked our way through similar shit before. We may pull it off again. Beneath the nihilism, there remains the strong urge to survive, to make better choices that help rather than destroy.

I’m betting on good beating evil right now. I’ve been through this crap before, and seen how time can heal and rancid politics can swing back to rational governance.

Meanwhile, choose your battles carefully. There are a lot of us on the planet right now, and you may be in a minority more than you think. We’re not living “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet.

Reality can suck, big time. But calmly being proactive can work at solving horrendous problems. You gotta give it time, though. There’s no magic. You keep your head down, choose your goals wisely, and do the right thing.

Above all, do not give in to panic, or that withering fear the assholes like to exploit for drastic moves that are not conducive to a good solution.

Never let the bastards win. But never expect them to stop trying, either.

Good night, and good luck.

(Side note: Don’t post anything overtly political here. I don’t agree with your cultural spin, don’t wanna hear your fever-swamp conspiracy theories, and will delete all trolls. This is NOT the time to thrash togetherness.)

Nice little “how did I get here?” exercise: Quick now, recall your ten favorite summer memories.

Good stuff, I’ll bet.

Now, chart where most of them came from. Certain time frame, certain group of people, particular place frequently visited, particular recurring state of mind, perhaps.

Whatever you discover… whether it was youthful indiscretions on vacation, mid-life crises gone well, a period of discovery, whatever…

… it is a clue to who you are today, and how you got here. Your bad memories also count, but this is more fun.

Most people never question who they are. Top creative minds are forever consumed with it. If you crave maximum wealth with happiness (not just one or the other), such critical thinking about your past is essential.

I’ve never agreed with folks who insist on no regrets and no nostalgia. Screw that. A life well lived is a long-form tale worth sharing, and those stories take shape through the retellings.

Embrace moments of recalling good times. You’ll still have plenty of time left each day to get your shit done…

Wait — how did you not know we’ve put up a brand new Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast?

You fools! It’s being shoved into Insiders’ ear-holes at this very moment all over the globe… causing all kinds of awesome havoc amongst entrepreneurs who thought they were doomed to be uninteresting people for the rest of their days.

Not so, it turns out. We actually deliver a FORMULA for murdering your boring tendencies…

… which opens huge opportunities to up your game (and results) with more interesting copy, hooks, stories and offers.

Plus, you’ll be sought after at parties, instead of avoided.

I’m telling you, this is life altering stuff.

Go listen now at www.pi4mm.com. And accept the burdens of being an awesome storyteller…

Lifestylin’ Question #14: What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent living out of a backpack?

I lived out of my car for several months while homeless… hitchhiked with just a canvas pack for over a week at a time for a few years (after reading “On The Road” at 19)… logged a fortnight in Boy Scouts out in the hinderlands… and spent a good part of my career living out of suitcases in hotels (which doesn’t count).

Absolutely loved it all. Though occasionally scary, often a bit desperate, and always unpredictable, low-rent travel really does shave off the idealistic crap in your brain.

Seeking out adventure as a young, broke, and enthusiastic hormone-drenched young person used to be a requirement for growing up. Live by your wits, see some of the world from street level, meet whacky characters and have no clue where you’ll be tomorrow…

… there’s something to be said for that kind of dramatic journey.

I’m hearing, though, that it’s becoming rare with the new crop of kids. I hope it’s just another bullshit meme by the snarky press…

… cuz, if true, it would be a damn shame.

What’s your story?

Get Your Shit Together Memo #15: Did you know we completely revamped the Simple Writing System “at home” course? Reshot it in HD, updated every detail, made it just more awesome than it already was all the way around.

And this SWS 2.0 version has just been released… in a very limited amount, while we make triple-sure all the glitches are ironed out in the delivery system. (You get to watch the videos online, on any device, at your convenience… plus you get some serious time in the Marketing Rebel membership site, where I have a permanent virtual office.)

I’m a bit older in the videos (yes, I’m personally delivering every lesson), but wiser. As good as the SWS was (and we’ve put thousands of entrepreneurs, writers and biz owners through it), each of the simple steps is now even more powerful…

… because we’ve learned a few things in the 8 years since first launching it (including all the feedback from students and celebrity teachers — like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, David L. Deutsch and so many others).

Plus: Bonuses up the yin-yang.

Anyway, if (like every breathing marketer on the planet) you need to up your game with the written parts of your biz… including email, ads, VSLs, social media, speeches, and everything else… then here’s your first stop.

It’s a permanent resource, once you get it. A freakin’ bargain, too, considering the way these simple skills can immediately change your life (as they have so many others).

Just check it out: www.simplewritingsystem.com.

Dept. Of Political Standoffs, Memo #17: What’s the matter, Bunky? All this political discord infesting the media got you down?

One of the best things to ever happen to me in college was taking a debate class. I thought “Oh, boy, I’m gonna demolish my opponents with totally bitchin’ arguments that cannot be refuted!”

But the teacher had other plans.

The entire semester, she forced me to present the opposite side of any issue we debated. Total WTF moments for me. To prep, I had to get into the head of people I despised, disagreed with, and never wanted to hang with.

But I also wanted to win the debate. So I bucked up and crawled into the mindset of the opposite side.

Result: An awesome jolt of empathy powers. Equal to the mind-expanding acid trip I’d taken earlier that month. (Relax, it was the seventies.) Completely opened up my mind.

And I totally destroyed my opponents with bitchin’ arguments that could not be refuted.

Did it change my politics? Nope.

But I saw the other side with stunning clarity… including the humanity and sincerity of their positions.

My sense of a black-and-white world of easy decisions, obliterated. My compassion for people who thought differently, massively expanded.

And my ability to persuade… multiplied by a factor of a gazillion.

Shouting at each other accomplishes nothing. Refusing to entertain the thought you may be wrong and (shudder) the other guy is right is a habit of dunces. (See: Dunning-Kruger effect.)

The world is full of subtlety and nuance, whether you recognize it or not.

Being open minded ain’t a handicap, Bunky. It’s the only way for thinking folks to live well.

Okay, now back to the blood-sport shouting on the tube…

Jeez, almost forgot it’s “Piss Somebody Off” Monday!

Here’s my contribution: Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies. And one of my fave quotes from it:

“Jim, you’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

Now, I grew up in both the West and the South — the tiny town of Cucamonga in southern California — and my extended family and neighborhood was rife with Oakies, hillbillies, Texans and some of the most aggressively-naive blowhards you’ve ever met.

But they were, at heart, good people, most of them. Casual bigots, sure. And suspicious of anyone who got “too big for their britches” or acted snooty (whatever that was).

Now, I’m no genius, but I’m damn proud of every neuron I’ve managed to squeeze some IQ units out of, and I’ve worked hard to get myself all educated and shit.

And I’ll tell you that it’s awful lonely out there in the real world sometimes… cuz if you value intelligence and critical thinking at all, you’ll be in the minority in most groups outside of your silo.

And it pays to remember that, often. Blazing Saddles was offensive, outrageous, puerile and gut-wrenchingly funny. It was also stuffed with observational truisms about life in these United States that you don’t get from Reader’s Digest.

If you can at all handle it, try not to be a total maroon. More than ever, we need to stop disrespecting intelligence and thoughtfulness. I know it’s hard, folks, but “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”… (guess that quote, and you can sit at the bar with us next time we’re at the same seminar)…

Busy day. I just trashed the dry cleaner who ruined some of my new shirts, on Yelp.

Lakeridge cleaners, here in Reno, if you want to see how a pro writer eviscerates someone.

I used them for years. They told me go screw myself after they botched a job badly. Good call — lose a great customer, be a total jerk was about it, and irritate a writer who knows how Yelp works.

My main job in life is to help good entrepreneurs and biz owners. Part of that includes helping to rid the joint of bad businesses. Like Batman, if he understood marketing.

Though, from the other reviews, I see they’re doing pretty good at committing biz suicide all by their lonesomes…

Uncomfortable Discussion #8: Here’s the thing about change — learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess. And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…

and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.

And then the world changes. In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.

You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.

But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…

… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).

I marvel at my Pop’s life (he’s 94 and still kickin’). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and I’m gonna do a Skype video call with him later this afternoon. On his PC. He’s impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), still reads the entire newspaper every day (but fact-checks the editorials on Google, the lying bastards), and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he’d be the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knows how make stuff and fix machines).

Mostly, though, I sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tries to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He’s not bitter, and reveals a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.

And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.

There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit. You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).

The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.

You are not required, however, to change your “core” self… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.

Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.

It doesn’t. The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways. Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.

Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?

I’m seeing a lot of fear in the news lately — some of it real, lots of it imagined, most of it overplayed. The battle for eyeballs and clicks has turned the entire media circus into a rabid dog fight.

Couple of rules for staying sane:

  1. Remember that the news story you’re reading has been written by a single person (or, at most, two people). Maybe an editor did some fact checking (increasingly not, though, as staffs get trimmed to bare bones everywhere).

God did not write the article. Neither did Satan. Nor was it penned by a genius, or even a particularly bright individual in many cases. It’s a regular dude or dudette with biases, neuroses and an overwhelming fear of being disliked, fired or (worse, for a writer) ignored.

So take it all with a grain of salt. If the topic interests you, go find several other takes on it by other writers in other venues. (Yes, even the dreaded “other side” of the political spectrum.)

(This all goes double for TV talking heads, by the way.)

  1. The idea of “aggregate” info gathering has real merit in today’s confusing environment of instant news and sensationalism-posing-as-journalism. With opinion polls, for example, it’s best to never take a single poll as meaningful — get the aggregate of multiple polls (like Nate Silver and several other sources do), which will present a more nuanced view of what “the truth of the matter” is.

The same idea goes for understanding statistics that get thrown around to bolster or shoot down arguments. Any savvy disruptor can cherry-pick stats to fit his narrative. Much better to see what the context is, and learn how stats about “real life” work.

Just remember that the talking heads on TV, and the bloviators on the radio, and the writers for online and tree-killing news sources are TRYING to punch your buttons. Dog fight.

  1. Best tip: Figure out what is beyond your control, and what is within your control. No, your vote, nor your angry letter to the editor, nor your heated argument with the guy on the barstool next to you will change anything about world events.

Unless you’re a player on the world stage.

However, you can be a player in LOCAL events quite easily. If you truly believe you have answers and solutions, then the school board, the city council, and even the neighborhood watch program needs you.

Reality has a way of weeding out the big talkers, cuz when it’s time for action they tend to wander off, bored.

  1. Movement solves problems that sitting around being scared creates.

Literally, you can walk off a lot of stress. Put on your sneakers, get out and chug up some hills. Have those internal conversations while you’re burning up calories.

You’ll feel better later, I promise.

Paranoia is like a leach on your mojo. Once it gets its claws into you, it won’t easily let go. You’ll need to spend twice the time murdering it, than you spent acquiring it.

But that’s the game. You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sitting around wishing you had a better one is useless. Learning how to maneuver with what you have available in resources, skill and savvy is the ONLY way to win consistently.

  1. Stop whining. We’re all in this together. However it goes (and I admit, the news looks pretty anxiety-provoking… as it has since I was a kid), we’ll either muddle through or die trying.

Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards win.

Shh. Big Brother is listening: Back in the old days (before the turn of the century), the standard advice was never to write anything in a letter you didn’t want to see in a headline in the next day’s newspaper.

Good advice.

Then those new-fangled voice message machines appeared, and you had to add that to the list: Don’t leave a voice trail, either.

Also good advice.

Then we added email. Common sense, right? Then, with the NSA gaining muscle in the Grid, we added phone calls.

Now, with video cameras covering most of the public (and much of the private) spaces in the modern world, you should probably be careful about your actions, too. Don’t write, say, or do anything you wouldn’t want blasted across the Web tomorrow. Or in an hour from now.

All good advice.

Which leaves me with one question: Are we already in a world where you cannot exchange ideas with someone else… without the risk of that conversation becoming public? And not through hearsay, but through paper, voice, digital and video trails?

Are we really there already?

Disturbing Reality Check #4: For the most part…

… baring true interventions of nature (such as trees falling on you or zombies assaulting you unawares)…

… you are exactly where you’ve designed your life to be at this point. That may be hard to swallow, if where you’re at sucks right now.

Still, when you stop fighting the reality of how you got here, and accept that you’re responsible for much (or all) of the damage currently roiling in your life…

… you can finally stop blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and get busy fixing what’s broken.

To really get in a primo Zen groove, you should also get busy cleaning up whatever messes you’ve made, while filling in the gaps (in knowledge and skills) that will eventually round you out as a Dude (or Dudette) To Be Reckoned With.

The first rule of Reality Checks is: Reality checks suck. They bitch-slap your ego, demolish the excuses that have been propping you up, and rub your nose in the stark fact that your choices are now “change or rot in place” if you truly lust for a better life.

But the pain of exiting your former deluded self is brief… and the rewards so outweigh the inconveniences… that once you get in the habit, you’ll continue to morph and become a better and better person for the rest of your days.

One ticket. That’s all we get, folks. No do-overs, no replay buttons, no time machines. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve got decades left ahead of you, or only a few seasons… if YOU don’t seize the day and gobble up the opportunities around you, nobody else is gonna do it for you.

Just sayin’…

Heads Up Alert #13: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…

… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.

Not everyone likes you, remember. You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.) There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.

And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.

Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world. Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)

When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin. Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.

Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked… and it can escalate fast if you engage. Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of. When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…

… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose. Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.

Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:

  1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations. Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers. Yes, even if they’re wrong.

Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career. All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff. But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.

  1. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game. Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)

And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)

Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.

Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.

  1. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”

Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.

Sorry for the long post. It’s hard to explain some of this crap without needing extra paper…

Stress-busting tip: Life got you down? Sales tanking, creditors swarming, job going south, angst bubbling up in your gut?

Worse, is your brain locked in a hellish loop, obsessing and freaking out?

Time to intervene. Write yourself a letter, outlining all your troubles & all your immediate plans. Be specific, just get it all out of your head (where it’s causing trouble) & onto the written page (where you know it can found, so you can forget about it).

Then take a break. Hide the letter for 24 hrs. Let your unconscious work on solutions. When the loop starts, remind yourself that it’s all safely written down, so you don’t need to memorize details.

Your unconscious has a remarkable talent at organizing things and getting perspective on what’s important and what’s fluff. But you gotta give it elbow room to maneuver.

So back off for a day. Or even a few hours, if deadlines are approaching.

You’ll be stunned at how sensible and efficient your brain can be, when you stop fussing and awfullizing everything.

It works.

Hey, did you know I’ve got a book on Amazon?

Yeah, you can order it and read it and use it as a doorstop or throw it at the mice in your closet. Or use it as kindling for the fireplace (what with winter only 5 months away and all).

I mention this only because, if you do NOT own this book, your life will be one long miserable slide into horror and boredom. And I don’t wanna be responsible for something like that.

Anyway, after more than a year on the charts, it’s still bubbling up in the best-seller lists (for starting a biz, entrepreneurs, etc). This makes me happy. And a happy John is a productive John.

Go here to get it.

I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?

Most folks never think about their legacy. The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.

Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?

I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.

There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. They’re like separate John’s, completely different people.

Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.

I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).

I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.

The flip side: I could write the biography of MANY friends…

… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life. I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.

It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.

It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge secrets.

And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do.

As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.

And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.

They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask back. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.

But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.

Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.

It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives. No one had ever asked before.

And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.

It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly). Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…

… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.

It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.

Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.

Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.

Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.

And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them…

Psych Insight #439: The one consistently shocking piece of advice I give rookie freelancers is… if a prospective client says “money is no problem”, then you can be sure it very much IS a problem. Larger lesson: We are creatures of denial & masks. Deconstructing “who” a man is reveals what he fears and desires most. Heavy, but essential to great salesmanship.

Really Petty (But Important) Pet Peeve: People who have no sense of time when they say “just one second”, or “give me two minutes”, or a dozen other random time periods…

… who then get mad when called on it in one second, or two minutes, or whatever.

I know they’re just really saying “I need an indeterminate amount of time here before I can deal with you”…

… but what they’re actually doing is making their lack of awareness MY problem. Cuz now I gotta cool my heels for some multiple of the time period they want — it’s never a second or two minutes — and that’s fucking irritating. Especially when it gets into half-hour territory.

Top pro’s respect other people’s time. Even back before cell phones, Gary Halbert and I would pull over and call a client from a pay phone if we were gonna be ten minutes late from traffic…

… a significant hassle that could add five minutes. But it stemmed from the knowledge that being late was one thing, but eating up someone else’s time by keeping them waiting in the dark was quite another.

Being purposely late is a power game tactic, a whole different lesson. It’s a move you better be prepared to handle the consequences of. (It can ruin a reputation fast when misused.)

Even if you’re always the first person to arrive by being on-time, DO it if you want to be considered a pro. And learn to judge time, for crying out loud. Don’t say “just a sec” when it will actually be ten minutes. You’re just setting up resentment and arguments, and you gain NOTHING.

Grow up. Learn how time works.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope you enjoyed the short articles, pieces of advice, and other crap collected here. I’ll be back in a few months with another round up. Meanwhile, you can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/john.carlton.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’d like to learn how to write EVERYTHING you need for your biz to flourish… from emails to ads to VSLs to speeches and regular old pitches… then you need to check out the Simple Writing System right freakin’ now.

I poured my heart and soul into creating this unique at-home learning course, and it’s the bomb. On your own, at your own pace, you can quickly master the very straightforward skill set behind writing the best possible copy, under every possible circumstance, for every possible situation. Step by step, easily and simply.

Go here to see what’s up (and get a glimpse of some of the thousands of entrepreneurs and pro writers who’ve used the SWS to make their world happier, wealthier, and more awesome all the way around).

Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. Don’t stall any longer on finally goosing your life and career into the next level.

 

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

How To Stop Being Taken For A Ride (which, if you’re honest, right now you are)…

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Sunday, 2:22pm
Reno, NV
“Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)

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 our 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 (the smart alecks) 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. You spend your days in leisurely pursuits.

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 here. On how not to waste your life chasing bullshit.

Let’s begin:

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.

Turns out…

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.)

However…

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 Ray Donovan… 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.)

Time.

You think you got oodles of it.

You don’t.

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?

Stay frosty,

John

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.

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (redux)

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

Howdy…

I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular 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 “Storms of the Century”, each one dumping a record 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, watching CSI: Miami reruns 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.

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

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

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

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

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

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

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

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

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

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

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

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

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

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

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

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

Or “get rich”.

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

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

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

And my question to them is: What reputation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a huge deal-killer.

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

Money, as they say, talks.

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

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

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

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

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

You need goals.

And you need a plan.

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

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

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

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

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

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

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

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

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

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

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

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

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

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

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

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

Tough choice?

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

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

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

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

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

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2015, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2016.)

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 that third novel. But I did position it in my head, and found the voice I want for narration. That’s a biggie. That was a sticking point that would have kept the novel from ever getting finished.

Now, it’s on power-glide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have enormous control over your future.

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

Stay frosty,

John

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, get busy with your January 15th letter.

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

… or, as I recommend, just dive into my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“, and be done with your learning curve in just a very short time.

Give yourself at least the OPTION of deciding yes-or-no, with some background, by going to Amazon 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…

Year-End Roundup

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Sunday, 2:15pm
Reno, NV
I love, I love, I love my calendar girl…” (icky pop song from last century)

Howdy…

Every December, I like to root through my Facebook posts for the ones that triggered high readership (or pissed people off) and got a slew of responses.

I had a good time in social media this year, I will not lie to you. It was a raucous blast interacting with the 5,000 “friends” and 3,900 followers to my Facebook page. (I’ve quit Twitter, mostly — the longer posts available on FB fit my style better… and, anyway, Twitter mostly sucks.)

I hope you’re one of the folks I get to hear from and interact with on social media. You whacky person, you. If not, follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/john.carlton. And keep this blog bookmarked.

Below, I’ve assembled a nice little “taste” of what I like to post over on Zuckerberg’s world. (The photo up top, by the way, is from a post earlier this month — my favorite kitchen magnet. Got something like 115 likes and 16 shares. Figure one “like” equals about 40-100 eyeballs — cuz most folks are too lazy to hit the “like” button no matter how enlightened or entertained they are by the post. The fun stuff generates as much or more response than the serious stuff… as it should. Social media gets a bum rap as a source of bad news and harsh anger… but that’s only if you stay entangled with mean people. Just stop doing that.)

Anyway, here’s some samples of recent posts:

First, some actual advice for writers and entrepreneurs:

Chicken, Head-Cut-Off Departmental Memo #437: Sometimes, I like the way deadlines scrunch-up time and make life vivid. Each hour becomes critical, and the looming specifics of delivering promised goods or climbing onto a plane or just making a final-final decision gives you a bright focus like little else in your day.

It’s worthwhile, too, to try to capture that vividness, understand how it’s viscerally created through hormone dumps and brain burps, and how you might generate it at will later (minus the deadline or freak out).

In the higher levels of biz, when you do it right, a kind of active Zen calm settles in no matter what chaos is swirling around you. Experience, tested skills and a solid philosophy of doing the right thing the best way you’re capable (at all times) fuels your power.

You may still get your butt stomped, things may go sideways, and the universe is guaranteed to never make it too easy for you… and that’s okay. That’s what brings us back to the office every morning, the challenges and the mysteries of real life.

That said…

… it’d also be nice if the universe stopped piling up shit like it’s trash day during a garbage truck strike, and gave me a breather once in a while.

Is that too much to ask?

The main concerns of an entrepreneur eventually become: 

Main Concern #1: How does all the hard work fit into a lifestyle you enjoy having? Nobody minds slaving away in the early stages of a biz adventure, cuz it’s fun. And nobody wants to get locked into forced labor indefinitely, with no end in sight. That old “work-life balance” thing can be a pesky bugger.

Main Concern #2: Are you maximizing the easier ways to bring in money through multiple streams (so your cash register is pounding away even when you’re asleep, on vacation, or missing in action)? Most entrepreneurs and freelancers leave massive piles of moolah on the table, never realizing the potential windfall just itching to fall into their laps.

Main Concern #3: When do you decide to chuck the original model, and grow? To complicate the hell out of everything, bringing in new staff or putting yourself in debt to investors, just because you think that’s how “growth” happens, is silly.

When you’re ready to play in the Big Kids sandbox, you need a better game plan, higher quality skills, more powerful network connections, and a much, much deeper bag of tricks if you intend to thrive.

You don’t get this stuff from a book.

You tap into the experience and savvy of mentors and experts and colleagues willing to share.

That’s where masterminds come in. One-stop resource for all the idea vetting, implementation strategies, and high-end reality checks you need to goose your mojo (and bring in the Major Bucks).

If you’ve never looked into the mastermind I’ve hosted for 7 years now, you’re just being your own biggest impediment to growth.

I can’t force you to see what’s up. But I can remind you of the time (and wonderful lifestyle) you’re squandering by delaying this simplest of hard-core growth tactics.

Silly rabbit. (Check out the mastermind here.)

Writer’s Hack #47: Most folks have two vocabularies — the one they understand when they read or listen to others

… and the functional one they use when communicating.

The first one is, on average, that of a very bright high school freshman.

The second is, on average, equal to a foul-mouthed fifth grader with a comic book fetish.

To become a more influential writer, simply converge your two vocabularies into one… so the words available to you when communicating expand outside your usual half-assed choices.

Yes, it requires effort. If it was easy, then everyone would be a damn good writer.

What’s So Funny?

One of the main decision points in my career has always been who to trust and hang with, and who to avoid. Early on, as a rising “A List” copywriter working in the financial newsletter market (where all the money is), I had resigned myself to getting gigs where I had to muffle my sense of humor.

I just smiled and grinned, and felt like a spy in the midst of the enemy at times.

Then I met Gary Halbert, and realized there was a whole other part of the biz world, where I could let my freak flag fly. I turned my back on a fortune in the financial field, and gleefully jumped into the entrepreneurial swamp, where I found many clients, colleagues and weirdos who loved a raucous good time (with belly laughs that left you breathless) as much as I did.

And I made my fortune there. And dabbled in the more conservative markets (including the financial fields) every so often, just to remind myself how much fun it can be to call your own shots in a career. (Yes, I retained my old chops.)

The bright dividing line, for me, has always been what folks find funny. A staggering percentage of biz denizens have zero sense of humor, and I avoid them like the plague. Some like puns, which is worse. (What’s worse than the plague? Hang out with a punner for a while, and you’ll know.) Some confuse the act of laughing while being offensive as “humor”, but they’re really just bullies being passive-aggressive with social cues.

Not all funny folks are trustworthy. However, I’ve found that most trustworthy folks are funny, or at least appreciate real humor. I think it has something to do with accepting the tragic-comedic absurdity of reality, and I know from gruesome personal experience that laughing through my tears has helped me live a long and prosperous life. Laughter can dissolve stress like nothing else.

There’s no crime in not having a solid, well-developed sense of humor. More than half the population is thusly disabled.

However, you need to know where you are in this measurement. Halbert and I had many hangers-on who never got the jokes, who cringed at stuff that had us doubled over laughing, and who in general were the folks we tried to usher away from the room so we could get down to biz.

The humor-under-achievers were never a good fit in our world. Those who realized it drifted away to more staid markets, and were happy. Those who refused to self-identify as humorless bastards were angry, confused and resentful when faced with funny shit. Bad fit.

Nothing profound here. But something you need to consider as you move through your life. I’ve found humor mis-matches to be the primary friction in most biz, family, and life-style situations. And it’s rarely addressed.

From my perch — after a long life of observation, experimentation, and deep experience — the world is terrifying, hilarious, brutal and wonderful, all at the same time. And then you die.

Without laughter, it would be a slow, humiliating slog to the grave. With laugher, it’s a joyous (if scary) long, strange trip well worth the ride.

Thinkin’ about you, Gary. Your huge laugh still resonates in the ether…

Department Of “Sez Who?”, Memo #33: For years, I was told by experts that nearly everything I do on stage at seminars is wrong. These were accomplished masters of the craft, who earned big bucks grooming and training people to be killer presenters, and I believe them when they said they could turn a neophyte stutterer into a bigger-than-life celebrity who dominates every room they enter.

It’s not for me, though. Fuck being a calculated control-freak over my “image”. I don’t own a suit or a tie (okay, except for two Jerry Garcia ties from 20 years ago) (is thin still in?), I have no pyrotechnic gimmicks, I often engage with the audience in unscripted conversation, and my PPTs are gruesome examples of a creative mind gone berserk.

Plus — egad! — I haul my beat-up backpack with me (a no-no for the experts) and work off of a small explosion of notes.

And yet, I routinely have been one of the top rated (and top selling) speakers at most of the events I’ve been to. Not always. But to crowds that have even a minimal expectation of what to expect, I tend to do well.

The secret: I just honestly like people, and am not impressed or intimidated by anyone else on the planet. I go onstage with the intent of kicking some butt, forcing some folks to face their fears (and hopefully change their self-ruining BS)…
… and, most importantly, having a good time. I’m an introvert’s introvert, yes — but when I’ve got to drag my ass onto a stage, I commit to doing the best I can up there. If I reach just one person in the audience, I’ve had a good day.

I’ve had a stupendously-successful career for over 3 decades. I’m now intent on fulfilling a promise I made to myself as a scared, clueless rookie: “If I pull this freelance thing off, I will help others do it, too, minus all the grief, blunders and excruciating lesson-learning I have to endure.”

I could never pretend to be the guy to show others how to present from stage, though. I’m too eclectic, too idiosyncratic, too much of a knee-jerk rebel. (I mean, 95% of the other speakers I’ve known are HORRIFIED that I often engage with an audience, free-form and off the script. Heresy!) (I think they’re just afraid of what might happen.)

However, I am a good example of the “exception to the rule” thing. And I urge you to explore that notion in your own life, as often as possible.

Control-freak experts are relentlessly trying to manipulate you. Sometimes, they have a point. But sometimes, it’s all just glossy bullshit. The most successful folks I know are all total individuals, and the LAST thing they care about is what others think of them.

And yet, somehow, they end up as highly likable, morally sound, top-shelf people. Who deliver some of the best, and most unique, presentations you’ve ever witnessed.

More than one way to skin a cat, I guess, is the message. Go your own way…

There was some productivity advice:

I like to trick myself into working. Been doing it for decades, and you’d think I would catch on to my evil tactics at some point.

Nope.

Faced with a daunting task, I promise myself I’m just gonna peek at it. Read just one page, one email, one video, whatever… and write down a small notecard’s worth of ideas.

Works every time. My lazy-ass brain says “Sure, why not, if you insist“, and then opens the door of my internal “work room”… and once inside, we’re off to the races. Just focusing on one small thing fires up the entire engine, and once started, it likes to work.

I am so gullible to my own tricks.

It’s embarrassing, really…

And, there was a little “straight from experience” life advice:

Department of Spiritual Measurements: Happiness based on what you have can be taken from you. It’s shallow and begs the universe to fuck with your bad ass.

Happiness based on who you are cannot easily be wrecked. You’re not invulnerable to trauma, but neither are you trapped in a constant accounting cycle.

We all get just one ticket in life, and the ride is breathtakingly short. It’s good to enjoy it, not so good to gloat over possessions.

Jeez Louise, the stuff you start to realize after a few times around the block is just relentlessly humbling…

Department of Weird Ruminations, #34: At some point in your life — unless you get squashed by a bus or some other sudden disruption of your wiring cancels your ticket — you’re gonna be faced with a moment where the stark question “what’s it all mean?” slams you in the gut.

There’s a lot of pre-packaged answers out there, and if those comfort you, great. Rock on.

For deeper thinkers, though, it’s a more thorny issue. And most folks avoid considering it as long as possible.

The thing is, there’s no clever around it, once you breach the topic. What, indeed, has your life been about? What has motivated you, what battles did you choose, where have you made a difference…
… and, most critically, was any of it worth the struggle?

Some say “do what you love” is the way to go. For others, duty calls. For far too many, the acquisition of toys and wealth rules.

But the worst state of all is to have never questioned your existence. Who are you, really, and what the hell have you been doing with this amazing gift of life in modern times?

We can only answer for ourselves, when it comes to crunch time.

Heavy, yes. But it’s also one of the simmering unconscious bugaboos that feeds the vague fears behind missing out on a truly good life.

Be bold. Ask the big questions. Even on a busy Monday, with so much going on…

The town I grew up in (Cucamonga, a block off Route 66) is now largely gone, buried under developments and the refusal of west coast newcomers to respect old shit.

But I still “see” the original joint when I drive around. The ghostly images of long-gone hamburger stands, orchards, outlier roadhouses and ballparks shimmer in my peripheral vision, vanished yet still vital in my mind.

There is no decent way to pass along the wonder of your youthful adventures except in stories.

So make ’em good. Your wild ass yarns may not be better than anyone else’s, but they’re still important. I love hearing old folks reveal the stark truth of life in a time completely alien to me. And I hope I’m entertaining the young folks willing to tolerate my rollicking tales.

Otherwise, all those moments will be lost… like tears in rain. (Yeah, that’s a Blade Runner quote…)

“Seems To Me” Department of Conflicted Opinion, Item No. 336b: Seems to me the Big Problem we face, as a consequence of our success in colonizing this tiny planet, is not the myriad details of dealing with “whose ox is getting gored”…

… but rather the meta-battle of innate human stupidity versus rational critical thinking.

And the problem is, the truly stupid all think they’re pretty smart.

Irrational dumbfuckedness is like a relentless tide, oblivious to everything but the need to breed and feed (and keep “our” ox from getting gored, while gleefully goring everyone else’s).

How I long for the tranquility of the unplugged mind, free of clear thought and unconcerned with consequence or fealty to promises. Must be nice, never imagining you’re actually a bug up the ass of the universe…

And, a question for you (in the theme of finding out more about my readers):

We have a “reading room” in the house. Five bookshelves along one wall crammed with tomes and a few chunks of offbeat ceramic art (plus some Art Deco toys and an ancient stereo). And a small rain forest-worth of plants.

I have a favorite couch with good light where I can read with the dog curled up next to me. I like the look and company of the books — some of them have been hauled all over the west coast in boxes since I was a kid. Even when I was poor and living out of my car, I always had books nearby.

Younger writers I know have no piles of books, nor stacks of records, cassettes and CDs. This is a simple and logical generational shift into digital storage. I can’t really tell you why I keep books I read decades ago and likely will never open again. They’re trophies, I suppose. Reminders of the guy I used to be. Benchmarks of a long life heavily influenced by published works.

Or maybe they’re talismans against the curse of anti-intellectualism I’ve fought against so long.

Do you like books, as a physical manifestation of knowledge and culture?

Or do you prefer a more sparse living arrangement, uncluttered by dusty pages?

There’s no right answer, of course. Just curious…

There was some timely stuff, too:

Department of “I Don’t Even Freaking Care Anymore”, memo #33: So I caved and bought a new iPhone…

… AND connected to the cloud. That big, mystery-laden, scary-ass cloud up there somewhere.

I hate having to trust shit I can’t see. No actual clouds in the sky today. Sunny. Faint glinting of distant satellites and space-alien aircraft, but that’s it. A few drones buzzing here and there.

Where ARE you, oh great and powerful Cloud?

So, anyway… I’m talking to my 3rd ‪#‎Apple‬ rep (because, of course, set up = calling Apple reps sooner or later)… and she casually mentions that she’s looking at my iCloud stuff along with me.

Key phrase: “Along with me”.

Low level Apple employee traipsing around in my goodies.

And I just gave up. That’s it, I fucking surrender.

Privacy, gone in this world. I have given up resisting and just welcomed The Man into my life. I am connected to The Grid now, six ways from Sunday, and I imagine It’s watching me this very minute from the camera on my iMac — cuz I removed the Post-It note formerly covering the lens.

That was the OLD me, the paranoid guy trying to lay low and stay under the radar. Ha! Poor fool. Much better to give up and give in, and just connect. Connect! Be at One with The Grid! Hallelujah! Tin foil hat, gone! It’s so liberating! I’m free! Free, do you hear me?!?

I. Give. Up.

Hold on, there’s someone at the door…

This is fun: Tidy little test on whether you’re a narcissist or not. (Most actual narcissists will not appreciate being outed, by the way.)

Go ahead and guess my score. (I’ll bet you’re wrong.)

I’ve hung out with plenty of narcissists in my time. Also sociopaths and really fucking dumb people who believe they are smart (the Dunning-Kruger effect).

In fact, the more you get behind the scenes in biz (into the closed meetings, the green rooms, the big offices) the more variety of crazy/evil you encounter.

Back when I worked the worst jobs in the world — in restaurant kitchens, construction, commercial fishing, corporate advertising — I noticed most of the folks causing trouble fit into just a few personality categories: Really dumb and seeking more power or money, and really smart and seeking more power or money. But the truly evil ones got outed pretty quickly, probably because there was so little room to maneuver (and everyone knew a malingerer or an asshole when they saw one).

In the back rooms of biz, though, there’s a LOT of room to maneuver… and the folks who sell their soul to the devil can stay camouflaged for years (sometimes forever).

One of the most painful discoveries I made, while growing up, was what made someone a “real” friend. It seems simple now, but for a long time it was confusing. Many people will be your “friend” as long as they can use you and your resources. They’re charming, fun to hang out with… but once you need something, or once you dry up as a resource, they’re gone.

Real friends are hard to come by. They may be a bit crazy, have messy lives, and exhibit pure undiluted stupidity at times… but you can count on them. And they make your life better, in large and small ways.

I have pals who are beyond whacky (including being mirror-addicted narcissists), and I never expect them to act out of character — which saves our friendship. I know what to expect, I don’t try to change them, and we do what we do well together. Sometimes it’s just work stuff, other times it’s just friend stuff, occasionally it’s both (like my long-time best pal and biz partner Stan Dahl, one of the smartest and most unique people I’ve ever met).

If you severely judge everyone around you, and refuse to tolerate non-average behavior or personalities, you’re gonna be a very, very lonely dude or dudette. Take stock of your current crop of pals, colleagues and clients. I’ll bet they’re a mob of weirdos, slackers, goofballs and cray-cray’s. Just like most of the world…

Here’s that test (discovered by my very, very whacky pal Chris Haddad):

PSYCHCENTRAL.COM

I love learning new stuff, always have. And, I get bored easily, which meant I was always jostling against The Man’s plan to funnel me into a regular job and lifestyle.

However, I also hate being a putz, hurting other people and mucking up anything I’m responsible for.

This created a perfect little storm for my career. While young and bumbling about looking for fresh adventure, I made just about every mistake possible — in social situations, at work, managing money, dealing with problems, I botched it all up. Often spectacularly.

At first, I felt ashamed that I was somehow “inadequate” for living amongst my fellow humans. Then, I had an epiphany: We ALL screw up, often. But it’s how we HANDLE the consequences that puts us on different paths.

So I packaged up my shame and buried it. Useless. I replaced it with actionable remorse — when I did something wrong, I did my best to clean it up or fix it (or replace it, at my cost)… and, more critically, I then examined WHY I bollocked it up, figured out where I was lacking skill, info or experience…
… and then proceeded to fill in those gaps. And then climb back into the ring to practice doing it right.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to learn any of the good lessons in life. Reading about them helped me understand where I lacked skills or info… but the lessons never really “took” until I used them in real life.

The result has been a life filled with gloriously awful misadventures, followed by fabulously great adventures… plus a ton of solid friends (who’ve had to forgive me at times), biz success, and even a bit of real wisdom.

The books I write all feature personal stories, because that’s how I figured out how to get stuff done. A lot of folks bristle at this biographical style of teaching, which is fine. Everyone brings their own strange views of “how things ought to be done” to the game.

But my main question for anyone claiming to have expertise in anything (especially the tough biz and personal behavior questions that define a well-lived life) is simply:

“Have you actually gone through this situation yourself?”

Most, it turns out, have not. They “learned” their self-proclaimed expertise without having to sully their hands in the dirty details of real life. And maybe that’s enough for them, that their innate genius allows them special powers to grok how stuff gets done minus the experience of actually doing it.

I’m skeptical. Reading a thousand books on how to hit a baseball won’t match your learning curve of standing in a batter’s box one time, while someone throws fastballs high and tight as you try to hit them.

And the visceral thrill of receiving your first dollar from a transaction you negotiated yourself offers deep-tissue revelations you’ll never get from completing an MBA.

That’s my experience, anyway.

And that’s why I position the lessons I share within personal stories. I’m not TELLING you what to do — rather, I’m sharing what I learned by screwing up, learning my lesson, filling in the gaps, and then going back in to do it right the next time.

It’s the most ancient, and still most effective way to hand off a real piece of advice that has teeth. Take it or leave it, it’s advice that worked.

You can see how it’s done in any of my books, which of course you already own.

Wait — you don’t own them? Are you insane?

Okay, fine. I’ve put the links to two of them in the first comments below. The others you can find at the blog (john-carlton dot com). [Editor’s Note: You’re already on the blog. Just click on the icons in the far right column to find out more about anything I offer.]

Meanwhile, I’m off to more blundering about in the world, where I’m pretty sure I’ll learn something new today…

I like worn, well-used stuff. My favorite guitar is fifty years old (she wears it well). My San Francisco Giants cap is thrashed from all those pre-World Series years when I’d toss it in disgust. But I wear it proudly now, the tatters a tribute to true fandom.

New clothes bug me. If you can’t be faithful to a coat that’s served you well, what can you be faithful to?

This archaeophilia has been a huge advantage as a writer. Them fads come and go, and every new hotshot writer believes he invented copywriting yesterday…

… but the tried-and-true humbly saunters on, nailing the tough jobs and keeping the wheels of civilization greased.

Respect is earned, moment by moment, and truth often looks a bit ratty. This is still one of the primary lessons to grok in this chaotic universe…

Bored?

Consider your life as an ongoing novel or movie. This particular chapter may be slow, but plot points you put into play now will trigger fresh adventure soon.

There are good folks who’ve been dealt a worse hand than you, who would trade up to your situation in a heartbeat. You owe it to them to chew up some scenery and murder all whining…

Back in my twenties (before you were born), I could party until they threw us out of the pub at gunpoint, grab a few hours of snooze time, and be at the job the next morning shaved, showered, shirt tucked and hair combed, ready for my 8-hour slog at whatever grind I was employed at.

That’s not a skill. That’s just an abundance of hormones, energy, and wasted youth.

For a recent 10-year period, I was flying off somewhere almost every month to speak on the circuit. Dubai, Sydney, NYC, Cleveland, didn’t matter — I could pack with my eyes closed, in an hour, get all documents printed and sorted while brushing my teeth, and cram enough gear, snacks and clothes into a single carry-on to last me a week. Then finish up the PPT on the plane between naps. No problem.

That’s a skill.

What folks get wrong about Free Speech in this country is that just cuz it’s free, it don’t mean it’s true.

You hear a guy say something on the radio or the teevee or the Interwebs that is so outrageous, for sure he wouldn’t be “allowed” to get away with it if it weren’t the gosh-darned truth. And he gets away with it, so ha!… You believe you’ve been let in on a solid piece of info.

And all your deluded friends who think they’re so smart can’t handle it. All of which gives you a warm feeling, despite the awfulness of the subject.

Welcome to the Great American Befuddlement Over Truth. It’s the painful part of the freedom to speak and think without gummit interference — not everyone comes equipped with the necessary critical thinking to discern the bullshit from truth.

A healthy dose of skepticism goes a long way. If your smart friends disagree with you, maybe your resources getting away with all that outrageous stuff aren’t the beacon of truth you think they are.

Just sayin’…

How much have road trips played a role in your life? Solo, with a pal or a small mob, you pack up the car and take off to parts unknown, wind whistling through the open window, history and life itself rushing by outside.

In high school, getting my driver’s license was like securing a pass to a bustling new world of adventure, terror and delight. My buddy Art and I would just hop into his ’56 Buick and drive for hours, seeking some scenery to chew up. Later, Tim and I drove across the south in a battered Pinto, all the way from Cape Canaveral to SF for a wild half summer.

I’ve driven up and down the west coast so many times it feels like my old neighborhood.

Maybe growing up a block from Route 66 instilled the love of the road in me. Just having that endless path to somewhere else was a relentless temptation to take off.

Every autumn, I itch for another road trip. I can’t handle the hours at the wheel like I used to, and it’s not quite the same when you’re never out of reach of a radio station (I cannot explain to the uninitiated the bliss of finally dialing in a distant DJ after a stretch of musing on the ambient noise of cruising)…

… but the essence of the road trip is, I think, part of our modern DNA.

On the road again, indeed…

And finally… a taste of the rants we like to share on my FB page:

Let’s get straight on this: I love people, and am humbly grateful for everything.

That said, would you fuckers please stop driving like brain-dead zombies while around me?

Thanks. ‘Preciate it.

And that’s it for this edition.

Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section (where I hang out a lot). 

Happy holidays to you and yours, and…

Stay frosty,

John

Rumors Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Monday, 12:45pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen, “Papillon”)

Howdy…

I was talking to a colleague the other day, and he asked me how I liked retirement.

Uh, what retirement is that, I asked.

Well, he said, I thought you’d pretty much left the biz.

Sigh.

I guess I need to address this now. I mean, seeing as how I’m speaking next week to a seething crowd of 500 copywriters at one of the biggest bootcamps of the year (the sold-out AWAI gargantuan event in Florida). AND, the following week, hosting our autumn Platinum Mastermind meeting (now in it’s 7th year). While, you know, handling multiple calls from colleagues looking for advice, plus paid consulting gigs, writing a new book, monitoring the next Simple Writing System classroom, and…

If this is “retirement”, it sure looks an awful lot like a regular workweek.

But, yes, there has been a rumor floating around that I’m retired (or “semi-retired”), not traveling anymore, not taking clients, etc.

And, in a word, it’s all bullshit.

What happened was, a couple of years ago, I decided I sucked as a manager, and sold the Marketing Rebel corporation to my longtime business partner, Stan Dahl. Who has been handling it quite nicely ever since. The Insider’s Club membership site is cooking on high heat… the Simple Writing System just had another All-Star Teachers session (with A-Listers like David Garfinkel, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, and former Gary Halbert sidekick Scott Haines all hosting classes)… and all the good work we’ve always done in the advertising and marketing worlds has continued without a hitch.

It’s working so well now, because I realized what a bottleneck I was as a manager. Once I got out of the way, things blossomed.

Jeez Louise, that’s humbling. But it’s all worked out great.

And I got back to what I do best: Writing, consulting and being one of the most notorious bad-ass creative advisors in the game.

This is a VERY common entrepreneurial blunder, by the way. You get a biz going by handling almost everything personally… the ideas, the planning, the implementation, the writing, the schmoozing and networking, and all the hiring of tech help and support teams and lawyers and contracts and…

… and pretty soon, you’re working 70 hours a week, the biz is thriving, but you aren’t doing the creative stuff you’re good at.

For me, the calls and meetings with lawyers and accountants and affiliate managers and everyone else’s lawyers and biz operatives just crushed my spirit and will to live.

I was unhappy.

And so I sold the biz, and moved back into my old role as writer, creative dude, and consultant extraordinaire. The “wheelhouse” of my talent and skill-set, where I’ve always made the most impact.

And, I was happy again. While working around 20 hours a week, just like the first decades of my career. A 20-hour workweek is just about perfect, and because I know all the productivity hacks allowable for humans, I get more done in that 20-hours than most folks do in the 60 hours they slave at.

So, I’m in my “bliss groove” again. Good writing requires lots of down time, so your brain can cogitate on the crap you’ve stuffed in there, cook it up in a fresh batch, and make it all accessible when you sit down to actually write. Reading lots of books on different subjects, including gruesome fiction and light articles on diverse (even dumb) subjects, is also part of a well-lived writer’s lifestyle. Plus engaging in the adventures, pleasures, misadventures and bumbling horrors of modern life.

In fact, without immersing yourself in the culture and the Zeitgeist, you quickly become stiff and boring as a writer.

Yuck.

But I don’t count the cool, fun stuff as “working”. I love the process of being a complete, well-rounded writer with his pulse on the culture. It’s what makes this the best damn gig on the planet (for introverts or wannabe introverts seeking influence, wealth and happiness).

In the 1990s, I both wrote most of the ads for which I’m now infamous (all the screamingly successful golf, self-defense, health, music and small-biz ads that changed the way entire industries approached marketing)…

while ALSO taking off three-to-six months a year to go do something else. I was following Travis McGee’s advice (from the “you gotta read ’em” novels by John D. MacDonald) of “taking your retirement while you’re young, in pieces, and returning to work when you need to replenish the coffers”. For me, that meant indulging in exciting mid-life crises (I’ve had six so far, and loved every single one) like when I disappeared from the business world for half a year, formed a 3-piece rock band, and played all the biker bars in Northern Nevada. What a blast.

I also took time off to write some novels, and dip a toe in the world of writing fiction for a living. It was enormous fun, but the pay was dismal. Most of the working novelists I met made less in half a decade than I did for writing a couple of winning ads in a good market (and it only took me a few weeks to write those ads). I decided to keep fiction as a side hobby, and came back to my old clients to write a string of ads that doubled their bottom line.

And then, just after the turn of the century, I decided to get serious for a few years. And write a monthly newsletter (the notorious “Marketing Rebel Rant” that mailed for 6 years to the most influential marketers alive), while maintaining a client list that required me to be available the entire year. No more taking off massive chunks of time. I loved the whole process, which happened to coincide with the explosion of the Web as a viable marketing vehicle…

… and I hung out in a very insider network of movers-and-shakers that included Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, Eben Pagan, Joe Polish, Dean Jackson, Tony Robbins, Jon Benson, Joe Sugarman, Ed Dale, and of course my best friend in the biz, Gary Halbert.

It was FUN. And thrilling, because we were inventing the marketing models that would become the STANDARDS for all online marketers for a generation. My first website, which I designed on a napkin, was a go-to template for many businesses for a long while. I recorded one of the first ever podcasts in the marketing section of iTunes (with help from Dean Jackson)… became one of the hottest speakers on the global seminar circuit (hosted by Armand Morin, Dan Kennedy, Rich Schefren, Kern and others)… and of course our Simple Writing System has pumped over a thousand entrepreneurs and copywriters through the process of creating killer ads on demand.

While some old-school marketers fought the Web and resisted new technology, I was an early adopter. I grabbed many of the first generation gizmo’s, created early video sales letters (before the term was even invented), hosted some of the first online webinars and membership sites, and in general surfed the new wave of modern possibilities right at the crest.

I’m not bragging. I’m just as amazed at the way things have turned out as anyone else. I happened to write “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” at the precise time a vast mob of newbie marketers were becoming online entrepreneurs… and it was the perfect fit for them.

But it also led almost directly to those 60-hour weeks that eventually started to fry my brain.

I’ve counseled biz owners against burning out a lot in my career as a consultant. It’s common, it’s horrific, it can ruin your life…

… and, it’s completely avoidable.

But you have to act FAST when you sniff the burning rubber coming off your brain.

For me, it meant backing away from the reins of a business I’d nurtured for a decade… and sliding back into the more comfortable position I knew so well, of being a writer-consultant. Working a fraction of the hours required of a manager.

To some folks, this somehow meant I’d “retired”.

Nope. Just moved back into my former career lifestyle.

Like I said — I suck at management. I’m not built to argue with lawyers, or proofread contracts, or get deep into the weeds of making the day-to-day details of running a biz work. I KNOW what needs to be done, and I can spell it out for you in precise steps.

But that doesn’t mean I’m the guy who should be doing it.

A big part of happiness is finding out where you fit. And then sliding your bad ass into that position, away from the drudgery and angst of doing stuff you’re NOT built to do.

And let’s set the damn record straight: I’m NOT retired.

I love this biz too much to leave. I’m traveling as much as I ever have (though being more picky about which gigs I travel for). I’m flying out to Florida next week, as I said, to speak in front of 500 folks who rightfully expect to have their cages rattled by me from the stage. I’m flying to Los Angeles both for our mastermind, AND to hang out with Jon Benson at another biz gathering (including James Schramko from Oz).

And we’ll be in Vegas in January for another mastermind, in Phoenix for secret tapings of a new show, I’ll continue co-hosting the rollicking (and still free) Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast with Kevin Rogers…

… and I still maintain a full-time desk in the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club… where I personally answer questions from members, do monthly “Hot Seat” consultations (free, for members) alongside Stan Dahl, and generally act as the community’s resident copywriting expert.

Okay, I’m not putting the old rock band back together, though. It was fun, but I’m kinda done with the bar scene. And I get bored on cruises and tourist-trap trips. I like to travel with a purpose.

I’m built to handle the advanced, high-level workload of a top copywriter and business consultant. So that’s what I’m concentrating on these days. While flying out to speak at seminars, networking with my pals, and staying rooted on the pulse of the modern business environment.

It’s a wild time to be alive, and to be an active member of the hottest entrepreneurial movement the world has ever seen.

I ain’t retiring for a long, long time. Baring getting hit by the occasional city bus while jaywalking, I should say. Nothing’s guaranteed in life, is it.

Will I see you in Florida… or at one my upcoming other seminar appearances? Or, gasp, at my Platinum Mastermind? (Got a seat waiting for you, and there’s still time to grab it. Go here for details.)

If you, like so many of the best (and happiest) marketers and writers around, value the input, savvy, advice and experience of a guy like me…

… who’s been around the block a few times, and knows the game inside and out…

… then check out some of the stuff we’ve got for you all over this blog page. Including a deep, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-down-to-work consultation.

It’s only going to get more exciting out there in the big, bad biz world… with more opportunities to either thrive or get lost in the weeds than you can imagine. If you’re in biz, you need a resource like me watching your back.

Why not make 2016 (coming up fast) the best damn year of your life? Put your team together now, and see if including me and Stan and the rest of the gang here doesn’t make so much sense you can’t stand it.

Meanwhile…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The photo, by the way, is from another huge event this past year where I was a featured speaker. And got to hang with my buds (from left) Kevin Halbert (Gary’s son), A-List copywriting legend Clayton Makepeace, marketing legend Dan Kennedy, me, former CEO of Boardroom Brian Kurtz, and A-List copywriter (and my podcast partner) Kevin Rogers.

Quite the little braintrust right there…

How To Stop Being Taken For A Ride (Which, If You’re Honest, Right Now You Are)…

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Sunday, 2:22pm
Reno, NV
Let’s make the most of every second we can borrow…” (“Let It Ride”, BTO)

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 here. On how not to waste your life chasing bullshit.

Let’s begin:

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.

Turns out…

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.)

However…

… 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 Ray Donovan… 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.)

Time.

You think you got oodles of it.

You don’t.

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?

Stay frosty,

John

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.

 

Bad John, Good John

Amazon Best Sellers - Marketing - Direct copy 2

Sunday, 11:59am
Reno, NV
You’re so vain…” (Carly Simon, dissing Warren Beatty)

Howdy…

I’ve been meaning to explain some things to y’all for a while, and there’s no better time than now to do it.

Cuz, huzzah, my latest ebook just zoomed to the top of the pile in multiple categories on Amazon last week. “Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About” is the first (of several) “best of” compilations from the archives of this blog… and anyone who’s enjoyed reading my drivel should probably pony up the $2.99 and grab it. (Here’s the link.)

Great for you brain. Great for your motivation. Great for your bottom line (if you’re after wealth and happiness). Great all the way around, I gotta say.

However…

I still feel the need to warn folks that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Long-time readers of my rantings know what to expect, of course — deliberately mangled grammar, lots of cussing and outrageousness, and absolutely no quarter given to bullshit at any time. This is hard-core biz and living-well advice, tactics and solutions.

Plus…

… most of my stories revolve around my misadventures out there in the cold, cruel world.

This is not because I’m some rabid egomaniac. (I actually advocate murdering your ego, because it does more harm than good in anyone’s life. Including mine. At the beginning of my seminars, I always spend some time theatrically having people “toss” their ego, so the event can progress without folks getting offended, feeling personally attacked, or just getting their panties in a twist because their ox got gored. Ego sucks.)

No. The reason my books and lessons usually feature a look inside my head is simply because that’s how I learned everything I know about life and business. Since the very first days of my career, I have tried to live an “examined life”, just like Aristotle advised. (Or was it Socrates? Never mind.) I reconsidered my life as an ongoing movie, and I had input to how the script played out…

… so I strove to understand what happened to me each day. And then I deconstructed each event — what the facts were, how I reacted, what I did that was okay, what I did that was clearly a dumb-ass blunder, and what the other “actors” did or didn’t do to contribute to the scene.

This is how I managed to find the great lessons of life and biz. You do something, things cook or explode or simmer, and consequences ensue. And then you study every shred of it. 

I was a one-man living laboratory for testing out the theories and advice and tactics I encountered. Because my freelance career kept me busy with a now-uncountable number of fresh clients (all with unique businesses and situations and neuroses and problems), I had a front-row seat for the biggest show around: How things get either done or botched-up in reality.

If I read a biz book that offered advice on negotiating with clients, for example, I could often put it to use the very next day. If it worked, I used it again and kept refining it. If it didn’t work, I tried to see how I could have screwed it up… or how it was bullshit advice in the first place. (This happened a lot, by the way. Books are essential to learning, but theories that do not actually WORK in the real world are useless. And yet, maybe half the biz books out there are just spring-loaded bullshit dispensers.)

Same with all the tactics I picked up from other writers and mentors, or observed during biz transactions. And also with all the advice for how to prosper, or live healthier, or reduce stress, or a thousand other nuggets of insight (or drivel) that could affect the quality of my life.

I was relentless, too. I wanted to figure out what created success, and what triggered failure. There were HUGE lessons no matter what happened — in fact, I learned more from failing than I ever did from accidentally doing anything correctly…

… as long as I dissected what happened, and learned from it.

I’ve often said that — because I was so freakin’ clueless when I started out — I made most of the mistakes possible in the first decade of my career (and throughout my private life). And… I learned SO MUCH from those mistakes, that I’m sorry I didn’t make EVERY mistake possible. It simply would have expanded my self-education even further.

So…

… when I write about a lesson in biz or life in general… it’s a lesson I’ve learned personally. Usually by making a mess, and immediately cleaning it up, examining every detail of what went down, deconstructing the good and bad points… and figuring out what I could have done differently.

THEN… and this is important… I went back out (often the very next day) and DID IT RIGHT. Whether it was negotiating with a client, using naps to organize my thoughts (like David Ogilvy), writing better bullets, dealing with a disgruntled customer on the phone, finding the best lists to mail, or whatever…

… I learned my lesson, and re-engaged with the world to see if what I learned was spot-on, or needed refinement, or was part of that “nuanced” arsenal of biz tactics that require focus, new skills and multiple decision points to put into action.

So, yes, I’m the dude in the center of the story. I’m not discussing theory here, or something I’ve heard about from some wonderful source.

Nope. My stories are about me, out there in the jungle, chewing up scenery and knocking stuff over and making huge messes…

… and then figuring out how to do better, and then DOING better almost immediately.

The charge I sometimes hear –that I’m an egomaniac who is arrogant about giving advice –is just pure bullshit. I’m a total introvert, and prefer to spend the majority of my life away from crowds. My books seem autobiographical simply because sharing the best lessons require giving you a peek into my life… and so that’s what I do. I share what I’ve learned (the hard way) as a copywriter, as a business owner, as a consultant, as a regular person just trying to do the right thing out there.

I’ve lived a great life, crammed with adventure, heartache, stark terror, love, and more success than I’ve ever felt I deserved. I’m humbled that others consider me a resource for learning, and proud that my career of blunders and missteps can serve as a shortcut for others. So you don’t have to spend decades making every mistake out there, just to figure out what the good lessons are. I’ve already done that. I’m bruised, scarred, and grizzled from the process, but happy to share.

In truth, you’ll still want to learn some of the really juicy lessons yourself anyway. Like “money doesn’t buy happiness”. It’s just more effective (and often more fun) to discover that for your own bad self… though, having a little foreknowledge from a trusted dude like me will at least prepare you when Reality smacks you in the face (and wallet, and soul, and heart) later.

I knew NONE of the essential lessons when I started out. I was like a babe in the forest, blundering along with nothing but a small amount of skills, a huge amount of chutzpah, and a raw determination to get it right (based on my flimsy plan, which didn’t have an alternative to making freelancing work as a new career.) I literally had no idea what I’d do if I failed — a situation I do NOT advise anyone else to attempt, though the motivation was pretty spectacular (if scary as hell).

There is plenty of real arrogance and “full of yourself” attitudes in the biz world. I’ve dealt with a vast mob of clients, colleagues, customers, prospects, looky-loo’s, rubber-neckers, jerks, heroes, lovers, haters, n’eer-do-well’s and basket cases…

… and I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out what makes them tick. And buy. And flee, and get mad, and go off the deep end, and melt down, and everything else this crazy human race is capable of.

I love it all. And I love my fans and readers dearly, and really care about making this process of learning fun, funny and memorable.

So that’s why I write my stories from a personal point-of-view.

And it’s why those tales are so vivid, and crammed with twists and turns. It’s real life. I want the freakin’ pain I experienced getting educated to have had a purpose.

Again — I’m honored that you find my blog, my books, my courses and speeches worthwhile. I get chills when I hear from someone who had a breakthrough, or a sudden success, or even just started on a better path because of a lesson I shared.

Get the latest ebook, or don’t. (Just click on the icon at the top of the right hand column here.) You can wander through the archives on this blog for free, of course, and track the posts down in their original form. That’s why we priced this ebook so low (it’s just $2.99), because it’s all from the blog. But it’s edited, and organized, and in a pretty awesome presentation. Easy to read, nice to have on your Kindle or iPad or whatever, a damn good kick in the butt for any entrepreneur or freelancer wanting to take your game up a few levels.

If you don’t mind, if you DO purchase the ebook, go back to the Amazon page (here) and leave a review. No matter what you thought of the stories and advice, other potential readers rely on reviews like yours to help decide whether to invest some time in the ebook or not.

Some of the reviews I’ve had for other books have been outraged at my language, at the raw honesty, and at what they perceive as my “arrogance” in writing from a personal point of view.

Doesn’t matter. For every person who is insulted or angered, I know that multiple other folks were relieved to have found a nutcase like me who tells it like it is, and has the experience, savvy and track record to help out.

Stay frosty, my friend.

John

P.S. Love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments section. I’ll wander in there to see what kind of ruckus you’re causing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tribute To The Ink-Stained Wretch

Flag

Saturday, 12:42pm
Reno, NV
I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)

Howdy…

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.

Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet. Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries. I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.

It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.

Much deeper than that. The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship. All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.

It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges. The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it. Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions. I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art. But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all banned or censored at some point in our history). And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.

We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.

So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today. This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal. The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box. Dangerous stuff.

I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.

For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks. Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.

Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm). But the restrictions should remain rare. Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it. Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology. And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.

I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life. It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.

For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory. Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being. Free.

Fuckin’ A. Play ball.

Stay frosty,

John


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