Bad Thinking Habits

Great article in the January 29th issue of The New Yorker titled “What’s The Trouble?”.

It’s primarily a deep deconstruction of how doctors think and make a fast diagnosis under pressure. Which turns out to be dangerously flawed in many cases… especially if they like you.

But the article also makes an excellent cross-reference to how the same kind of thinking can affect business owners. This isn’t about evil or obtuse agendas… it’s about how a very natural way of looking at vast, changeable, and not always clear data can mess with your head.

The result can be frightening for a patient. And disasterous for a business owner.

I love the New Yorker, by the way. It hosts the best writing in journalism right now, and yet it’s on the stands every week. (I have a subscription.) There’s no telling how long this excellence will last — it’s dependent on enlightened publishers, hard-ass editors (who barely exist anymore in journalism), and ambitious, competitive writers who are at the peak of their game.

Learning to write well has nothing to do with grammar. It’s about communicating. And it’s nearly a lost art in America. Molly Ivins died yesterday, one of the last of the truly-courageous Old School columnists and book writers in politics. (Thank God P.J. O’Rourke is still pounding ’em out.) We won’t see her like again soon… especially since the Corporate Beast discovered how easy it is to use books to coat public discourse with bullshit propoganda and rabble-rousing name-calling nonsense. (Both Al Franken and Ann Coulter fall into this category. These scumballs and their publishers are strangling American political dialogue.)

All this, however, isn’t necessarily bad news for people who care about good writing. And I assume this includes you, since you’re reading this blog.

The need for clear, truthful writing will be filled. If you care to join those of us who work to master the craft (and while it ain’t brain surgery, it does require waking up and facing reality), the rewards are beyond counting.

For business owners, the lack of good writing in your market is an opening you should leap into with guns blazing. Whether it’s honing your sales message, or building up your content and nurturing your list… this is the most important writing you will ever do.

And doing it really, really well allows you to stand out no matter how much better funded, or better situated your competition is. A single good copywriter can go up against Attila The Hun, Inc, and win.

Just remember that when I suggest articles to read.

Sharpening your ability to communicate is like putting money in the bank.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

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  • Great writing is a really obvious fundamental to writing great sales copy.

    But it is alarming the number of online business owners who think great copy is about a 20 point Tahoma dark red headline or a drop cap in the first paragraph or now with web 2.0 (God help us) Javascript pop down boxes of extra sales content.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  • Lea says:

    Thank you for remembering Molly Ivans, John. She WAS great, and I can’t wait to read her collected works… Viva la P.J.! And you’ve inspired me to re-subscribe to the New Yorker, which I have not regularly read since college (I’m an Atlantic Magazine addict).

  • It’s almost a blessing.

    All the junk out there makes communicating “truth” stick out like a sore thumb… a very profitable sore thumb.

  • David Craft says:

    The one writer I enjoy reading the most is Thomas Sowell. He has the gift of making complex seem easy to understand and I don’t know of anyone else who ever came close to making Economics so clear and simple to understand. He gets the tough issues as well and is not very popular with certain folks as a result.

    Molly Ivins could write but I found her to be less than an accurate thinker on too many levels to enjoy.

    On the other hand, while Ann Coulter is smart, her writing is torture to endure.

    Whether I agree with what they say or not, a good writer can draw you in and make even the most mundane an adventure. Writers expressing their thoughts in a way that challenges you to at least consider and rethink your views is always entertaining when done well.

    God have mercy on those who read only what they agree with.

    Sigh. I hope it’s not a disappearing art.

    I will get the New Yorker and explore in hopes this is not the case.



  • John,


    The line between good grammar and effective communication is a thought process.

    Deciding whether it is proper to put a comma or an ellipse, or which one gets your message delivered better…is a struggle for most business owners.

    Joseph Ratliff

  • […] The need for clear, truthful writing will be filled. If you care to join those of us who work to master the craft (and while it ain?t brain surgery, it does require waking up and facing reality), the rewards are beyond counting. […]

  • Nigel J Britton says:

    John the garbage that’s written behind a so called political agenda isn’t exclusive to the US.

    Here in the UK, the trash that is spewed out by political commentators is quite horrific.

    Makes me sick frankly.

    Just my two bobs worth.


  • Bernie Malonson says:

    Language is constantly evolving. Try reading old/olde/auld english sometime. However, the need for clarity is everpresent. One of the more interesting things about text messaging is it drives one to be very succinct and clear in your intent. However, clarity does not always equate to understanding, especially when your message is a complex one.

    Key example: E = MC2 (Is a concise and succinct statement of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity).

    The proof that drives E = MC2 is presumed to be voluminous, and the implications of E = MC2 are still being analyzed and discovered.

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