“Kick me like you did before, I can’t even feel the pain no more…” (Stones, “Rocks Off”)
Here’s some hard advice I’ll bet you haven’t heard before: Mentors who are active and successful in the real world…
… are essential for anyone serious about leading in any part of life or business.
And it’s very difficult to find good mentors in academia. At least, that’s my experience.
Too many dumb rules.
You must venture into the “real world” to find the good ones.
I mean, it was bad enough back when I was trudging through the halls of UCDavis in the 70s (and gosh, I sure wish it was 1974 again, height of the sexual revolution with what you now call “Classic Rock” as the soundtrack to our relentless partying).
Some of the profs I had were going down hard with mid-life and mid-career tragedies. Hard to get your mentoring on when “What’s it all mean?” is the operative phrase.
Still, younger folks today have it even tougher.
I recently taught a single evening’s class each at both Exeter and the Missouri school of journalism, via Skype. It was a great little adventure, really glad I did it…
… but the students were not happy at all about being challenged. And I was lobbing softballs.
It was pearls before swine, I suspect. I honestly thought at least a few of them would appreciate a grizzled veteran drilling them on the truths of life after college.
I may as well have been telling them they actually didn’t invent fun, and yes, other folks have felt a love as strong as what you’re feeling with Susie Q back in the dorm.
Nonsense, in other words. Heresy, really.
The poor darlings had been brainwashed in their educations, deluded into thinking life’s lessons would be delivered on a silver platter, with manners.
Back in the Real World, though, I do my best to give the students in the SWS a taste of what worked for me, back in the days when I was desperate (with zero alternative plans if I failed at this copywriting gig) to learn the tricks of the trade.
So, you know, I’d survive. And not starve.
In my first days with every real mentor I’ve ever had (notably Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert) I had my teeth metaphorically kicked in.
It was humiliating, humbling, and almost cruel. None of those guys had any time to waste with someone who couldn’t take the pressure of working in the entrepreneurial war zone.
That was both the price of admission, being crushed daily until I learned the game…
… and the most invigorating learning experience I’d ever had. I pushed my ego aside, took everything they dished out, and keep asking for more.
I’ve never learned truly difficult stuff so fast, and became so expert at it with such speed.
In my long experience, tough love is the best way to learn, with no second-best method in the running.
Academia has its place, and I learned a lot getting my BA (though very little in actual class — most of what I retained was all from the interactions with the wide array of people I encountered).
But for entrepreneurs, it’s real world all the way.
And I don’t mess around with sharing what I know with people who come to me for help.
Here’s just two small pieces of advice that raises eyebrows with some students:
First: Read copiously, and put what you learn to the test immediately.
This requires shutting off the TV and gaming consoles, putting business before pleasure (argh!)…
… and pushing your stuff out onto the world stage, where it will live or die depending on how well you’ve learned from what you’ve read.
And Second: Here’s my best advice for copywriters:
… and great writers write with consequences.
That means you never back away from the chance to compete for real results…
… and you never let up for a moment on making your copy the best it can be, word by word, sentence by sentence, ad by ad.
That’s advice most do not want to hear.
But for those for whom a writing career is possible, it’s the ONLY advice worth hearing.
P.S. It’s damn hard to find mentors who will put up with you in person, these days.
That’s why the mastermind I run is so important for anyone needing to rub elbows with guys like me and the hard-core marketing crowd I hang with.
I host these mastermind 4 times a year, all over the country. They’re small, so you get to know the folks you’re sharing the meeting with…
… which include a Murderer’s Row of top players in the game. (A-List copywriters, filthy rich business moguls, other guru’s, and lots of entrepreneurs like you, just getting their groove on and looking for the kind of mentoring and advice that will launch them to the next stage as quickly as possible.)
I’m not gonna try to convince you, here, of how critical these meetings are.
Find out for yourself right here.
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“I know what I want, and I know how to get it…” (The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy In The UK”)
I’ve been thinking about how Carlton’s First Inconvenient Rule of Entrepreneurship (“Step one is to implement a simple idea that succeeds; step two is to complicate the shit out of that simple idea so it eventually fails”) also applies to the civilization around us.
My father was perhaps one of the last men to actually experience a period where he completely understood — and could recreate and fix — almost everything around him.
Born in the Industrial Age in 1920, he’d dug wells for water, tore apart and reassembled car engines, fixed his own plumbing, grew food in the back yard. He built things, including large government buildings, from blueprints. He knew how clocks and toasters and and asphalt and support beams worked.
Most of my colleagues, today, can’t even start a fire from scratch (let alone rewire the electricity in the house).
And I clearly remember the day (in the early nineties) I was standing in a lot staring at the car I was about to buy, the hood open, wondering where the carburetor was…
… when the salesman casually informed me that engines were sealed now, and even if there had been a carburetor (which there wasn’t, since cars are all fuel-injected now), I wouldn’t be able to access it. Let alone fuss with it. Owners were no longer allowed to see, let alone touch, the working parts of the internal combustion engine anymore. If anything needed attention, I’d be alerted by a flashing light on the dashboard, and certified mechanics with bizarre tools not available at Home Depot would take care of it.
You? You keep your filthy civilian hands off the merchandise. Even when you own it.
As kids, we used to take telephones and radios and even TVs apart, and some of us could put ’em back together in working order. Not too long ago, an old and very savvy pal (who was handy building ham radios from scratch) admitted that he’d taken a laptop computer apart to see how it worked, and realized he had officially become a completely-clueless tech dinosaur…
… because there was zero way human eyes could even begin to see the tiny transistors inside.
Analog dudes living in a digital age. Not good. I can hear the Millennials laughing at us.
However, another Carlton Rule is: “There is always a way.” No matter what problem or situation you face, there is a solution. Saul Goodman (the lawyer from “Breaking Bad”) is the primary practitioner of this philosophy, of course (“I know a guy, who knows a guy… who knows a guy who does this”).
But it’s also the basis of all my high-end consulting.
In 30+ years, I’ve never met a biz problem (or a personal problem) I couldn’t find a solution to. Or knew a guy who had the answer, one phone call away.
You may not like the solution, but it exists. You may have to change direction (or your attitude or bank account) radically, or entertain options that are distasteful to you…
… but there is always a way around a problem. My example of this, in “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, is the drug war. Who are you gonna bet on — the multi-gazillion-dollar-funded US border security complex, with the most advanced helicopters, drones, submarines, scanners, weapons and computers…
… or the little Guatemalan farmer with his stash of weed he wants to sneak into the country?
Hint: Take the farmer. He’ll find a way.
And these two rules go hand-in-glove with each other. Yes, the culture (and everything around you) is getting more and more complex, spiraling away from your ability to understand any of it…
… and, at the same time, yes, there are ways around being a slave to complexity.
Getting hip to this can save your butt, in biz and in private life.
Let’s take rock and roll as another example. In the early seventies, bands had gotten better and better in musicianship, stagecraft, and working in the studio. Just a few years earlier, garage bands without knowledge of electronics or soundscape management could still weasel their way into a studio and record a record live…
… and have it sell. “Louie, Louie”, by the Kingsmen, was recorded live in a garage. One take (cuz the lead singer was too drunk to do another). Mono, one mike hanging from the ceiling, a “good at the time” tape machine, no sound check. It was a different time, back when do-it-yourselfer’s could win.
But then things kept getting more complicated. By the early seventies, rock was taken over by bloated musician-heavy bands like Yes and stagecraft-oriented groups like Genesis. The garage bands were hopelessly outmatched in skill, technical ability, and resources.
Then, punk arrived. As a reaction to the bloated sound and restrictive nature of “professional”, expensively attired bands. Suddenly, it was a free-for-all again, and details be damned. Garage bands thrived for a second time.
The music had found a way around the problem.
Today, folks consider moving from an iPhone (phone, computer, web access, personal robot all-in-one) back to a now-ancient flip phone as a brave act of moving away from dependence on the Grid. Of course, they still can’t fix the flip phone if it breaks. It’s an illusionary and futile mission.
And I’ve met my share of pure geeks — guys who make the cast of The Big Bang Theory look like slacker hippies. They DO understand, and can manipulate (or hack) the digital world around them.
However, they also tend to be weak on interpersonal skills with their fellow humans. Even freshly armed with state-of-the-art “pick-up artist” tactics, they can’t easily find love or intimacy or any of the interpersonal stuff they crave. And plumbing, growing your own food, and understanding how the infrastructure around us works isn’t on their radar.
In marketing, a few years back, you could build your own website on a laptop, find online traffic for cheap, and create an information product to sell in a weekend. With PayPal, you didn’t even need a merchant account. People were literally starting hot new businesses on their kitchen table, overnight.
Eventually, things got more complex. The rules changed, Google started slapping site owners who didn’t follow the fast-changing rules, Facebook started punishing folks who used their page for biz (after urging them to do so), affiliate mailers started demanding more sophisticated sales funnels with high-production video and pro-level design, federal regulations took aim at online biz…
… and things just got more complicated. Rookie entrepreneurs looking to break into online marketing can be excused for fainting at the sheer volume of stuff they have to learn to just get started. The heady no-holds-barred Wild West days of the Internet have drifted away into memory.
… and yet, just like corporate bands forgot that the real magic was in the music, and not in the outfits or stage show or pompously produced records…
… a lot of today’s online biz owners forget that the raw fundamentals of salesmanship are still more important than the gaudy glitz of flashy tech.
It’s still simply about having a good product or service that someone wants…
… put in front of an audience of hungry prospects…
… and sold with a persuasive message that covers all the basics of a standard face-to-face deal. A good hook, some believable credibility, a real solution to a problem that is interrupting your prospect’s life (whether it’s something major like needing money, or something nagging like needing special tools to finish your daughter’s swing set out back).
Plus a simple delivery system for the product or service that makes everyone happy. So you can sell more stuff on the back end (where all the real profit is). (You DO have a back-end, don’t you?)
It can all be very low tech, too.
Sure, you want to eventually test all the ways other marketers are successfully closing their deals — with video, launches, elaborate cross-marketing campaigns, affiliates, the works. All of which require a bit more know-how, probably some hired help, and lots of math.
But you get into that AFTER you establish you’ve got a winner. Make a few initial sales, get good feedback, make sure the value is there, and the profit. THEN move onto more complicated methods… when you have money coming in to pay for it.
A good rule (not mine — it goes way back): Find out as quickly and cheaply as possible if you have a winner or a loser. Ignore hunches and gut feelings — just create a prototype that is “good enough”, and see if people buy it in the Real World. Your house list is fine to go to first. Or do a low-cost Adwords campaign — you can run a few hundred bucks worth of ads, based on the insight to what’s working now from Google searches (which you can access for free via your free Adwords account).
Just get moving with the resources available to you now. (And “free” or “cheap” is always a good thing.)
I talk all the time to wannabe entrepreneurs who get it in their head they need $50,000, or $100,000 (or more) just to get started.
And you don’t.
There is a way around every problem in biz and life. Including being broke. Save up enough for a “war chest” to test your ideas. A few hundred bucks can do it…
… IF you have the basics handled. That would be understanding salesmanship, having a good grasp of how to write your own sales messages (including ads, emails, pitches, etc)…
… and having access to a network of folks who can help you fill in the blanks in your skill set and information.
You CAN make a garage-band-style of entrepreneurship work. And you can still do it from your kitchen table, if you want, despite what all the “experts” are now trying to tell you.
The Web isn’t magic.
It’s just another vehicle for helping marketers bring their product and services to prospects. It does this VERY WELL, and because it’s reach is global the number of prospects you can reach with an online message far, far exceeds what was possible in the old days where you only had newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.
What’s more, the costs involved, online, are a fraction of what it takes to run a print or broadcast ad campaign.
But the one thing that never changes, no matter where you present your product or service…
… is salesmanship. The fundamentals of crafting a damn good sales message that persuades people to buy your stuff.
That’s what this blog has been about since 2004. Smart entrepreneurs of every level (from rookie to veteran rockstar) have been browsing the archives as a daily ritual…
… because the joint is crammed to bursting with articles on every aspect of being a successful entrepreneur.
So, while it’s still early in the year, why not get into the habit of reading a handful of the posts in the archives here each week, starting today.
The education you’ll get — for free — exceeds anything you’d get from a single seminar or book on biz. Even more, in some cases, than you’d get from a couple of years in certain biz schools (cuz the idiot running those classes have never actually been successful in the real world).
The thing is, get started. And know that no matter WHAT your problems are, or what your sticking points are, or what your biggest fears are…
… there is ALWAYS a way around them. Solutions exist. And many of them can be found here, in the blog.
P.S. Okay, while we’re discussing problem solving…
… it needs to be pointed out that the four-times-a-year mastermind we’ve hosted for the past ten years remains your best possible resource for having a small-but-viciously-effective group of fellow entrepreneurs watch your back as you go to battle in the fast-changing business landscape out there.
Every single top entrepreneur I know (and I know them all) belong to at least one high-powered mastermind group…
… for a good reason.
It’s where you solve problems with the help of guys like me…
… and where you get the most valuable input on ideas and plans you want to put into action fast.
We’re hosting another meeting in April, and it’s time you checked it out. (The guest experts I’ve invited to be in the room with us, focusing their experience and skills on you and your fellow masterminds, include the head of the highest-producing division of billion-dollar direct response giant Agora Publishing, plus A-List copywriters like David Deutsch, Kevin Rogers of Copy Chief, and David Garfinkel… among other heavy hitters.)
To learn more, go here.
Just do it now, while it’s on your mind.
We keep the meetings VERY small — under 16 members, because of all the intense personal attention everyone gets — and the spots tend to fill up quickly.
So don’t dick around and miss out. Let me help you get your shit together in the fastest and most simple manner possible.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
My father passed away two years ago, and because he’d lived such a long and amazing life, he’d outlived anyone in the local area who would have noticed an obituary in the newspaper.
So, I wrote this on Facebook at the time. Nearly everyone who knows me, or my family, and is active in social media was able to see it. In many ways, Facebook has become the new “local newspaper” for things like this…
… and, because of the way your newsfeed works, these kinds of posts are actually seen by more folks than would normally see a published obit.
I’ve decided to republish it here on the blog again, because I still marvel at the man.
For everyone who sent condolences, thank you. I hope, however, that I have adequately explained just how much I appreciate that Pop was around for so long, with his mind intact and vibrant (despite his body slowly falling apart)…
… and that, at 95, the family he left behind prefers to celebrate his long life rather than grieve over his passing. He was ready to go. We’d discussed it for years, he and I, and we were not afraid of the final moment.
Anyway, here’s the post, once again. I’ve written tearful farewells to my mentor, Gary Halbert, to my good pal Scott Haines, and to Steve Jobs (who influenced so many of us) here on the blog… and Pop deserves to stand beside those men in the archives. I can only hope, when the time comes, someone takes the time to a little something for me…Read more…
“Mongo just pawn in game of life.” (Blazing Saddles.)
A while back, I published a series of posts on Facebook under the theme “How To Win An Argument”.
I started to repost them on FB…
… but then thought: Why not just bundle them up into one blog post?
Plus, include the updated insights (and comments) I’ve had since then.
What a great idea!
Below is a mildly-edited collection of that series on winning an argument. I didn’t save the dozens and dozens of comments from the first time I ran the series on Facebook…
… and that’s a shame, because it was a great thread, full of other lessons.
For example: The easiest way to get a whole bunch of folks frothing is to talk about (a) sex, or (b) their belief systems.
They go nuts when you challenge their crusted-over, nailed-down-tight beliefs on how things ought to be.
As you’ll see below, I just laid out my views on how to handle people who want to argue and how to define “winning” for yourself…
Saturday, 2:05 pm
“Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)
I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular annual tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.
It’s a good one, worth rereading even if you’ve read it before.
What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…
… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…
… and why they care about getting there.
So, even if you’ve seen this post before… it’s worth another look.
Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2018, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.
“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)
Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.
Like it’s magic or something.
Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).
Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me.
I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work.
Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.
So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.
But a little perspective, please.
For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude.
They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.
So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.
Which is, of course, pure bullshit.
“My social life’s a dud, my name is really Mud…” (“Talk Talk”, Music Machine)
Quick story: If you’re in business, you’ve got problems.
Problems are just front-loaded into the game.
Sales surge, then disappear.
Results vary, seemingly at random.
Once-reliable resources flake out, easy gigs turns into time-sucking nightmares, and things can just go south without warning.
Shit has a tendency to hit the fan.
Entrepreneurs love the freedom of owning our own biz, but when problems hold us back and relentlessly harsh our mood…
… it ain’t fun no more.
Well, guess what?
Savvy biz owners and professional copywriters
have a secret weapon.
It’s called “getting some freaking help when needed.”
Or, in more polite terms, “tapping into the solutions, resources and brilliance of a trusted network”.
You know. The almost voodoo-like magic of being in a high-end mastermind.
“Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoooooooon…” (The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon”)
File this little piece of consulting advice under the “WTF Were You Thinking?” Department: I frequently encounter entrepreneurs (usually the struggling kind) who confuse “working” with activity.
When they finish a project, for example, the sudden evidence of fresh free time startles them — somehow, inside their head, they feel they “should” be devoting every waking moment to the gig.
So they dive immediately into the next job.
This is so wrong.
You’re not a machine.
You need downtime, and lots of it — that’s where the creative process flourishes, and your overall energy levels recuperate.
The top performers in all niches jealously guard their free time, and greedily devour it with gusto.
Here’s what they know that you keep forgetting: The harder you work, the more down time you require regeneration and recovery from the stress.
However, (and here’s the real trick), the more PRODUCTIVE you yearn to become…
“Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…” (David Bowie)
Let’s have an uncomfortable discussion, what d’ya say?
Let’s talk about the dirtiest word most adults know: Change.
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, make a fortune, 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 around you.
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…
“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…