Archive Monthly Archives: September 2005

What Is Information Worth?

We’re still in the Information Age, right?

I ask, because every time I blink, things change again. Pisses me off. I was born into the transition of the Industiral Age into the Atomic Age, was a teenager during Sixties, hung out in Silcon Valley while the Computer Age hit puberty… and through no fault of my own somehow wound up teaching people how to make the best use of the Information Age.


Grizzled old veterans like me are needed, because of all the confusion surrounding capitalism in this brave new world of nano-tech information exchange.

Hell, a blink now is an eon in terms of data flow.

So, what is information worth?

That’s the question I hear most often, in various plaintive forms, from entrepreneurs. How do you put a price on an idea?

I have a pretty good gut instinct for pricing almost any kind of product… but it’s hard to explain how a gut feeling works. I’ve just been in tune with so many markets and so many buyers over the years, I can get vibes from the zeitgeist and translate them into dollar amounts.

My friend Dan Kennedy is one of the few to figure out a simple formula to help the “vibe challenged”.

Let’s say you have a book that explains a concept. Like, oh, how to sue your neighbor when he’s a jerk. Not when he’s committing felonies like cooking speed in his bathtub or running hookers out of the garage… you know, things that objectively lower your property value. That’s too easy.

No, this imaginary book of yours explains how to nail him to the legal wall when he’s simply a blot on your happiness. Doesn’t mow the lawn, is loud and rude, has a dog that befouls your morning paper, whatever.

(Is there a book like this anywhere? If there is, I want it.)

Anyway, how would you figure out what is a publication like that was worth? No real competition to emulate, no similar products out there to compare.

If you were in a bar, and the guy on the next stool overheard you talking about your book and wanted it… how much would you tell him he had to shell out to get one?

I know what most rookies would charge. Ten bucks. They’d figure they could get it printed at Kinko’s for four, mail it for two… and make four big damn dollars on each sale.

Oh, wait, that’s old school.

New world math: It’s ten bucks for the download. No printing cost, no postage. You keep the sawbuck.

That’s fair, right?

I am forever having to whack rookies upside the head over this.

No, it’s not necessarily fair. Did you try asking for one hundred bucks first? Or fifty? Or a thousand dollars?

When I get hired to help entrepreneurs launch an information product, we spend a LOT of time going over the price. There are many factors to consider — for example, if you are using this book as a lead generation “loss leader”, you may want to give it away.

However, if you find out there’s an overlooked crowd out there just itching to sue their neighbor for being a jerk… the info you have to share may be worth beaucoup bucks. (That’s French, I believe, for “oodles”.)

So, at the very least, once you establish that you can generate traffic that results in sales… you need to test price.

I recently had an Insider send me his ideas for testing price. He had a “good, better, best” menu he wanted to try out. I swear I am not making this up: $1,233… versus $1,333… versus $1,433.

That is NOT the way to do it.

Here’s one way to do it: Figure out a price that “seems” fair. Then, lowball that figure to the point where you feel you’re giving it away. Then, jack up the price until you’re almost embarrassed to be getting so much for what you offer.

An example: $19.99… $69.99… and $99.99. A good spread.

Until you test, you will never know whether the guy who eagerly bought what you have for $69… wouldn’t just as eagerly have parted with $99.99.

Or more.

Or, that your product that’s breaking your bank at $69… wouldn’t put you on the Forbes 500 list at $19.

My clients, however, are most often astonished at how high they can go. One of them sold information for years at $49… until I shamed him into testing $69. Then $99. No change in response rates.

Same number of people bought. More money came in.

That means the “value” of the info, in the eyes of the market, was much higher than what the seller of the info ever dared to dream.

Gulp. They were leaving twenty bucks on the table, just by never testing $69.

And once they got over that shock, they discovered they were actually leaving FIFTY bucks on the table with each sale. For YEARS.

I could see the ulcers start to form as they grimaced, thinking of the fortunes left uncollected in their market.

Hey — at least they fixed it when they did. Without intervention, they’d still be happily giving the stuff away for half of it’s “worth”.

Back to Dan Kennedy: It’s not often another marketer shocks me… but Dan did.

He said: “Well, did you have them try $199? Or $499? Or nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars?

Uh… no, I didn’t.

So I went back, and had them test $199. It didn’t pull well. But I didn’t give up — after all, the market had sort of been “trained” not to highly value this type of info before.

So I wrote better copy. I gave a REASON why it was worth so much more now. We pumped up the value with more reports, more tapes and discs and stuff. Turned it into a big old box of infomation, all aimed straight at the heart of the market.

And we discovered that — sold correctly — we could get as high as $399. It was a bigger, bulkier and more involved product… but still just information. At the end of the day, we were still just telling them things they didn’t know yet.

Dan reminded me to never let a client set the ceiling on prices.

No, no, no.

You let the market tell you what the most they’ll pay is.

For years, Dan has doubled… and then doubled again… his fees and prices.

And, at each amount, he (and his stuff) was worth it. Maybe he couldn’t have jumped directly from his earliest fees to what he’s charging now. Maybe you need to bring the market along slowly, in increments.

But maybe not. I was hanging around Jay Abraham’s office back when the MOST anyone had paid for a marketing seminar was $399. And you had your hotel room picked up, all your meals paid for… and the seminar lasted five days.


Jay was having none of that. His first seminar lasted just over one day… you had to pick up all your own expenses… and he charged five grand for the privilege of attending. You were guaranteed a chair in the room. That was it.

And you know what? Jay made you understand why this was still the biggest damn bargain in business. His copy gave you all the reason you would ever need to explain to your spouse and business partner why you were shelling out this fortune to attend a seminar.

Audacious minds like Jay and Dan are a national treasure. Especially for entrepreneurs and anyone else who is trying their hand at earning a living outside the “normal” corporate womb.

One of my very favorite Scuttlebutt tapes was the recorded conversation I had with Dan Kennedy a few years back. (Scuttlebutt Number 5: “The Secrets To Success That Scare Most People Half To Death.”) I don’t get to talk to Dan near as often I like. Lunch with Dan is a riotous affair… and I learn something new every time between laughs.

This guy understands the concept of “what the market will bear” better than anyone.

I’ll bet you’re already tuned into Dan’s world, in fact.

However, you may not know that he’s doing a brand spanking new teleseminar on making money as a copywriter next week. Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero — one of my Insiders and good copywriter on her own — has arranged for Dan to spill his guts on how to coerce clients to cough up the cash. (How’s that for alliteration?)

Copywriters have a helluva time figuring out what to charge for their services these days. Because skill at writing copy is really just another form of information — as the writer, you take an ephemeral sales pitch and create copy that persuades.

You take information… and make it manifest.

The top guys all get outrageous fees backloaded with royalty arrangements… but how do you GET to that stage?

You can actually watch copywriters slash each other’s wrists on — it’s great fun — by underbidding everyone else until the job gets awarded for spare change. (I would not be surprised to learn of copywriters offering to pay the client to do the work at some point.)

That’s just crazy.

Again, my own course on Freelance Copywriting covers this. (There are only three sections: Get good, get connected, and get paid.) You can check it out by hitting the link to the right up there.

But why not check out what Dan has to say, too? This is a guy I’ve respected and learned from for almost twenty years now (since we first met at one of Gary Halbert’s notorious Key West “Hot Seat” seminars) ($7,000 to put your butt in a seat). I was sort of co-producing the event, and Dan was the anonymous last speaker of the night.

It’s the only time I’ve actually felt my jaw drop.

This is a guy who knows what he’s talking about.

Anyway, you can check it out for free. He’s doing a no-cost “preview” of the teleseminar (which will cost you if you sign onboard) very soon now. You gotta hurry. Lorrie is gonna grill him about the specifics — the preview will be an experience not to be missed by anyone who’s serious about this subject.

It’s a free look, she’s told me, to show you what the teleseminar is really “worth”. Smart. And a gift to you — free info is getting kinda rare these days.

To see what the fuss is about, bop on over to

Find out what Dan has to say about the price of your skill.

John Carlton

Free vs. Smart Money

I think we’re witnessing a “New Coke”-level debacle on the Web this week.

The bean counters have apparently taken over the New York Times online site… and driven a stake through its heart.

Let me explain: You remember the New Coke thing, don’t you? Back in the early nineties (you know, last century), Coca Cola — one of the most profitable businesses in the universe — got bored with success. And they took their flagship product — Coke — and futzed with the formula.

Why? No reason. There was no hue and cry for a new flavor, no urgency on any front.

People hated the new fizz. Just loathed it. And, despite having sunk something like the gross national product of Brazil into the marketing blitz… the marketing geniuses were forced to bring back the Old Coke.

None of this surprised me at all.

See, as a veteran freelancer, I often get ushered into the deep, dank inner sanctums of a client’s business. I get to see where the bodies are buried, how the books are juggled, and what the real scuttlebutt is on the bottom line.

I used to be astonished at what I found. (For example… when a typical businessman quotes his most recent profit figures to you… you can pretty much cut them in half. If you’re interested in what’s real, as opposed to what sounds good, that is.)

I am astonished no longer. I expect most large companies to implode at some point… with resulting damage that may or may not be repairable. I’ve just seen it happen too often.

Sometimes it’s like a slow-motion train wreck. Other times it’s like watching someone calmly uncork a hand grenade and swallow it, smiling.

Our culture, for reasons I can’t yet fathom, is rife with a twisted paradigm: Sometimes, success equals insanity.

Here’s a very recent example: Up until Monday, the New York Times online site had a measureable readership of something like 39 million.

I was one. My morning routine included stops at… the drudge report… the Washington Post site… the Wall Street Journal online version… and the New York Times.

Plus, an assorted menu of other sites, as time allowed.

All, except the WSJ, were free.

Forget about the percieved politics — I read the Times for the quality of the writing. I’m a journalism cult fan. I liked the columnists… or rather, I had LEARNED to like them, after three or four years of reading them online.

Now, however, that game is over. The bean counters at somehow decided that the best and most wonderful thing they could ever do… was to charge for access to the columnists. You can still see the headlines and most of the breaking news for free… but for the “good” stuff, you gotta pony up.

Um… no thanks.

Here’s the gamble they took on: Were 39 million people reading the columnists because the writing is too important to miss… or were they reading the columnists because they were good… and free?

My bet’s on the free part.

And if I’m right… the Times just sent 30 million readers out into the blogosphere… where they will quickly discover tons of writers JUST as clever and JUST as savvy and JUST as tuned in as the best of the Times’ columnists.

It’s like the movie star who gets so full of himself, he figures he can indulge in any old movie he cares to slap together… and his “fans” will flock.

Result: Bomb.

Dead box office.

Happens so often, it’s a cliche.

Businesses do it, too. It’s called hubris. You get really, really full of yourself… think you can do no wrong… and guess what?

You’re toast.

Now, the Wall Street Journal understands their market better — they CAN charge for online access and be worth it. Hard to get what they offer otherwise. It can be done… but they have the most efficient delivery of what you want, all neat and tidy and in one spot.

Worth a few bucks.

But the Times? Fuhgetaboutit. They have a great history, but they’re still only as good as their last issue. Day to day to day.

And the Post is just as good (and better in many ways). Also, still free.

We’ll see where this goes. The early reviews on the Times’ move are not good — no one over there, apparently, bothered to imagine how this whorish move would play with the hoi palloi.

What is information “worth”, anyway?

Very intriguing question, worthy of your attention… especially if you’re in the information business (as most Web-based businesses are). I’ll post on that subject in a few days…

Until then, stay frosty.

John Carlton

The Right Woid

Friday, 2:33pm
Reno, NV
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” (Mark Twain)


There are two things that distinguish top copywriters from the rest of the hoi palloi —

1. A deep, reverential knowledge of street-wise salesmanship… and…

2. A love affair with the English language.

I talk endlessly (endlessly!) about the salesmanship stuff, because that’s the thing most rookies lack. And I get a huge thrill when it finally sinks in, and one of my students rips out a truly killer ad that gets even my jaded greed glands quivering.

However, force-feeding a love of language into someone is a much harder gig. At least here in the States. My burgeoning British and Irish subscribers — only recently hip to hard-hitting, direct response style advertising — seem to have an advantage here.

Europeans look at language differently than Yanks, probably because every fifty miles or so everyone is speaking a completely foreign tongue.

Language is identity. Across the pond, it matters how you form your vocal outbursts, and large vocabularies impress.

Back here on the farm, most local dialects of English have degenerated over the generations. Americans have pathetically tiny vocabularies (though most understand more words than they routinely use when speaking).

Language gets a bum rap here.

Which is great, if you’re a serious writer. Because words carry power… and learning how to use words to convey ideas makes you a powerful individual.

First, the Thesaurus. Then, the world!

Actually, I’m only half-kidding with that. I just had an Insider ask me for a better way to find better words to use.

And here is what I told him: Write out your headline and copy without paying any attention to how weak your word choices may be. Just get the pitch laid out, so you have an actual sales message.

Then, the fun begins.

Top writers have a Thesaurus in their head… but only after years of actually using a physical one. We’ve just memorized a bunch of different word choices, through the act of beefing up our writing over and over again.

Rookies need to get an excellent Thesaurus — an actual book, not Gates’s lousy Word version — and start the process of dog-earing the pages.

(You want a real book, because using computer versions takes away both the tactile experience of searching for words… and eliminates the “happy accidents” of coming across a completely different word in your search, which you may use now or store for later in your head.)

I call it “Creating Power Word Charts“. Most rookies choose common verbs as they write. That’s fine. During editing, though, whip out the Thesaurus and see what other choices are available for that dull, over-worked word.

Write them down on a piece of paper.

Then, look up each of those words, and see what other connotations exist. And write some of the best of those words down.

What you will have is a page full of choices, all connected like a geneology chart back to the initial word.

For example, let’s say you used the word “run” in your copy. On page 693 of my trusty, beat-to-shit Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, the synonyms for “run” take half a column.

Let’s see… dash, scamper, scoot, scurry, sprint… and a suggestion to check out scuttle. Related words listed: race, bustle, hurry, rush, speed, scorch.

Lots more: Trot, chase, herd. Idiom suggestions (great for seeing how to see the concept of “to run” might be changed): Hot foot it, make a break, run for it, take flight, take to your heels.

Just a sampling, kids.

Now, for the fun of it… because as we all know, writers have soooo much time on our hands… let’s go check out “bustle” on page 112: It’s an old word, not often used today. But the synonyms open up some bitchin’ new possibilities: Whirl, whisk, flurry, fuss, commotion.

I like commotion. Also fuss.

So go check out those words, too.

All this work…

… just to find ONE “right” word?

You bet. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s just detective research on the “language vehicle” that will carry your pitch.

The “right” word in your headline can transform the level of interest you create in your reader.

However, don’t make the rookie mistake of going overboard with this. Most of the “vanilla” verbs and other words you use are just fine in your copy. You’re not trying to challenge the reader, by leveling odd and trippy word choices at him with every verb.

No way. It’s the critical verbs and phrases that you need to tend to — the parts of your pitch that suck your reader in, and hold him tight while you shovel your sales message into his amydala.

Probably, you don’t need to change the word “run” in your copy.

Still, I like the idea of saying “So I bustled over to the counter to place my order before the crowd realized what was happening.”

It adds flavor to the “voice” in your copy. I mean… what kind of guy would use a word like bustle? In the right sense, it actually conveys confidence and a little self-depricating humor… always a good trait in a salesman.

The English language is the most adaptable and useful language in the world. It’s just that we don’t make full use of it… which is a shame for the communicative powers of your average Joe, but a criminal act for a writer.

Words are easy to fall in love with. They have the power to seduce, entrance and slay.

Get hip.

And stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Happy accident on page 113, while looking up “bustle”: the word “buttinsky” — to butt in, a kibbitzer, meddler or pragmatist. (Pragmatist?)

Also the word “butcher”. I’m gonna use that one tonight, in a piece.

P.P.S. Were you thrown by the word “Thesaurus”? Look it up in your dictionary first.

Then high tail it over to the local book store and BUY ONE.

Do it.

Fall in love.

Multiple Sources of Info

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I don’t pitch much.

The reason I started posting was simple: Even after writing a dense “Marketing Rebel Rant” newsletter each month… 8 packed pages… I found myself with an expanding backlog of good stuff to write about.

So I started this blog. It’s free, of course, so I don’t feel any restraints about what I write. Sometimes I nail the pulse of my readers, and I hear about it. Other times, I’m just providing a little honest content that probably falls short of earth-shaking… but if I can help even a handful of other writers or marketers, I figure I’ve done my part.

When I started out as a freelancer almost 25 years ago, no one helped me. And during those harrowing first months, I vowed that — if I ever “made it” as a professional copywriter — I would share what I learned along the way.

It was a naked, semi-desperate plea to whatever force runs the universe.

I don’t know if it worked or not… but since I did make it, I am fulfilling that vow to help others as much as I can.

Thus — the free blog. If you look over the posting archives, you will learn many of the crucial marketing and advertising (and life) lessons I had to absorb the hard way… through trial and error. (Mostly error.)

But the main thing is… it’s free. I do offer courses and other learning materials… and I’m damn proud of all of it. Just glance at the sampling of the testimonials I’ve posted at, and you’ll get an idea of what can happen to you — fast — once you decide to learn the profitable shortcuts from someone who’s already “been there”.

But I almost never push this material on the blog. For the moment, I’m content to allow word-of-mouth do most of my selling for me.

Today, however, I am making a small pitch to you.

My colleagues Bob Bly and Clayton Makepeace are holding a teleseminar aimed at helping freelance copywriters get more (and better) clients.

Here is what they say about these upcoming calls:

American Writers and Artists Institute, Bob Bly and
Clayton Makepeace Present …
Kick Your Copywriting Business Into HYPER-DRIVE!
Give us just one hour on Wednesday, September 14th,
and we’ll give you 30 PROVEN secrets
for making tens of thousands of extra dollars
— and more every year from now on — until you retire RICH!
 2 Ways to find a first client even when you don’t have a portfolio …
 How 2 top copywriters got started – by paying themselves to create a great portfolio …
 5 keys to turning a conversation with a prospect into a lucrative assignment …
 7 ways to make an offer big mailers can’t refuse …
 The #1 blunder new copywriters make – turns clients off like crazy – and how to avoid it …
 How being a direct response bully can make you rich …
ÔÅÆ How to rake in tens of thousands of extra dollars every year TAX-FREE …
PLUS, we’ll set aside as much time as is needed to answer your specific questions about building your copywriting business …
AND you get two valuable guides ‚Äì 7 Qualities of a Great Client ‚Äì And How to Spot the Sorry Losers You Shouldn‚Äôt Touch with a Ten-Foot Pole and How to Get PAID to Build a Power-Packed Portfolio — FREE!

To find out more — and I apologize for the length of this link — just go here:

The reason that link is so long, is because Bob and Clayton want to track where people show up from… and this link identifies you as someone coming from this blog.

Now… you know that I offer a course on freelancing, too. Graduates of my course have earned as much as $300,000 and more in their first year as freelancers. The advice and shortcuts I offer include everything I used to become a top, world-class writer… plus everything you need to know to work your own magic on the Web.

Still, I can easily recommend that you check this teleseminar out. All good writers know there are multiple ways to skin a cat… and if I even remotely suspect I can pick a single new piece of information that can help me increase my income, or increase the results of my ads… I’m there.

Robert Allen, who wrote the best-seller “Nothng Down” — which transformed the real estate market, and made a LOT of people ridiculously wealthy — also coined the term “multiple streams of income”. What he’s referring to is a brilliant strategy to get rich, fast… and stay rich, no matter what.

The main idea: Don’t rely on a single source of income. That puts you at risk.

Instead, develop many different ways to bring in moolah. Especially ways that operate automatically, without effort.

It’s the same with information. You really need to get all the info you can, from different sources. My most successful subscribers pay very close attention to the advice I give them… but they aren’t shy about also paying close attention to the likes of Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy.

We live in a wonderful time for entrepreneurs. There is a glut of information available — a situation that simply did not exist when I was a rookie.

You don’t have to struggle like I did. Top writers are now spilling their bags of tricks wide open… and all you have to do is collect the good stuff, and put it all to use in your own life.

There are also, it’s true, a rather embarrassingly large number of “wannabe” gurus out there ,too. The best of their advice is really just a diluted rehash of what they learned from veteran writers.

I’m not warning you to stay away from the wannabe’s… but if you’re not awash in time, your best bet remains following the tried and true advice from us “old guys”.

Anyway, if you’re freelancing, or considering freelancing as a career, check out Bob and Clayton’s link. There’s no obligation to just see what’s up.

These are top writers, opening the vaults.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

They Know What You’re Thinking

Here’s a nice litte factoid to tuck away somewhere: From my many years working with clients, I can safely tell you that… if a great idea pops into your head… chances are somewhere between 12 and 12,000 other people have had the exact thought.

At the exact time.

This is why we have trademark and copyright laws. Because most people aren’t hip to this inconvenient factoid… and they get pissed off when someone “rips ’em off”.

There are simple reasons why this happens. First… many inventions and brainstorms come about when advances in technology meet economic opportunity. Several people “invented” electricity at the turn of the last century, when certain scientific breakthroughs made it possible. Edison just had better PR… plus the vision to get government to fund it. Without public financing, electricity would still be a curiosity, and we’d be running our computers with gas.

Color television was available in the 1920s, for example. However, while the technology was there, no one could afford to buy the sets. So no one broadcast anything. TV only got going when other technology became available to make black and white broadcasting feasible.

The other reason for simultaneous brilliance… is something Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious. Each individual is hooked into a larger mind-meld with every other human alive, through our common biology. Sort of like being tuned into the same short-wave radio signal.

Don’t scoff. David Ogilvy and other top copywriters were great fans (as I am) of using the power of our unconscious minds. I often “sleep” on ideas… literally… and ask my brain to come up with a headline or concept or whatever when I wake up.

Works like magic.

As a professional creative-type, however, it’s also a source of high anxiety.

I have piles of ideas for books, seminars, new business models, and cool ways to completely transform my life… more brainstorm material than I could ever get to in two lifetimes.

I know many other creative business folks suffer from the same overload.

And it just kills me that — merely by thinking of them — I have sent all these ideas out into the collective open-air market… to be looted by others.

Of course, I seldom consider that I may have had my little brainstorms because some other poor guy had the thought first, and it escaped into my unconscious.

Interesting voodoo here.

The lesson: When you have a truly great idea, jump on it. Not so it doesn’t get away… but because if you don’t, you’ll probably see it on the cover of USA Today in a month or so. With some other slob getting all the credit.

Remember — paranoia is only a problem if they AREN’T after you.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

Afraid To Lose

Reality TV just got a little too nasty, didn’t it.

During the run-up to Hurricane Katrina hitting landfall, I was pretty disgusted with the media. You could see the inner glee of the talking heads as they savored the idea of another catastrophe to obsess on.

This time, surely, they could indulge their thirst for exploring other people’s misery, without the attendant shame of having to deal with Michael Jackson, or the vacuous Aruba murder mystery, or Brad and Jen’s breakup.

However, today, there’s a stunned look on most of them. The glee is gone, replaced by a disbelieving shock. There’s nothing ironic about what just happened, no easy headlines and no funny side stories.

An American city just got bitch-slapped by Nature, and people are hurting. I hope you’ve been able to send a few bucks to one of the more effective relief agencies. I think the Red Cross learned its lesson after botching up their 9-11 windfall. I’m not big on religion, but the Salvation Army knows what to do during this kind of disaster, too.

Just send something, somewhere.

The guys in charge are still lost. Where the hell do you start, even? The New Orleans I grooved through in the late ’70s is gone forever, apparently. They can, and probably will, rebuild… but it will still be a city below sea level, in the path of Hurricane Alley. At some point, someone’s gonna wonder if the rebuilding is even worth it.

Whatever they decide to do, it ain’t gonna help the folks getting relocated right now. There’s no way new money is going to rebuild joints that will rent out for cheap… and that means a huge percentage of the poorer people being evacuated simply will not have anyplace to “come home” to. No matter how long they and their ancestors have lived in the French Quarter.

The unintended consequences of every act, from here on out, will be felt for generations. The political fallout is just starting. (I’ve read that the feds had cut flood control funds for New Orleans by 80% over the last few years, despite the risk of a hurricane hitting exactly as it did being predicted as one of the top three disasters guaranteed to happen in the US this decade. And developers were only recently given the green light to obliterate the wetlands that, in the past, served to mitigate incoming storms and flooding. This will not be pretty.)

The lesson for the rest of us is clear: No matter what you’ve amassed in your life, materially… it can all be taken away in a heartbeat.

What Nature doesn’t stomp, is still being circled by your vulture-like competition. And the IRS, your ex-wife, and identity-thieves are lurking in the wings, waiting for their shot.

Success isn’t about what you have right now.

True success is about what you can have, when it’s necessary to grit your teeth and get moving. Money and fame are ephemeral, wisps of dreams that can vanish without warning. Your favorite guitar, your best friend, your health… all are temporary possessions.

I’ve known a lot of people who gathered the pretty trappings of success… but weren’t really successful. Because, once they “got theirs”, they lived in fear of losing it.

That fear will not keep bad events at bay. It will only cloud your days.

True success is a state of mind… armed with talent. Not the “potential” kind of talent I talked about a couple of posts ago… but honed talent.

The kind of talent that allows you to get knocked back to zero… and climb back to where you want to be, quickly. Short of a health crisis that requires machines to stay alive, a truly successful person knows how to brush themselves off, and get back into the groove before the dust settles.

I’m not saying everyone in New Orleans should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That won’t happen. Most people need outside help, and those of us in a position to help should do so. Generously and without second thought.

What I am saying… is that a few people will come out of this stronger than ever. The tools they will use will all be inside of them — honed talent, an ability to set clear goals, and a willingness to search for the necessary info and shortcuts.

Not all of us get tested like that in life.

However, I have noticed that among my closest friends who possess true success… none have been given an easy time of it by Life.

Grieve for the dead, and help your brothers and sisters as much as you can, when you can.

But don’t be caught speechless in the face of disaster, like so many of the young, clueless talking heads on television.

Success requires action, and skill. Consider how you would handle things down at the bleeding mouth of the Mississippi.

John Carlton