Perspective, Part 1

Monday, 7:59pm
Reno, NV

Howdy, (sniff)…

Man, my head feels like somebody stuffed it with mouse mulch.

I got coughed and sneezed on for a week in Disney World (at Rich Schefren’s seminar) (and why he chose to hold a marketing summit there, among teeming hordes of snuffling kids, remains a mystery)… and now the buzzards of Nyquil are circling.

I’m sick.

If anybody out there has a good remedy for colds, let’s hear ’em. I went to the doc, and he tried to give me antibiotics. You know — the stuff Americans are criminally overusing (especially for ailments like colds and flu, which are not responsive to antibiotics at all ) thus exposing us all to freshly-evolved sci-fi-style plagues resistant to all the drugs we have.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “I’ve got some virus cooking in my system. Antibiotics won’t do shit.”

The doc just shrugged. “Most folks ask for ’em,” was all he said.


I did some Web research on colds, flu and bronchitis (which I just had in December). It’s startling to note that on this, the wacky and the wise concur. Both the Harvard Medical School site and the “herbs will heal us” sites I perused gave identical advice: Buck up, sleep a lot, drink fluids, and don’t be a putz about your health.

Personally, I like OTC stuff like Cold-Eze candies (they seem to alleviate symptoms, though it may just be wishful thinking), buckets of sizzling Airborne tablets (17 herbs and nutrients in the effervescent formula!), echinacea root, “House” reruns on Tivo, and my own nightime concoction of ibuprofen, tea, honey and a stiff shot of cheap bourbon to bring on the zzzz’s.

Plus, of course, lots of aimless Web surfing.

Beats working.

Anyway, during this kind of down-time, I purposely avoid all serious thoughts about biz… and try to keep a Zen attitude of being non-critical and non-judgemental as I allow massive quantities of weird data to flood in.

And this can help you get a little bit of perspective on things.

As a card-carrying news junkie, I am just as vulnerable as the average American to seeing the world the way the mass media presents it. Which is, basically, La-La Land (if facts and reality mean anything to you).

People with a stake in keeping our minds muddy and confused love to over-emphasize the gore and hide the good in life. Even in a so-called “free” society, you must fight hard not to get caught up in the fear mongering and demands to conform.

Fortunately, back when I was writing for the financial market (in the go-go late 1980s), I fell head-over-heels for the contrarian viewpoint of investing… and have been using it ever since for everything in life.

It’s like a natural system of calling “Bullshit” on the Powers That Be.

In contrarian philosophy, you never, ever, ever follow the crowd. In fact, you USE the movement of crowds to decide your next move — when the crowd zigs, you zag.

For example… I knew the real estate bubble was about to go blooie when (around 2 years ago) I sat slack-jawed through a dinner with friends-of-friends, and all they talked about was mortgaging their homes to get money to put into more houses, because it was so easy to flip ’em for a fat profit. Or rent ’em out at, you know, hefty rates, so “other people” paid your mortgage for you. Or whatever… it would all work out, somehow.

They were confident. They believed in that gravy train.

I was slack-jawed because none of these good people had the slightest idea what they were doing. None were in real estate, none had financial savvy, none considered for a moment the dire consequences of their actions should homes stop escalating in value at a 20% clip. (Ah, those were the days, weren’t they?)

I think it was Carnegie (or Vanderbilt, or one of those rich dudes) who — on the eve of the great stock market crash of 1929 — decided it was time to liquidate and sit out the coming disaster when his taxi driver started chatting up a hot stock tip he’d just invested his life savings in.

Economists get frustrated with people, because they act so irrationally all the time, and screw up their nice, tidy formulations for how markets “should” perform. That’s a stupid view to take, of course… since there would BE no markets without people… and anyone who’s been paying attention knows that people are whacky, deluded, stubbornly irrational, obscenely greedy, and prone to take stupid risks (while ignoring the consequences).

I read an interview with Howie Mandel, host of that dumb game show where people pick suitcases held by stunning models, hoping to win a million bucks. He knows it’s a silly premise, all just raw luck with zero level of skill required at all… and yet he said he nearly gets physically sick when he sees people pass up the right decision based on unsustainable greed.

So I watched the show. Nice guy, war veteran, young pregnant wife and parents in the audience, insists he “knows” he’s picked the case with the million bucks in it. Just “knows” it, in his heart and all that. (Hint: In the two-year-plus history of the show, no one’s won the top prize yet.)

After a few rounds, he gets an offer of $175,000 to stop the game. This is more money than he will earn over the next six-to-ten years of his life. His preggers young bride is in tears, saying they can buy a small house with this money, start a college fund for their kid, have a nest egg that they previously never dared dream of sitting on.

But no. The guy “knows” he’s on a roll, because… well, because he “feels” it in his heart. Or something like that. Worse, his uncle is in the audience, mocking the bride’s willingness to throw away the much bigger amount that they “know” is waiting for them.

You know how this ends.

Humbled, in shock, the guy finally accepts something like $12.000 to quit. Not a bad sum… but I don’t think the family dinners are going to be very polite when the uncle is visiting (amid the ghost of the fortune he helped talk them out of accepting).

If this was an isolated case, it’d just be an interesting story.

But, as Howie said in his interview, it’s the NORM for the show. There are even complex financial studies highlighting this human need to gamble away sure things, and to trust irrelevant “feelings” on matters that are not influenced by feelings even a little bit. (One of my favorite South Park episodes is when the town loses everything to the Indian casino, then — in a spectacular display of undeserved luck — wins it all back at the roulette table. They’re even, they have their old lives back, they can walk away completely out of the serious trouble they’d gotten themselves into… and after a short pause, they all scream “Let it ride!”, and lose it all on the next spin.)

There are lessons for marketers here, but I’m not gonna go into that right now.

Remember? I’m sick.

Okay — one lesson.

My first task, back when I started working closely with Gary Halbert, was to keep an eye on his top client. It was a guy (who shall remain nameless) mailing a promotion that was raking in massive quantities of moolah, month after month after month.

And all this client had to do was continue mailing. He didn’t need to screw with the marketing, or tamper with the product, or branch out, or do anything else. Just mail the piece we’d given him, and cash the checks (and send us our cut).

But no. He was like a kid picking at a scab.

And he did things that caused the promotion to die an early death. It would have tired, eventually, anyway… but he hastened the knell.

Still, he had vast wealth. And all he had to do was enjoy it. Become a philanthropist, maybe run for office, write a book or two, whatever… just don’t blow the nest egg.

In horror, though, we watched as he initiated a slow-motion train wreck. The great success of that prior promotion, he “felt” (strongly, too), was all because of him. He couldn’t tell you specifically why… but he was certain he was some kind of genius. And he brushed aside notions that it was the advertising created by Halbert that brought in the dough.

Within a year, he’d launched two of the stupidest marketing campaigns I’ve ever witnessed, and lost everything.


That was one of the first times I’d gone slack-jawed at the silliness of another human being. Soon, however, I learned to expect such silliness (and was slack-jawed, instead, when someone acted sanely or rationally).

Consider this, the next time you’re scratching your head over someone’s bizarre actions.

I see where Iran, for example, is gonna shut down its share of the Internet during its elections this month. I read the news story, and spent a little time researching on Google… because I was kinda unclear on how a country shuts down Web access.

They do it by keeping tight control of in-country ISPs… by pillaging Internet cafes (and imprisoning stubborn surfers)… and (get this) by hobbling download connections with forced 128kbs speeds.

This is a country trying to be a major force in the Arab world… and they expect to do it with dial-up connection speeds that were embarrassing in 1997?

This got me thinking. And a little more research brought up all kinds of interesting perspective. Like, for example… if you read the mainstream media, you’d be excused for believing that Iran has replaced the old Soviet Union as a worthy Cold-War type enemy.

Except that their gross domestic product is around the same as Portland, Oregon (or Poland)… and their military budget isn’t even on par with what the average state in the US spends for National Guard readiness. (And we got fifty of ’em.)

They have THREE subs, total, according to Wikipedia.

Sure, they’re dangerous. With modern “Jericho”-style technology, I’m told that suitcase bombs have replaced air forces, and germ warfare is back in ways that even Hollywood can’t get a handle on.

But the Soviet Union, Iran ain’t.

And a role in world politics won’t be forthcoming while they insist on 128kbs, because they’re afraid one of their citizens might accidentally download some porn or, I dunno, a copy of our Bill of Rights.

If only more of our OWN citizens would accidentally read the friggin’ Bill of Rights once in a while.

We do live in strange and challenging times. I’m all for focusing on getting back into a groove with Mother Nature, and realigning our priorities so that the greedy among us are held in check a little bit, and maybe aiming for a new Golden Age of reason and enlightenment instead of this steady slide into mediocrity and silliness we seem intent on.

A little perspective can go a long way.

What do you think?

I’ve got tea and bourbon simmering here…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Hey — thanks for all the advice. (And I’ve corrected the typo’s, for posterity.)

I’m hip to Vitamin C and Linus Pauling. We have this “natural pharmacist” in town who has vast stocks of the really good herbs and nutrients and shit. I’m constantly stunned by what his advice accomplishes. (A few years ago, he helped my Pop’s wife get off prescription medications that were ruining her life, and she’s still dancing three times a week with the old man in their late 80s. She was NOT a believer, but willing to try some alternative stuff… and got amazing results. The Western medical establishment should be ashamed of itself for ignoring natural cures.)

Not sure about the wet socks every night, though. I gotta sleep with someone, you know.

I OD’d on garlic, liquids, Vitamin C, and a bunch of herbs… along with ibuprofen, that shot of bourbon, echinacea tea and (finally) one of those Thera-Flu packets. I still feel like I lost a brawl, but I’m definitely over the worst, and it’s just been a day or so.

I rarely got sick in my youth. In my 20s, I decided it was okay to get ill once a year or so, if only to slough the sludge in my system. A cold ain’t much more than a vicious hangover, and it’s good to pay attention to your body once in a while. Most of us wouldn’t remember we had kidneys if they didn’t occasionally bleat.

Part of me wonders if I don’t “use” the rare cold as forced downtime. In fact, I know that’s the case — I’ve been pushing pretty hard these past months, and I needed some perspective. I’d have rather gotten this persepctive in an email from God or something, but maybe colds ARE ethereal email.

Spring is coming fast — the high desert is ablaze with stars at night, a brisk pine-scented wind rustles the stark trees, and it just feels good to be alive. That feeling of having survived another winter is part of the reason I moved here from boring old one-season Southern California.

I have too many friends saddled with very serious illness or challenges right now to be too giddy about things. For every breathtaking sign of rejuvenation I see, more bad news arrives about impending curtain calls.

And that’s life, isn’t it.

With perspective, you take the good with the bad, and you cobble the best situation you can from what you have available. And you’re grateful. And you do what you can to help, when help is needed.

Thanks again, guys, for all the input.

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  • Kyle T says:

    John, really enjoyed this post! The part about Iranian’s downloading porn reminded me of a story a friend told me. While stationed in Iraq, his job was to buy supplies for the Iraqis (with US month) so they could begin defending themselves. The requests were always: handguns and laptops. He would check in on them every couple of weeks and, lo and behold, a brief perusal of the Temporary Internet Files on each laptop held nothing but troves of recently searched porno sites.

    Classic human nature.

    For your sickness: another friend of mine (a chef at a top Vegas hotel) came up with something he calls The Pharmaceutical Car Bomb.

    “Half a pint glass (that’s 1 cup) of your favorite flavor of VitaminWater (I used XXX), drop three tablets of Grape Airborne in there. Then fill up a shot glass with NyQuil, and throw the whole thing back Car Bomb style. Overkill? Yes. Effective? Also yes. ”

    I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like a doozey!

    Feel better soon John,

  • John,

    IANAD. For your cold – vitamin C. And lots of it. 3000 mg or more. While you can have too much, it won’t kill you or do anything nasty.

    As for Iran and bad customers – I’ll leave those for someone else… 😉

  • John,

    Linus Pauling recommended massive amounts of a SPECIFIC form of vitamin C – ascorbic acid I believe. Not one of the mineral ascorbics. If I remember correctly, a lot of studies that invalidate his approach use the wrong kind of Vitamin C. I also heard that zinc helps it work – synergistic effect.

    Also, Michael Tierra, OMD is credited with bringing the herb echinacea back into common use. Echinacea went away for awhile after the development of penicillin. Michael is a cool guy and has studied just about every single herbal tradition possible. Here’s what he says about treating colds naturally (link).


  • Sarah Albers says:

    Hey John,
    Sorry to hear about your cold, but glad to know there are fellow sufferers out there too. I have 4 kids and my youngest goes to daycare so you’d be hard pressed to find a week where one or two of us in the household aren’t snotting up the place. There is something special about listening to the soft high pitched wheezing of your kids during the night!!

    I haven’t found anything to be real effective against a cold, but it is a nice time to sit back and think. I usually think things like, “Damn, why is it me again!” or “I hope we aren’t out of Puffs”. Nothing earth shaking like you sit around and think about. I have enough on my mind just keeping up with the cartoons.

    I appreciate the observation about Iran. It is kind of funny in a sad sort of way when the politicians and media of the day can make any country seem horrifyingly dangerous. I suppose Lichtenstein will be next on the list of “evil doers” (I just love the phrase ‘evil doers’… it does so much to make us feel better than them in so many ways!) Tell me that isn’t marketing at its best even when its for the worst..

    Good luck with the boubon…or is it bourbon you’re drinking? 😉

    To your health! Prost!

    Sarah Albers

  • Stephanie says:


    I used to get really bad colds all the time and now I never get them because I gave up milk and cheese as well as meat. Also, I would recommend drinking as much water as you can take. It really helps along with keeping your hands really clean because you will keep re-spreading the germs if you don’t keep your hands super clean. Also, eat some fresh oranges. I don’t know if you are a big meat eater or not but if you are I would lay off the meats, cheeses and definitely milk. I stopped drinking milk many moons ago and I stopped getting colds all together. Something to think about…

    Drink lots of water, keep washing your hands (I would get one of those hand sanitizers) eat fresh fruit especially oranges, and get lots of rest. You will be just fine.


  • Annabel says:

    Hi John,

    My husband swears by eating raw garlic for colds. You can put it on a salad or mix it in to some veggies.


  • DonGraff says:

    Good Morning John…
    > (32) oz. of straight water each day.
    > Hot, hot shower right before bed.
    > (1) shot glass of NyQuil right after the shower.
    Symptoms just about disappear, keeps you ‘ functional ‘.

    > ‘ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Just check the oil,

    > Closed society, closed minds.

    And how did you get a ‘pingback’ from: ‘breast-cancer-talk’ ?
    The ones I’ve met, never talked to me…Don

  • David says:


    It wasn’t Carnegie or Vanderbilt. It was Jesse Livermore. And it was six months before the crash. And it was either a shoeshine boy or elevator operator – it’s been a while since I read his book on investing.

    Livermore shorted the market and made so much money that when the crash came he received numerous death threats.

    Cold Remedy:
    Take two pairs of socks: 1 cotton that fit snugly, 1 wool pair that is slightly oversize.
    Soak the cotton pair in the coldest water you can find.
    Put them on.
    Put the dry wool pair on over the cold wet socks.
    Go to bed.

    Wake up with no stuffed nose and both socks dry.

    Some Russians I train with taught me this in 96. Been doing it ever since, and hardly ever get a cold.

    Take a bowl (I use stainless) and fill it with the coldest water you can find. As you live in Reno, put the filled bowl in the fridge.

    First thing in the morning walk outside dressed only in swimsuit or shorts and dump the bowl of cold water over yourself. Repeat before you go to bed at night.

    The cold water stimulates the immune system. Stops hair loss, hair graying, etc.

    When you have a cold, stay away from wheat and dairy. Actually, that’s good advice all the time, as both produce mucous.

    Notice those who are sick often – they claim their kids are in virus-filled schools, but they live on processed food and crap.

    Sickness is the body getting rid of all the shit. If you’re really sick, then you’ve consumed a lot of shit. Maybe your body is getting rid of the chips you gave up last month?

    Eat organic whole foods and you’ll be sick less often. When you do get sick, it won’t be as intense or for as long. Other will be suffering with flu for days or weeks, while you go to bed for a day or two.

    There are homeopathics that work on colds, but I’ve given you enough to work with.

  • Hi John,

    Sorry you’re under the weather. I was last week and you really appreciate your health when it returns. Boy there are some wacky remedies here. Bet you’re sorry you asked. We ALL have some magic potion up out sleeve that we SWEAR by. Here’s mine:

    Big cup of super hot water (like for tea)
    Juice of one lemon
    TBS of honey
    1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (depending on your tolerance for spice)

    Works like a charm.

    And I loved your post on perspective. I see so many people lose it over stupid issues. People need to lighten the ‘f’ up. That’s the motto I’m sticking with. Makes life so much more enjoyable. Take care!

  • Deb Williams says:

    Hi John,

    I well understand just how miserable you’re feeling. The audacity of everybody sneezing on you!!!

    Anyway, let’s see what we can do for you to get you healthier. Here’s the short version of the lecture. 😉 When we are at dis-ease, we feel horrible. So that means we are out of balance.

    What to do?
    Well, start by mentally, physically & spiritually getting back in (your definition) of balance.

    Taking a good Multi Vitamin & Vitamin C is a great start. You might also want to try Bromelain & Quercitin combination – usually about every 4 to 6 hours, but you will be able to tell when you need it. I have also found a Great product for Winter (I’m in IL) it’s called Perfect Health & is made by Rainbow Light. You should be able to get these at a good sized health food store.

    Wishing you Great Health!!!

  • Dan Curriden says:

    Hey John,

    Great post, hope you get to feeling better soon.

    Two words: wheatgrass juice.

    It’s not a miracle cure, it won’t necessarily get rid of your cold, but it can help keep you from getting sick in the first place.

    You mentioned sludge buildup as a cause and a cold as the body’s way of getting rid of the sludge. I agree. And if you’ve ever taken wheatgrass, you know that it definitely has the power to get rid of the sludge (like roto-rooter on steroids). It supposedly has other cool stuff going on, like enzymes and amino acids and micro-nutrients, blah, blah, blah. Whatever, it works for me.

    I was never a believer, despite continued badgering by my massage therapist. Finally I relented about three years ago, and since have only had the sniffles 2-3 times.

    I don’t believe in magic pills or anything like that, but wheatgrass juice, in combination with all of the other smart things for improving the immune system, has made a big difference for me.

    I do about a 1/2 ounce every morning. Try it and let me know how it works for you.


  • Kevin says:


    I just read an interesting bit of info that sort of ties in to this whole perspective thing.

    John Forde, in his Copywriting Roundtable e-letter wrote about a Harvard study that says that one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have is “pattern recognition.” The easier you are able to look at a set of information, and relate it to something you are familiar with, the faster you can take advantage of it and make some money.

    It’s what the concept of “clicks-on-the-dial” is all about.

    Guys like Gary, Dan and John are masters of this. You can learn to write a good sales letter, but often, its the strategy behind the copy that is more important than the words themselves. I think it’s one of the “big lessons” rookie copywriters need to know about.

    If you don’t have a copy of John’s notes on Halbert’s 20 clicks, or the list of Dan’s clicks from his Copywriting Seminar In-A-Box; get ’em, laminate ’em, and keep ’em someplace handy because it’s just that damn important!


  • Hi John

    I thought your post was pretty great especially for a sick guy.
    I am in awe of your style, and want to thank you for letting us
    peak at it from your personal point of view.

  • Ron B says:

    Hi, John

    I have used the damp socks under dry socks for relief of the temperature that comes with a cold. It, may sound a bit nuts. But, it worked for me. Put, them on just before going to bed and in the morning you’ll have a lower temperature and less stuff in you lungs and nose…

  • Ruth Bascom says:

    Hi, John

    I saw your post and read about how you and your family where having the sniffles. This is what our family did to help us get over the flu faster than most people. Click on the above website URL.

  • Ruth Bascom says:

    Sorry forgot the URL…

    Here is the URL:

  • Ryan Healy says:

    Great post, John. Based on what you described about that game show and how people will give up sure gains in favor of the chance to win larger ones, you might be interested in reading The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

    It’s a book about how people make decisions, but I view it as a marketing book. It’s excellent.

    Cold cures? I go for sleep. That’s the best cure I’ve ever found.


  • Mark says:

    Hope you are feeling better soon dude.

    Do you ever take colostrum? The stuff made from milk? Helps your immune system kick butt on viral invaders. Take tons of it. The chewable kind from first milking dot com is my fave. Also, weird science here but try a nasal spray of saline solution. Comes in a little squeeze bottle for two bux. Saltwater kills some germs and clears the nasal highway. Then when clear, spray with colloidal silver nasal spray made by Source Naturals. Gargle with salty hot water several times a day. Consume mass quantities (we are from Mars) of bowls of piping hot Kitchen Basics chicken soup stock. It is not broth or whatever, but real stock. Stuff is amazing and feels good going down the sore throat, clears the nose, tastes good… but wait there’s more!

    Sounds like a Boardroom ad of “Weird Sh*t That Really Friggin Works!”

    Feel free to use as a teaser on your next forbidden cures ad, lol.

    Best wishes,


  • Sweet Jesus! Marketing … philosophy … geopolitics. You should be out there helping one of the presidential hopefuls get to the White House.

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