Blissful, Suicidal Ignorance

Monday, 6:52pm
Reno, NV
“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray


There is a LOT of crap lining the shelves at your local bookstores. And the library. And the ebook realm of your virtual reach.

This, however, is not an excuse to turn your back on books. Or learning. Or (especially or) constantly nudging yourself out of your comfort zone into new territory, where you must learn and adapt and consistenly engage until you meet the new challenges and regain a fresh level of comfort.

So you can start the process all over again, with new challenges.

This kind of movement is, in fact, an act of courage.

Because, in most cases, you will have to do it alone.

And for many of your friends and family, this movement away from what is comfortable — the “belief systems” most folks operate under that offer easy answers requiring little or no difficult thought — wll be heresy.

They don’t want you to succeed. The movement — even though it’s only happening in your brain — will take you away from them in many ways. They either know this, from experience, or sense it from the first moment you challenge old ways of thinking. And they very much do not like it.

Even your best friends will resent you for moving away from them, intellectually. Not because you’re achieving something and they aren’t… but rather because you have become different.

In their worst nightmares, you will become the “Other”.

The “Other” is a philosophical term referring to the very human habit of defining strangers as “unknowable”, and therefore hostile to your interests. Recruits in armies are indoctrinated in the “Otherness” of the enemy, dehumanizing the oppononent so it’s easier to kill them without remorse. In politics, the opposition is relentlessly defined as lusting after policies and laws that will destoy your culture, as you know it.

The current demonizing of “immigrants” is all about denying them a personal story, so the case against them can reach mythic levels that ignore any uncomfortable details that may weaken your outrage.

I grew up with people harboring shocking prejudice against other races, against gays, against women in powerful positions. Yet, there was this terrific disconnect on the personal level — sometimes, their best friend would be someone from that “other” race… or, when confronted with the outing of a sibling, they would grudgingly decide it’s “okay”… or, they would vigorously defend a female friend’s promotion, while continuing to bitch about the risks of “women taking over”.

It’s no coincidecne that both an irrational hatred of the “Other”, and extreme contradictory behavior on a personal level, is rampant among the less-educated folks in our ranks.

These are my people. No one sat me down as a kid and tried to indoctrinate me in how horrible the “Others” were… I just bathed in the attitude every day I left the house. It was just out there.

It made for a hellacious late adolescence, I gotta tell ya. My generation — while still not the best educated mob in history — may have been among the last to get a decent education in critical thinking in America. We were drilled in thinking for ourselves, and learned to approach life and learning as a big damn puzzle: Figure out where it’s not working, and fix it.

This created a whole bunch of obnoxious, smart-mouthed rebels like me. In my defense, around age seventeen I started encountering all these rules that were… well, just stupid. They made no sense, except to keep those already in power remaining in power. So I questioned them, and thus challenged the authority of those whose ability to dictate how I lived depended on these rules.

And so began my first skirmishes with the stubborness of entrenched, entitled power.

And this was high school. I was the first kid to be expelled — expelled! — for violating the hair length “rule”. (My hair touched my shirt collar. The horror!)

I’m very thankful for that episode, by the way. Up to that point, I’d silently agreed while other kids were tossed for smoking in the boy’s room, or wearing torn jeans, or simply not obeying the rules without question.

They were hoods and losers. Others. Not my problem.

Of course, through music, I became friends with many of those hoods. Awesome musicians. Hip, smart kids, who somehow (I didn’t realize this was possible before witnessing it) revealed more integrity and sense of leadership than the most celebrated jocks on the football team.

This made my head hurt. I’d never really questioned “the rules” before. I’d violated them, often enough… jeez, we were little deliquents, after all… but I’d never questioned the RIGHT of people in power to tell me what those rules were. And punish us for disobeying. (If we got caught, of course.)

Some of the hoods really were Id-driven beasts, headed for a bad end. But others were just hard-wired to oppose stupid rules… like it was a duty of a good man to do this.

I came to believe they were dead right, too.

I realized that some of those snarling, foul-mouthed, leering bad boys actually had a very sophisticated moral code. Fairness played a big part in it. And reason — rules that couldn’t be defended were challenged.

I never embraced anarchy (defined as a rebellion against all rules). Even as a confused kid, I sensed that most stop signs were there for the greater good, and that stealing was almost never justifiable. Lust was something to be courted, and enjoyed… but never allowed to dominate your thinking.

It was okay, I came to believe, to want different things than the rest of the crowd. Even when they disapproved, or felt threatened.

Thinking too hard about all this will drive you insane, or into a Ph.D. program in philosophy (where you will shrivel and die from impacted bullshit).

Yet, it’s very much worth thinking about.

Much of the social struggle in history has been about how to create laws that help, rather than hinder, the growth and general goodness of a society. (As opposed to, say, rules that merely entrench people who already “got theirs” and deny fairness to everyone else.)

I think rebels are born into our midst to make sure no one gets too comfy with the status quo. It’s nature’s fault. And it’s how we’ve survived as long as we have as a species.

I was in high school in the last half of the sixties. (Yes, I’m about to rant for a moment about the freakin’ sixties. Be patient. Boomers are incapable of NOT ranting about the sixties, you know.) I was a nervous, rule-obeying (mostly) freshman in 1966, and painfully morphed into a long-haired political radical who barely graduated in 1970. (Several teachers wanted me locked up as a danger to society in general. Seriously.)

My big realization, as I landed on the rocky, slippery beach of adulthood, was that re-engaging with the belief systems and mindsets of the community I’d grown up in… would just bore the living shit out of me. The defining modality was “aggressive incuriosity”, about life, about the world, about everything that smacked of real fun to me.

And that was the great divide in the sixties, which is still playing out in today’s politics of “values” and anti-intellectualism.

The majority didn’t then — and still don’t today — want to BE challenged all the time. And because I was one of them, growing up, I understand their frustration. Job, family, and keeping the lawn green can devour all the energy you have.

And the intellectual hoods — yeah, like me when I was a mangy rabble-rouser — stirring shit up all the time aren’t always headed in the right direction. Change just for change’s sake is stupid. So is jumping on every cool-looking bandwagon that passes.

I went from one extreme to the other, and after a lot of confused, chaotic years finally settled into a semblance of a groove where I began to work to understand new ideas before rejecting or accepting them.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was engaging in a self-styled “continuing adult education”.

And I lost a lot of friends along the way. I began to recognize the “Look”: Whenever I’d bring up a subject that fascinated me, or that I considered urgent and important and unsettled… and the people with me would glance at each other (or roll their eyes), I knew I’d just kicked myself out of another club.

Cuz no way was I going to ignore new stuff, or stop thinking critically, or shut my brain off.

Again, there’s a LOT of crap out there, among the books and ideas and urgent revelations clogging the airwaves and bookshelves and soapboxes.

And that makes it easy to trash ALL thinking, and ALL books, and engage in anti-intellectualism with glee (and sometimes torches).

Right now, we are vexed with an entire ruling class that pretends to be “one of the guys”, and fans the flames at the metaphorical book-burning parties that happen every night on television and online. Anti-intellectualism in this country goes waaaaaaay back, and is getting worse. We elect dudes because they present themselves as someone we could have a beer with… and they wouldn’t make us uncomfortable with any weird ideas or harsh our mellow with too much thinking.

And, with rare exception, actually exhibiting some curiosity about the world and some nurtured brain power will automatically exclude you from leadership positions.

You’re not to be trusted. (Side note: In the fifties, most sci-fi movies carried this theme of anti-intellectuaism to extremes — the scientists were usually the problem, or made the problem worse. This attitude went back to the creation of the atomic bomb, and all the horror of living in a world bent on mutually-assured mass destruction. Godamn eggheads.)

One of the last untrod frontiers really is free thinking. Challenging and exploring other ways to live and be productive and take full advantage of this fragile adventure we’re all currently sharing here on Earth.

You will, for the most part, be alone as you search and question and intensify your curiosity. Part of this is inherent in the journey — the search for truth is a very personal trip.

However — and many thanks to the Web for this — there are more and more online communities that embrace hard-core free thinking… and you needn’t be alone for very long.

Unfortunately, there are also many more hard-core anti-intellecutal sites and communities out there… including an overwhelming number of folks sharing an impassioned, unreasoning hatred of the “Other”.

This battle of ideas will never settle into a nice campfire scene with everyone singing Kumbaya. Not gonna happen.

And by opening your mind to new ideas, you are forever dooming yourself to a smaller circle of true friends… and opening yourself up for focused hatred. (Yes, actual hatred — people who fear and avoid thinking are deeply threatened by anyone who embraces thoughtfulness… and we still are governed by certain Rules of the Jungle that treat perceived threats as dangers that must be eliminated.)

However, all of this is NO excuse to stop reading, or stop thinking, or stop going deep into different ways of experiencing life.

One of the main jobs of the “Other”, in fact, is to shake you up. I grew up thinking “ethnic” food meant pizza or tamales. I still know folks from Cucamonga who resent even the thought of trying something any more radical than chop suey for dinner. (And if you don’t drink Budweiser, you’re a Commie dupe.)

One of my first pieces of advice to many rookie marketers (yes, we’re tying business in here) is to get out of your comfort zone, as soon as possible. Travel to a place where your fundamental beliefs are laughed at, where the language and food baffles you, where your usual political bullshit doesn’t cut it.

Go there, and go with preparation and curiosity and grace. Read up on the joint first, learn how to survive (no loud Bermuda shorts with black socks and dangling camera while you blithely blunder down dark alleys, for example), listen more than you talk, and be an empty vessel that recieves the new things around you eagerly and — at first, at least — uncritically.

One tip: You won’t realize how exciting and fun it all is as you’re experiencing it at first. Taking pleasure in the moment is not something Americans are naturally good at, and while you’re learning how to do this, just accept the fact that you’ll be overwhelmed with incoming stimuli and data that you’ll have to process later, when you’re back home. (“Gosh, that was actually fun when we got lost in Florence, and the gypsies hassled us for cash!”)

I see business owners all the time struggling to maintain their lack of curiosity and anti-intellectual leanings. They’re fearful of changing, because they’re comfy in their closed mind and they dread the stigma of becoming the “Other”.

That’s a dumb way to live, and a dumber way to attempt to get rich.

There’s a reason your skull is crammed with that big, wet glob of brain. You use it, or you lose it.

And I gotta tell ya…

… it’s really more fun among the “Others”.


You think I’m full of it, don’t you. I’ve been brain-washed by subversives, and I’m spouting nonsense, and being “smart” ain’t really so smart after all.

Tell me what you think. I’m open to every angle.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. One last thing here — my good friend (and uber-respected colleague) Jeff Walker is already deep into the launch of his amazing new “Launch Formula” revelations. (Yes, it’s a launch of a launch. Oh, the irony!)

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If you’ve been hiding in a cave, this launch process has been responsible for creating vast amounts of wealth — stupid-big amounts, really — for people who went into it clueless, unprepared, and scared shitless.

The Web really has changed the way business is conducted… and I’m telling my closest friends that it’s time to get hip, or get worried about your future.

On Thursday, I believe, Jeff is pulling all this free material down. So you still have time to check everything out.

It’s worth rushing to do, and worth pushing other things aside to get this info.

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  • says:

    Blissful, Suicidal Ignorance…

    There is a LOT of crap lining the shelves at your local bookstores. And the library. And the ebook realm of your virtual reach.
    This, however, is not an excuse to turn your back on books. Or learning. Or (especially or) constantly nudging yourself out…

  • Yoav says:

    Hi John,

    This is an amazing sales letter.

    – The headline that captures attention
    – The description of our problems and struggles (your readers)
    – The sincere flattery
    – The riveting personal story
    – Handling objections
    – Identifying and intensifying our dreams
    – Down right to the nothing-to-lose pitch in the P.S.

    I probably missed a dozen other things you did in there.

    I am ashamed to say that I have been reading your blog for 2 years and it is only now that I am starting to see what you are doing.

    Thank you for this fabulous story and the amazing example of how to sell using a blog.


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