Red flags, dodging bullets, and staying focused

Howdy. It’s Tuesday night, a few days away from Amateur Drunk Night (New Year’s Eve)… and I’m thinking about mortality and the brief little ride we’re all given on earth. I’m very pleased with life right now… and, as I’m finding out more and more as I age, it’s not because of anything I’ve done. It’s because of something that hasn’t happened — specifically, I just got a clean bill of health from the doc. Some minor problems with the machinery got my attention last month, and all sorts of red flags went up… but once more I’ve dodged the bullet.
Those of you who have been reading my newsletters for a while know that I led a fairly wild life until I settled down and got serious about writing and bidness. I’ve been in at least three car wrecks where I should have died, and too many of my buddies over the years have died in situations where, by a matter of seconds or inches, they might have skated. Testosterone does funny things to your head, and young men just have to work through the urge to risk and dare and push limits. The lucky ones survive some truly stupid and insane behavior.
And I gotta admit — when you crawl from a ticking wreck, alive and standing despite the blood and torn clothes and smashed glasses, the first thing you want to do is laugh. Because you made it, yet again. And life tastes great when you’ve just brushed up against The Big Black Hole, and walked away grinning.
Young men taunt death, because they lack an intimate understanding of mortality. I now hold life very dear — there’s so much more I need to do before my ticket gets punched — and I find physical risk less attractive than I used to.
The risks I now face each year are much more mundane — cholesterol, blood pressure, psa counts, a suspicious-looking mole. But they’re just as serious as drag racing.
That’s the new hand I’ve been dealt, and I’m playing it hard.
I’m still here. You aren’t rid of me yet, by God.
Side note: As we enter the New Year, in this brave new world of terrorism and genocidal tidal waves and teetering economies, it’s good for your peace of mind to get some perspective. It’s one thing that comes with age, you know — perspective, solely from having logged so many years on the planet.
Well, I’m now over fifty, and those fifty years have been pretty damned interesting. I’ve seen wars begin and end, technologies arrive and collapse, recessions and cultural conflicts and political ideologies come and go.
Why is this relevant? Well, there are a lot of “experts” out there who haven’t been through entire economic cycles yet… or entire pendulum swings in the culture… or the birth and maturation of a technology. Old geezers can come in real handy when you’re panicked over events. Cuz, often, we’ve seen it before. No need to freak out. There are ways to handle almost all of this, and we’ve tried most of ’em.
But you don’t have to rely on geezers. (They can be disagreeable bastards at time.) History isn’t hidden. In fact, it’s laid out in living color for you. As unsettled and scary and unpredictable as the world seems right now… we’ve gone through worse before, and come out fine. There are no guarantees, of course… but if current events (like tsunamis killing tens of thousands and knocking the earth off its axis) have you a little rattled, try reading some history for a reality check. I’m reading about the Crusades right now, back when “getting medieval on your ass” really meant getting medieval.
What you will discover is that it has ever been thus. The world has never been totally at peace, and humans have never gotten along with each other for very long. We didn’t develop our system of law as suggestions for behavior — no, we have laws to punish those who would rock the boat too wildly. When lawlessness rules, as in the Middle Ages, you welcome order and authority. When authority gets too full of itself and starts dragging people to the gallows for minor stuff, you yearn for revolution. There is no safe place where everything is perfect, and never has been. Our culture… and our business world of markets, especially… is in a continual state of flux.
Shit happens, and it happens all the time. Do not let events shake your concentration. Yes, the world may end some day. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your next project. Maybe you don’t want to drop a ton of mail right as the next war starts, and maybe you want to explore a few more “Plan B’s” that include alternate ways to keep bringing results and money and customers when your Standard Operating Procedure gets fried… but don’t give up just because civilization seems ready to implode.
It always seems ready to implode. When I was eight, I was taught to hide under my desk because the Ruskies were gonna drop nuclear bombs on us. I’ve held my breath, along with everyone else, as leaders were assassinated, Black Fridays gutted the stock market, wars went sour, disease raged out of control, and on and on.
Hold on tight. Selling the house and running off to hide in the mountains isn’t your best option yet. There may come a time when it is your best option… but for now, go ahead and plan out your next marketing campaign. If you’ve got a good product — especially an information product — the world needs you.
Stay frosty,
John Carlton

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  • Great lesson. Too many people freak out over too many things.

    I remember around 1993 in Germany some brainamputated Skinheads put asylums for foreign refugees on fire and the “normal” people just stood there and watched the show.

    I remember being scared shit that the Nazi’s are gonna come back to power and would put us in their camps. (Pretty outrageous idea, but I wasn’t the only one. And looking at America and it’s terrorism paranoia in the last years…)

    Looks like bad stuff happens, but the media very much magnifies it in our perception. (At least I can’t find another explanation why many old people who are living in totally safe towns are afraid to leave the house after dawn because they fear being robbed).

  • Keep fighting.

    Stay alive.

    Do whatever it takes.

    I still need to say hello and shake your hand…

  • Rich says:

    Thought I’d take a look at the oldest post on your blog.

    2004 and only 2 comments, which I guess came from existing subscribers to your newsletter.

    How times have changed in the six years that have passed by since you wrote this post.

    How much would you, or any of today’s readers, pay to be able to go back to 2004 and start again.

    Or 1994. 1984, even.

    That is the cruel nature of time.

    Even the winners wince and cast a rueful eye at reminders of their past.

    Oh well.

    All you can do is head on, onwards and upwards and nary cast a glance back.

  • Adrian says:

    Like Rich I headed to the first post! Not sure why just did it. Frank Kern has mentioned you a lot so was intrigued. I’ve written similar things over the years and whether the driving force is cynicism or realism the only fact that remains is shit happens! Life is great most of the time and yet not enough time to read everything of interest.

  • Marcus says:

    Hi John. Thought I would see your 1st post too. Good stuff. Great admirer of some of your interviews with Michael Senoff. Just finished John Caples on your recommendation. Wow, thanks, changed my life.Keep that spirit.

  • mark grove says:

    I guess I worry too much about how the world’s events are affecting me. I guess i should get over it and do a marketing campaign for my music info product.

    Thanks John

    Mark in Canada

  • I am going to be 64 in 2017, and still I am not ready to die: some books to read and to write, some businesses to round up, several grandchildren to grow (teach to speak, to read, to begin their journeys to a Nobel Prize, etc.).
    Greetings from Chihuahua, México.

  • Jesus Miguel says:

    I laugh at the “it always seem ready to implode” so true…

    Thank you John.

  • John this was 2004 and yet it’s so damn true and actual. Wars are still going on and the economy is always collapsing, but thanks for reminding me that this is not an excuse to whine and do nothing.

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