Tag Archives: salesmanship

Year-End Roundup Of Good Stuff


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


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.”


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,
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.


Why Is This So Freaking Hard To Do?


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


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

Buzz And Awe, Redux

2-10 iPhone 005

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


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

Psst! C’mere, I Got Something For Ya…


Friday, 5:24pm
Reno, NV
Step right up, we got bargains galore…” (Tom Waits, “Step Right Up”)


I’ve had a flood of new folks wander in through the side door of this blog lately…

… so I thought I’d just catch everyone up on what’s happening.

Happenin’ Thang #1: I’m speaking at my dear friend (and legend in the biz) Joe Sugarman’s seminar (in Vegas, baby!) on the 24/25th of October.

The line-up of speakers is pretty shocking — Joe Polish, Jon Benson (VSL wizard), just a mob of snarling experts who rarely are in the same room at one time.

Rather than re-explain how awesome this seminar will be (and it’s a “must be there” event… and nearly all the hottest “A List” copywriters I know booked their spot the moment they heard about it)…

… I’m just gonna post the URL, so you can check it out for yourself. Time is tight. And anyone who understands how unique this kind of event is, and why it’s so critical for entrepreneurs to hang out at live seminars and brush elbows with experts is already salivating over the opportunities this opens up.

Go here to see why so many pro’s are going to the Sugarman event.

Happenin’ Thang #2: As many of you already know, I’ve been co-hosting a killer new podcast series called “Psych Insights for Modern Marketers” with my colleague Kevin Rogers (who has authored several guest posts on this blog).

It’s killer stuff… all focused on going deep into the street-level salesman’s psychology of what makes people buy. You won’t find subject matter like this anywhere else, and you sure as heck won’t get the deep-behind-the-scenes insight from grizzled professionals like me on any other podcast.

Plus… it’s free.

Go here to check out the latest podcast. I hang out in the comments section, too, so feel free to start a thread or join one of the existing brouhaha’s already getting frothy in there.

Happenin’ Thang #3: If you haven’t subscribed to my Facebook page, you’re missing out on the frequent posting I do there… especially the Monday Mentoring Sessions, which reveal the essential lessons I’ve learned (always the hard way, by getting bloody first and only then figuring out where I went wrong and how to fix it next time) on becoming a happy, successful dude.

I’m usually over the limit on “friends” there, so just subscribe as a “follower” — you get the same privileges.

My Facebook handle is: www.facebook.com/john.carlton

Last note: I’ll be posting more original articles next month.

For now, if you’re jonesing for more stuff to dive into, just hit the archives over in the right-hand column here.

Coming up on nine years of material in there. All free.

Be sure to sign up for alerts, though, so you find out when new posts are added. Top of the right hand column, in the “Keep Informed” box.

Use your best email, not your slog one. I’m not gonna spam you, or send too much stuff — I usually send out no more than a couple of emails each month, all related to things you (as an entrepreneur, writer, biz owner or freelancer) will appreciate discovering.

Okay, that’s it for today. Lots of great stuff available here, and you ignore any of it at your peril.

Enjoy your Halloween, and I’ll see you here next month.

Stay frosty,


Risky Bidniz

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


We’re in for a treat today.

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

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

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

Thanks for the intro John.

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

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

Or perhaps not the right kind of risks.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

It began to sink in.

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

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

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

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

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

Your Own Private Crystal Ball

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


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

… and took notes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it has to be the right perspective… Continue Reading

Bamboozled By Babble, redux


Tuesday, 2:47pm
Reno, NV
Don’t let me be misunderstood.” (The Animals, #15 on Billboard, 1965)


I’ve resurrected another gem from the archives… just because it’s so freakin’ good. Many of the lessons I try to deliver in this blog need to be delivered over and over (the only guaranteed way to finally learn anything in life), and once I nail it, there’s no sense rewriting it.

The clarity I try to achieve below is a solid step toward leading a more examined life… which all great marketers strive to do. There are stages to this if you’ve hit adulthood and continue to labor under false assumptions and bad belief systems. The worst is thinking that what you believe must be true, because you’ve believed it for so long.

This kind of circular cognitive dissonance can hold you up for decades (or even forever)… because our very human minds are hard-wired to listen to our intuition, no matter how often it’s proven wrong or screws up our lives.

We’re stubborn beasts. As a civilian, you just go enjoy your bad self with your silly notions and absurd assumptions. I’d prefer that you not vote, but it’s a free country.

However, as a marketer who desires wealth and recognition and lasting success… you cannot rely on the flawed default settings in your brain. If you haven’t been constantly giving yourself vicious Reality Checks over your career, you’re risking being stuck in a non-productive zone where competitors will fly past you, and customers flee.

I, personally, am very hard on myself. Very, very hard.

My transformation into a real professional meant climbing out of a slacker lifestyle where I got away with laziness, unreliability, and a self-destructive refusal to change… Continue Reading

Top 10 Secrets To Make 2013 The Best Freakin’ Year Of Your Life (all of which you’re either ignoring or screwing up)

Saturday, 3:44pm
Reno, NV
“I’ll have what she’s having…” (When Harry Met Sally)


I figured I’d kick off the new marketing season here in a ball of fire, and just lay some Reality Checks out for you. Here goes:

Your First Big Reality Check: If you tried, really really hard, and weren’t successful last year…

… it was probably mostly your own damn fault.

Yeah, sure, the economy sucked, politicians were mean, your prospects are all screamin’ idiots, and God had it out for you. All totally excellent excuses for having a crummy bottom line again.

It’s not your fault. It can’t be your fault.  That’s… that’s just…

… that’s just completely unacceptable that it even might be your fault.

And, hey, maybe you did piss off the universe, and spooky forces beyond your control mucked things up so you had a bad year.

I believe you. I really do.


After you’ve been around the block a few times in life, you start to notice some very interesting things about success.

And the big realization, I’d have to say, is that the idea that success is somehow magically bestowed on people in a spontaneous burst of luck and being in the right place/right time…

… is just bullshit.

It is. It’s total bullshit. Hollywood likes to pretend it’s a real plot point. And folks clueless about how the world works — who spend their lives outside looking in — use this myth as a comforting excuse for their own lack of goal attainment.

Once you’ve spent even a little time with successful dudes and dudettes, you notice something startling: They all have well-defined goals, and they focus on nailing them like terriers going after a squirrel.

They are not stopped by lack of skill, or lack of time, or lack of connections in the right places.

They are not stopped by ADHD (which a LOT of the entrepreneurs I know are saddled with, btw)… or feelings of inferiority (many of the best are entirely motivated by “I’ll show you” revenge fuel)… or lack of education (drop-outs galore).

And they are not stopped by the main reason most wannabe entrepreneurs never get past that “deer in the headlights” pose: Not knowing what to do next.

Every single excuse ever floated by anyone in the history of mankind…Continue Reading

How To Win An Argument In 3 Easy Steps


Tuesday, 2:57pm
Reno, NV
Mongo just pawn in game of life.” (Blazing Saddles.)


Recently, I published a series of posts on Facebook under the theme “How To Win An Argument”. Over the week it ran, there was a vast and animated flurry of comment and interaction — the posts hit a nerve.

Fortunately, because that series got so much traction in Facebook, I decided to gather them and post the series here in the blog, so they’ll go into the archives (and thus can be easily accessed by anyone interested). I say “fortunately”, because apparently Zuckerberg and his evil Facebook henchmen decided that all my January posts before the 20th (which included the argument series) needed to vanish from the face of the earth (and the virtual earth that is social media).  Poof. They’re gone. No explanation, no way to get them back (though I’ve been searching for tips and asking for help from colleagues — there are a lot of videos out there pretending to have the secret of restoring “lost” posts, but they don’t work).

I’m kinda stunned… but glad I’d already copied and pasted those initial posts here. I’m doing the same with other FB posts from the past — just getting them copied into a Word doc, in case Zuck goes berzerk again. Jeez Louise, you probably need to take the same precautions if you have valuable posts you don’t want to lose.

So, Lesson #1: Do not trust Facebook to archive anything. The joint is crawling with post-devouring demons or something.

I’m not saying that everything I post there needs to be carved in stone. But I do write some cool shit on my wall, occasionally. It’d be nice if it remained there.

Anyway, below is a mildly-edited collection of that series on winning an argument. I didn’t save the dozens and dozens of comments, and that’s a shame — it was a great thread, full of other lessons. For example: The easiest way to get a whole bunch of folks frothing is to talk about (a) sex, or (b) their belief systems. They go nuts. As you’ll see below, I just laid out my views on how to handle people who want to argue and how to define “winning” for yourself… and that just pissed off some folks. Even discussing arguing inflamed their knee-jerk need to argue. Humorous, ironic, and illustrative of how whacko human beings can be. Also, as a marketer, informative — especially if you want or need to introduce some form of argument or alternative view into your advertising.

And, yes, this entire series is very much aimed at marketers. Great ads seldom argue, though they may be pushing buttons right and left. The psychology is subtle, but awesome.

So, without further ado, here’s that series. Love to hear your comments… which will all go safely into the blog archives, where Zuckerberg can’t touch them:

How To Win An Argument, Step 1: The primary rule is simple — never Continue Reading

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (again)

Special Note If You’ve Just Come Here From My Facebook Rant On Winning Arguments: If you’re looking for a fast, thoroughly fun way to quickly learn high-end salesmanship skills… for a screaming bargain, no less… grab a copy of my must-read book “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” here.

Okay, on to the current blog post:

Saturday, 1:30pm
Reno, NV

Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)


I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

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…Continue Reading

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

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