“Knowledge is Good.” (Farber College, “Animal House”)
As a public service, I like to occasionally collect the best of the insane/brilliant/outrageous/decent advice and observations I spread around Facebook, and post it here for your frenzied and happy consumption.
It’s the least I can do, since a few of you have absolutely refused to join us in Zuck’s digital playground. I don’t blame you — Facebook can suck enormous quantities of time from your life, and take you down dark holes to the fever swamps of the worst of human thinking…
… but then again, some of the crap there is really cool.
So, at any rate, here’s a round up of the last month or so, in no particular order. I promise, no cat videos…
Friday Mentoring Session #33: One of the small advantages I had when I started my career as a freelance copywriter was having my then-soon-to-to-be-ex-girlfriend throw a lamp at me as I ducked out the door for the last time.
She was mad that I was devoting so much time to the gig, and I realized I needed to fly solo for a while if I was gonna successfully navigate the rocky early-career months.
Now, I’ve helped many a married-with-kids rookie get their mojo going in this same career — there’s no requirement to live like a monk (and I didn’t, either).
But any sweetie who wants to come along needs to be VERY clear on the time/energy/focus commitment that IS required. A rookie has an enormous amount of reading, video-watching and audio-listening to do for many months (I took a year to feel I’d “arrived”, but I had zero help and was inventing the entire process as I went)…
… and if you’re also juggling a “real” job, there just ain’t gonna be much time for lovey-dovey and relationship nurturing.
It’s not a permanent status, though… and any couple that has gone through military deployment, for example, will understand that during crunch time, you just gotta buck up.
Becoming an entrepreneur requires an entirely different mindset than “normal” living — and you need to understand this as you commit to deadlines (which you can NEVER miss) while your family/significant-other/new-squeeze needs to have the self-confidence and respect for your career that gives you room to move through the early months.
Cuz you’re gonna be frustrated, you’re gonna fuck up, you’re gonna be obsessed to distraction with problems, and you’re gonna be used and abused by clients.
After a period of self-hazing and chaos, if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the hang of the gig, and your productivity will zoom while time-commitments drop…
… and you can start planning deadlines and time-boxing projects so you again have plenty of time to get busy with your sweetie(s).
Just sayin’ — this isn’t a normal kind of job. Your entire brain chemistry is going to transform and your lifestyle will be obliterated (so you can rebuild it how you choose).
My first breakthrough was making “business before pleasure” my mantra (which completely harshed my former partying/slacker habits).
I’ve since counseled many writers and entrepreneurs through the burn-out and destroyed relationships that occur from miscommunication, selfishness and narrow-minded/short-sighted thinking (which is rampant in our culture, btw).
Fore-warned is fore-armed. For someone with entrepreneur’s blood in their veins and a writer’s soul, there isn’t a better gig in the universe.
But you seldom travel solo. With the right partners, it’s a dream ride. With the wrong ones, it’s like hacking through jungle with a butter knife.
Be sensible. Communicate. Prepare yourself and everyone around you, and enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of moving into the world of success and goal-attainment.
Observations From The Sludge Days Of Summer: My energy levels fluctuate like crazy — mostly, I’m a total sloth, following the great “dog wisdom”: Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never just lie there when you can snooze.
However, when I get moving, I go from Neutral straight into fifth gear, with a natural walking pace somewhere between a meth addict and a New York hedge fund asshole with bidniz to get to.
Yesterday, though, the heat woulda killed me at that pace. So I purposely slid it on back to cruise levels while bopping around on errands. And you know what? There’s something truly luxurious and wonderful about moving slow.
I mean, little old ladies fresh from eye surgery passed me in their Caddy behemoths. A squirrel mocked me by running faster across a lawn than I was driving. I made sure not to hold anyone up, even pulling over when a wild eyed guy in a thrashed Buick tail-gated my ass for four feet. And I walked with a slow-mo pace that felt languorous.
Y’all just get on your way, don’t mind me. I’m cruising today, thanks. Just truckin’ through the ether, moseying on down the line.
It was great. It was really great.
I’m gonna be that guy who pisses off everyone else by taking things slow now, as much as possible.
Happy Fourth, folks.
Remember: Light, then TOSS the firework. Don’t hold on.
Work Hack #47: Did you know that many top writers use sleep as a productivity tool?
You’ll get more done, at a higher quality level, in one hour after a power nap… than you’ll ever drag out of your brain in five hours of exhausted effort.
Plus, you can easily teach your subconscious to write FOR you. Some of my best headlines burbled up after a nap. I just asked my brain to distill all the info and ideas I’d crammed into it while I snoozed, and deliver a good headline when I woke up. Voila!
Cool part: Once you get hip to this hack, naps are technically “work”.
So you can toss the guilt, and legitimately tell folks you’re working while hitting the couch.
I love my job.
Department Of STFU, memo #24: Can you keep a secret?
Can any of your friends, family or colleagues?
Of course YOU can keep a secret. You’re a totally trustworthy dude… except maybe for that one time you let a secret slip. But it was just that one time. And it was SUCH a good secret, you know what I mean?
Okay, maybe a few other times, too… but no more than a dozen. Or so.
Okay, fine. You’re a freaking slack-jawed sieve. A virtual walking tabloid of juicy info.
Relax. You’re not necessarily a “bad person” if you occasionally blurt out shit that should remain buried. Humans are social animals, and keeping good info to ourselves isn’t standard equipment in our emotional makeup.
Still, if you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to get a handle on this.
One of the vows I made when I started my freelance career was to BE that guy you could trust. It just seemed natural. In the “real” jobs I’ve had, approximately none of the working stiffs around me could be trusted with anything.
Heck, untrue (and hard to believe) rumors spread like wildfire. The true stuff was treated like first draft ideas that required embellishment to meet the fundamental requirements of being whispered about at lunch.
Your secret wasn’t just spread around like cheap mulch. It was was dressed up like a French streetwalker and highlighted with fireworks.
I discovered that actually keeping a secret was kinda empowering. I enjoyed locking away a Big Story. It changed my own opinion of myself.
Plus, when my rep spread, it helped me slip into inner circles and behind closed doors. A trustworthy dude is hard to find.
Still, the urge to share is almost overwhelming.
People tell you things when you’re perceived as someone who can keep a secret. Especially in those inner circles and behind those closed doors.
Folks in powerful positions are eager to talk… but seldom have anyone around they can safely spill to. They’re forever waiting for the blabbers to leave the room, so they can relax their guard. Hopefully with a trusted fellow insider around, who they can dish with in confidence (often like 7th grade girls on the playground).
It’s lonely at the top.
You want to rise in your chosen profession? You crave the excitement of being on the inside? The thrill of moving and shaking with the movers and shakers?
Then learn to shut the fuck up. Love and trust your close friends with all your might…
… but KEEP the secrets entrusted to you.
It’s part of the job description when you start being a responsible, trustworthy dude or dudette.
Yes, I know it’s hard.
If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.
Extra Bonus Lesson: It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one slip-up to destroy it forever. Never forget that.
As Close As I’ll Get To Politics: I have no answers for the current sad state of affairs in the world (and especially here in the States)…
… and you don’t, either.
Nobody does. The ideologues, the idealists, the conspiracy nuts, the whack jobs and the serious elites all have their fave theories (and bones to pick).
But it’s all futile. It’s not comforting to know this isn’t new shit going on, but at least it helps with a bit of perspective.
First, this current upheaval doesn’t even begin to match the turbulence of the sixties. Just in ’68 alone, we had the police riot at the Chi-town Dem convention (and no one was ever held accountable)… the assignations of Kennedy and King, within months of each other… the Tet offensive in Viet Nam (which signaled the end of illusion about “winning” the war, and the start of the 7-year grind to get the hell out)…
… and an encyclopedia’s worth of other gruesome shit that just went on and on and on.
Cities burned — Watts, near LA. ‘Lanta. Detroit. NYC was becoming a wasteland. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered, always. Jim Crow wasn’t letting go without a lethal fight.
We could be entering another period of chaos like that. Or not. It’s a brave new world, with one superpower and a whole new kind of battlefield (virtual, digital, grid-wide). No one knows what’s gonna happen.
That floating anxiety you feel? Get used to it. Knock it down by tending to your own garden, affecting the things you have some control over. For the Big Picture stuff, you’ve just got to breathe deep and hope our luck holds out.
Second: There are no special factors creating the messes we’re now seeing daily. A lot of it is biology — we’re still essentially shaved apes, fresh from the primordial jungle, inventing wonders with our advanced cerebral cortexes and mis-using them with our lizard brains.
Eat, fuck, defend territory, fear change and The Other. That’s the subliminal message sent through your system, undetected unless you work hard to raise your self-awareness.
Sure, you look nice in your new duds, drinking expensive wine and all caught up on the latest gossip. But beneath the groomed, clean, perfumed surface lurks a survival-minded eco-system of biological imperatives that care not a whit about civility or fairness.
We aren’t doomed to succumb. The history that brought Americans to this high stage of civilization is a gore-strewn mess, and we may never be done with the bloodshed. Cuz that’s our nature — to fight when oppressed, to protect what’s “ours” against all threats, to huddle up in tribes that require real power to thrive.
It’s really kind of stunning we’ve lasted this long, especially with the nukes, chemical weapons, and grid-destroying computer viruses now available. And the way sociopaths tend to rise to leadership positions in all political systems.
No answers. But lots of hope.
We’ve worked our way through similar shit before. We may pull it off again. Beneath the nihilism, there remains the strong urge to survive, to make better choices that help rather than destroy.
I’m betting on good beating evil right now. I’ve been through this crap before, and seen how time can heal and rancid politics can swing back to rational governance.
Meanwhile, choose your battles carefully. There are a lot of us on the planet right now, and you may be in a minority more than you think. We’re not living “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet.
Reality can suck, big time. But calmly being proactive can work at solving horrendous problems. You gotta give it time, though. There’s no magic. You keep your head down, choose your goals wisely, and do the right thing.
Above all, do not give in to panic, or that withering fear the assholes like to exploit for drastic moves that are not conducive to a good solution.
Never let the bastards win. But never expect them to stop trying, either.
Good night, and good luck.
(Side note: Don’t post anything overtly political here. I don’t agree with your cultural spin, don’t wanna hear your fever-swamp conspiracy theories, and will delete all trolls. This is NOT the time to thrash togetherness.)
Nice little “how did I get here?” exercise: Quick now, recall your ten favorite summer memories.
Good stuff, I’ll bet.
Now, chart where most of them came from. Certain time frame, certain group of people, particular place frequently visited, particular recurring state of mind, perhaps.
Whatever you discover… whether it was youthful indiscretions on vacation, mid-life crises gone well, a period of discovery, whatever…
… it is a clue to who you are today, and how you got here. Your bad memories also count, but this is more fun.
Most people never question who they are. Top creative minds are forever consumed with it. If you crave maximum wealth with happiness (not just one or the other), such critical thinking about your past is essential.
I’ve never agreed with folks who insist on no regrets and no nostalgia. Screw that. A life well lived is a long-form tale worth sharing, and those stories take shape through the retellings.
Embrace moments of recalling good times. You’ll still have plenty of time left each day to get your shit done…
Wait — how did you not know we’ve put up a brand new Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast?
You fools! It’s being shoved into Insiders’ ear-holes at this very moment all over the globe… causing all kinds of awesome havoc amongst entrepreneurs who thought they were doomed to be uninteresting people for the rest of their days.
Not so, it turns out. We actually deliver a FORMULA for murdering your boring tendencies…
… which opens huge opportunities to up your game (and results) with more interesting copy, hooks, stories and offers.
Plus, you’ll be sought after at parties, instead of avoided.
I’m telling you, this is life altering stuff.
Go listen now at www.pi4mm.com. And accept the burdens of being an awesome storyteller…
Lifestylin’ Question #14: What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent living out of a backpack?
I lived out of my car for several months while homeless… hitchhiked with just a canvas pack for over a week at a time for a few years (after reading “On The Road” at 19)… logged a fortnight in Boy Scouts out in the hinderlands… and spent a good part of my career living out of suitcases in hotels (which doesn’t count).
Absolutely loved it all. Though occasionally scary, often a bit desperate, and always unpredictable, low-rent travel really does shave off the idealistic crap in your brain.
Seeking out adventure as a young, broke, and enthusiastic hormone-drenched young person used to be a requirement for growing up. Live by your wits, see some of the world from street level, meet whacky characters and have no clue where you’ll be tomorrow…
… there’s something to be said for that kind of dramatic journey.
I’m hearing, though, that it’s becoming rare with the new crop of kids. I hope it’s just another bullshit meme by the snarky press…
… cuz, if true, it would be a damn shame.
What’s your story?
Get Your Shit Together Memo #15: Did you know we completely revamped the Simple Writing System “at home” course? Reshot it in HD, updated every detail, made it just more awesome than it already was all the way around.
And this SWS 2.0 version has just been released… in a very limited amount, while we make triple-sure all the glitches are ironed out in the delivery system. (You get to watch the videos online, on any device, at your convenience… plus you get some serious time in the Marketing Rebel membership site, where I have a permanent virtual office.)
I’m a bit older in the videos (yes, I’m personally delivering every lesson), but wiser. As good as the SWS was (and we’ve put thousands of entrepreneurs, writers and biz owners through it), each of the simple steps is now even more powerful…
… because we’ve learned a few things in the 8 years since first launching it (including all the feedback from students and celebrity teachers — like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, David L. Deutsch and so many others).
Plus: Bonuses up the yin-yang.
Anyway, if (like every breathing marketer on the planet) you need to up your game with the written parts of your biz… including email, ads, VSLs, social media, speeches, and everything else… then here’s your first stop.
It’s a permanent resource, once you get it. A freakin’ bargain, too, considering the way these simple skills can immediately change your life (as they have so many others).
Just check it out: www.simplewritingsystem.com.
Dept. Of Political Standoffs, Memo #17: What’s the matter, Bunky? All this political discord infesting the media got you down?
One of the best things to ever happen to me in college was taking a debate class. I thought “Oh, boy, I’m gonna demolish my opponents with totally bitchin’ arguments that cannot be refuted!”
But the teacher had other plans.
The entire semester, she forced me to present the opposite side of any issue we debated. Total WTF moments for me. To prep, I had to get into the head of people I despised, disagreed with, and never wanted to hang with.
But I also wanted to win the debate. So I bucked up and crawled into the mindset of the opposite side.
Result: An awesome jolt of empathy powers. Equal to the mind-expanding acid trip I’d taken earlier that month. (Relax, it was the seventies.) Completely opened up my mind.
And I totally destroyed my opponents with bitchin’ arguments that could not be refuted.
Did it change my politics? Nope.
But I saw the other side with stunning clarity… including the humanity and sincerity of their positions.
My sense of a black-and-white world of easy decisions, obliterated. My compassion for people who thought differently, massively expanded.
And my ability to persuade… multiplied by a factor of a gazillion.
Shouting at each other accomplishes nothing. Refusing to entertain the thought you may be wrong and (shudder) the other guy is right is a habit of dunces. (See: Dunning-Kruger effect.)
The world is full of subtlety and nuance, whether you recognize it or not.
Being open minded ain’t a handicap, Bunky. It’s the only way for thinking folks to live well.
Okay, now back to the blood-sport shouting on the tube…
Jeez, almost forgot it’s “Piss Somebody Off” Monday!
Here’s my contribution: Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies. And one of my fave quotes from it:
“Jim, you’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
Now, I grew up in both the West and the South — the tiny town of Cucamonga in southern California — and my extended family and neighborhood was rife with Oakies, hillbillies, Texans and some of the most aggressively-naive blowhards you’ve ever met.
But they were, at heart, good people, most of them. Casual bigots, sure. And suspicious of anyone who got “too big for their britches” or acted snooty (whatever that was).
Now, I’m no genius, but I’m damn proud of every neuron I’ve managed to squeeze some IQ units out of, and I’ve worked hard to get myself all educated and shit.
And I’ll tell you that it’s awful lonely out there in the real world sometimes… cuz if you value intelligence and critical thinking at all, you’ll be in the minority in most groups outside of your silo.
And it pays to remember that, often. Blazing Saddles was offensive, outrageous, puerile and gut-wrenchingly funny. It was also stuffed with observational truisms about life in these United States that you don’t get from Reader’s Digest.
If you can at all handle it, try not to be a total maroon. More than ever, we need to stop disrespecting intelligence and thoughtfulness. I know it’s hard, folks, but “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”… (guess that quote, and you can sit at the bar with us next time we’re at the same seminar)…
Busy day. I just trashed the dry cleaner who ruined some of my new shirts, on Yelp.
Lakeridge cleaners, here in Reno, if you want to see how a pro writer eviscerates someone.
I used them for years. They told me go screw myself after they botched a job badly. Good call — lose a great customer, be a total jerk was about it, and irritate a writer who knows how Yelp works.
My main job in life is to help good entrepreneurs and biz owners. Part of that includes helping to rid the joint of bad businesses. Like Batman, if he understood marketing.
Though, from the other reviews, I see they’re doing pretty good at committing biz suicide all by their lonesomes…
Uncomfortable Discussion #8: Here’s the thing about change — learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess. And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…
… and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.
And then the world changes. In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.
You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.
But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…
… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).
I marvel at my Pop’s life (he’s 94 and still kickin’). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and I’m gonna do a Skype video call with him later this afternoon. On his PC. He’s impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), still reads the entire newspaper every day (but fact-checks the editorials on Google, the lying bastards), and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he’d be the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knows how make stuff and fix machines).
Mostly, though, I sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tries to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He’s not bitter, and reveals a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.
And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.
There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit. You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).
The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.
You are not required, however, to change your “core” self… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.
Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.
It doesn’t. The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways. Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.
Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.
Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?
I’m seeing a lot of fear in the news lately — some of it real, lots of it imagined, most of it overplayed. The battle for eyeballs and clicks has turned the entire media circus into a rabid dog fight.
Couple of rules for staying sane:
God did not write the article. Neither did Satan. Nor was it penned by a genius, or even a particularly bright individual in many cases. It’s a regular dude or dudette with biases, neuroses and an overwhelming fear of being disliked, fired or (worse, for a writer) ignored.
So take it all with a grain of salt. If the topic interests you, go find several other takes on it by other writers in other venues. (Yes, even the dreaded “other side” of the political spectrum.)
(This all goes double for TV talking heads, by the way.)
The same idea goes for understanding statistics that get thrown around to bolster or shoot down arguments. Any savvy disruptor can cherry-pick stats to fit his narrative. Much better to see what the context is, and learn how stats about “real life” work.
Just remember that the talking heads on TV, and the bloviators on the radio, and the writers for online and tree-killing news sources are TRYING to punch your buttons. Dog fight.
Unless you’re a player on the world stage.
However, you can be a player in LOCAL events quite easily. If you truly believe you have answers and solutions, then the school board, the city council, and even the neighborhood watch program needs you.
Reality has a way of weeding out the big talkers, cuz when it’s time for action they tend to wander off, bored.
Literally, you can walk off a lot of stress. Put on your sneakers, get out and chug up some hills. Have those internal conversations while you’re burning up calories.
You’ll feel better later, I promise.
Paranoia is like a leach on your mojo. Once it gets its claws into you, it won’t easily let go. You’ll need to spend twice the time murdering it, than you spent acquiring it.
But that’s the game. You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sitting around wishing you had a better one is useless. Learning how to maneuver with what you have available in resources, skill and savvy is the ONLY way to win consistently.
Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards win.
Shh. Big Brother is listening: Back in the old days (before the turn of the century), the standard advice was never to write anything in a letter you didn’t want to see in a headline in the next day’s newspaper.
Then those new-fangled voice message machines appeared, and you had to add that to the list: Don’t leave a voice trail, either.
Also good advice.
Then we added email. Common sense, right? Then, with the NSA gaining muscle in the Grid, we added phone calls.
Now, with video cameras covering most of the public (and much of the private) spaces in the modern world, you should probably be careful about your actions, too. Don’t write, say, or do anything you wouldn’t want blasted across the Web tomorrow. Or in an hour from now.
All good advice.
Which leaves me with one question: Are we already in a world where you cannot exchange ideas with someone else… without the risk of that conversation becoming public? And not through hearsay, but through paper, voice, digital and video trails?
Are we really there already?
Disturbing Reality Check #4: For the most part…
… baring true interventions of nature (such as trees falling on you or zombies assaulting you unawares)…
… you are exactly where you’ve designed your life to be at this point. That may be hard to swallow, if where you’re at sucks right now.
Still, when you stop fighting the reality of how you got here, and accept that you’re responsible for much (or all) of the damage currently roiling in your life…
… you can finally stop blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and get busy fixing what’s broken.
To really get in a primo Zen groove, you should also get busy cleaning up whatever messes you’ve made, while filling in the gaps (in knowledge and skills) that will eventually round you out as a Dude (or Dudette) To Be Reckoned With.
The first rule of Reality Checks is: Reality checks suck. They bitch-slap your ego, demolish the excuses that have been propping you up, and rub your nose in the stark fact that your choices are now “change or rot in place” if you truly lust for a better life.
But the pain of exiting your former deluded self is brief… and the rewards so outweigh the inconveniences… that once you get in the habit, you’ll continue to morph and become a better and better person for the rest of your days.
One ticket. That’s all we get, folks. No do-overs, no replay buttons, no time machines. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve got decades left ahead of you, or only a few seasons… if YOU don’t seize the day and gobble up the opportunities around you, nobody else is gonna do it for you.
Heads Up Alert #13: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…
… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.
Not everyone likes you, remember. You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.) There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.
And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.
Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world. Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)
When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin. Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.
Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked… and it can escalate fast if you engage. Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of. When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…
… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose. Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.
Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:
Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career. All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff. But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.
And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)
Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.
Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.
Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.
Sorry for the long post. It’s hard to explain some of this crap without needing extra paper…
Stress-busting tip: Life got you down? Sales tanking, creditors swarming, job going south, angst bubbling up in your gut?
Worse, is your brain locked in a hellish loop, obsessing and freaking out?
Time to intervene. Write yourself a letter, outlining all your troubles & all your immediate plans. Be specific, just get it all out of your head (where it’s causing trouble) & onto the written page (where you know it can found, so you can forget about it).
Then take a break. Hide the letter for 24 hrs. Let your unconscious work on solutions. When the loop starts, remind yourself that it’s all safely written down, so you don’t need to memorize details.
Your unconscious has a remarkable talent at organizing things and getting perspective on what’s important and what’s fluff. But you gotta give it elbow room to maneuver.
So back off for a day. Or even a few hours, if deadlines are approaching.
You’ll be stunned at how sensible and efficient your brain can be, when you stop fussing and awfullizing everything.
Hey, did you know I’ve got a book on Amazon?
Yeah, you can order it and read it and use it as a doorstop or throw it at the mice in your closet. Or use it as kindling for the fireplace (what with winter only 5 months away and all).
I mention this only because, if you do NOT own this book, your life will be one long miserable slide into horror and boredom. And I don’t wanna be responsible for something like that.
Anyway, after more than a year on the charts, it’s still bubbling up in the best-seller lists (for starting a biz, entrepreneurs, etc). This makes me happy. And a happy John is a productive John.
Go here to get it.
I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?”
Most folks never think about their legacy. The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.
Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?
I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.
There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. They’re like separate John’s, completely different people.
Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.
I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).
I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.
The flip side: I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life. I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.
It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.
It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge secrets.
And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do.
As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.
And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.
They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask back. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.
But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.
Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.
It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives. No one had ever asked before.
And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.
It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly). Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…
… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.
It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.
Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.
Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.
Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.
And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them…
Psych Insight #439: The one consistently shocking piece of advice I give rookie freelancers is… if a prospective client says “money is no problem”, then you can be sure it very much IS a problem. Larger lesson: We are creatures of denial & masks. Deconstructing “who” a man is reveals what he fears and desires most. Heavy, but essential to great salesmanship.
Really Petty (But Important) Pet Peeve: People who have no sense of time when they say “just one second”, or “give me two minutes”, or a dozen other random time periods…
… who then get mad when called on it in one second, or two minutes, or whatever.
I know they’re just really saying “I need an indeterminate amount of time here before I can deal with you”…
… but what they’re actually doing is making their lack of awareness MY problem. Cuz now I gotta cool my heels for some multiple of the time period they want — it’s never a second or two minutes — and that’s fucking irritating. Especially when it gets into half-hour territory.
Top pro’s respect other people’s time. Even back before cell phones, Gary Halbert and I would pull over and call a client from a pay phone if we were gonna be ten minutes late from traffic…
… a significant hassle that could add five minutes. But it stemmed from the knowledge that being late was one thing, but eating up someone else’s time by keeping them waiting in the dark was quite another.
Being purposely late is a power game tactic, a whole different lesson. It’s a move you better be prepared to handle the consequences of. (It can ruin a reputation fast when misused.)
Even if you’re always the first person to arrive by being on-time, DO it if you want to be considered a pro. And learn to judge time, for crying out loud. Don’t say “just a sec” when it will actually be ten minutes. You’re just setting up resentment and arguments, and you gain NOTHING.
Grow up. Learn how time works.
And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope you enjoyed the short articles, pieces of advice, and other crap collected here. I’ll be back in a few months with another round up. Meanwhile, you can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/john.carlton.
P.S. If you’d like to learn how to write EVERYTHING you need for your biz to flourish… from emails to ads to VSLs to speeches and regular old pitches… then you need to check out the Simple Writing System right freakin’ now.
I poured my heart and soul into creating this unique at-home learning course, and it’s the bomb. On your own, at your own pace, you can quickly master the very straightforward skill set behind writing the best possible copy, under every possible circumstance, for every possible situation. Step by step, easily and simply.
Go here to see what’s up (and get a glimpse of some of the thousands of entrepreneurs and pro writers who’ve used the SWS to make their world happier, wealthier, and more awesome all the way around).
Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. Don’t stall any longer on finally goosing your life and career into the next level.
“What you want, baby, I got it…” (Respect, Otis Redding)
I’m not bragging here (okay, maybe just a little)…
… but I’ve been maxed out with “friends” on Facebook for years now. That’s because ol’ Zuckerberg sets a limit of 5,000 of your closest BFFs for your personal page, for the very simple reason that…
… well, okay, there isn’t any good reason for it. But FB is Zuck’s playground, and we’re just hogging the swing set on it.
However, you can always “follow” me on FB, and get most of the same privileges that “friends” do. Yes, it’s just that confusing — why even set up these arbitrary definitions if there isn’t much difference in the stratification? I will never understand the uber-geeks running things. (There are currently over 4,600 followers on my page, so you’d have lots of company.)
… I occasionally get a note from someone who isn’t on Facebook (and who in the sane world isn’t wasting time on this amazing slice of Internet hell regularly?)…
… who wants to know why they keep hearing about all this wonderful posting I do there.
I admit it — I tend to write some truly awesome crap on the site. Stuff that, in a universe without FB, would be here, on the blog.
So, to keep things even, I’ve collected a little “Best Of” stew here for you. The better posts I’ve shared recently — or at least the ones that garnered the biggest load of comments and shares and likes. That’s how they measure quality over in Zuck-Land.
Thus, you can consider yourself caught up. Though, I still suggest you go sign up to follow me, anyway. There’s always more on the way.
Skill Tip #47: Don’t start reading your next biz book until you’ve put at least one thing into action from the last book.
Idea junkies seldom develop actual skills. Don’t be that guy. Read, act, repeat.
There are only a handful of fundamental ideas required to succeed in biz. Putting those ideas into action requires skills, which you master through real-world application.
Movement beats “coulda, woulda, shoulda” excuses every time…
Professional Advice You’ll Hate: You can never have enough idiots in your life.
Seriously. The smarter you are, the smarter your close circle of friends will be… and the further removed from the reality of the marketplace out there you will hover. And labor to understand.
I’m not suggesting most people are idiots. I’m TELLING you most people are idiots. Or, at the very least, have idiotic moments in their quest for more money, a better life, a nicer house, whatever goal brought them into your world.
Even the guys in orange at Home Depot have their opinion of the quality of the human race’s intellect dramatically lowered after a few days on the job. Your doctor thinks you’re an idiot. The clerk at the grocery store (who had to run to replace the carton of eggs YOU broke in the cart) thinks you’re an idiot.
And you know what? We’re ALL idiots on this bus. At times, anyway.
You cannot be a great marketer or writer if you’re isolated from the broad spectrum of idiocy out there. I once hauled a wannabe movie director to the mall, and had him just sit there and people watch. He laughed at the goofy hair styles and clothes, got bored and irritated at the scrawling babies, recoiled at the trail of food left by folks munching as they walked… and kept asking why we were there. “Because these people are your audience,” I told him, finally.
Startled him. He’d been making movies aimed at his classmates at USC film school. No, no, no.
Not those idiots. The OTHER idiots out there. That’s your audience.
Anyway, sorry if I harshed your idealism about the inherent dignity of humans. But you can’t pretend that bullshit is true as a marketer, if you wanna be successful.
Reality bites, indeed. But it’s where the real action is…
Wisdom To Ignore: I never wanted to become some kind of possessionless monk, but the Zen ideas of “letting go” have always appealed to me. Modified for how I actually move best in the world.
What you think you own, actually owns you. There really is joy in giving up the bullshit in life, and keeping things simple and essential. (And yes, you KNOW what the bullshit is in your life.) For years, my banker’s box of “stuff I cared enough about to haul around even when I was living in my car” was a tidy little time capsule of my life up to that point — essential, because the writings, photos and keepsakes really were irreplaceable. And that box grew exponentially along with my success.
Now, we’re talking about multiple storage units.
Which was fine, until recently when it’s not fine anymore. Life doesn’t go in a straight line — there are side trips, deep holes, soaring mountains, and long stretches of desert along the way, and you have to forgive yourself for straying and screwing up and not handling adversity well all the time.
That’s what mid-life crises are for. Stop, rethink things, try some new shit, make some changes. Radical or small, doesn’t matter — the point is that it’s your life, the only one you’ve got a ticket for. When you’re fortunate enough to have someone special enough to come along with you — or you have little ones dependent on you for a while — you adjust. It’s NEVER just about you.
But you’re still the star, the hero, the main character in your movie… and, to a large degree, the director, writer and producer. And you can change the script a lot more than you probably believe possible. Until you try, you cannot imagine the actual power you have over what happens to you.
Modern humans are plagued with unhappiness that possessions and moolah does not fix. And there isn’t such a thing as “lasting happiness”, not really — you have today, and maybe some input over the next short period of time. How you operate, and feel, and move in this limited time frame IS your life. And it all will pass, and change, and morph in ways you can’t predict.
Your script should focus on the things you can do now. And embrace the happiness available to you now… because down the line, the universe has the weirdest shit waiting for you. Count on it.
Live the adventure that is your life. Be kind, take your responsibilities seriously, but claim this biological clump that is you, FOR you.
You don’t have to listen to this strange advice. But I’m telling you (and I’ve been around the block many, many times)… traveling light, seizing the day, and letting go of the bullshit is the only way to go.
Hope you’re enjoying these first days of summer…
Looking for something truly trashy and titillating to read on summer vacation?
Well, stop the search. My book, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“, is just the ticket.
By the pool, on the beach, nursing a hangover in the hotel room… it’s the perfect summer read for the guy who wants to finally kick his boring old life to the gutter, and get started fresh with all the mojo required for massive, almost-embarrassingly-good success.
I think it was also voted “the number one book to be stolen by jealous jerk wads when you leave it on your towel to go pee in the ocean”. Yeah, pretty sure it won that award last summer, hands down.
So don’t get left out! Grab a copy now, while trees still exist (or while the pixels on your virtual reader are still buzzing)…
Gear IQ Test: I have a great shortcut to determine if a kid is destined for working with tools and stuff, or is better tilted toward the creative life. Give him a pencil and paper, and ask him to draw a funny face. Then have him open and then close a short folding step ladder.
I’ve probably tried to either open or close a folding step ladder a thousand times in my life. Never got it right once, without bashing my shins against it, or getting an important part of my body pinched. It is a great, joyous victory when I finally defeat the evil engineering nightmare and can actually use, or put away, the damn thing.
On the other hand, I was a whiz with drawing from my early crayon days forward. And, as a graphic artist (back in my 20s), I got so good with an Xacto knife that I could cut cleanly through a page in the phonebook, WITHOUT scoring the page underneath it.
Okay, you don’t even know what a fucking phone book is, do you. Just think of the thinnest possible paper in existence. Try using a blade to cut through one sheet, without touching the sheet it’s laying on top of. Not just hard — it’s really, really, really surgical-hard. The point is, I got really good with detailed creative stuff.
If I’d been given such a test early on, it would have saved me a ton of grief in the “get a job” phases of my life. But I wouldn’t have all those stories of pissed-off bosses firing my ass, either, I guess. I mean, it takes some world-class fucking up to get fired from a dishwasher position.
So, everything worked out, I guess, after a few decades. Still can’t figure out the damn folding step ladder thing. And collapsible ironing boards. And fixing faucets.
Damn. I’m lucky I eventually found something I could squeak out a living at…
Psych Insight #12(c): Nobody’s got it all figured out.
There’s a major kink in our human operating system (which comes with no manual, btw) that allows us to believe (for brief periods) that we got this existence thang nailed. Then reality intrudes (and yes, the universe does have a very twisted sense of humor) and you realize that what you thought was competence was really just the product of hiding from your consciousness all the uncomfortable crap you hate dealing with.
We’re juggling emotional, intellectual, physical and metaphysical balls every moment we breathe and — again — nobody’s got it all figured out.
If you crave leadership, look for reluctant leaders. If you crave an audience who will buy from you, look for people having the same internal conversations you’re having.
Monday Warning Quarterback #1: I love this quote by Oscar Wilde: “Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” It applies to other things, too… like knowledge.
In life, love and biz, you’ll encounter folks who are well-read, clever and quick with opinions… yet lack the most essential ingredient for good advice: Experience. They’re bursting with common sense that ain’t, specific plans untested in the real world, and theories free of the bothersome complexities of how things actually work.
Some of the most blunder-prone marketers I’ve known had library shelves sagging with books and courses (and ticket stubs from seminars up the yin-yang). The missing ingredient was an inability to “grok” anything — to understand how the lessons applied to their own behavior as they went after goals. They’re like doughy, bloated couch-potatoes who watch every exercise show on the tube — they “know” what to do, but never DO it… and thus, are no help whatsoever for anyone actually hitting the gym to workout.
Beware the clean-handed man advising you on gardening.
Americans have a gruesome love/hate relationship with stress. We say we hate it, but a space alien observing our daily behavior would have to assume we actually love stress…
… cuz we seek it out, gather it in, and never let it go.
Pretty schizophrenic, but very typical of how humans operate. Nobody sane ever said we’re rational beings.
Here’s a nice little zen mind trick: You have 20 things to do today. You’re freaked out with stress trying to get it all done.
So… how would you go about accomplishing everything if you WEREN’T stressed out? Imagine tackling each task calmly, doing the best you can, finishing and moving to the next task. No stress. Just head down, move forward, be productive.
It’s doubtful you’d get worse results than doing this in your normal hair-on-fire mode. And you might even get BETTER results.
It’s happened before.
So what productive job does stress do in this case?
Nothing. Except raise your BP, dump toxic hormones into your system, and fritz-out neurons.
Thus, stress is a choice. You’ve decided, on some fucked-up level, to approach your day freaked out, rather than calmly. Why?
Who cares? Bad training, bad habits, faulty wiring… it doesn’t matter.
Look — for decades now, I’ve climbed up on stages in front of vast snarling mobs of audiences, armed with nothing but a handful of notes and maybe a PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes I have a planned speech, sometimes I just wing it (like when I do hot seats, spontaneously picking people from the crowd).
Most folks list public speaking as their #1 fear. They wake up screaming at night, just imagining having to do it. And I could be freaked, too — but I’d have to choose to do so. I’m calm, and feel pretty much at home on stage, cuz I don’t give a flying fuck what people think of me, or how I do. Win, lose or draw, I’ll have a story to tell, a lesson to learn, and another experience under my belt.
Being stressed over any of it is counterproductive. It’s just a dumb choice to make.
So, just consider your own case. Stressed or calm, you’ve got the same tasks ahead of you today.
Why not enjoy the ride, and take the adventures and misadventures as they come, rather than awfulizing things and dreading the near future.
Make your choices, move forward, and leave the stress to the rookies.
Zen out, man.
Pro Hint #40: Because customer service isn’t “sexy” (in the way a hot new tech fad is), biz owners tend to starve it over time in budgets. (See: Gateway computers, then Dell computers, every cable tv joint in existence, and probably the once-good contractor who fucked up your plumbing.)
Huge freakin’ mistake.
A basic (and mostly ignored) rule of biz: A sale saved, is EQUAL to a new sale made.
Or, as the poker players say, “folding a great hand, when you would have lost, is like winning a small pot”. It’s a little hard to wrap your brain around the idea of expending effort to KEEP money, when your primary focus is mostly on bringing in new money. But it’s exactly what the pro’s do.
You SHOULD have a certain amount of customers asking for a refund, in any biz endeavor. A zero rate means you’re just not marketing aggressively enough, playing it too safe. But a too-high rate means, probably, that your customer service sucks.
People routinely rave about the customer service in the Simple Writing System. Real humans respond real fast, with real knowledge of your situation (meaning: They actually read your complaint). And they have real solutions available (including parting ways, but remaining friendly).
But it’s not just the coaching program (where real pro copywriters guide you through the process of learning how to create killer ads). Our entire biz revolves around customer service — first, providing astonishing value… and then, making sure every customer is taken care of, even on small-ticket buys.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain old human caring.
You know — everything you’re not getting from the majority of the businesses you deal with today.
Deep In The Language Files, Part 37a: Most entrepreneurs struggle to find their “voice” when writing copy for ads, VSLs, webpages, emails, and everything else.
They often resort to “sounding” like a former English teacher (who may have beat them during class), or how they imagine a “smart” person might write.
This sucks, if you want your marketing to work.
Much better to embrace the language that has provided you with so much — cuz whatever you said to your main squeeze, got ’em to give up resisting and marry your sorry ass… and your garbled messages still nailed you that job or career or gig… and you somehow manage to make your point (eventually) when arguing with your drunk uncles around the holidays.
Where would you be without language? Nowheresville, that’s where. Nothing that you enjoy, or thrive from, or rely on for a good life would exist.
So stop treating your Mother Tongue like it’s an ape that just sauntered into your living room and shat on the couch.
Using language is how you find prospects. How you sell them, and nurture their customership, and resell them, and get the book written (which expands your lovable nonsense worldwide), and do everything else that makes life better for you and yours.
I’ve always said that great salesmen lead better lives. Part of the reason is that they’re reality-based — they don’t give a rat’s ass about theory, or how you think the world should work. They care about how things actually get done.
And a big part of that is realizing how important language is to everything you want to accomplish.
So drop the stilted blabber already. The BEST kind of sales writing is a good mix of proper English, hefty doses of slang and insider jargon, mixed with personality and honest empathy.
There’s no second best way to market anything.
How do you find a new “voice”, when all you’ve been able to manage so far sounds like some robot with a wrench up it’s butt?
You read, first of all. Fiction, history, good authors, bad authors, letters-to-the-editor (and all the troll-laden comment sections you can stomach), emails from marketers fighting against stiff competition, magazines, graffiti, song lyrics, ads… everything around you.
Then, you listen. I know, I know, this is soooooo hard to do, cuz you’d rather talk. You’re so witty and everything, and everyone else is so booooooooooring.
It’s freaking excruciating to have to sit there and let them blather on and on, when you’ve got such a GREAT point to make. And you’re not hearing what they’re saying, anyway, cuz it ain’t you talking, is it.
Just stop. You can resume dominating every conversation AFTER you’ve made your imprint on the biz world. For now, listen. Hear the patoi of those around you, the way some folks speak in a sing-song melody, the way others stumble to say even the simple shit, the way most never find the right word, or get tongue-tied when trying to make a complex point.
Listen to the good orators, too. To Alex Jennings smoothly conquer twenty different languages in a session of Jeopardy. To your one drunk uncle who can tell a riveting story. To your pals who can’t shut up, and to your pals who rarely say anything.
Language is all around you, every minute of every day. When you’re alone, there’s a voice in your head droning on and on. When you’re racing through an airport, a thousand conversations hum in the clutches of people you’re bumping aside. When you’re in the theater trying to watch the movie, the idiots behind you are commenting on the plot just like they do at home.
And keep a notebook with you. Write down phrases you like, words you don’t know (and need to look up), make notes on who won what argument, and how…
… and just allow yourself to fall in love with language again. You did love it, once, when you were little and unable to communicate one day, and a little chatterbox the next. And things started happening. You were able to ask for what you wanted, argue your side, tell long aimless stories, talk to your toys, to invisible monsters, to everyone and everything around you.
And it was cool as shit, too. You loved adding new words to your arsenal, swooned when you convinced Mom to give you ice cream (just cuz), swelled with pride when your little gang decided to follow you off on some harebrained adventure because you’d made them believe it would be fun.
And then you learned to lie to Mom about why Jimmy was trapped down the well. Why you were late for supper. Where you were going with Susie Q (hint: Not the drive-in, like you said.) Why your grades sucked. Where you were the last two months, never calling, not even a postcard…
And then you stopped listening, stopped caring about what a doofus you sound like when you try to make a point, stopped working on the one skill with the power to place you amongst the more awesome humans on the planet.
You gotta turn this around.
Language kicks ass. It’s what separates us from all other animals. It’s why our neocortex evolved to the size of a small casaba melon, and it’s why you haven’t starved to death yet.
Give it respect.
Give it love.
And get off it’s lawn. It’s old, and has no time for you if you’re not gonna nurture a real relationship with it…
My colleague Kevin Rogers tells me a trusted health expert sez that people under stress should increase their veggie intake dramatically.
As in, normal vegetable servings per day are, what, 5 for an adult. Stuff a handful of spinach in your yap, chew on some carrots and broccoli, work some lettuce and beans in there during the day. Most of us utterly fail at even this light task, by the way.
But when you’re freaked out — deadline, zombie attack, argument with the ball-n’-chain, identify theft, cops surrounding your house, whatever — you need up to THIRTEEN servings of veggies to battle all that evil cortisol and adrenaline you’re dumping into your system.
You ain’t noshing at the fridge at this point — you’ve sat your ass down in the veggie aisle at Safeway and gorged on everything within reach. Soaking up the toxic wasteland in your tubes with greens and roots.
I’d never heard this advice before. I’m gonna check it out, cuz it has the ring of validity. I’ve gone through years of limiting meat and finding my protein sources elsewhere… and I may have intuitively been keeping stress at bay this way. By accident.
Any of you have info or insight to this theory of veggies dousing out the cortisol fire in your gut?
I SO want this to be true. Easy, natural, no pills, proactive.
Still, I’d enjoy seeing some proof, not just anecdotes…
Not saying I endorse this…
… but, jeez, you gotta respect Homer’s life philosophy. Sometimes, the dude just resonates…
“All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me… so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.” Homer Simpson
And there you have it. Your basic steaming pile of Carlton rants, blurbs, info, advice and blatherings. Some brilliant, some not-so-much.
But it’s fun, right? And laden with real insight and advice you can actually use.
So, you’re welcome. I hope you’ve been inspired to come join us on my FB page.
Hope you have a great July 4th.
“You’re so vain…” (Carly Simon, dissing Warren Beatty)
I’ve been meaning to explain some things to y’all for a while, and there’s no better time than now to do it.
Cuz, huzzah, my latest ebook just zoomed to the top of the pile in multiple categories on Amazon last week. “Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About” is the first (of several) “best of” compilations from the archives of this blog… and anyone who’s enjoyed reading my drivel should probably pony up the $2.99 and grab it. (Here’s the link.)
Great for you brain. Great for your motivation. Great for your bottom line (if you’re after wealth and happiness). Great all the way around, I gotta say.
… I still feel the need to warn folks that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Long-time readers of my rantings know what to expect, of course — deliberately mangled grammar, lots of cussing and outrageousness, and absolutely no quarter given to bullshit at any time. This is hard-core biz and living-well advice, tactics and solutions.
… most of my stories revolve around my misadventures out there in the cold, cruel world.
This is not because I’m some rabid egomaniac. (I actually advocate murdering your ego, because it does more harm than good in anyone’s life. Including mine. At the beginning of my seminars, I always spend some time theatrically having people “toss” their ego, so the event can progress without folks getting offended, feeling personally attacked, or just getting their panties in a twist because their ox got gored. Ego sucks.)
No. The reason my books and lessons usually feature a look inside my head is simply because that’s how I learned everything I know about life and business. Since the very first days of my career, I have tried to live an “examined life”, just like Aristotle advised. (Or was it Socrates? Never mind.) I reconsidered my life as an ongoing movie, and I had input to how the script played out…
… so I strove to understand what happened to me each day. And then I deconstructed each event — what the facts were, how I reacted, what I did that was okay, what I did that was clearly a dumb-ass blunder, and what the other “actors” did or didn’t do to contribute to the scene.
This is how I managed to find the great lessons of life and biz. You do something, things cook or explode or simmer, and consequences ensue. And then you study every shred of it.
I was a one-man living laboratory for testing out the theories and advice and tactics I encountered. Because my freelance career kept me busy with a now-uncountable number of fresh clients (all with unique businesses and situations and neuroses and problems), I had a front-row seat for the biggest show around: How things get either done or botched-up in reality.
If I read a biz book that offered advice on negotiating with clients, for example, I could often put it to use the very next day. If it worked, I used it again and kept refining it. If it didn’t work, I tried to see how I could have screwed it up… or how it was bullshit advice in the first place. (This happened a lot, by the way. Books are essential to learning, but theories that do not actually WORK in the real world are useless. And yet, maybe half the biz books out there are just spring-loaded bullshit dispensers.)
Same with all the tactics I picked up from other writers and mentors, or observed during biz transactions. And also with all the advice for how to prosper, or live healthier, or reduce stress, or a thousand other nuggets of insight (or drivel) that could affect the quality of my life.
I was relentless, too. I wanted to figure out what created success, and what triggered failure. There were HUGE lessons no matter what happened — in fact, I learned more from failing than I ever did from accidentally doing anything correctly…
… as long as I dissected what happened, and learned from it.
I’ve often said that — because I was so freakin’ clueless when I started out — I made most of the mistakes possible in the first decade of my career (and throughout my private life). And… I learned SO MUCH from those mistakes, that I’m sorry I didn’t make EVERY mistake possible. It simply would have expanded my self-education even further.
… when I write about a lesson in biz or life in general… it’s a lesson I’ve learned personally. Usually by making a mess, and immediately cleaning it up, examining every detail of what went down, deconstructing the good and bad points… and figuring out what I could have done differently.
THEN… and this is important… I went back out (often the very next day) and DID IT RIGHT. Whether it was negotiating with a client, using naps to organize my thoughts (like David Ogilvy), writing better bullets, dealing with a disgruntled customer on the phone, finding the best lists to mail, or whatever…
… I learned my lesson, and re-engaged with the world to see if what I learned was spot-on, or needed refinement, or was part of that “nuanced” arsenal of biz tactics that require focus, new skills and multiple decision points to put into action.
So, yes, I’m the dude in the center of the story. I’m not discussing theory here, or something I’ve heard about from some wonderful source.
Nope. My stories are about me, out there in the jungle, chewing up scenery and knocking stuff over and making huge messes…
… and then figuring out how to do better, and then DOING better almost immediately.
The charge I sometimes hear –that I’m an egomaniac who is arrogant about giving advice –is just pure bullshit. I’m a total introvert, and prefer to spend the majority of my life away from crowds. My books seem autobiographical simply because sharing the best lessons require giving you a peek into my life… and so that’s what I do. I share what I’ve learned (the hard way) as a copywriter, as a business owner, as a consultant, as a regular person just trying to do the right thing out there.
I’ve lived a great life, crammed with adventure, heartache, stark terror, love, and more success than I’ve ever felt I deserved. I’m humbled that others consider me a resource for learning, and proud that my career of blunders and missteps can serve as a shortcut for others. So you don’t have to spend decades making every mistake out there, just to figure out what the good lessons are. I’ve already done that. I’m bruised, scarred, and grizzled from the process, but happy to share.
In truth, you’ll still want to learn some of the really juicy lessons yourself anyway. Like “money doesn’t buy happiness”. It’s just more effective (and often more fun) to discover that for your own bad self… though, having a little foreknowledge from a trusted dude like me will at least prepare you when Reality smacks you in the face (and wallet, and soul, and heart) later.
I knew NONE of the essential lessons when I started out. I was like a babe in the forest, blundering along with nothing but a small amount of skills, a huge amount of chutzpah, and a raw determination to get it right (based on my flimsy plan, which didn’t have an alternative to making freelancing work as a new career.) I literally had no idea what I’d do if I failed — a situation I do NOT advise anyone else to attempt, though the motivation was pretty spectacular (if scary as hell).
There is plenty of real arrogance and “full of yourself” attitudes in the biz world. I’ve dealt with a vast mob of clients, colleagues, customers, prospects, looky-loo’s, rubber-neckers, jerks, heroes, lovers, haters, n’eer-do-well’s and basket cases…
… and I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out what makes them tick. And buy. And flee, and get mad, and go off the deep end, and melt down, and everything else this crazy human race is capable of.
I love it all. And I love my fans and readers dearly, and really care about making this process of learning fun, funny and memorable.
So that’s why I write my stories from a personal point-of-view.
And it’s why those tales are so vivid, and crammed with twists and turns. It’s real life. I want the freakin’ pain I experienced getting educated to have had a purpose.
Again — I’m honored that you find my blog, my books, my courses and speeches worthwhile. I get chills when I hear from someone who had a breakthrough, or a sudden success, or even just started on a better path because of a lesson I shared.
Get the latest ebook, or don’t. (Just click on the icon at the top of the right hand column here.) You can wander through the archives on this blog for free, of course, and track the posts down in their original form. That’s why we priced this ebook so low (it’s just $2.99), because it’s all from the blog. But it’s edited, and organized, and in a pretty awesome presentation. Easy to read, nice to have on your Kindle or iPad or whatever, a damn good kick in the butt for any entrepreneur or freelancer wanting to take your game up a few levels.
If you don’t mind, if you DO purchase the ebook, go back to the Amazon page (here) and leave a review. No matter what you thought of the stories and advice, other potential readers rely on reviews like yours to help decide whether to invest some time in the ebook or not.
Some of the reviews I’ve had for other books have been outraged at my language, at the raw honesty, and at what they perceive as my “arrogance” in writing from a personal point of view.
Doesn’t matter. For every person who is insulted or angered, I know that multiple other folks were relieved to have found a nutcase like me who tells it like it is, and has the experience, savvy and track record to help out.
Stay frosty, my friend.
P.S. Love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments section. I’ll wander in there to see what kind of ruckus you’re causing.
Those of you in the loop know we’re re-launching the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again… starting with the free “Express Course” first lesson all this week. (Go here to jump in on that killer experience.)
We rarely offer this hand-holding, personalized, one-on-one mentoring (by coaches who are also successful copywriters). The last session was a year ago.
No idea when another session will come around… if it even does.
We take this one program at a time. It’s notorious among marketing insiders, because of how effectively we’re able to transform almost anyone into a sales-message-producing machine… quickly and efficiently. (Literally thousands have been through the system already.) It’s life-changing, and business-changing mojo…
… and that’s why the top marketers in the game have demanded that the folks in their organization responsible for marketing TAKE this course.
The personalized coaching in the SWS is extremely interactive. Perfect for anyone who knows that hands-on mentoring is the best way to learn the simplest possible system (crammed with short-cuts) for creating all the sales messages needed for a profitable business…
… including all your ads, websites, video scripts, emails, AdWords, blogs and other social media broadsides…
… everything that pumps eager prospects into your Sales Funnel.
So you can close the heck out them. And get filthy rich and deliriously happy, and become the most successful entrepreneur or biz owner possible… because without killer, persuasive copy, you’re not going to find, nor close very many prospects.
Most marketers wander through the wasteland of Bad Business Practices their entire career…
… and never figure out how to SELL anything.
So, no matter how totally hot and good and righteous your product or service might be…
… you still struggle. Or go under.
ALL the top marketers you know about, online and offline, know how to write their own sales messages.
And when it’s really, really, really freaking important that it gets done right…
… they almost always actually DO it themselves.
Now, yeah, sure, they also hire out some of the writing, too. But not because they are clueless about what needs to go into a killer sales message.
In fact, the top guys are the WORST clients a freelancer can have. Because you can’t bullshit them. They know EXACTLY what a good ad looks like.
The really good marketers are armed to the teeth with salesmanship chops. A freelance copywriter cannot lollygag around with those guys, or he’ll get thrown to the dogs. He’s got to deliver the best work possible, because the client who understands what great ad copy looks like will not accept mediocre crap.
You know what the BEST client is for a freelance copywriter?
It’s the fool who hasn’t got Clue One about what goes into a decent sales message.
The freelancer can toss off the laziest piece of garbage possible… something that barely resembles advertising… and still collect his fee.
And when it fails and dies a horrible death? Well, who’s to say why it happened.
The clueless client sure doesn’t know.
And consider this: Say you somehow manage to hire the most promising copywriter in the universe to come work for you.
Exclusively. He becomes a member of your team. And you teach him all the secrets of your biz, right down to the specs of your product.
I’ve seen this soap opera go down often.
Here’s how it plays out: Once that brilliant young writer gets some experience with you… and learns all your secrets…
… yep. He leaves.
And either starts working for the competition…
… or BECOMES your competition.
And let’s see. Hmmm. You had the biz first. It was your baby. Your product.
But he knows how to create the sales messages that sell it. And you just taught him all your secrets.
Who do you think wins in that match-up?
People… you MUST learn how to create a decent sales message, if you are to survive and prosper in business today.
Otherwise… you’re toast.
And this is why we’re hauling out the Simple Writing System personalized, one-on-one coaching program again. The very deep, yet easily-understood online quick-learning program where recognized, veteran, professional copywriting experts personally coach you through the SWS. Which will finally trick your brain into being able to create killer, persuasive ads and marketing materials…
… whenever you need them.
Is this program for you?
Here’s a simple way to find out: Go here and watch this FREE video. (It’s just me on the video, explaining the details of the Simple Writing System, plus the beginning FREE lessons to you, and it’s not outrageously long. Just the facts.)
This first video (and the couple that follow) is a great “first taste” of what’s in store for you when you follow through. And, these first videos are free. My gift to you — real, honest, simple tactics you can use immediately to create your first killer ad. All on your lonesome, just with a little coaching from me.
Big Bonus: I’ve corralled my closest colleagues into helping out, too… which means you could get personal, interactive feedback from A-List writers like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, Jim Curley, David Deutsch and others. For FREE. Just by jumping on this opportunity. (A point I can’t make enough: The last time we offered this was a year ago… and before that, several years passed without offering it at all. This is a very RARE opportunity… and it’ll pass quickly.)
Soon — if you join us — you’ll get the full story… how you can go through the ENTIRE program at your own pace, on your own schedule… and have a veteran copywriter watching your back the entire way, with personal advice and coaching. And no one is “too busy” to take this course right now — jettisoning a single TV program you watch each week, for a few weeks, is more than enough “found time” to do everything.
And when you come out the other side of this coaching… you’ll have finally learned how to create, from scratch, all the ads and marketing materials you will ever need. The stuff that sells, and pumps up your bottom line, and brings you massive success on a silver platter.
Are you ready for a ride that can change your life forever?
We’re gunning the engine, holding the door open for you…
… but you gotta take that first step on your own. Start here.
It’s more fun around crazy writers who know how teach you the secrets of excellent salesmanship…
… and it’s time you got started on your exciting new life, isn’t it?
P.S. I almost forgot…
… you can only watch this video for the next week or so.
This new SWS sessions starts very soon. (No, you do not need to “plan” or “prepare” to get involved — you can really can go through the entire program in your spare time, at your own pace… and still get all the personalized coaching from your teacher you need.)
So you need to get over here now… while we’re still accepting students.
I have no idea if we’ll offer another SWS session ever again. It’s been over a year since the last one — it is VERY hard to corral top writers like this.
So take nothing for granted here. Go watch my video now…
“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…
“Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)
I’m republishing this off-beat rant, cuz it’s been one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written over the years.
And it’s a totally counter-intuitive take on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss. Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.
So, enjoy another nugget from the archives:
Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?
Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?
Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?
Well, then step right up…
Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing. The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches”…
… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.
And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty. I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.
Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great. We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko. Rooted for ya. Got yer back.
I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility. And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.
But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast. Whoa, there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?
And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night. Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin. This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.
The lucky creep.
I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…
And so on.
I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it. Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.
Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself. Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before. Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)
I like that tactic.
However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.
It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.
Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept. And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me. Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.
Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category. Fame, skill, wealth… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.
Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail. I mean, why them and not me yet? The bastards were too big for their britches…
But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.
Because the better way to look at things… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.
There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.
In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out. It was win-win, all the way.
Still, though… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…
And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.
I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else. Maybe I really did invent it.
At any rate… it works.
Wanna know what it is?
Okay. Here is my…
Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…
… just imagine being inside their skin — really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes. Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.
And then see if their life still looks so good.
Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real. When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner. When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel. When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.
This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in. (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 6 years here in the blog.)
Great salesmen lead better lives. Not because they sell lots of stuff… but because they live in the real world. You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.
Naw. You gotta be hip to how people actually operate. So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.
This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more… while also helping you understand why they do what they do. You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.
And while you love your fellow beasts…
… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…
… you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.
Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.
I love to read autobiographies and biographies. (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)
It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.
Wow, does it ever change your outlook. Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.
The novelists loathed themselves. The movie stars craved adulation like junk. The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths. The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.
Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention. Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity. Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.
Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.
They’re also boring as hell. And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin. (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires. In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons. See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)
You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?
I do, too. But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.
In fact, I embrace it. I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.
It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.
You’re alive. You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later). You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…
… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.
It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there. But it’s worth it.
You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”. Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…
… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.
I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business). I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see behind the mask.
And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever. I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity. I fit well inside my own skin.
And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world. Really earned it. Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.
Naw. I blundered my way into the Feast of Life. Utterly fucked things up along the ride… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me. That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.
We’re all pathetically flawed. All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).
Nobody gets out of here unscathed. You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.
And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto. When it happens, buy new ones.
Stay frosty (and true to yourself),
P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens. Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself. Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.
The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better. Screw that nonsense.
The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly. Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses. And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail. You lived it, dude. I wasn’t there.
P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?
And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life. Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…
VERY Special P.P.P.S. While not exactly an autobiography, my latest book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” reveals a ton of behind-the-scenes adventures and insider advice aimed straight at the tender beating heart of the struggling entrepreneur.
Get your copy now, either as an ebook or in paperback. For a few measly bucks, you’ll be ushered into a front-row seat to see how I stumbled upon the amazing result-getting lessons of great marketing…
… and I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off along the way.
Get it here: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“.
“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
“I write because I cannot NOT write.” (Charlotte Bronte)
I want to cover three important things today.
Important Thing #1: Very exciting news this morning: My first Kindle ebook (“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”) elbowed its way into best-seller territory on Amazon in less than half a day. It’s #4 on the “entrepreneur” books-for-sale chart, with a bullet, and surging on the “business” charts (in the top 35).
This is like watching your latest album climb the Billboard rankings. I labored over the book (with superb editing help from our pal David “Flashman” Raybould) for many months, whipping it into shape and waiting for the right moment to dive into the wonderful new world of self-publishing that has just hit the Big Turning Point.
Now, it’s up to the reading public to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. A little scary, a little thrilling, a lot of fun for a writer who has craved being in control of publishing my own stuff, in my own damn way, for most of my life.
And, as satisfying as it is to read the great buzz-comments on the Amazon page (and in social media) for this new tome… it’s even more energizing to have finally busted my cherry in digital publishing. This first book took a while to finish and get launched. The next one will follow blazingly quick, and there are even more in the hopper.
If you are so inclined, you can check out a free preview of the book (or even, gasp, buy it) here.
Leave a comment, too. And hit the “share” button on the page. The tome is getting rave reviews, which makes sense since it’s a lovingly-revised compilation of my best Rant newsletters (which I mailed to subscribers for 6 amazing years). This is time-tested stuff, the best “here’s what Carlton’s been teaching all these years” resource possible.
Hope you enjoy it, if you buy it. Hope you stay awake all night thinking about it if you don’t buy it, and feel compelled to buy it first thing in the morning. Cuz it’s damn cheap as a digital book, and you really SHOULD own it. (And yes, we’ll be offering a paperback version down the road, but this digital version is what you need right now.)
Important Thing #2: I now know much about self-publishing ebooks that was a mystery to me before.
For example… Continue reading
“He was a one-eyed, one horn, flying purple people eater…” (Sheb Wooley)
In the spirit of screwing off as much as possible this fine July, I’m replenishing the blog with another oldie-but-goodie post from the archives.
So you’ve got something good to chew on, while I wander off to the beach to get pounded by merciless surf and fried by an uncaring sun. You know: Good times.
Anyway, I love meandering through the archives here… especially when I find a post that still packs some mojo.
Here’s a nice short one from ’07, on the non-scientific process of finding great hooks for your headlines. At the time, I was bummed that a favorite newsstand shock-rag was ending its run… however, the good news is that WWN is still alive and kicking (just like Elvis) online. (Today’s headline: “Saturn Ready To Explode!” Um… okay.)
The ability to find a way to hook readers (and drag them into your story) is what separates the Big Dog writers from the wannabe’s. And creating hooks (especially from otherwise boring raw material) is an art form that needs to be developed. It’s not a skill that comes with your standard brain equipment.
Here’s some insight to how the best veteran copywriters do it, slightly edited, via the Archive Time Machine, from July ’07:Continue reading
“But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash“)
It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…
… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.
So, without further ado… here’s the third redux of that post:
Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.
That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.
See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…
… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…
… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.
I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…
… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?Continue reading