Tag Archives: John Carlton

Year-End Roundup Of Good Stuff

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Saturday, 1:10pm
Reno, NV
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…” (Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”)

Howdy…

A lot of my social media focus lately has been on Facebook. As much as I distrust and mildly despise The Zuck, I have to hand it to the little sociopath for figuring out a dynamic that allows for real interaction with folks…

… which lasts, on average, around one to three days. Then, even the most viral post disappears down the social media rathole and is gone forever.

So I like to rescue some of the better posts I’ve carved into the FB newsfeed, and stack ‘em up here on the blog… where they’ll survive in the archives for as long as this rickety thing exists. (We’re officially at the decade mark, by the way. Ten years of posting monthly… except for January of 2012, where I inadvertently didn’t publish an intended article in time, so the archives have that single hole in them. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.)

Anyway, no need for context here. If you’d enjoy seeing the comment threads on any of these posts, just hop over to my FB page (where you should already be following me, anyway, what are you thinking?). It’s www.facebook.com/john.carlton.

And, as always, I love to hear what you’re thinking in the comments here (where I often hang out and interact).

By the way… that photo up top is from the big damn AWAI seminar I was a featured speaker at, back in October. Everything about the photo (and yes, that’s Dan Kennedy sitting with us) is explained in the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast I link to below (in one of the posts) (and yes, this is a tease to get you to read this entire thing).

Enjoy the year-end Facebook roundup:

Take This To The Bank, Part 11: Most people’s daily actions (eating, buying, loving, hating, grooming, working, all of it) are based on beliefs… which they regard as “true”.

You better grok this, if you want to communicate with, sell to, or persuade folks in any way.

As irrational and unfounded in reality as these belief systems can be, they become unshakeable foundations for all behavior, thought and decisions.

Rookie copywriters like to bowl readers over with facts and data and science. Yawn. These are humans you’re writing to. Reality is very subjective, and by the time perception gets past the internal obstacle course of flawed senses, emotional distress, and knee-jerk denial… your facts will get ambushed and slaughtered as efficiently as a 30’s-era mob hit.

Real persuasion occurs in the murky soup of people’s ancient, mostly-unconscious belief systems. Timid efforts ain’t gonna cut it.

Bold, and even spectacularly whacky beliefs trump crunchy facts every time.

Just something to keep in mind as you explore persuasion expertise…

A life well-lived will be roiling with stories. Seems pretty obvious.

But it’s the same with a business well-run. And a career with lofty goals. Even a project you’ve thrown yourself into. Or a single day of enthusiastic productivity.

The world spins in the greased grooves of stories. All around you, and deeply intertwined with your very existence, are stories of romance, harrowing adventure, small and large heroic episodes, and the fascinating history of your impact on everything you touch. Yes, you.

Your stories swirl and crash into the stories of your friends, colleagues, lovers, clients, family, enemies and random encounters.

Recognizing these stories, and molding them into snarling tales with a set-up, a point, and a punchline or lesson, can kick you into a higher level of conscious living. The slumbering masses ignore, deny and deflate their stories… and yet, the hunger in all of us for well-told tales is never sated.

There’s no big secret to success. It’s not the moolah or power you accumulate… it’s the wealth of experience, feelings, brain stimulation, and your impact on others generated by living large.

It’s hard to become, and stay conscious. Your stories help you catalog the good stuff, and keep you enmeshed with all the other actors in your life’s movie.

The best marketing is alive with stories, because it’s all just an extension of life well-lived.

Go chew up some scenery. The only real crime in the universe is squandering this unique, scary and wonderful existence you woke up with today…

Can I bitch about something here? That’s a good use of social media, isn’t it, bitching about stuff?

I have a little insight to how people behave, after a lifetime studying you. (Yes, you.) We’re whacky, no doubt about it.

But let me get this straight: You’re in a vehicle weighing, what, nearly two tons. Driving, usually too fucking fast for conditions, amongst many other vehicles weighing just as much, or more. Like metal beasts lumbering about the Pleistocene savannah, only with tinier brains.

Folks, do you really think running red lights is a good idea? Cig in one hand, phone in the other, steering with your pinkies and blowing lights at 15 over the speed limit…

… this makes sense to you? You’re invulnerable, against all the other metal behemoths crowding the road, with gnarly grills just itching to chew through your side door?

I’m degrading my opinion of humans again. Down to maybe 4.5 on the devolution point scale.

Ya friggin’ idiots. (Not you. Those other friggin’ idiots…)

Okay, I know you’re still stuck for a great gift idea for that special entrepreneur in your life (who could, of course, be you).

Not easy to please, entrepreneurs. They can be kinda grumpy about the tools they use to jack up the mojo in their projects.

So here’s another suggestion: The game-changing “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” course (which remains one the essential dog-eared most-used manuals in many Top Dog’s offices) is a nice little transformation bomb you can plant on anyone in biz and get a big kiss in return.

Plus, you know, you’ll be helping to change their life trajectory, just as this little course has helped thousands of other entrepreneurs, small biz owners and freelancers.

It’s the original “how to” manual that launched (or rescued) a gazillion online and offline biz ventures, and turned many cockeyed wild ideas into moolah-belching juggernauts for a generation of entrepreneurs. More than simply still “relevant”, it’s never lost being spot-on, timeless advice, with specific tactics that have never stopped working in marketing.

Nice little freebie comes with the course, too — the shockingly useful “Power Words” report that can kick your writing up several levels immediately.

Just in case you’re stuck for gift ideas. Get your copy here.

Trying to help out here…

Memo to writers everywhere: A strange confluence of coincidences has created an interesting story here, regarding writers who give a flying shit about truth, the integrity of research and investigation, and living in the deep end of life’s pool (rather than barely getting wet in the shallows).

The fictional series “Newsroom” on HBO is currently in the middle of a plot line (which obviously was recorded many moons ago) that is being mimicked in REAL LIFE by the turmoil over at the New Republic… and it concerns a sub-plot that may (in REAL LIFE) affect your career.

Ignore the political stuff, if it bothers you. I follow news sources from every whacky end of the American political spectrum (so I know what even the scariest amongst you are obsessing on)… just grow up and get past it.

The sub-plot I’m referring to is nouveau riche young guns exerting some righteous Brave New World wrath on “old journalism” sources… by buying the joints, and destroying them.

In their eyes, it’s “disruption = great new stuff happening” — the ethos that made Silicon Valley rich and powerful.

In reality, it’s “click-bait = chaos and weak-ass journalism”, the nightmare of putting naive people with little real world experience in charge of informing the rest of us.

I’ve seen this happen with multiple online resources I used to trust. Almost overnight, they’ve gone from worthy sources of well-thought-out and well-written stories (that follow basic journalistic ethics of research and backing up angles)…

… to puff pieces on celebs, viral bullshit, and trending word clusters that get clicks. Oh, which are also poorly written, with no conscious editing, mired in first-person “this is how I feel” stories with no point. Just get Kim Kardasian into the headline.

This is NOT new in journalism, folks. Good, ethical news publications have always been outsold by tabloids… rumors and envy-laced rage has always trumped solid reporting… and shallow curiosity beats deep thought every time.

Every writer — including copywriters, script writers, speech writers, article writers, all of us — has to make a choice at some point. Are you gonna go for the easy bucks, and let ethics slide…

… or are you going to challenge yourself, take risky chances to get to a deeper level, and become a REAL writer?

You may earn less, you know. You will walk away from lucrative gigs, refuse to take the big checks from unethical clients, and lose jobs by insisting on doing what’s right (rather than what’s easy, and possibly more profitable).

It’s not one huge initial choice, either. It’s an ongoing series of choices in life, that constantly dog you. No job is safe from invasion by barbarians. No niche is a paradise of truth and ethics, once competition arrives.

The fiction of “Newsroom” can rattle you (and, yes, occasionally irritate you, too).

The reality of what just happened to a century-old magazine (New Republic) IS rattling, and IS irritating.

Young people — even stupid-wealthy ones — are not the problem. This isn’t a generational issue.

It’s about allowing naivete and untested-in-the-real-world personal feelings of omnipotence trump solid (and often non-profitable) deeper thought.

The future of a click-bait-driven media is not pretty. It’s 1984-level social thuggery in action, lulling the masses to sleep while The Man reclaims his throne.

You think we’re immune from gulags and crushing behavioral control?

Us writers will be among the first to be imprisoned and hung up on the wall, Handmaid-Tale-style, when the shit hits the fan (and few will notice, because the story may not go viral or get clicks).

The red flags are flying, folks.

Choose carefully.

Brand-spanking new podcast now posted… for free, y’all… at the usual site. Psych Insights for Modern Marketers (or pi4mm dot com) (notice how I disguised the domain name, so Zuck wouldn’t spot it and bury this post?).

All about the fastest way to sneak into the “inside” of the high-flying copywriter world (with specifics on using to get on the inside of ANY target situation, market, business, or glee club).

Road dogs have more fun that you do, and automatically get hauled behind the curtain and into the secret world of the movers/shakers. Extremely overlooked gig, and very few folks have a clue what it is, how to do it, and why you SHOULD do it.

Top “A List” copywriters who’ve written multiple gazillion-dollar campaigns have road-dogged for me. Even after they’ve become famous and rich. Why?

Feast your ears on the podcast here: www.pi4mm.com

Reality Check #57: You wanna be a “real” writer?

Then write. Writers write. And rewrite, and study language and persuasion and communication, and rewrite some more putting the new skills to work immediately (constantly jettisoning the bad tactics and exercising the good ones).

Have this tattooed on your amygdala: Writers write.

This requires hours every day of solitary work. Extroverts can do the gig, but it’s easier for introverts (who are often awkward in jobs that require social skills). Both types can thrive, but only by sitting down and focusing.

Write. Write, write, write. Keep journals, exchange emails with other writers, always have a book cooking, read good writers and study their technique, and write well every time you craft a sentence. Make your To Do Lists sizzle with good verb choices. Pen emails that others actually print out and keep. Keep notepads nearby at all times, and wear your ink-stained shirts with pride. And rewrite everything before you let it out into the world. Edit, sculpt, and fortify everything you write.

The scribe guild was one of the first to manifest after civilization formed. Your writing skills can change the world… or bore folks to tears.

Real writers write. If it’s painful to write, you’re probably not suited to the gig.

Just sayin’…

Ancient “uncle” advice you’re welcome to ignore: You never really know someone, until you’ve seen how they react to being cold, wet, tired, hungry and lost.

It’s possible to spend a lifetime around someone, and never see under the masks. That’s certainly what many folks aspire to, never being exposed. Even Brave New World types who claim to embrace lives with no privacy or secrets are hiding shit from their friends and loved ones.

Most people never even truly understand themselves. Too scary. So the delusions pile up.

I feel lucky to have gone through Boy Scouts as a kid. I hated the quasi-militaristic culture, the mindless conformity, the way they frowned on mumbly-peg knife games and blowing shit up.

But, I’ll be darned, it sure gave me the opportunity to see how I dealt with being cold, wet, tired, hungry… and lost. In the woods. With other Scouts, who were NOT handling it well…

The best lessons in life come from disasters. Anyone who grows up having it too easy is pretty much guaranteed to be an unconscious azzhole as an adult, without empathy or clues on living well and playing well with others.

What do you think? Bad advice?

Department of Jealousy, Envy and Schadenfreude: One of the best coping tactics I picked up early in my career… when I was constantly having to face down new clients who were richer, better looking, more self-assured and louder than me… was the “what’s the REAL story” angle.

Here’s how it goes: When you first deal with biz folks, you’ll encounter a lot of ego and confusing status wrangling… because to survive in many biz environments, you’re either a Big Dog or you’re the poop bag dispenser. So folks scramble, lie, cheat and steal their way to positions of confidence and power.

And as you gain experience, you learn quickly that nearly all of it is a total sham. In fact, the “real story” behind the bluster, facade, masks and attitude is often the complete opposite of what’s presented. Cut any financial claim you hear in half, right off the bat. Figure that most boasting about happiness is flimsy denial. And particularly assume that anytime anyone says “money is not a problem”, that money is VERY MUCH a problem.

Freelance copywriters are privy to the real story behind the biz, the product, and everyone in the office. When you do the job correctly, you never turn off your “detective” chops (cuz hooks hide).

And very quickly, you will discover what a rickety artifice most of society and the culture is. Be happy it works, but do not be intimidated by anyone, ever.

Chances are, once you know the back-story, you wouldn’t want to spend five minutes inside their skin… no matter how awesome they present their lives to the general public.

Learn to be happy in your own skin, and you can rule the world.

Sorry, it’s the best advice I can give you: Early in your career, get your butt kicked (virtually, please) as often as possible, in every area that defines your gig. Learn your lesson, fix whatever’s missing or weak in your skill set, and get back in the game ready to do measurably better.

That’s it. Those who never fail are playing it too safe (or are just lying mofo’s protecting a sordid past). The key isn’t failing, however — it’s the lesson-learning thing.

Heck, it’s easy to fail, marinate in humiliation and believe you’re cursed, or unlucky, or being punished by the universe.

Much, much harder to buckle down and go deep into what happened, using critical thinking and goal-achievement tactics to figure it out… and do it so well that you’re actually itching for another at-bat in the same situation, so you can put your new info, skills and attitude to the test again.

Pro’s don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves, or keeping score of wins and losses. They work at getting better, all the time, and they aren’t terrified of mysteries or difficult problems. Every major step up in their career started out as a mystery or difficult problems. It’s what pro’s eat for breakfast.

Few people want to hear this kind of advice, of course. Much easier to believe there’s some “secret” to succeeding that requires little work, and rescues you from ever feeling bad or being blamed. It’s gotta be out there, It says so on the teevee machine…

Pro’s grind. Wannabe’s whine.

I’ve had around 5 mid-life crises, starting back when I hit thirty.

I enjoyed the hell out of each one (though sometimes reluctantly, since each one arrived as a “crisis” and I was deep in change and turmoil, sometimes for years).

So I’m a bit of an expert. And I discovered there are two kinds of mid-life crisis:

1. You realize you’re not happy with what you have, and you need to try something else (though you’re not quite sure what)…

2. Or, you realize you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve. And you need to get on your horse.

Both involve an “uh oh” reaction deep inside, one so profound it’s like an 7.5 earthquake in your system… providing a panicked sense of motivation and energy.

Which can either go well, or badly for you.

Abrupt change, not planned out very well and relying on untested gut feelings and vague notions of what might “make you happy” is a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, an urgent period of planning, including having escape routes and Plan B alternatives… along with self-knowing goal-setting that is attainable and reasonably realistic…

… can transform your life. And limit the collateral damage in the people and things around you.

Too many folks just ignore that rumble deep inside (of wanting “something else”) until it explodes… and then they become the bull in a china shop, trying to change without direction or plan or help.

That’s fucked up. Living a full life means constantly asking yourself the hard questions, exploring the things your heart desires, test-driving the possibilities, and critically examining your experiences and lessons learned. So you get to know yourself better.

It’s only a real “crisis” if you turn it into one. The better way to look at it is as another fork in your life’s path, an expected and welcome sign that you’re changing from who you were yesterday into who you’ll be tomorrow…

… and this change sometimes has profound implications for your life, and the life of those around you.

Don’t be the bull. Start examining yourself, and your life and goals, and come to terms with where you’re at on your ticket, what’s left for the ride, and how you want to embrace this new, slightly shorter, and age-modified person you’re becoming.

You really can enjoy the whole process, and keep everyone and everything you love intact (and even happy) while still getting after what you really want.

Just sayin’. I didn’t get to be a happy grizzled veteran of life the easy way, you know, and sometimes I’ve got good advice to share…

Best Advice Ever #33: Do you understand the difference between “shame” and “remorse”? Most do not. And suffer for it.

The “voice” of shame is: “I’m a bad person.”

The voice of remorse is: “I’m a good person who screwed up. I will fix what I broke, clean up my mess, make amends if possible… and not just vow to do better, but actually take steps to learn HOW to do better next time.”

Much easier to just feel ashamed, and believe the guilt you agonize over is enough punishment to even things out. Don’t change, refuse to do the hard work of growing the fuck up, and just continue on your current path of sleep-walking.

You’ll always have plenty of company by choosing shame and never doing anything proactive to learn new behaviors or new skills. You may even enjoy snoozing through life.

But then, you just may like the new company better as you wake up and grow…

In the midst of all this wonderful holiday hubbub and chaos, take some time to just relax and gather your thoughts. Quiet room, Rhino’s “DooWop Xmas” collection on the box, another glass of eggnog (okay, you’ve had enough already, but hey, it’s the holidays) (you’ll work off the extra ounces later, no worries) (okay, the pounds, you’ll work off the pounds later, just get off my case and let me enjoy this)…

… maybe a good book. One that makes you laugh, gives you some good tips on changing your life for the better (starting right after the New Year, of course), perhaps a little advice on piling up some big bucks, too.

Here’s my list of recommended books that fit the bill nicely:

1. “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together.”

2.

Okay, there is no number 2. Just get the “Entrepreneur’s Guide” here, and treat yourself to a transformation in thought, deed and good humor. Starting right now.

Mmm, that eggnog needs a bit more rum, don’t you think?

And that’s it for the year-end roundup.
Hope you have a great holiday, don’t get thrown in the clink on New Year’s Eve (“Amateur Drunk Night”, as we call it), and let’s reconnoiter here again early in January to start kickin’ some serious business butt, and start making all your dreams come true.
Stay frosty,
John
P.S. The end of 2014 also brought the passing of an early mentor, and he’s worth memorializing here again. This is what I posted a few weeks ago:

One of my first writing mentors, Jim Rutz (who was also arguably the co-inventor of the magalog, which now dominates large-scale direct mail campaigns), has passed away. It’s a sad day.

I ghost-wrote direct mail packages for Jim over the course of an entire year, after being paired with him by my much-missed agent John Finn, the first of several mentoring arrangements I was lucky to toil through. Jim was a brutal taskmaster, an over-the-top great teacher, and one of the most skilled “pure” writers I’ve ever met. Also one of the most eccentric, and while he and I existed in completely different worlds, his advice for me to let my freak flag fly (not his words, of course) helped me create my own global reputation. (I mentioned him, in fact, while passing on this advice during my speech at AWAI in October.)

I worked harder writing for Jim than I ever had, before or after that ghost-writing period. It was the best way to grow quickly as a pro, much like the classic Karate Kid’s instruction. He later mentored other A-List writers (like David Deutsch), and remained one of the top two or three “first choice” writers of the largest mail houses in the world his entire career.

Goodbye, Jim. And thanks, again.

 

The Grizzled Pro Speaks

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Friday, 2:29pm
Reno, NV
Ch-ch-changes, oh look out, you rock and rollers…” (David Bowie, “Changes”)

Howdy.

All last week, on Facebook, I opened myself up to the mob…

… and promised to answer the best 5 questions posed in an experimental “Bug The Grizzled Pro” post. I just wanted to see what was bothering folks, holding them up, disrupting sleep and profits and happiness.

I was pretty damned impressed with the level of questions that poured in, too. Finding 5 good ones was easy. Answering them required my full focus… and the stuff is good.

So, just to make sure this advanced Q&A isn’t lost in the mire of Facebook (where stuff fades away forever), I’ve posted the entire exchange here. (If you want to see the comments, you’ll have to go to my Facebook page and root around in the posts for the week of November 9-14. And while you’re there, thrilling to the banter, trolling, and fevered debate, sign up to follow me, why don’tcha?)

Here’s the relevant posts. Enjoy:

Post #1:

Bug The Grizzled Pro: Anything you’d like to ask me about, or see me rant about here or on the blog?

I’ll never run out of my own ideas (you oughta see the cluster-mess of untapped stories, advice, epiphanies and general bullshit roiling around in my head)…

… (just be happy you aren’t experiencing this kind of internal chaos yourself)…

… but I’m always happy to see what folks are curious about.

I mean, really — how often do you get a chance to strafe the deck of a veteran, seen-it-all professional like this?

Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is public humiliation, or accidental enlightenment that forces you to change your life (or something in-between).

Don’t be a coward. Ask.

I’ll answer the first… um… five good questions during the week. But they gotta be good…

Continue Reading

Why Is This So Freaking Hard To Do?

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Friday, 2:33pm
Reno, NV
Get away from me, kid, ya bother me…” (Tom Waits, “Step Right Up”)

Howdy.

So, let’s take on the entire advertising model of western civilization, what d’ya say?

Here’s a good place to start: It’s the end of baseball season, playoff fever in the air. I’ve been watching the SF Giants stumble-bum their way through a summer swoon (barely making the last NL wild-card spot)…

… and generally enjoying the age-old process of heartbreak and joy. I followed sports religiously as a kid, but paid less and less attention to it as the real-life adventures of adulthood took up all my time… and now, having a wee bit more time to indulge, I’ve returned to the fold.

But I record the games, and watch them after-the-fact.

Because of the mind-numbing commercial breaks.

I’m not alone, of course. Across the country, grown men and women run screaming from rooms when someone inadvertently turns on the evening news, for fear of hearing the score in a game they’re recording for later.

And being forced to endure the entire broadcast — including the endless, mind-melting commercial breaks — in, say, a bar or a friend’s house is pure torture.

The SAME commercials will play over and over, sometimes twice in the same break. Some of the national ones are mildly clever (at best), but hardly classic films that deserve repeated views. And the local stuff is just awful. (The locals can be excused, of course — tiny budgets, no insight to how persuasion actually works, and they’re at the mercy of clueless ad agencies or a brother-in-law with a camcorder. There’s even some charm in the awkwardness of homemade spots… sometimes, anyway. Mostly not, but you might get the flavor of the area at times.)

But the national spots have no real excuse. Yes, there is value in repetitive views — the average buyer sees a late-night cable infomercial something like 7 times, in pieces lasting a few minutes, before pulling out a credit card. There’s a process to the art of long-form, chew-up-the-wee-hours commercials.

However, the model of jamming a single pre-recorded commercial into every break in a sporting contest just begs to be ignored. Any thinking creature knows to check out mentally during the break, and go do something else. If you’re welded to the couch (say, in the midst of watching a blowout, weighed down by one too many beers), you still do not “watch” any commercial for the 20th time…Continue Reading

Why We Blow Stuff Up On The 4th Of July (redux)

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Saturday, 1:35pm
Reno, NV
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high…” (Grateful Dead, “US Blues”)

Howdy,

As a kid, July Fourth meant fireworks, and lots of them.

We’d start salivating around mid-June, shaking like 10-year-old junkies until Pop finally drove us to the Red Devil stand in Fontana, where’d we stock up on the most gruesome display of flame, gunpowder and amateur rocketry possible.

Oh, the joys of ladyfingers going off under Aunt Ruth’s chair… of nearly burning down the garage when a bottle rocket zoomed sideways… of thrilling Roman candles singeing the shrubbery… of snakes, pinwheels, sparklers and fountains frothy with fire in the backyard battlefield…

It was freakin’ glorious, is what it was.

But I never made the connection to what, exactly, we were celebrating.

Later in life, I got into history, and I finally understood why (for example) my Mexican and European pals rolled their eyes at my stories of celebrating the Fourth by setting fields on fire with M80-loaded Silver Salutes, or blowing up toilets in the boy’s room with cherry bombs (as custom demanded).

Americans are a raucous bunch, that’s for sure. We take a lot for granted, we’re still fighting the Civil War, much of our politics is incoherent and illogical, and we can be pretty infuriatingly provincial.

Plus, we’re no longer world leaders in the stuff we used to be rockstars at, like education, social mobility, inventions, progress, medicine… and we’re in denial about much of it.

However, even acknowledging all of these glaring faults hasn’t made me as cynical as some of my hipster pals. As I’ve said many times, no political party would ever allow me to be a member, and you’ll never figure out how I vote or what my views are on the topics the news media obsesses about.

This causes some problems in social situations when colleagues just assume I agree with them on the major issues. And I usually don’t agree at all. I’m not a total cynic, but I find fault with almost every opinion I hear. I totally understand how a lot of folks do become snarling partisans, enraged at their polar opposites on all issues, bereft of hope for the future.

I just learned to loathe cynicism itself long ago. Worthless attitude, doesn’t help anything, doesn’t provide solutions, doesn’t make an iota of difference in what goes on. At best, the cynic may toss off an actual witticism…

… but mostly, they’re just too cool to be bothered beyond expressing droll boredom and a vague superiority at being “above the fray”.

Well, fuck ‘em. The social/political/world-affairs cynic is a close cousin of the dude who’s never met a payroll, yet feels completely qualified to deliver speeches on how everyone else’s business should be run.

And I learned to shut that guy out very early in my career. My first question, whenever someone was bashing an entrepreneur’s efforts, used to be “well, what would you do in his situation?”

Which, of course, produced exasperation that someone of such intelligence and knowledge as themselves should be required to come up with solutions.

The nerve, asking him to dirty himself with real-world considerations.

Nowadays, I prefer to just let the conversation die from non-involvement. No matter what the cynic is talking about, it’s the same game every time – either “they” (the mysterious folks apparently running everything) need to fix things, or the world just needs to stop bothering Mr. Cynic with its problems if no one’s gonna take his advice.

Yawn.

Yeah, you’re the guy I’m going to when problems need fixing. Those platitudes, snooty attitudes and arrogant dismissals of detail work oughta solve everything fast.

Oops, I let some sarcasm slip there. Sorry.

Anyway, I bring up my detestation of cynicism because it often rears its ugly head right about the Fourth of July, when guys like me start ruminating on what’s good about this country.

Yes, I know The Man is getting better at keeping us down. I know we’re being groomed for digital slavery by evil geniuses who want to control the universe. And I know it’s hopeless to fight city hall (let alone the gazillionaires currently corrupting every corner of the government with buckets of moolah).

But I’m an amateur historian. And I can scoff at the cynics because even a casual glance at the ride we’ve taken as a country so far lays bare a single fact: We’ve always been at each other’s throats… Continue Reading

Buzz And Awe, Redux

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

Howdy…

Those of you in the loop know we’ve re-launched the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

everything that pumps eager prospects into your Sales Funnel.

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

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

… and never figure out how to SELL anything.

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

Department Of First-World Problems

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

Howdy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Force Me To Personally Advise You On Your Business… For Cheap.

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Friday 8:09pm
Reno, NV
“Just move on up now…” (Curtis Mayfield)

Howdy.

Quick post here to help you figure out when you should probably consider consulting with a respected, proven veteran marketing expert…

… and what your perfect consulting option is, once you’ve decided it’s time to kick your biz or career into high gear.

Step One: As a small business owner or entrepreneur (especially if you’ve been going at it alone, or mostly alone)… if you have any kind of success at all… there will come a time when you’re simply overwhelmed and need a little help. Or a lot of help.

For example:

[] It may be time for you to move up a level in your marketing… and you know that having a veteran marketing expert comb over your new plans can shortcut your path to increased wealth, while jumping over the unseen pitfalls that ruin so many other biz owners trying to expand.

[] Or, you may have a problem that needs serious attention… like sales going into the toilet, or new competitors chewing you up, or sudden changes in the marketplace that crush your bottom line (like a Google slap, or adverse rule changes at Clickbank, or the obsolescence of your product, or technological left-turns that disrupt your sales process). Even worse, what was working before suddenly isn’t working anymore, and you don’t see a clear reason why.

[] Or, you’re just working harder and harder, but sales are stagnant. Time, perhaps, to bring in an objective, experienced marketing whiz who can help you restructure your biz plan… so you maximize results, and get your life back (by working less, not more.)

[] Or, you may want high-end professional advice on your current sales funnel… just to make sure you’re not hemorrhaging money somewhere, or murdering potential sales through marketing blunders you can’t even see.

[] Or, you may be ready to start a new business adventure, and just want to be positive you’ve got your ducks lined up and you aren’t forgetting something critical.

[] Or, you have copy that may or may not be working, which you know could jack up your bottom line if a professional copywriter helped you with a total make-over.

Step Two: The best reasons to seek professional help from a veteran dude like me always have one main goal: To fix problems, and goose your bottom line into obscene levels of newfound wealth.

When your situation is urgent, the cost of hiring a consultant who can provide solutions is almost always “cheap”, because you’re extracting yourself out of a dangerous reality that threatens your business and peace-of-mind.

And it’s a screaming bargain when that consultant can offer you simple fixes inside of a plan you can put into action immediately…Continue Reading

How To Hire A Copywriter.

photo-1Tuesday, 2:14pm
Reno, NV
Are you going on this crazy voyage?” (Sailor in “King Kong”, 1933 version)

Howdy…

It’s high time for a little “public service” message here, for any marketer wanting to hire a freelance copywriter.

Cuz it’s a jungle out there.

There’s a veritable mob of available writers, of all levels of expertise (from world-class down to “should be hung”), charging all kinds of fees and making all kinds of promises.

It can get confusing, abruptly, and you can end up mismatched (or getting roughed up financially) if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, here’s a Quick Start overview of what you – the dude or dudette doing the hiring – should get straight on before heading into the Big Scary Jungle Of Freelance Copywriters to find your perfect scribe. (This works for hiring ANY consultant, actually, so pay attention.)

Step One: Deconstruct and list what you want done.

Do you need a single ad written, or do you need your entire website created or overhauled? Do you need someone to write the necessary emails, Video Sales Letters and sales pages for a launch? Do you need a sales funnel created, starting with Adwords and traveling through landing pages, auto-responders, landing pages, and sales support?

Or what?

Step Two: Admit it if you aren’t sure what you want (or need). Double admit it to yourself if you’re absolutely clueless.

This is a critical step.

You’re about to shell out a lot of money, and put a lot of your hopes and dreams on the back of the writer you hire…Continue Reading

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (one more time)

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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 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 read this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2013, 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.Continue Reading

Staying Out Of “The Lonely Hearts” Club

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Monday, 5:55pm
Reno, NV
“Train whistle blows, lost on its own track…” (Dwight Yoakum, “Long White Cadillac”)

Howdy…

I thought you’d want to see this.

I first posted it on Facebook, and it generated an avalanche of “likes” and comments… which always means I’ve hit a nerve. And since many of the nice folks on my main list are curmudgeons who refuse to participate in social media (“Facebook, bah, humbug!”)…

… I’m reprinting it here. So you don’t have to sully yourself by dropping by Facebook. (Bonus: The post below actually trashes large swaths of the Web.)

The cold, dark days of December are, traditionally, a breeding ground for both regret over mistakes in the past year…

… and (more happily) for bold new plans in the coming year.

So, in the spirit of helping you end the year on a positive note… while also teeing up 2014 as possibly your best new year ever…

… let’s see if this advice (which has transformed so many entrepreneurial adventures into something amazing) will have any effect on you. Maybe get a head-start on wading through the mounting piles of nonsense out there, and snuggling up closer to the reality-checks and truths that can help you attain your wildest goals and dreams.

Here’s the post:

Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive. And because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world…

… which included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abbey), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).

So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades. I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.

The discussions are critical… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture. It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns…

… and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.

My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary. We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.

So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…

… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.

Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials. The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…

… all of it. And when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.

I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh. They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.

And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.

As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.

That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.

Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this. I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…Continue Reading


All testimonials and case studies within this website are, to the best of our ability to determine, true and accurate. They were provided willingly, without any compensation offered in return.

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

Many people do not implement anything I teach them. I can't make anyone follow my advice, and I obviously can't promise that our advice, as interpreted and implemented by everyone, is going to achieve for everyone the kinds of results it's helped some of the folks you read about and hear from here achieve.

The income statements and examples on this website are not intended to represent or guarantee that everyone will achieve the same results. Each individual's success will be determined by his or her desire, dedication, marketing background, product, effort, and motivation to work and follow recommendations. There is no guarantee you will duplicate results stated here. You recognize any business endeavor has inherent risk for loss of capital.

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