You, The Movie Version

Sunday, 6:35pm
Reno, NV
Crispy clear evening, with a canopy of stars twinkling like lighters during a Neil Young encore…


I’m gonna ask you to write a little mini-script here in a minute. For your “inner” home movie.

You did know your life is a movie, right?

Okay, maybe you’re no DiCaprio or Clooney or Scarlett… or even Giametti… but you’re the star of your own show just the same.

There’s a script, which you have enormous sway with. You don’t like the way things are going, do a rewrite.

There’s direction, and even lighting. You want something flashy or big to happen… well, you can arrange it. Whatever you want, as long as you’ve got the cojones to get after it. (No, you’re not guaranteed to get what you want… but if that’s how you want your movie to go, you can at least call for it in your script. Run for prez, dude, if that floats your boat. Heck, if the current crop thinks they’re worthy, then most of the rest of us are, too.)

Lighting, by the way, plays a bigger role in your life than you might realize. Most of us live under ridiculously harsh wattage, both at work and at home… and it’s like blasting angry music into your head all the time. It can change the way you see yourself, and act in the world. Heck — bright lights are used as “extreme interrogation” methods by the CIA. So is Barry Manilow music, as well as thrash metal. Because relentless use of it hurts.

As a side note: Experiment with the subtle elements of your life. Get some indirect lighting for your office, use non-white bulbs or even candles… you don’t have to go for any kind of gaudy bordello-style mood, but just try lighting your stage differently for a little while. See how it affects the way you do things.

Same with music — get out of your rut, for sure, but also stretch a bit. My iPod is crammed with rock and roll, but also lots of classical and acid jazz and country and folk and alternative stuff. And I carefully plan out hour-long playlists that create a mood, and keep it going.

When you live like you’re a star, you pay attention to these kinds of details.

The benefits: Time slows down… routines become exercises in pleasurable rites rather than zombie habits… and your awareness level kicks up a notch.

All are excellent tools for living well… and being a better marketer.

Especially the “awareness” part.

Have you ever wondered where the knack for finding stories and hooks — the main ingredient of any great copywriter’s bag of tricks — comes from?

It’s a direct result of being hyper-aware. Of living life like the greatest movie ever filmed.

Think about your life.

No, seriously. Think about it.

Most people have trouble “seeing” themselves in the world at all. Without a mirror, they’re not even sure they exist. Their daily experiences are like watching a “monkey cam” — the filmed result of attaching a camera to the back of a chimp and letting him wander off.

It’s not a smooth, thought-out, coherent narrative. Instead, it’s jerky, chaotic, and (unless there are “happy accidents”) mostly boring.

There. I’ve said it.

Most people lead boring lives.

And do you know why?

It’s because they refuse to believe they have any control over the script, plot, or action of their life. And, if you don’t believe you do, then you don’t. That’s the way it works, most of the time.

I’m not talking about adopting a selfish attitude of “it’s all about me”. No way. Most of the really savvy people you know — the ones who have their personal and biz lives put together well — are not selfish weasels. And yet, they live like they’re the center of the action, because they are.

Doesn’t have to be a “movie” metaphor, either. Think of yourself as the protaganist in a great novel, or the hero of the best video game ever created. (Don’t be that guy who dresses like a Wookie, though. When you finally kick your life into high gear, it will be part action, part comedy, part drama, part tragedy, and yes, part fantasy… but try to think in well-rounded terms. It’s a mistake to get hung up on any one thing, because it’s so limiting. Expand. Live large.)

Whatever works for you, works. It may take you a little time to get clear on what kind of script you really want — most novice goal-seekers screw it up the first few times (like thinking they really, really, really want something… and then being disappointed when they get it).

But you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly, if you just realize this gift of consciousness you’ve been given. The natural tendency of any human being who has attained some measure of creature comfort, is to sleep-walk through the rest of his days.

And that’s not living. That’s zombie city.

Living your life like a movie means that you are constantly aware of the ROLE you play. It can change, or mutate, or solidify… but all of that can be your choice. Part of the plot twist, if you want.

You can never control EVERYTHING, of course. No one’s ever said you can. Every second of your existence is fraught with unpredictable events, from earthquakes and heart attacks to stalkers and food poisoning. Or an unexpected call from the ex. Or a hacker discovering your bank password.

Nevertheless, there remains a HUGE portion of your moment-to-moment life that you CAN control. If you choose.

And getting into the swing of writing your own script as much as you can, will redirect your life in ways that please you. You become the captain of your ship.

The OTHER advantage of living this way… is that the STORIES of your life become more vivid.

And the best copywriters and marketers and salesmen in the universe… are all great storytellers. Without exception.

Again, think about your life.

Consider how it has progressed in actual chapters, or acts. Maybe it’s as straightforward as childhood, adulthood, starting a biz, getting married. Or maybe it’s more nuanced, in peculiar ways that make sense to you but may sound fuzzy to outsiders. (I know guys who have sectioned thier past under the heading of whichever female was in their life at the time: Jo (junior high), Nancy (freshman year), Roberta (summer he got his license), Yolanda (first part-time job),etc. They will fry your ear with great stories, too.)

The more precise you can be, the better your stories will become. And the better your OWN parcel of stories are, the better you can spot — and use — stories from the world around you when you’re writing to influence and persuade.

I was really lucky to grow up in a family of storytellers. And since I was the youngest by 8 years, I learned quickly to be pithy and interesting… or to lose the floor (because few people have the patience for meandering stories with no punch line, especially from kids).

My auto-biography is already written, you know. In my head. It’s been a work in progress since the day I first realized I was alive… and I remember vivid, interesting stories from every minor period of my life.

Stories aid memory, and retention, you know. Every ancient culture on earth was based on stories until writing came along. They HAD to be short, fascinating and memorable, too… because any story not retained, was lost forever.

Even if this “consider the movie of your life” concept is new to you… you should be able to look back and see how certain periods of your life evolved. You don’t have to get it all organized right away… take your time. Focus on some pleasant period, and re-gather the stories from that period into a mental file cabinet.

I also urge you to write these stories down. In short, well-thought-out vinettes that pass the “won’t bore your buddies” test.

In other words… leave out the dull parts. You can write up the longer version — the “director’s cut” that only you will truly appreciate — for personal indulgence… but while you’re honing your storytelling chops for the outside world, focus on short, crisp, rollicking tales that get to the point quickly.

The best stories are concise little mini-movies. With a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or, like a good joke, with a premise, a set-up, and a punch line.

They can be serious, or funny, or rueful, or just “hmmm” inducing.

But they must be complete stories. Remember Suzy, your first real relationship? Sure, it went on for a long time, and any day-to-day explanation would put even someone tweaked on speed to sleep.

So start editing, with an audience in mind. For example, to strut your credentials for understanding young love: “Suzy, the first love of my life. Teenagers, convinced we would live forever, and no one had ever felt a love so strong before. We spent most of our time in the back seat, or in secluded spots, fumbling with biological imperatives and hormone dumps. Torrid affair. Shocking heartache when her biology shifted away from me. Sad, sad boy, convinced no one had ever felt such pain before…”

Or, something more mundane: “Interviewed for my first real job right out of college. Cinched up my tie, answered every jack-ass question seriously, shook hands like a candidate. Got the job. Hated every second of my life for six months, never quite caught my breath, and then got fired. Joy, again.”

Or, here’s a tidbit from my own biography: “We were vandals as kids, mostly ineffective and innocent, but occasionally stunning models of terrorism. Asked an engineer how many railroad ties his cow-catcher could handle… and the next day, put all those plus one on the tracks. Derailed the train, and our genuine horror of success was deepened by the realization we better watch our asses if we were gonna engage with the adult world like that.”

Three sentences. Yeah, long ones, but three coherent, correct sentences. A complete story, with entry point, action, and quasi-moral ending.

Consider how looooooooooooong I could have dragged that tale out, and been absolutely justified in doing so. Because, hey, the thing took place over a couple of days, and there are details of our gang and the neighborhood and the derailment that are fascinating.

Just friggin’ fascinating.

But longer stories should only be told if you’re invited to tell them. As in, writing your thousand-page biography, and selling it. Anyone buys, it’s a tacit agreement to put up with every long-winded tale you’ve got up your sleeve.

Watch a bad movie tonight. Not a good one, or even a cult sleazoid one, appreciated for being bad.

No, watch a dull, plodding, no-thumbs-up disaster. You’ll discover that it has nothing to do the stars in the cast, the money in the budget, the director, the studio, or even the script. (People have screwed up Shakespeare, you know.)

Watch it critically. Consider WHY it’s boring you. And think of ways it could speed up the pace, nudge your attention, be better. The culprit will almost always be the storytelling.

Now, it’s your turn.

Leave a 3-sentence story from your life in the comments section. Don’t be shy — we’re all trying new stuff this year (or should be). Trashing old limitations, stretching new boundaries, waking up and engaging the world on new terms.

I promise to read every one. I’ll even toss in a few comments myself, when warranted.

This is a SAFE forum, you know. We’re all friends, or at least cohorts in the quest for better living and finer biz results.

Honing your storytelling chops requires releasing your shy restrictions, and just doing it. Get comfy with the concept, and get better with the details each time you try again.

I won’t mock anyone, and I’ll read every submission. Some of you are already damn good, others can use a lot of work… but we ALL need a kick in the butt once in a while to continue getting better at storytelling.

C’mon. Three lines. That forces you to be concise, to consider every single word carefully, and to crunch large chaotic experiences into tidy little narratives with a point.

I’m not looking for funny. Not looking for tears. Not looking for anything profound.

Just a story.

For some writers, this will be a true test, because you aren’t used to pushing yourself like this. However, the best already do.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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

  • Greg Thompson says:

    This is a bit longer, but I wanted to share:

    I hate dust, so my girlfriend at the time suggested I get one of those air purifiers.

    The guy that sold them here locally had a few extra, so I figured I could recoup my cost by buying the extras and reselling them myself.

    Those first few machines were a real struggle to sell. But I tested, and probed, and tested, and refined my ad… and then… everything just kinda ‘clicked’

    Pretty soon, I was selling more of them in one day than I could physically transport back to my place in my car (I could only fit about 14 or 15 of them in my little convertible if I crammed.) So he started to deliver to me instead. But then, not even that was enough. So I rented a van… then TWO vans… I had to stop going to UPS and instead switched over to DHL to save money and had them pull up to my place every day with the biggest empty truck they could find.

    The $17,000 cash needed every few days to pay for all these things was coming straight out of my personal bank account (and since Mike only took actual cash, I had to personally go to the bank and physically withdraw it to hand over to him later that day) I had never seen so much money at the same time – and everyone at the bank just “KNEW” I was a drug dealer (that part still makes me laugh – eventually I switched over to Commerce Bank, much cooler folks there, where I remain today)

    And then… out of nowhere… I got slammed with a “cease and desist” order from the manufacturer’s attorneys and the whole thing blew up in my face.

    So I tucked my tail between my legs, took my money and ran.

    And that was that; my 8 months or so of rock star living came to an end.

  • ?uestion says:

    I was young, EXTREMELY reckless and only 3 hours from my 21st birthday…perfect time to get pulled over by the police and fail a field sobriety test…needless to say, the 13 hours spent in central lockup and $1500 fine was an unexpected birthday gift from the city of New Orleans

  • Michael says:

    Was in Detroit on business that ended up with a huge closing for me and since I was in the “neighborhood” decided to stop by the MGM Casino to reward my good fortune that day with a world famous Cobb Salad at the Brown Derby restaurant on the property and then play a little Blackjack. I was up many thousands after a couple of hours up there telling myself that win or lose, this would be my last hand. So I wagered $2,000 at worst walking away a HUGE winner for the night! On this last hand I was dealt four consecutive 3’s (split them all) and on top of those 3’s were two 8’s and two 7’s (all double down hands) so my idea of a $2,000 bet is now a $16,000 one hand bet……and I was dealt a 9, a 9, a King (worth 10), and a Queen (worth 10) on each hand with the dealer showing a 5 (which is a “bust” hand too!!!). So I have FOUR hands of 20 against the dealers 5!…WITH a crowd now watching and cheering it was the dealers turn to play….and underneath the dealers 5 is a 10 (yessss!) and then an Ace (16….he has to bust, right?) and then he pulls a 5….a FOUR card 21….OUCH!!! Like only a gambler can, as I drove the hour home down I – 75 in a torrential downpour, (which seemed like 5 hours that night) that had to be BY FAR the most delicious Cobb Salad I had ever eaten and was damn near worth every penny!

  • Ian says:

    There was a beggar monopolizing the downtown spare change market.

    A sad sound from his violin, golden retriever companion and photo of his daughters was his sales pitch.

    He got my quarter.

  • sammy says:

    out first business was selling pizzas at the school dance, and our feasibility study questionnaire told us we were going to do great trade. 45 minutes in we had 15 cold pizzas, and would have to sell at least 8 of them to break even. It was my first experience in the cheapness of words, and it served me well from that time on.

  • Jay says:

    I just threw my wad down on a hail marry attempt to make it to the top. The guy I threw my wad down on has seemed to be nothing but spectacular. I would walk down the street in underwear if he told me it would do great things. Don’t want to give much more than that away but it is a stomach turner because there’s not much wad left in my pocket. 🙂 Great post.

  • Peter says:

    How I Spent The Night In Jail And The Old Man Never Found Out

    For driving without a license, the good cop would take $20 but the bad cop prevails and they throw me in the slammer. Nick goes to my house and wakes up the old man because I need a book and it’s the one with an envelope with $300 cash in it so I can bail myself out. Very next day I get my license and three weeks later, go figure, the state revokes it because I was driving without a license to start.

  • Dude, where’s my car?

    When the San Diego Chargers win a playoff game, you can pretty much count on me getting sloshed up with some tasty micro beers.

    Well, the Chargers won, I have a hangover, and I need to go to Pacific Beach and find out where the hell I left my BMW.

  • Kyle T says:

    We were 16 and 17, so our stupidity was at least somewhat understanable.

    But into the elevator all the contents of our hotel room went — up — up — UP — out… and into the pool.

    We thought they’d never figure out which room the stuff was from, yet the bill on mom’s credit card proved less than kind.

  • HeatherAnn says:

    i was in the passanger seat of the car in the middle of the desert somewhere around 3 am. i was staring in the darkness – wondering “what the hell just happened? you gotta be shitting me?” My boyfriend just said to me with a very straight face, “if you don’t go to this (personal development) seminar..i am going to break up with you.”
    I wanted to just jump out of the damn car, but how could I it was 3 am I am in the middle of the desert. And now looking back years later, he is a speaker in personal development, still single 😉

  • jKlehe says:

    When my truck broke down during the ice storm, the dogs had to be carried to the house when they refused to get out on the ice covered driveway.

    It was the kind of day that if I’d had a girlfriend she would have already left me earlier that morning.

    When the power went out later that night, I lay in my sleeping bag huddled up with the dogs thinking I should have sent that day back to re-write and replaced the soundtrack with some lame ass country song.

    Joachim, Boerne, Texas

  • Louis says:

    I joined the army to help defend our country against the “terrorists.” I realized that we were doing much more harm than good and told my superiors that. They said I was crazy and kicked me out.

  • Karen says:

    He said “I want you to go to Miami and buy Paulette a Grand Piano for Christmas”

    Two years of “Personally Assisting” this man had taught me the utter futility of pointing out: a) it was lunchtime Christmas Eve b) even if I could find one, the chances of getting it delivered to the Keys were damn near impossible and c) getting it into the small apartment he shared with Paulette would entail removing most, if not all, of the lounge furniture (sigh) so I said “OK, what kind of Grand Piano would you like?”

    He said, “I want one with black and white keys”. It was a long day.

    I loved that man, I hope he knew that.
    (His side-kick wasn’t a bad guy either, I loved him too).

    I know, I know, more than 3 sentences but hey, there wasn’t anything ‘short-story’ about the big-ugly-guy.

  • Melanie says:

    I’d just had the second of two back surgeries in 2 months and my family had forgotten to serve me lunch. Dolittle, my 107 pound yellow lab nudged his nose under my arm and offered his strength to help me down the stairs. From then on until I recovered, without my asking and without any training whatsoever, my hero Dolittle, protected me from falling down and lent me his strength to climb up those thirteen very steep stairs.

  • Swans Paul says:

    Fear At Night:
    It was about 8:00 PM and we were standing in the backyard. We saw something…perhaps a phantom, of which there were many rumors in our little Haitian city of Mirebalais…perhaps…a woman standing and listening to our conversation. We convinced ourselves that we were not alone, that something or someone was there with us, but when we courageously approached the form, we saw it was… a dress…a beautiful dress left out to dry.

  • John McCabe says:

    A Nebraska prairie blizzard left a half-car’s worth of yellow line visible if I kept the speed just right. Navigating those white-out country roads like an old-time pilot in a fog, I made it home. Now I live in Florida.

  • I already left my 3 sentence story but wanted to comment on how cool I think this exercise is John.

    Many people let each day go by without truly appreciating all the stories that happen throughout the day. Even if you don’t do all that much, there’s always a story.

    Personally, I live for stories. Each day I wake up, I can’t help but to be excited about all the crazy mischief and Tom Foolery I’m going to cause that day. I’ve always been that way.

    Back when I was a cab driver, I was convinced the next ride was going to be a miraculously great time. Maybe Mick Jagger may get in the cab? Maybe 3 girls will invite me to have a kissing contest with them.

    Considering I was writing a book at the time about all the crazy cab stories, I approached every single pick up as a potential story. Not only do I live for stories, but I truly like creating them and evoking wild stuff to happen all the time. It’s just part of my nature. And in this process I’ve developed books and notebooks, and text files, videos, scribblings, and memories of more stories then one could possibly remember.

    It inevitably causes lot’s of people to think I’m full of bullshit. “This kid couldn’t possibly have done all that” is a common feeling among people. But the truth is, I just really enjoy living and elevating the moment. I always want the story to get better, and think the sequel should always trump the original.

    And with this type of attitude, a ton of stories are born. It doesn’t hurt that I talk to just about any stranger on the street, or hop on a random city bus just to shoot the shit with passengers. Have you ever hopped on a bus with no idea where it’s actually going? I dare ya’ll to try sometime. It’s quite and interesting experience, and I guarantee you’ll end up with a story.

    One of the really cool things about the last couple decades is the ability for people to capture their experiences on video. I have shoe boxes of material from when I was 18 on. A camcorder was always a must when I went out as a kid. I was like a reporter who desperately didn’t want to miss “The Story”.


    Most of us have heard our parents say… “Back when I was a kid, blah blah blah, etc etc etc”.

    But now, for the first time parents are now able to share those stories with their kids and family and really let them get a much better idea of how it really was as opposed to the embellished story that has snowballed into a fictional tale after it’s been loosely told for two decades.

    How cool would it be to be able to watch some of your dads videos from when he was 15?

    How amazing would it be to watch your mother being filmed as she was dolling herself up for her prom date?

    How groovy would it be to see your grand dad hit a home run in the state finals for your high school team 40 years ago?

    The more this video revolution grows, the more stories that are going to be captured and shared. And I for one, really dig a good story.

    On the other hand, sometimes video can really kill the story and limit the imagination. I’m usually not much of a fiction reader, but after reading something you wrote the other day and getting all giddy about how much I truly dig stories, I’m gonna go enjoy some good ol fashion stories Bukowski style.

    I love seeking for the story. Telling it, can be even more fun when done right!



    PS: I have no idea where that ramble came from? haha 🙂

    Hope it made some sense to someone.

  • Kyle T says:

    John… who was the poet who wrote poems like:

    The frog was on the lillypad.
    He Jumped.
    The ploop sound.

    Just totally simple, simple, simple stuff that illustrated a scene beautifully. His mind escapes me right now….err…he escapes my mind.

  • sammy says:

    nice ramble j-mo. i’d love to read your book… email me?

  • David says:

    Standing in the tennis court, I try and blend into the mesh covering the chain link walls, hoping she can’t see me.

    There they are, the 15 seconds I have been waiting for for almost 2 hours.

    Stealing a moment to see my kids walk home from school, even from 100 yards away, gives me the strength to think about coming back tomorrow for another unsupervised visit.

  • Simon says:

    I climbed on the train from Madrid at bedtime. Me and 7 shouting Spaniards in a compartment with a squeaky door.

    Past midnight they jammed cheese into baguettes, then ate.

    I didn’t even know the Spanish for hungry.

  • John says:

    I heard rumors of a long forgotten train track in my home town. I found the location of where it was supposed to be. Imagine my surprise when i looked down on the trail and found railroad ties right where they should have been if there was a railroad.

  • Dean says:

    Spent my freshman year of college playing Tennis in the central florida boonies.

    Weekends we’d go in to town in Niko the Bolivian’s convertible Cadillac and wander back to campus through the orange groves after midnight full of nickel beers.

    One night we came across a real live Clan Meeting (burning cross included) — with a real live black guy in our car.

  • Luke Wold says:

    John, I had to laugh while reading this: My playlists are all chock-full of Slayer, the quintessential thrash metal band. Balanced out with some Roy Orbison, of course.

    Here’s my haiku:

    Cold-Call at ad biz.
    They laughed right in my face. Hard.
    For lack of degree.

    Thanks for all the good stuff,

  • Joann says:

    Twists and Turns
    Chutes and Ladders
    But always ending up in the right place.

    I think that summarizes my life pretty well

  • Javier says:

    Hasta ayer, nunca me imaginé un lugar como este. Te hablo de la montaña de Jajome en Puerto Rico. En este lugar te penetra la isla, el frío y un espíritu. ¡Yo lo viví! Junto a mi mujer y mis dos hijas. No te miento… no existe nada igual.

  • Chris says:

    He was the black sheep of the family – the unruly uncle who brought alcohol to holiday gatherings, ridiculed religion, and wore a ponytail just to irritate his mother (my grandmother).

    And of course, he was my favorite.

    Pulling the curtains down, hiding the evidence, we shared bottles of red wine, even though I was underage.

  • Travis says:

    John…or anyone here. You mentioned storytelling as a valuable asset for any good marketer. Can you recommend any good books on the art of storytelling?

    Thank you.

  • Bill says:

    My girlfriend ran off with some rich guy at a time when I was broke, unemployed and homeless in San Diego. I guess she pressured the guy, because he offered me his car to use until I got back on my feet – and I was obliged to accept. For over a month, I was that weird guy who climbed sleepy-eyed out of his new Mercedes S-Class to shave at the beach showers every day at sunrise.

  • dominik says:

    I had it all planned in my head: I’d kiss her — my first kiss — at the dance on Saturday. But Friday evening, in my dorm room, we started dancing to swing music. And she kissed me.

  • Rob Northrup says:

    We moored the dive boat in 110 feet of water right off the seaward side of the Tahitian atoll, and everyone jumped in the green water. We descended to the rocky bottom which angled away towards deeper and darker waters, and the divemaster produced a chicken carcass which he stabbed aggressively with his huge Rambo knife. When the powerful twelve foot sharks appeared from all directions and attacked the carcass furiously, all of us humans stared in awe at the display of raw prehistoric power.

  • Emette E. Massey says:

    During my duty in the US Navy, being the drummer in the ship’s band had it ups and downs but mostly ups. A simple cover tune by the famed band Styx “Too Much Time On My Hands” featured a difficult off beat syncopated drum lead and was kicking my ass good. After a long tedious practice the night before, I hit my rack clicked on my jam box dozed off letting the song seep into my brain, returned to practice and played the song perfectly leaving the boys scratching their heads in pure amazement.

  • David Craft says:

    Sand washed from under my feet in a crazy, dizzy whirl.
    Moonlight flared in a million diamonds on the waves.
    Her laughter made it magic.

    One short moment in a life but a lifetime of memories.



  • Ken Calhoun says:

    Taking the long, slow easy road up the mountain – one curve, one breathtaking scenic field at a time, to reach the summit.

    Standing on the world’s summit, stretching like an emperor, taking in the glory, but knowing in my heart the responsibility that’s gotten me here, has to drive me to lead even more, with miles to go before I sleep.

    Looking for the bridge, it’s found… not in the mechanics of my mind, but in the stories of the students, the profound knowledge that’s created success in the furthest corners of the planet, reaching towards the light like a tree with branches outstretched.

  • My fiancee Marie said to me, “Well, it looks like we’re going to be adopting Fred’s three kids. Do you still want to marry me?”

    I said “Yes”, and at that moment my life changed forever.

  • JC says:

    Burnin’ Memorys

    Found some photos of us this morning’ – brought back the good ol’ times we once knew. They’re now burnin’ in my fireplace… along with memorys of you. Just wanna forget it all… but if you call’d – ya know I’d crawl back to your door.

  • Travis says:

    This story takes the cake:

    “Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for 3 weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.”

    Full story here:

  • steve says:

    It was only the second message I had ever received, the massage therapist was a mom in my son’s boy scout troop. Imagine my surprise when she broke all the rules, straddled me on the table and said “I love you”. I believe she will be my wife by the end of the year, life is truly strange… and wonderful!

  • I went into the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala to take time-lapse photos of the sunset and the stars. I didn’t realize that being so far south meant that there was no twilight in January. I finished by 8:30 pm, but lacking a flashlight it ended up taking 2 hours to get out of the jungle and find my hotel!

  • FS says:

    As we rush through the door, leaving the smoke and loud music behind, the first thing I notice is the ringing in my ears. Then I see Eddy running across the four lane highway in a weird sort of pattern that reminds me of a 3rd grader playing dodge ball. He makes it across then collapses on the grass which separates the parking lot from the road.

  • Prince JackAss says:


    Here Goes…

    The direct descendant of a great world leader from a much earlier age, whose birthright the Socialists mercilessly stole and desecrated, and yet life and all of it wonders still at the tips of my nearly aristocratic fingers; bred to reclaim what was mine all along…

    Please tell me that you are smart enough not to believe the very crap that they spoon fed me all of those years, like all the sycophants did, especially the way SHE did… the one who tagged along for the ride, the one who could not help being noticed, the one with the body that never-ever quit, yeah the one who “forgot” and ended up bringing my son into the world a lifetime too soon…

    My friend, “Seize the Day” is a double edged sword and Sweet Redemption comes in many many forms…


    I know, I know, it’s pretty sappy (but it is accurate and to the point).

    The sequel is not so bleak…

    (Oh GOD, that felt good!!)

  • Udo Hoffmann says:

    A young fella put down lifeguard on the resume he was filling out, as his qualification for the sale position we had open.
    I asked him how he thought it was applicable and he replied that he couldn’t swim.
    I hired him.

  • Kris Obertas says:

    The bills are piling up. I woke up at 3:57 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. I turned on the computer and started writing.

    • Omari says:

      It’s 3:57am and reading this feels like a portal has opened – or closed, depending on where you are…

      The bills are still piling up – today makes almost a year since I quit my job – but I made a movie out of the whole thing and reading this post, I’m happy I did.

      – The Corporate Dropout.

  • Kris Obertas says:

    Threw mine out just now, but here’s my all time favorite story in two lines.

    Three men went out. Only two came back.

  • WoodyF says:

    Danny, Angel and Adriana stair-stepped from 6 yrs. down to 3 and Olga, my young wife, carried Willy the baby as we stood in line on the sidewalk in the warm morning sun waiting to see the local passport bureaucrats in Morelia, Mexico.

    The nicely dressed, middle-aged Mexican woman ahead of us turned to engage Olga and asked “the question”, paraphrased as: Are you and this old gringo geezer married? and Are all these kids his?

    Next followed the canned explanation, yes we were, the baby was ours and the others were hers from a prior – a revelation which elicited a response of “¡Que valiente! (How brave!) which I much more fully understand as Danny turns 16 and Angle 15 and Adriana 13.

  • Blake says:

    This one’s a little (very!) late but why not?

    One time I ate about fourty wings at a bar because I’m a freakin’ addict. A month later I went vegitarian and kept it up for two years. Then my wife put leftover wings in the fridge and I had “just one” – now I know how smokers feel.

  • khailee says:

    Growing up with “a lot of potential” put a lot of pressure on me to be great.

    It was a dangerous mix of stellar achievement (in and out of school) and lofty ideals which led me to turn down every dream job opportunity, and join a bunch of misfit entrepreneurs straight out of university.

    After 2 years of running around in circles, I’m straddling disillusionment, abandonment, and picking up pieces of myself, so I can keep my chin up above the water long enough to make the story of my life one worth re-telling…

  • Title: Gringo sticks out like a sore thumb and everybody snickers as he walks through the door…but when he starts to talk everyone’s mouth drops open and a dead silence covers the room.

    The Movie:
    Young boy walks up to me and calls me a ‘donkey’ to my face thinking that I have no clue as to what he is saying. I understood exactly what he said but decided to play dumb. Finally after thirty minutes of his nonsense…I looked him straight in the eye and I asked him what his name was in fluent Portuguese. Total shock and embarrassment fell across his humiliated face as his eyes danced around the room…looking for a way to escape.

  • Mr . X says:

    I was a screwed up, drug-influenced kid with no chances of succeeding in life. Had a near-death experience, pulled my hand out of my ass, and journeyed off to be a winner!

  • Carmena says:

    I was young and idealistic and longed to leave Australasia where I had grown up where it was too white, too windy and too dry. I met the man I was going to marry – he was sitting on the steps of an unmarked yoga studio in Byron Bay – dreadlocked with a dangerous twinkle. He asked me to marry him 3 months later and I said yes, holding the greasy handset in my hand in the shared house in Fitzroy, Melbourne, with the broken front gate, stained with cat piss from duelling toms.

  • Richard Samples says:

    After facing the situation head on and realizing
    I had no idea what I was going to do to earn my next dollar, I gave my last 20 as a tithe offering to my church. After releasing the outcome, I had a realization which I quickly followed with a call and visit to my girlfriend’s friend. After talking for 20 minutes, the guy whose ass was so tight you couldn’t drive a sewing needle up it with a nail gun pulls out his checkbook and writes me a check for $5,000 which I was able to triple and repay with $300 interest in 38 days by driving all over the country following and selling sunglasses to huge softball tournaments I would contact and sponsor.

  • My passion to become a Doctor that addresses Cause vs. Symptoms (like the money hungry trillion dollar industries that exist today) came when I hit “rock bottom”, couldn’t focus (diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia) and was put in special needs to take tests. After riding on the drug ridden roller coster of the medical model I went to a doctor that actually transformed my health, focus and grades (started getting A’s). Now I speak internationally as an expert doctor in “at cause healthcare” and run the worlds largest online health center serving people around the world to cut through the B.S. to help maximize their life experience.

  • Mike says:

    Suicidal. Psych-ward.
    Conquering the fears.
    Telling the world how.

    PS – Working my way through SWS. Thanks for sharing your insights and teachings, John.

    Rest easy my friends,


  • Morten Hake says:

    I bullied a boy younger than me when I was 12 years old.

    Apparently he’d told his mom about it, so she grabbed me so hard I litterally peed myself.

    I never bullied again.

  • Henri Masticate says:

    In the morning I was committed to learn sales letters, marketing, and great sentences. After few attempts to learn words I ran into conflict with the software, and few hours later with my mother. Ended up the day grieving over my shit day.

  • […] hab mir erlaubt, eine coole Übungsaufgabe zu klauen, von der ich kürzlich bei John Carlton in You, The Movie gelesen […]

  • Don’t get too big for your boots, my mothers words ringing in my ears at the news I got straight A’s. Join the army all your fit for is cannon fodder, my dads verdict as I dumbed myself down.
    Screw you both; it’s my life; I’m in charge.

  • Piotr says:

    I went with my buddies to the forest for a bike ride. We were all 14 to 16 years old.

    We found the bomb for the second world war. Then we saw a 40 meters high tower. I had an idea: ” hey guys let’s take it up and throw it down and see what happens.

    We draw sticks- the shortest is the loser. I lost

    I tried to lift the bomb up but it was to heavy. No one wanted to help. So we let go off the idea.

    Later we spoke to the forest guard and told him about our plan. He said: if you did it they would be scraping you off of the trees.

    Wow what an idea it was. To end life so early.

  • Nick says:

    (1) In preschool, I was a shy kid who refused to interact w/ my teacher and classmates.

    (2) My Dad promised to buy me a toy I wanted if I spoke up more often.

    (3) The next day, I surprised everyone by participating, and my Dad picked me up from school with the toy as my reward.

  • Rich says:

    In our last year at school we plotted an end of year prank.

    At 2am, we snuck out of our dorms, ran across to the fen on the other side of the road and herded 2 cows into the school field, but one got out and ran up the road.

    The school marshall manhandled both cows back into the fen, narrowly avoiding a collision with a milk float and we all got the hair dryer treatment the next morning because we were caught on CCTV.

  • Mk akan says:

    The most embarrassing day of my life

    My math teacher strolled up to me in the middle of the hall and asked nicely ” why is there water around your seat?”.

    I was 14 or 15… writing math ( my favourite subject)…in a mock exams preparing for the main exams.

    I looked up at her…and stuttered like a 3 year old…” I wanted to finish answering all the questions before going out…so I did it in the chair”.

    She beat the living daylight out of me with a cane like I was a donkey…but when the results came in…I beat everyone.

    Till today… no one remembered I peed.

  • Patrick says:

    In high school, I managed to get 3 dates in one week. While the first 2 tanked, the last one(my last choice, honestly) became my girlfriend for a couple months. I really wanted the one I met off Myspace.

  • James says:

    Back at school a couple of friends and I set up a break-time pie stall in the common room.

    Within two weeks the whole operation was shut down by canny teachers claiming we were taking too many customers away from the school canteen.

    It was my first taste of riches, working one hour a day we made a tidy £1200 between us and blew it all on an unforgettable night of sex, drugs and rock’n roll.

  • Alison M. says:

    The hot pursuit of Somebody-Else’s-Dream-Work… a 1.5 decade long saga… ended abruptly at the far reaches of deep discontent, with a subsequent rebound back to the sane reality that I was possessed with Somebody-Else’s-Paradigm, a bad recipe of mom and dad’s idea of right in a broth of zombie-overprivileged-middle-class-soup, yuck. Following a day of self-exorcism, the demon left, and I begged the universe to present my true work. And the opportunity… that was always there in some form… arrived that week 😉

  • […] one captures this idea better than John Carlton in his post “You, The Movie Version”. John states that you can condense your story into three sentences. How simple would it be to post […]

  • We were knocked off on the sofa with a couple of friends, watching a trashy movie after a day at the beach, when a shadow flew through the kitchen. Everyone (including the cat and two tough-looking guys) started ducking down, running, screaming around and throwing stuff at the horrified bat that was trying to find its way out of the living room. After a few exhausting hours we all needed a break and a drink (including the cat). As soon as we stopped chasing, the bat made a few more turns in the kitchen to make sure it was safe and found the doors to freedom (kitchen window!). Bursting with laughter (and tears, some of us, anyway) we got the message – when you stop shouting, jumping, running, waving hands and brooms, and just let life work out itself…it surprisingly does!

  • Colin says:

    Everyone told me I would never sleep for the next two years at least. I guess I have to thank them all for preparing me for the worst, didn’t happen though. What I do know is that my advice about difficult babies would be as useful as asking your undergrad professor about how to sell something.

  • Ioan Nicut says:

    I was all my life a nice boy. I uncosciously hated a lot of people while loving them.

    One day I got aware that I could observe the stories I lived. Since then, I always tell my story in a different way. Because my story evolves.

    Today I help people tell a different story of themselves. A story that is closer to their inner truth. A story that brings them meaning and integrity.

  • P says:

    I think I remember being told that when my parents divorced, I lost my happy spirit. I know I remember saying to myself that as a parent I’d be so much better at protecting my kids from the pain I must have felt: I’d never fail them by giving up like that. And yet, here I am sitting in front of a judge in the middle of a fiercer war than my parents ever fought or imagined…

  • Drunk in Chicago says:

    I used a fake ID (that I made in my basement) to get drunk at a bar, buy a 40oz and drive with it to a house party in the suburbs. On the way, I had to stop at a toll booth where a copy was standing in the vestibule. He knocked on my passenger window, shined his flashlight at my brown bag and said “What’s in the bag?!” followed by a direct order, “OPEN THE DOOR!”.

    I dropped money in the toll and sped away. Never got busted that night…

  • Brazilian Boy says:

    When I was 16 years old, I fell in love with a blonde girl. I vividly remember her looks, how beautiful she was, and how my best friend also wanted her.

    I started talking to her everyday. The messages were long, romantic, and we both enjoyed each other’s company. She told me she really liked me, and I experienced heaven for the first time.

    One week later, I went to a high school party. She was there, with a white shirt. Her blue eyes were stunning. She was stunning.

    I don’t remember much of the party, but I do remember how my friend passionately kissed her in front of me.

  • Sam says:

    I used to hate marketing and sales… but then I have lunch with a million-dollar copywriter. What he tells me over the next 90 minutes changes my life forever.

  • shane says:

    The gas can was full when I started pouring it on his legs. He said he wanted to be a stuntman. He made it through the fire, only singeing his ears, and its a dang good youtube video.

  • Ari says:

    i was sitting in a black jeep with 2 friends the whole car in a cloud of smoke the stench of marijuana and catpiss filled the car, this is where i realised i need to steer my own life and make a massive change.

    the steering wheel of my life is my mind and it has until now been controlled by life and never in my own hands

    thank you John btw for your work love it has changed my life

  • AnonymousTaha says:

    HE came in my Dream. HE (himself), HIS Father, HIS GRANDFATHER. All sitting one by one.
    Told me to DO IT.
    Now, I am on my road to Achieve It.

  • Vitor Santos says:

    Do you know a guy who put fire in boats, well that’s me!

    Brazil, Curitiba, end of 2015

    Tired of living in my mom’s and pop’s basement, and studing Physical Education while doing an intern job not been paying well

    Start this internet Marketing thing, Give up everything of that sh** and travel for Florianopolis to live by my own, end up in hostels, still not been paying well

    After Studing everything in marketing, tired of seek for shinning objects i’m decided of focus in one thing (Copywriting) and build a legitimate biz (offer my services)

    …not the end, gonna be a successful rags to riches story? Who knows?

    continues in the next chapter

  • Laura says:

    I was born with a lot of high expectations about myself and life. My fears and inconsistence was bigger than my will and ended up doing everything I promise I wouldn’t (get a boring job, settle for the safe instead my dreams). After a hard period of feeling like a walking zombie, now I know my self better and started to make important changes to become the star of my movie, my life (among them, become a script writer). My story remains unfinished, but since the end is not written yet, my hopes remain higher than ever before.

  • I bought John Cartlon’s Simple Writing Course in 2008. I chased money for years during in the launch every week period of the Internet Marketing period. Negative 40 grand later I pick back up John’s Simple Writing Course and finish it.

  • Devam says:

    Moved to a new city at age 18 (and was forced to support myself or starve). Tried (and quickly failed at) many online money making methods – from drop-shipping, to coaching, to affiliate marketing. Then, almost accidentally discovered long-hidden talent – copywriting. In 90 days, I started making more money (monthly) than any of my family members.

  • Aim For The Stars says:

    Born a problem solver at heart, but too shy to speak up in the noise of the big city.

    My shyness made me follow all that society told me to do, get good grades at school, get into a good university, graduate and get a “good” job.

    Along the way I was questioning this all but never took the risk to “step” out of line, until one day it hit me hard and I decided to do life the way I wanted to do it.

    No excuses, no more questions being left unanswered, I’m the writer to my own story, nobody else. Let’s fuck shit up and get my life where I want to be.

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