Justifiable Arrogance

In the half-century I’ve been around, I’ve seen arrogance be variously acceptable and unacceptable in mainstream culture.

I grew up in a post-WWII family that prized humility and distrusted showboating. One of the biggest putdowns was to be told you were “too big for your britches” — a metaphor akin to a swelled head. The fifties were as close as America ever got to a kind of quasi-cooperative equality — rich people kept pretty quiet about their wealth (CEOs earned a modest mulitple of the average worker)… brainiacs played their cards close to their vest to avoid suspicion (and girls played dumb so as not to threaten the boys)… and athletes were expected to be uncomplaining models of sporting gentlemen.

My, how things have changed.

Cassius Clay rocked the sports world in the mid-sixties by coming out and brazenly calling himself “The Greatest”. Which he then proved, over and over again. Greed was good by the eighties. And the ladies now outnumber the guys in grad school (and do better).

It gets confusing sometimes. I have to brag, a bit, in order to properly introduce myself at a seminar. It’s not easy for me, because it cuts against my grain. But it must be done. And I have helped several colleagues overcome their reticence to step into the limelight and stake their place there.

When I got good enough on guitar to play solos, I next had to learn to be ballsy about it. Keith Richards of the Stones said: “It’s not that I’m a better guitarist than anyone else… it’s that I have the guts to walk out in front of 50,000 people and do it with a little flair.” I’ve known dozens of guitarists who put me to shame with their skill… but who couldn’t bring themself to step up and assault the crowd with a loud, brash solo.

There’s a difference — a big difference — between raw skill, and risking embarrassment by putting that skill on display.

What I never suspected, after finally learning how to handle the stage as a speaker at marketing seminars… was to be called “arrogant”. I had to do some soul-searching, because it stung. I’m not arrogant.

But sometimes I have to “play” at being arrogant to make my point.

There are several layers to arrogance. Long ago, a good friend admitted that his parents had raised him to be arrogant… but never gave him the chops to back it up. He was off-the-charts smart, but unless you were engaged in a game of trivia, he didn’t actually have any accomplishments to BE arrogant about. So his arrogance (which he got over, after some therapy) was hollow and isolating.

A disturbingly large part of the population uses what I call “simmering arrogance” to get their way. They walk around looking like they’re ready to burst into a dangerous rage, and glower when challenged. It’s a form of bullying, because most people loath confrontation, and automatically try to appease the arrogant beast. (Donald Trump is an excellent example here.)

Then, there is a “protective” kind of arrogance… which I actually teach clients to adopt. I learned this doing seminars, after being hounded during breaks by attendees who wouldn’t let me pee in private. They followed me to the restroom, literally cornered me and interupted my phone calls in the hall, and behaved like papparazzi going after a “money shot”.

Anyone who has known the exhaustion of being “on” for several days during a seminar knows you have to conserve your energy. And even if someone’s private question requires “just a minute or two”, you still have to fire up your brain and pay attention. (And there’s no such thing as a question that takes “a minute or two” — at minimum, you’re talking about a ten minute conversation anytime you broach a marketing question.)

So I tell attendees upfront, at my seminars, that during breaks, I am “invisible”. I’m not being rude, I’m just recharging and taking care of basic needs. I lay it out bluntly, too, because you have to be serious to be taken seriously.

Arrogance? A few have seen it thus. At the last seminar I was at, I got cornered outside the hotel while hailing a cab to the airport. I was late, and needed to focus on grabbing that ride to the airport… and a woman came up and announced “You’re Gary, aren’t you!” “No,” I said, “I’m not Gary.” I think she was confusing me with Halbert (a scary thought). Just had my name wrong. I didn’t elaborate, because I needed to get moving. But she persisted — she’d seen me at the seminar, was certain my name was Gary, and started to get angry when I insisted I was not. If she had approached me with at least the minimum knowledge of my real name, I would have politely shook her hand, and taken the time to explain I was in a hurry. As it was… well, screw her.

I had a plane to catch. It’s not my job to manually adjust other people’s reality when it gets skewed.

I’m sure she tells the story differently, and I’m equally sure I come out in her version as arrogant and mean-spirited. I had been a nice guy a thousand times over during the event, shaking hands like a politician and listening politely even to personal stories that had no point whatsoever. And I helped numerous people get a handle on some very important problems, when I could.

But there’s a limit.

There is a limit.

Finally, there is “The Arrogance Bomb“. I have used it just once in my entire career. After writing my first piece for one of the largest mailers in the world, I encountered stunning opposition to the copy. I was on the phone for hours with high ranking bosses at the corporate office, fighting off their attempts to water down the ad.

It was a battle. And I wasn’t giving in, like they obviously expected. People were getting riled up.

Finally, in desperation, after one marketing honcho challenged yet another sales point I’d written, I just snapped. “How many controls do you have?” I asked her. A slap in her face — she of course had none, because the honchos don’t write. They hire freelancers for that.

But I drove home my point. I had numerous controls for other mailers at that time. I knew what I was frigging doing as a copywriter, and I knew in my gut that giving in to their demands to tone down the copy would KILL the piece. So I fought back.

With The Arrogance Bomb. “You don’t have any controls, do you. In fact, you’ve never written any copy whatsoever. When you have a control… when you have written copy that works… then come back and tell me to tone my sales pitch down. Until then, you do what I tell you to do.” I left out “God damn it”, but it was implied.

Arrogant? You bet. I had to take a shower after that call, because being arrogant feels slimy to me. It’s not a good fit.

But that Bomb needed to be hauled out.

(Actually, I was blacklisted at that joint after my little rant, and it was only by accident that my piece even got mailed. When it beat the current control, the honchos meekly called me back and apologized. When it continuted to mail profitably for the next five years, I had the wicked satisfaction of having a control that outlasted many of the managers who had tried to sink the piece. Still, I never again had the energy to force another piece of copy through like that — and I never used The Bomb again.)

Until today.

Last night, we had the first Tactic 7 call. This was a FREE mini-tele-seminar that included me, Perry Marshall, David Garfinkel, and Harlan Kilstein. We talked for THREE HOURS about the seven fundamental elements we knew to be the keys to taking a business into seven figures (a million plus).

It was the most exhausting… and most energizing call I’d ever been on.

Over 3,000 people were listening in, from every corner of the globe.

It was an event.

And yet… we received a handfull of emails afterward berating us for being “too basic”. I at first found this confusing — what is “basic” about the specific fundamentals behind making the big bucks? Yes, you may have come across these very points in a book, or heard someone talk about them at a seminar… but, to my knowledge, this was the FIRST TIME that proven marketing experts had actually laid out how these secrets actually WORK to create million-dollar “sales funnels”.

If reading a book about a tactic is all you need, then everyone who read Trump’s last “how I got richy-rich” book should be rolling in dough right now.

Of course, that doesn’t happen. Just hearing about something… and actually learning how to put it to USE in your life and business… are two very, very, VERY different things.

And so we asked the complainers a simple question: “If this is so ‘basic’ to you… then you must already be a millionaire. Right?”


And, of course, none were.

Arrogant of us? You bet. A challenge like that is The Bomb at full power.

Needed? I’d say so. The real arrogance was in the complainers… who scoffed at our sincere sharing of proven, tested tactics. Tactics we USE, and KNOW to work like crazy.

Some people want magic. Real voodoo — and it has to be something they’ve never heard about before. They are quick to say “I already know all that” when, in truth, they “know” nothing at all.

They have merely glanced off the concept at some point. It meant nothing to them then, and means nothing to them now.

Their loss.

If you’re not already wealthy… then, really, be quiet and sit still. If you can’t, then leave quietly… and let the people who will soon be your betters absorb the wisdom here.

I hope I never have to drop The Bomb again for the rest of my life. It doesn’t feel good doing it.

But sometimes, it’s just gotta be done.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

P.S. Almost forgot… if you want to hear that amazing 3-hour call, it’s been posted. For free, at least for now. To get to it, go to www.tactic7.com and register. No cost, no strings, no nonense.

Check it out.

And stop being so damned arrogant all the time.

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  • Seth Chong says:

    Thanks John,

    I’ll heed that advice. The real vodoo…
    I would say lies beneath studying great
    copies — and read the sales letter on
    marketingrebel.com for at least 77 times
    word by word.

    And then, study Gary Halbert’s whole
    Newsletter Archive for at least 3 times
    word by word.

    Hope I’ll reach there some day, currently
    charging $450 per copy, but I believe I’ll
    get better.

    Gonna keep full focus on this blog, thanks
    again John.

    Little Hut Copywriter,

    Seth, 17.

  • Paul Schneider says:

    Very often its not that the content wasn?t great its that the expectations were not met. If you say you are putting on a call about the fundamentals that we all know about then very few will tune in. So you obviously build it up and then the expectation is that you will be covering something new and different that has never been revealed before. That is why people get disappointed.

    Those who know and do not apply the fundamentals do not need to hear the same material again they need help with applying it. Its not that they are moaners they simply expected something different and are in lust for insider secrets as a way to avoid getting into action.

  • Aaron says:

    Hello John,

    I was one of those 3000+ on that call. I lost my connection after 2 hours, and was quite upset about it because I hated not hearing the rest of the call.

    It honestly stuns me that anyone would complain about 4 millionaire professionals taking the time to give insider informtion away for free.

    That, I’m sure, is the problem…it’s free!

    Make em pay, and then maybe they will respect the the Men, and the Information.

    Looking forward to the next call.


  • John Thomas says:


    All I’ve got to say is the Tactic 7 call the other night was damn good, and anyone who had a problem with it confused knowledge with KNOWING. I’ve got lots of head knowledge, but, let’s be blunt, you don’t KNOW anything until you can reproduce it repeatedly.

    I’ve got lots of knowledge, but I don’t KNOW enough. So, I listened to the call, and I’ll listen again several times, and I’ll use it. A lot.

    Because I’m learning to value KNOWING above knowledge.

    I appreciate you doing the call.

    Thanks, John.

    – John

  • Shawn Lebrun says:

    Great call John

    I was with you towards the end, when you suggested “wrapping it up” once the call approached 3 hours. My brain was hurting from thinking about how I was going to use this expert advice I had just heard.

    The people that complained are, I’m sure, the same ones that complain about every facet of their lives. They probably signed up for the call thinking that they’d be given magic solutions that would make them rich without any work.

    And as most people know, BASIC, proven tactics work. Its the part of putting them into action that separates the winners from losers.

    Luckily, I’m sure those of us who are immensely grateful for these calls far outnumber the schmucks who complained.

    Shawn Lebrun

  • Jack Storm says:


    I was on the call and got dropped. Downloaded the audio…now reviewing the transcript a second time.

    Thank you.

    The arrogance was more than justified.


  • Ken Calhoun says:

    Great points about arrogance … it’s important to be self-confident, and “sell” the prospect on your abilities and insider knowledge .. without going over the top.

    The call had a lot of great content in it .. and I personally study your stuff constantly, John – there will never be a point at which anything’s too basic .. because the application of the tips changes all the time.

    I think what a lot of the current crop of what I call lazy ass marketers want, is crap along the lines of “instant adsense software” – eg “push a button and create lots of spammy ad/doorway sites so I can get rich without using my friggin brain”. Idiots.

    Anything that resembles honest work, creativity, and actually meeting needs of a niche with quality content, pitching it with a killer salesletter, is seen as old fashioned.

    So very many of the marketers I’ve met at seminars (including speakers) are brainless and have no work ethic. They want maximum money without any honest effort. And then they “network” at seminars to try and cross pitch their crap to each others’ house lists. Screw em. They aren’t gonna last.

    The rest of us, who work our asses off to deliver quality content, will continue to rule the joint. Thanks as always for a terrific presentation, John.

    personally I love trump and I’m a whole lot more like him (and probably got a mean streak a mile wide to boot) .. than most marketers. I like to be ruthless, brilliant, talented, wealthy and successful. I make the ‘rich jerk’ look like mister rogers. that’s what I love about this stuff… 😛

    ken calhoun

  • Chris says:


    Your “arrogance bomb” might better be called your “confidence bomb”

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