Archive Monthly Archives: October 2007

Pulling The Plug

We live in a nice joint, in a nice neighborhood.

The house is big, comfy, secluded (somewhat), wired… and full of technological whoop-de-do’s that break down with alarming regularity.

Last week, it was the dishwasher.

Now, for most of my life I was old-school about cleaning up. I have an old R. Crumb cartoon of Mr. Natural doing the dishes — it’s hilarious to a certain demo from my generation, but somewhat obscure to everyone else. He just rolls up his sleeves and does the dishes, in frame after frame of a page-long cartoon. The last panel has him walking away drying his hands and saying “Another job well done.”

That’s old school.

However, I quickly fell into the trance of having a dishwashing machine once we moved in. Load ‘er up, punch a button, go do something else.

So it was discombobulating when the little bastard broke down. We had to run off to Target to get a dishrack, and I was re-aquainted with the old Zen mindset of washing by hand.

After a few days of that, though, we made the modern decision to replace the automatic beast under the counter.

It’s a beauty, too. Brand new ’08 model, bristling with gadgetry and options, yet efficient and quiet (like a little troll that sneaks into the kitchen at night to tidy up).

It’s also another electricity-eating robot… and after the first couple of cycles, it just went HAL on us. (HAL being the evil narcissistic computer in the movie “2001”, of course.) Then it appeared to burn out completely.

Mocked by unresponsive blinking lights, we called the repairman, who said he might make it by the house at some point, while insisting we not “try anything” to fix the machine ourselves. And no, he said, there is no “reset” button. We needed to wait for him, Mr. Expert.

Screw that. I immediately did two things: (1) I tried every tactic I could think of to trick the damn thing into working again… and (2) I asked my assistant Diane for advice.

Diane has been with me for years, and understands the “real” world in ways that only a smart, fearless single mother can.

“Did you unplug it?” she asked, without hesitation.

Uh, no, I hadn’t. I didn’t even know where to find the plug.

Under the sink, it turns out. Obvious.

Diane learned this trick of unplugging, waiting a few beats, and re-plugging electrical monsters long ago. It works with computers, printers, phone answering machines, televisions, cable boxes… and dishwashers.

Works like a charm, too. We’re washing a big damn load of dishes right now. Told Mr. Expert to forget stopping by.

This “unplug and reset” thing reminded me of a critical lesson from Eben Pagan’s killer “Altitude” seminar from a few weeks ago: One of his guest speakers was a sports shrink (as well as a biz consultant)… and he emphasized the need for “recovery” in everything humans do.

Top athletes know how to relax during every pause in the action of their sport. Rookies stay tensed up, and often collapse in exhaustion, while the pro’s dance in elation after the most grueling contest.

Bodybuilders certainly know the necessity of recovery — you can’t build muscle without lots and lots of rest between workouts. In fact (important point here), you will DESTROY muscle if you overwork your body.

In business, I long ago learned the lessons of burn-out: I did it exactly once, frying my brain with workaholism, lack of sleep and a refusal to take vacations around 15 years ago.

It sucked, and I became a relaxation junkie. Part of what I teach freelancers, in fact, is the glory and necessity of weekly massages and monthly mini-vacations. Plus a routine of frequent “Miller Time” breaks to end your day. (Doesn’t have to include booze, but very much DOES have to feature real relaxation and complete brain shut-down.)

Miller Time means: Work, done for today.

Not another conscious thought about the office is allowed until morning.

I can’t count the number of up-and-coming copywriting stars I’ve counselled over the years who ignored my advice and just piled on the jobs until they literally collapsed. A young man should not suffer a physical or mental breakdown. An older dude should know how to avoid it, too.

Sadly, most don’t. The American mindset is suspicious of anything that smacks of slacking off… and that’s just a dumb way to live. (Most of the successful entrepreneurs I know are shockingly lazy, though capable of intense bursts of short focus and disciplined work.)

Burn-out is not your inevitable fate. It is, in fact, a CHOICE people make. They mostly do it unconsciously, denying they’re pushing themselves too hard… but it’s a choice nonetheless.

You can choose to install GOOD habits, instead.

Like unplugging from the grid on a regular basis.

Find ways to turn your mind off. It needs the recovery period, and needs it every day.

Washing the dishes by hand reminded me of the Zen “no thought” mode I’m able to slip into, when I give myself the opportunity. It took years to develop, and I forget about this skill often. (I tend to rely on weekly massage to take me there, which makes me lazy about doing it myself.)

So it’s VERY worthwhile to be reminded, regularly, about the need and the joy of unplugging. Find ways to do it without technology — no Playstation, no websurfing, no staring at the tube.

Find an old school way to do it. My buddy Frank Kern surfs for real in the ocean. My buddy Stan gorges on the live music in his town. Last night, I just stood in my yard staring at the full moon cruise across the sparkling autumn sky for a while… not lost in thought, but alive with no-thought.


Even a moment or two of it can reset your system.

You can play at being a cyborg with video games, but in real life you’re in dire need of very human recovery periods.

Take the advice of a dude who experienced burn-out and figured out the alternatives. You don’t ever have to experience it yourself to learn the lesson.

The number one rule of living well has always been “First, be a good animal.”

Words to live well by.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

Test, Test, Test, Test, Test, etc.

Bulletin from the powerful Altitude event in Los Angeles last week: Testing equals Big Bucks.

This shouldn’t be news, but it is for an alarming number of even veteran marketers. (I’ll certainly cop to being guilty of not testing anywhere near enough.)

The bottom line is that, at some point, you’ve got to step away from what you “believe” to be true about your market, your advertising, and your sales funnel… and test the critical parts of your pitch. Price, headline, bullets, voice, attitude, layout, guarantee, name capture, email follow-up, freebies, all of it.

The rewards of dedicated, focused and obsessive testing have never been made more obvious to me… than when, smack in the middle of the seminar, Eben asked the room how many people tested “regularly” on their Websites.

Bunch of folks raised their hands.

Then he asked how many tested EVERY DAY.

About half a dozen kept their hands up.

Then… and this is where it gets good… he asked each of the “every day testers” how much they were grossing.


The low end take of that small group was over $12million/year. The mean average was over twenty million.

Moral: Testing rocks.

You will, of course, continue to do what you want to do. It’s your biz, after all.

However, you’ll never know how much moolah you’re leaving on the table until you test. And test often. And learn from your results.

Just a small tidbit from the vast mountain of stuff I learned (and re-learned) at the Altitude seminar. Eben really threw himself, and his entire organization, into making that event a shocking success… and you know you’ve done well when grizzled, cynical, “seen it all before” veterans like me give you an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Everyone I talked to — and the room was packed with movers and shakers — was ecstatic over the material presented and the opporunities offered.

Well done, Eben.

I’ll be synthisizing my notes over the next weeks, and sharing more soon.

My head is still buzzing from the overload of input…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

The Halbert Site Has Officially Been Re-Juiced


Just a quick note: Gary Halbert’s sons, Bond and Kevin, graciously asked me to be the first of Gary’s friends and colleagues to post on athe great man’s newly-rejuvenated website:

It’s an honor… and I pulled out all the stops by digging into my most-used notes, and posting the notorious “20 Clicks” report that has been a major “first choice” resource in my bag of tricks for nearly two decades.

Other famous/infamous marketers, writers, guru’s and ne’er-do-wells will be posting on Gary’s site in the future… his sons have a definite plan in mind (which I’m helping them with), and I urge everyone to jump over there and get in the habit of watching for emails from Kevin and Bond, and checking out Gary’s site regularly.

The archives alone are a national treasure.

The new stuff is only going to add to the immense value of Gary’s legacy.

Enjoy… and prosper.

And stay frosty, will ya?

John Carlton