Trump Is A Total Prick

Sorry. Please forgive my French.

I’m just enjoying a little smidgen of righteous outrage over this last Apprentice show. I don’t watch much network TV — terrified of brain rot — but this show hasn’t yet jumped the shark.

It’s still riveting, for both the business aspects, and (sigh) the Jerry Springer-style interpersonal shit.

For me, it’s like watching a horror show. I’m taken back to my days in the corporate womb, where I slowly got sucked into the games and back-biting and gossip… just like the show… until, finally…

I got fired.

Good God, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I took the fall for a screw-up by the marketing vice president. Somebody had to go, and it was me. This, after I’d been booted into a no-win middle management position, without sufficient staff, without support by other departments, without a net.

For three months, I worked like a dog, up at dawn, swimming as fast as I could all day long, and collapsing late at night into bed, further behind than when the day had started.

Weekends — gone. Social life — gone.

Self-respect — gone.

I left the corporate world shaken at what I’d seen. All the qualities I valued — working my way through problems on my own schedule, taking a few well-thought-out risks here and there, questioning the wisdom of my “superiors” when that wisdom clearly sucked, sharing the glory — were huge liabilities in the office.

My last three months were like a slow-motion train wreck. I’m sure I was fabulous entertainment for my colleagues… and toward the end, I even stopped eating lunch with those people who had been my buddies the previous two years.

They could smell the death on me.

Again, however, getting canned was a huge relief. I took a few months off, travelled up and down the California coast, slept in my car and on couches and beaches, and eventually wound up in LA, where my freelance career began in earnest.

Watching the Apprentice helps me relive the horror of those years in that Silicon Valley office. But I get to relive it from a safe distance, which makes it a rather pleasurable thrill. Like I’d escaped the dragon’s lair, and lived to tell about it.

And I’ll say it again: Trump is a total prick.

His cover is blown by his sheer glee at pouncing on wounded ducks. You gotta be ruthless, he implies. You gotta crush people who attack you. You gotta take huge risks.

Blah, blah, blah.

The world he lives in is a zero-sum game. For him to win, somebody else has to lose. That’s bullshit. If you’ve ever participated in a joint venture or affiliate program, you KNOW that business can be win-win, easily.

Only a sociopath believes in crushing people while earning a buck. That’s starvation-thinking, acting like we’re all in a rowboat adrift in the ocean, and there’s not enough sustenance for everybody.

Should you actually find yourself in a rowboat, adrift, you may have to decide if you’re gonna eat the weakest to survive. But until then, enjoy the bounty of the world as it really is.

There’s plenty for everybody. There’s even enough for you and your colleagues to get filthy, stupid rich.

The worst part is, Trump encourages back-stabbing and disloyalty. He loves it… like he’s watching a cockfight. The only apprentice, so far, who’s shown any backbone is the one who got the axe tonight. He’s a bit of a putz himself, but he had a dollop of the one thing Trump had previously claimed was important: Loyalty. He just refused to trash his colleague, even though his neck was on the block.

And it got him canned.

It’s been twenty-five years since I last worked for a corporation… and it’s only tonight that I finally see where the real horror there came from — the utter lack of humanity.

People run scared too easily in the office. Their precious “job”, with all the warmth and benefits and security it’s supposed to provide, becomes thier identity and reason for existing.

One of my big problems was always showing up at eight a.m. sharp, with tie cinched up. What was the point? I often worked hours later than everyone else, focused on deadlines instead of some imaginary daily scorecard.

I mean, wasn’t the deadline the thing we were supposed to be focused on?

And that was wrong. That attitude violated an integral rule of the corporate beast: Though shalt obey mindless authority without question.

Reminds me of the time I pulled up behind some cars at a traffic light that was obviously on the fritz, stuck on red. We waited, and waited… and then I pulled around, bumped up briefly on the curb, and went on my way. The red light, so obviously broken, no longer represented authority.

It was BROKEN.

And defying the taboo of running it doesn’t automatically qualify as anarchy. You take turns, you go slow, you watch out for the other guy and show a little common courtesy.

But you get on with it.

Yet, as I motored away, I could see those other cars still sitting there, waiting for permission to proceed from a light that wasn’t gonna change.

And you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me if one of those drivers had hopped on their cell phone to “turn me in” for running the light.

How DARE I defy the rules?

Thank God we live in this country, where entrepreneurism thrives.

Most of the entrepreneurs I know well don’t “do” back-stabbing. (There are those who engage in this practice, but they never become my friends. Nor do they last long in the biz.)

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The generosity and help you receive from fellow entrepreneurs can take your breath away. Metaphorically speaking, many would chew their own arm off, it you needed one.

It’s the Golden Rule. I just recently had someone do a job for me, and screw it up royally. And you know what? I took the blame. The client never heard about the failings, or the drama… and he never heard an excuse.

I took a hit, financially, and we just got on with setting things right. The error was understandable, and certainly not a firing offense. As we say: All errors made from enthusiasm are forgivable.

It never even occurred to me to waste time assigning blame.

Long ago, Gary Halbert took a hit for me. He could have easily stepped aside, pointed out my error, and come out smelling like a rose. But he didn’t. He absorbed the blame, and we moved on.

Bob Pierce, my longtime client and friend, has also done this many times when people he trusted with projects did a FUBAR.

Heck, I could fill pages with examples like this. I learned long ago that finding someone to take the blame was a loser’s game. (Hey, that rhymes.)

Who cares if someone is to blame for some mistake? Identify the problem, fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. In business, there’s actually a fair chance it WILL happen again, anyway. But if you’re making progress, the problems are ususally less of a challenge the next time.

You may have to fire someone at some point. It happens. In the entrepreneurial fields, we thrive on being self-starters, and responsible finishers. Anyone who sits around waiting for micro-management needs to go drop some resumes off at Trump, Inc.

Where you can perform cage-fights for The Donald, ripping off your colleagues’ heads vying for the badge of Biggest Bully.

You can have it.

Or, am I way off base here?

What do you think? I know you bastards are reading this blog, because of the email I get. Don’t email me — share your wisdom here, in the comments section. Some of the stuff you send me is brilliant, but if you don’t post it, it never goes anywhere.

David, Phil, Scott, John… Gary… and both of you mega-talented redheads. You know who you are. And everyone else, whether I know you personally or not.

Share the love, guys.

John Carlton

P.S. Okay, it looks like the Website for the updated Freelance Course has been cursed, and won’t be up for… I dunno how long. It’s in the hands of my tech guy, who swears it’s close.

But I’ve lost patience.

So… starting on Tuesday, I am going to laboriously email each and every one of you who has emailed me about the course, and send you a PDF.

And, because you were among the first to contact me, you’ll get a special deal. I’ll honor this deal for anyone else who cares to email me before I start sending out the PDF next week.

Consider it a “sneak peek”. With special privileges no one else will ever get.

Have a great weekend. I hope, if you work during it, you’re working on your own projects, and not for the Man…

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  • Ken Fagan says:


    Your comments on ???the Man??? certainly resonate with me.

    After getting an MBA in Marketing (I know, I???ve just discredited myself in front of all of your readers??) I went to work as a VP at a bank in NYC.

    I experienced the exact same things as you did (but I???m a morning person, so I used to get to the office early??). Plus, since it was a bank, there were lots of rules (compliance, etc.).

    I can???t help but mention this: despite all those rules, something interesting took place several years after I???d left the bank.

    One day (towards the end of 2004), I ???googled??? the name of a guy who???d been a couple of levels above me at the bank. I was stunned to discover that this guy had taken advantage of his signing authority (he???d since become the head of the office) to ???invent??? loans?? to the tune of $ 65 million! When he found out that the head office (in 1997) was starting to raise questions about millions of dollars of unaccounted funds, he got on the next plane?? to somewhere?? apparently no one knows where, because they haven???t found him??

    Unlike you, I decided to fire myself (before they fired me??). That was in the early ???90s, and I???ve been a free man (freelance translator) since then. And I hope to open for business as a copywriter sometime in 2006.

    Oh, and if you???re wondering whether all that corporate nonsense is any different here in Paris (France, not Texas), everything I hear from our friends (and my own banker…) working at local companies suggests that it???s exactly the same (except for the language).


  • John Gilvary says:

    You must be talking about this week’s episode when Bren got canned. He was the gentleman who wouldn’t trash his team mate. Last week’s was Chris–the guy with the anger problems.

    Their team deserved to lose this week because they ignored the market.

    Is it me, or does this season’s Apprentice candidates seem more bottom of the barrel than the previous seasons?


  • Oh, it’s not even close. To those who haven’t been watching the Apprentice, Season one absolutely ruled. Two was okay, Three is, well, eh.

    I was astonished at how polite Bren was… remember, he was a PROSECUTOR. These are, usually, some of the nastiest I-enjoy-inflicting-pain type personalities I’ve ever seen.

    I’m still, astonished at how BAD the marketing/sales decisions are on this show. Anyone reading this blog could whip every contestant in a heartbeat.

    PS: Didja notice Trump’s gloating over Branson and Cuban?

  • Jim Bettke says:

    Trump is almost as real as his hair. He loves to talk about taking risks and being an entrepreneur but the truth is he just wants more ‘yes men’ working for him.
    I love the end of each show where Trump, George and Caroline talk about the decision. You made the right choice there blah, blah.
    If Trump bends over to pick up a nickle, they’ll have to pull George and Caroline’s head out of his ass with a plunger!
    PS What ever happened to the Book Smart vs Street Smart thing?

  • Bruce R says:

    This has to be one of your best posts ever John!

    It bothers me when I see some top marketers telling people to watch the show becuase there’s so much to learn. Baloney, the more I watch, the worse the ‘lessons’ get. In general, Trump is a pompous, overated egotist, who does seem to enjoy watching the gladiators kill each other. AND, his boasting is enough to drive a person; “The biggest, the most expensive, the tallest, the most famous, blah, blah, blah..”

    I’m waiting for the episode where Trump tours his weekly winners through that gargoyle-infested ridiculously gaudy penthouse condo of his and finally reaches the gold plated executive size toilet and exclaims; “I has the strongest SUCTION in all of Manhattan!”

    Lately, I find it even funnier to watch the senior suck-ups (Carolyn and George) react to Trump’s proclamations…Most predictable painful corporate BS you can imagine.

    (example: Trump; “I really had no choice” ..Carolyn; “Yes, you really had no choice..” and George, “yes, you didn;t have any choice”)

    I guess he didn’t have any choice.

  • Paul Schneider says:


    Trump??s “success” is mostly an illusion which could fall apart a second time whenever the bankers decide they have had enough of his arrogance.

    As for the corporate b.s. – same applies whenever 3 or more come together to do biz ness!

    Trump seems to have a very sad life as I see it. Where is the love? And without love (not ego) there can be little happiness.

    I think he could have real success if he could express the love locked inside him – think of what he could then achieve for himself and others.

  • John Ritskowitz says:

    Very interesting post, John. My wife loves to watch the show, and I catch it with her occasionally. Even my wife sometimes shouts out to the TV, “How many bankruptcies did you have, Trump? Who’s the real loser?” when he cuts down someone and calls them a loser.

    Personally I think the show encourages the Jerry Springer mentality among the contestants, forcing them to gang up on one-another. Surely not the best way to go in the business world.

    But I guess in the end the “business” is really about entertainment.


  • ken oneill says:


    I despise the corporate situation in this country. unless your a memeber of the lucky sperm club like trump. The deck is stacked against you. A Degree from a good school cost someone like 200,000 dollars now . A bachelors doesn’t even gurentee them a job. Then to get anywhere once you are in a job. a person constantly has to be taking more and more courses.

    So people spend 15 years paying back college loans. While they work 60 hours a week in a high tension office. Spending 80 percent of that time doing stuff that wastes their talent . For a company that will probably not be there in five years .

    Books smarts isn’t all bad. Some people have no sence to be anything but book smart. The problem is the world is changing so fast the book are full of outdated information.

    As far as the bully billionair. I think when the next real estate down turn hits. He might not be lucky enough to get out of disaster a second time. Now that he is makeing himself the real estate king. I Think there is a possabilty he will end up infront of a judge . With the fed finding him guilty of something

    when things are good the public wants heros. When things goes bad the heros get beheaded.

    Ken O

  • David Deutsch says:


    One thing I’ve learned from you is to look beneath the surface of things to the underlying marketing and psychological lessons. //

    In the case of The Apprentice, I think perhaps the real lessons are beneath the somewhat pre-meditated, manipulated — and skewed by being performed in front of national television — actions of both Donald and the participants. //

    The real lessons are being given to us each week by a fellow named Mark Burnett — developer and producer of both Survivor and The Apprentice. Obviously, he’s giving people what they want, so why not look at what they’re getting and see what it is they want. Conflict. Drama. Emotion. Falls from grace. Ego. The mythology of tribes and leaders and contests and even a king — the Donald. (Burnett admits to having been influenced by Campbell’s work on mythology and the Hero’s Journey. And one contestant, interviewed after she was fired, said she didn’t learn diddly from Donald. But she learned a ton from Burnett.) //

    Richard Branson was the anti-Donald. He supported his contestants and hugged them and shared their pain when they weren’t chosen to go on (nobody got “fired”). A lesson here, perhaps, in what interests people and our fascination with ultimate events (birth, death, firing), and what it takes for an audience to find you and your competition “interesting” enough to survive in the ratings? //

    Lesson beneath the surface #2, I think, does come from Donald himself, and has to do with branding and publicity and how you get someone to PAY YOU to publicize yourself and your products (and real estate ventures — and add value to your name when it attaches to those ventures). And what it takes to stand out from the crowd in a big way. //

    Now Al Swerengen on Deadwood — there’s a man we could all learn from when it comes to business building, management, marketing, and understanding people deeply and giving them what they want. //

    David D.

  • Well said, David.

    Y’know, as a Canadian, I’m always fascinated at the rabidity of the people interested in the Civil War (In the US) and the relative indifference to the Revolutionary war.

    But when you think about it, it makes sense. The Civil war pitted Brother and Family against Brother and Family. The Revolutionary war was just a war against an overseas nation with bad food.


  • David Deutsch says:


    Yes, speaking as a current resident of the Capital of the Confederacy, we, like the Colonials, tried to tell the government: “You’re fired.”

    However, for us, it didn’t work out quite as well.

    Good point about the Civil War being more far more viscerally dramatic — culminating in the death of the father/king figure. It was also huge by comparison to the Revolutionary war — more than half a million dead. And was the first war to employ the new tools of mechanized warfare (although the strategies will Napoleonic marching columns — a bad combination). And gave us a far more powerful, centralized federal government. (Never get someone from the South started talking about the Civil War.)


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