A Brief Jolt Of Intense Pain, And Then…

Have you ever figured out your own personal learning style?

We all have one, you know. This inconvenient fact is the bane of educators everywhere… because the teaching strategy that does so well creating a love of reading in Suzy, also puts Timmy to sleep (and makes him hate books).

I was discussing IQ with a buddy of mine recently — very smart guy, who’d just discovered his lovely wife had the exact same IQ as he did (this might be a bad thing in some marriages, but it was good news in his) — and I suddenly remembered the disorientation and stomach-churning confusion I had felt when taking my first IQ tests back in high school. I scored high enough to give the finger to all those grim, humorless teachers who were sure I was stupid (how could it possibly be their fault I wasn’t learning much under their obviously excellent guidance?)… but the actual score had to have been wildly off, because I distinctly recall never having encountered many of the words used in the test (which the creators took for granted that I knew).

It wasn’t that English was a foreign language to me… but rather that I’d somehow escaped learning a whole bunch of math, and was extremely vague on what a verb was. Among other embarrassments.

Now, I’ve trashed the U.S. schools before, and I’m not gonna do it again here. Too easy a target.

And I happen to know a couple of dozen teachers personally… all of whom are wicked smart people, dedicated to teaching, and universally upset that bureaucrats and politicians interfere with the process of filling semi-empty minds with the fodder of academia.

Nevertheless… it is ABSURD to think there is any single way to teach anything to everyone.

It’s simply not true. There may be a finite number of ways to teach effectively… but there are certainly more than a tidy few.

This was one of the main reasons I got into teaching entrepreneurs. I noticed, way back when I first started producing marketing and copywriting seminars, that there were always a number of people in the audience who simply didn’t “get it” when I tried to explain some specific salesmanship tactic or copy strategy.

We both got frustrated, because we seemed to be living in different worlds, where one man’s communication was another man’s Tower of Babel.

I was curious enough to look deeper into this… and discovered that among those people who didn’t get it, there were further sub-cultures of folks who couldn’t understand me no matter what I did or said or explained.

Some of these people were just aggressively stupid. Others could only “value” what I tried to teach through their need to control the message — they were offended by any show of cockiness, they were insulted by any kind of humor (especially the raw kind employed by the likes of Halbert and me), or they were aghast at the lack of democratic input I would allow into the conversation. (I’m sorry, but if you insist on wasting my time arguing about whether anyone reads long copy or not, we’re not gonna get anywhere special as far as learning new stuff. You don’t get equal time with your untested bullshit.)

At first, this bothered me. I felt I was a failure for not somehow possessing a super-broad array of teaching skills that would conquer any barrier put up by a student.

Then I got over it.

I stumbled through my own educational days mostly clueless about everything. If I hit the books at all to study, it was only from the mad hope that somewhere in one of the many classes I was taking, a clue might appear on how to live my life in a meaningful way.

I wish someone would have told me “Good luck on that quest, Bucko”… because it wasn’t gonna happen.

So I grew up thinking there was something wrong with ME — first, because I couldn’t find the value in what was being shoved down my throat at school… and later, because I kept encountering people who insisted they wanted to learn what they’d heard I had to teach about marketing and advertising and copywriting… but couldn’t seem to understand me at all.

And then, when I finally looked at the problem in a different way, it dawned on me: I was amazingly effective as a teacher… with the right student.

The “right” student was often an entrepreneur or small businessman who had a few unique things going for him. He could put his ego aside. He had an open mind about new ideas, even when these ideas contradicted his prior belief systems. And he had the ability to “translate” what I was saying, into language that worked for him.

I had always suspected I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea… but now I finally realized that it was pointless to pay ANY attention to those good folks who didn’t “click” with me.

Because those people I DID click with stood to benefit enormously.

This is why my first course was titled “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”. I still, to this day, get outraged emails from certain people who are deeply insulted by the term “kick-ass”. Many demand that I change it immediately. All decree that they would NEVER deal with a teacher like me, as long as I used such foul language.

What they do not realize… is that using the term “kick-ass” is a big damn cleaver I use to separate those folks who will NEVER learn from me in any meaningful way… from those who are PERFECT students for my teaching style.

Their learning style matches up.

I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and be an effective teacher. I’m never gonna wear a tie, or go to bed at a decent time so I can get up early, or create an academically-approved syllabus for anything I teach. Not gonna happen.

I’ll stand behind my balls-to-the-wall, street-savvy teaching method anytime… because I’ve got a loooooong line of people willing to testify that my style worked with them, where other styles failed. There’s often a brief jolt of pain from my methods, as the bullshit falls away and you enter, new-born-like, into the world of honest salesmanship and wicked-good copy… but it’s invigorating, not scary.

And for the right student — a savvy, independently-minded realist, who embraces the world for what it is, and doesn’t waste time wishing it was something else — this re-birth can be the start of anadventure that changes everything. Forever. In your business, and in your life.

The world is big, and people are wired with all kinds of kinks and passions that — when you’re playing it smart — fit into your sales funnel perfectly. You just gotta know what to say.

I liken it to teaching a foreign language. I suffered through six years of “formal” Spanish classes… and I still couldn’t have a real conversation with anyone fluent in the language. They tried to teach me by boring me to tears first, and wilting vast areas of my brain with useless info. (Who CARES where the friggin’ library is, already?)

However… had the program started out by teaching me how to make it through a day in Tijuana buying firecrackers, scoring booze and negotiating my way into strip bars (and out of trouble with the federales)… man, I would have studied overtime.

Teaching the advanced levels of marketing and copywriting aren’t much different. Most of the books you can read on the subjects tend toward the snooty “let’s look at this scientifically” angle… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But in my long years as a successful copywriter, I’ve learned that getting “real” with your reader whenever possible increases your odds of breaching the skepticism and hostility most prospects bring to reading cold copy.

And no, you shouldn’t tell naughty stories to bank presidents when you’re writing B2B… but you DO need to write in a voice that rings true to him. (Dirty secret: I happen to have known some bank presidents in my time… and they are, sometimes, wild and crazy guys who are just as bored with formal business dealings as you are thinking about them. If you’re real good, you can sneak into their good graces through a side door no one else is using…)

My teaching style is vicious, fun, and shockingly effective… with the right student.

With the wrong student… not so much.

So one of my first jobs when pitching a seminar is to discourage the “wrong” people from attending. No sense of humor? Stay home. Indignant about being taken apart by a mere copywriter? Go get an MBA.

Can’t wait to roll up your sleeves, put your ego on a shelf, and get down and dirty with the reality of what it takes to write world-class advertising?

You’re my man. Or woman. Or extraterrestial, I don’t care.

My small, workshop seminars are such a hit because I let people self-select themselves as candidates to attend. I make no secret of my teaching style… so it’s up to you to decide if I’m the guy you really can learn from or not.

There are enormous, and very broad, marketing lessons in this attitude, by the way. If you use a lot of personality in your marketing, you’re going to offend some people. It’s unavoidable.

You could — if you’re the suicidal type — make yourself so bland and inoffensive that you blend into the background. No one will get insulted… but then, no one will consider you a “go-to guy”, either.

On the other hand, if you let your freak flag fly — and you’ve got the chops to back it all up — then while you may forever deal with smaller lists than your competitors… the intensity and passion and acceptance of that smaller list will dwarf the bottom line of your nearest Mr. Milquetoast competitor.

I’m not pitching you on my upcoming Copywriting Sweatshop here. (There probably isn’t room for you, anyway… but if you care to see what’s up, go to www.marketingrebel.com/cws.html.) (Better hurry, though — as of this afternoon, there are only 2 spots left…)

It’s just that the process of teaching and learning is a hot topic right now… as more and more people enter the online business world, and discover they need to get hip — fast — to a whole bunch of insider stuff no one warned them about.

The most successful marketers subscribe to the “student for life” concept — and are forever searching for the right kind of teacher to help them discover the shortcuts and little-known cutting-edge breakthroughs that will KEEP them successful.

And I’m not saying I’m that guy, for you. Sure, I’ve helped a MOB of people break the code on creating wealth and living life with more gusto.

But I’ve easily offended many times more that number.

And I couldn’t care less.

The truth will set you free… but only if you find someone willing to TELL you the truth, in a way you can understand and use.

Okay, I’m done.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. Hey, one more thing. I almost forgot.

I just did my very first video. Well, not my first video overall — I’m on dozens and dozens of videos and DVDs, from my participation in seminars and other events. (Nothing naughty, either, I assure you.)

No. This is my first “home office” video… just me and the Webcam, at my desk, delivering a short message to marketers.

If you’ve ever wondered what my secret cave-office looks like, check it out. Short video. Online video is, of course, a force that’s quickly taking over marketing (excellently, when shot using good copy, and boring when too much winging takes place), and I’m getting into it heavily.

To see my first one, hop over to www.marketingrebel.com/cws.html.

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Ken says:


  • John, this one of the very few readable blogs around. I am sorry if this comment stinks, but English IS a foreign language to me.

    Anyway, I must tell you that, this time, you grabbed me by the balls: I am both a university professor with that M.A. diploma hanging on the wall AND a professional copywriter. I can testify every word you said here. No matter if I have five, or thirty, or four hundred students attending one of my lectures, I always notice I am talking to only a handful of them, while the rest just stay there, wasting their time listening, bored to death, to what sounds to them as a meaningless speech.

    Sometimes I ask one of those guys – “hey, what would you rather be doing right now instead of attending this class”? When I get the answer, and I tell him, “Just get out and go do it right now. Bring me back a paper next class about that experience”.

    None of them, ever, took this offer. It seems rather difficult for most people to do what they really want, even if they are told to!

    On the other hand, if I am talking to marketers and salespeople at big companies, I have the majority of my audience standing on the edge of their seats.

    I made this test, once. I spoke in class exactly the same words I had used the day before in a very succesful conference to salespeople… People yawned and some left the classroom.

    A few years later, one of those students came back to tell me he used the concepts of that “failure” class in his career and – guess what? – he had his working on competition for a Clio!

    I know you don’t really think advertising prizes are important at all, but some guys out there do think it is valuable enough to pay loads of money for a single design of this former student who stayed in classe while everyone else was sleeping…

    By the way, two students who left earlier that lecture are now very successful and respectable marketers… People are different, and learn differently, as you said.

    Best wishes,

  • Yeah, even when I am searching for a coah in martial arts, I will review many because even if the man is good, it doesn’t mean that his teaching method will benefit me.

  • john this morons are still not listening. 🙂
    check this out..
    link here

  • Rezbi says:

    “(Who CARES where the friggin’ library is, already?)”


    I laughed out at this point. Heh, heh.

    This is exactly how I feel with those classes… and those crappy courses.

    Can’t they teach something real?

    Why do they always assume people will be looking for the library when you go on holiday or something?

    Or any other boring place you wouldn’t get caught dead going to in your own home town.

    Don’t get me wrong, I use the library…

    But not when I’m in another country… sheeesh!


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