The Freakshow, The Adventure, And The Payoff…

Thursday, 9:17pm
Reno, NV
“Please step over here and remove your dignity…”


Have you ever tried to teach a dog to piss in the back yard?

It takes patience and determination. (As my friend and long-time client Bob Pierce says: “Sometimes, you gotta be smarter than the dog.”)

You’re forcing an animal that has already been perfectly tuned-up by Nature (to hunt, scavenge, and survive in the wild with his pack) to conform to some very unreasonable (in his eyes, anyway) demands.

I mean, it’s nice and warm inside. What’s so wrong about peeing on the sofa, anyway?

To Fido, you are a harsh taskmaster with silly and hysterical notions about elimination.

And yet… you have opposable thumbs, and know how to open the fridge and the front door and other amazing things.

It’s confusing. But Fideo obeys, eventually, because there is a payoff. Belly rubs, happy humans, jaunts on the leash (not quite like running down deer with the pack, but close enough), and big wet dishes of food at shockingly regular intervals.

Oh, it can be good to be Fido. Yes, it is, and who’s a big goofy mutt, huh? Big belly rub…

Uh, sorry. The black Afghan just wandered into my office to see if I was hoarding any food (maybe some squirrel road kill, or even a peanut butter sammie-wich!), and required some cooing and scratching to overcome his abject depression when nothing edible was discovered on my desk.

And now my gorgeous and ancient mutt-terrier Rosie — who hates it when the other dogs get any attention at all — has plopped herself down near my feet to re-assert her territorial dominance of my office.

Big happy dog-ruled family here.

Everything’s in order again.

This little commotion has reminded me of how miserable it can sometimes be to leave on business trips.

I was just talking with my buddy Rich Schefren this afternoon about the toll traveling takes on you. He’s been on a bender lately — Texas, Britain, California, Mars — and is exhausted. He asked me how I deal with the rigors of travel.

He’d rather just stay home, where all the comforts are.

It’s a very relevant question right now. Several of my colleagues who built their business by being road-warriors — traipsing the globe to speak at seminars so often they sometimes forget where they live — have recently announced they have hung up their suitcases and Dopp kits. No more seminars, ever. Done. Stayin’ home.

I understand the urge to hole up like Howard Hughes. I really do.

And yet…

I’ve been thinking about business travel for a while now. What’s bad about it… and, even more importantly, what’s GOOD about it.

Cuz there is a reason we do it.

We just forget sometimes.

And I think I’ve figured out what’s causing so many of us to turn up our noses at jetting off (first class) to exotic locations.

You can break it down into 3 separate stories, too:

1. The Freakshow of airline travel and hotel survival…

2. The actual Adventure that often gets buried under the stress…

3. And, finally… the Payoff. Which I’ll get to in a moment here…

First, the Freakshow.

I was lucky enough to catch the last of the “Golden Age” of commerical airline service… before deregulation put a knife through the heart of air travel.

First class on Pan Am (the first — and gold standard — of the international airlines) (gobbled up in the early 1990s by Delta and erased from the earth for absolutely ZERO good reason) was like being King For A Day.

If you ever get the chance to fly Air New Zealand, or any of the tricked-out Asian airlines, you’ll get a whiff of what a treat it USED to be to fly in the US. (Actually, I missed the real “Golden Age”, which was in the mid-sixties. I have older Hollywood-connected friends who can curl your hair with endless tales of debauchery and fun on the first jumbo-jets — where you climbed a staircase to get to the piano lounge, where talented stewardesses in fetching miniskirts forced delicious cocktails into your hand… and, oh, hell, it just makes me sick to remember any of those stories. It truly was a different world back then…)

Piano lounge.


Then greed took over, and somehow the air lines decided they were essentially gonna be more like Greyhound buses with wings. Pack ’em in, send the mess hurtling across the sky with as little thought to comfort as legally allowed, and screw customer service.

Did you know, by the way, that NO other country makes people take their friggin’ shoes off during security checks? They LAUGH at us.

Pisses me off. Going through security in Orlando last month was like being processed for a Gulag — six hundred people being squeezed through four screening entrances… because it was lunchtime, and most of the TSA staff were off on break.

THEN, of course, after an hour wait in line (with screaming kids going through post-partem stress from leaving Mickey and Goofy behind), a horde of security personnel descended and opened five new screening positions… but didn’t even attempt to be fair about who got through. People who hadn’t yet left their house when I first got in line waltzed up and were ushered through the new stations… while the line I was in inched forward like a bad zombie movie, trapped by dividers and glass walls. People missed flights, so Suzie Security could enjoy her pizza.

Okay. I get it. The TSA folks have the power.

And reserve the privilege of scowling at you if you leave your belt on and light up the metal detector in the scramble.

And you can be publicly scolded like a…

… like a dog who just peed on the carpet.

Boy, I have new insight to why the Afghans howl to be let out. The indignity!

It’s a Freakshow to travel today. Dirty taxi’s, crushing crowds, long periods of utter boredom interspersed with moments of panic and chaos (“I’m sorry, sir, the computer shows you’ve already left on the previous flight… and we have no seats open on this one…”)… it’s just fucking unpleasant.

I’m sorry.

It is.

So, whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel an increasing anxiety as the departure day nears.

If you’re not clear on WHY you’re travelling, that anxiety can put you in a mindset where you’ll cancel the whole thing with even a weak excuse… or refuse to engage at all from the get-go.

The Freakshow can ruin what SHOULD be…

… an Adventure.


You know why I continue to suck it up and go through the indignities of air travel for business?


… once I arrive (to the utter astonishment of my ape-brain, which was certain we were all gonna die from the first jostle inside the plane as we taxi’d to the runway)… and navigate the hotel gauntlet (in Atlanta, they tried to give me a room next to BOTH the ice machine AND the elevator — that builder had quite a sense of humor)…

… then, finally, the Adventure can begin in earnest.

Listen carefully: There are a thousand reasons not to go to seminars.

I totally understand why most entrepreneurs and small business owners never even consider attending a workshop or seminar or other event requiring them to travel to another city.

Heck, most biz people wouldn’t attend something for free, across the street from their office.

For excellent reasons, too.

Excellent reasons.

I’m telling you a story, right now, about why I (and everyone else with a shred of dignity left) SHOULD just say “no” to any kind of airline travel.

And yet…

… I have several trips planned just for the upcoming Spring. Down to San Diego for a Frank Kern event, off to South Carolina for something with Ron LeGrand, and…

… well, there are some other interesting things coming up, but I won’t bother you with them tonight.

It’s all very hush-hush just now.

However… the Adventure is real, if you have your head on straight.

Despite all the excellent reasons not to travel for business — especially not for seminars, for crying out loud — there are a hearty bunch of entrepreneurs and biz owners and professionals who DO travel.

A lot.

And, like childbirth (or so I’m told), once we’ve all leaped the hurdles of the airport and the clueless front desk… we forget the tribulations of travel… and sink into the magic of being at an EVENT.

For me, it’s often like Old Home Week… because I get to see so many colleagues I never see otherwise.

As you no doubt know, the Internet Marketing community is packed solid with some of the most delightfully batty and whacky and brilliant weirdo’s in business. I dearly love ’em, and look forward to every encounter (especially in the bar after a tough day of seminaring).

But even when I go to seminars where everyone’s a stranger, it’s still an adventure.

Because fresh NEW networking is happening. And the wheels of business spin on exactly the kind of inside info you learn at a hot seminar. And…

You know what? There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who understand the value of going to a live seminar (even though it means enduring the Freakshow)… and those who succumb to the excuses (excellent excuses, too!) and say “Nah.”

And I’ll tell you something about the first group: They are almost always the folks who are kicking butt and taking names in their market.

The “adventure” of going to a seminar is in the expanded awareness you experience… the new shit you absorb… and the networking you do. It’s in the energy, the “juice” you soak up… and the thrill of investing in something that can directly launch your ass into the front ranks of your niche.

Demolish the competition, impress your staff, shut up your skeptical brother-in-law.

Just for starters.

And all that leads to the Payoff.

This is, in fact, the crucible of business travel. I know that — sadly — there are a number of seminar junkies who never seem to get anywhere.

They’re kinda weak on the concept… and forget that the key to maximizing the advantages of any seminar… is to MOVE on what you learn when you get home.

I’ve been producing and speaking at seminars for almost 25 years now. (God, I’m grizzled.)

I’m a frigging pioneer in creating the model of most seminars now available. (Karen, you never thought of yourself as a pioneer while working with the Big Ugly Guy, did you. But you were…)

There’s a breakdown of who really benefits, too. You can spot ’em in audience the first day. They aren’t necessarily the ones taking the most notes, either. (I know people who literally write down every word said from the stage, which boggles my little brain.)

But they take CERTAIN notes, very carefully. And they are “present” the entire time… soaking up the Adventure of learning and tasting the wonder of the very cutting edge of marketing. (Seminars are where the best of the new stuff is percolating, perfected, and often revealed for the first time.)

And it’s the Payoff, the day after they get home, that makes it all worthwhile.

Lately — especially with Eben Pagan’s insistence on having “follow up” events for his Altitude stuff — I’ve been able to meet more and more people who are focused on the Payoff. They take what they learn, and APPLY it to their business as fast as they can.

The results can take your breath away.

Look… I’m not gonna try to talk you into attending any live event.

I know you have excellent (excellent!) reasons why you “can’t” travel.

But if I can put the bug into just one person’s head with this post… then I’ve done my job.

Too many people allow the Freakshows of life to dictate their behavior. They get scared, and stay home.

And wonder why there’s no adventure in their lives… and why that big payoff seems so elusive.

My achingly-beautiful terrier just shuffled into my office here, and plunked herself down in a comfy impromptu nest. If I’m gonna insist on writing into the night, fine… one of her jobs is to check on me and hold down the fort while I work.

She thinks I’m crazy for sitting here, pounding away at the dirty plastic keyboard all the time… expecially when there’s FOOD in the fridge, just down the hall. And I’ve got the opposable thumbs to open it, too.

Silly human. Always pushing life, and even inviting the Freakshow in.

Sometimes, though, you gotta be smarter than the dog.

I dunno.

What do you think? You got a good horror story about air travel? They’re addictive, you know — I often go to several blogs that specialize in sharing the lastest outrages in the friendly skies. It’s like a modern-day sci-fi story I get to actually partake in.

Or… could you share with me your reasons for not going to seminars?

You know — if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time — that it wasn’t too long ago when there WEREN’T that many opportunities to go to ANY kind of marketing seminar. They didn’t exist.

There may be a bit of a glut today… but, again, that’s just another excuse not to get excited about any particular one. People are getting lazy about opportunity.

Ah, well.

Love to hear from you.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Oops… almost forgot WHY I wrote this post.

I’ve been thinking about a NEW workshop for over a year now. It’s an intesely interactive model (so I can only handle maybe 20 people) that force-feeds the same internal “checklist” of essentials that I go through, myself, every time I sit down to write sales copy. Or do a video.

Or anything else requiring an honest (and effective) sales message.

I test-drove a “Beta” version of this workshop in Orlando, in the days just before Rich’s big seminar last month. We packed the room, of course, and people were ecstatic with the process. (I forced them to actually write, in five minute chunks, to “get” the feeling of what it’s really like to write pro-level pieces of copy. It was revelatory.)

After the success of that “Beta” experiment, I’ve decided to take what I learned about the teaching process for this “checklist”… and present this new-and-vastly-improved model to a small group of qualifiied entrepreneurs, small biz owners, and pro writers.

I don’t have any details yet — I just recently decided to pull the trigger on this new project.

It’ll be SOON, though. Anyone wanting to jump on this opportunity will have to act fast.

And… there’s a huge surprise in store for folks who are interested.

More later.

Rosie needs to go outside and pee…

P.P.S. Last note for this post: For some reason, we’ve seen dramatically increased “action” on the page.

I’m always happy to see this… but I want to warn people: That page is scheduled to be fussed with, in serious ways, very soon.

The hyper-generous offers still up on that site are all on the table for surgery… including price increases where applicable. And, like my long-lamented Insider’s Club, they could be sent to the cellar for permanent storage, too. (The Insider’s Club offered way too much personal attention from me, and had to go. It was a screaming deal while it thrived… and the current batch of offerings on that site include what may become an increasingly rare opportunity to still get personal attention from me.)

Just fair warning.

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  • Thank You John

    For enlightening us on the current state of air travel. I have had to fly a few times recently. And this shoe thing is rather ridiculous.
    All because some guy stepped in some gum, and string stuck to it.
    We all have to bear the indignity of a hole in our socks.

    Thanks again for the short video’s. Although short, some important stuff in them. By the way, Who lets the dogs out?

    Gary McElwain

  • Mark says:

    I can relate to the travel troubles. I used to speak at seminars and now I don’t even attend seminars lately. Yes it is good to learn new stuff and see your friends, no doubt. But for some time now I have not been into it. When I endure the hassles of travel nowadays, I just want to have a fun vacation, not mix business and pleasure. Maybe business is becoming as boring as air travel to me. The combination is just not something that I look forward to. One exception was the Maui Writer’s Conference. That was actually fun to attend. Hey maybe I’m just getting older? Nahhhhhh. 🙂

  • Michael says:

    It is not just in the USA that you suffer airl-travel hell. I Live on a small Island off the south coast of England where it costs about $200 just for a car ferry across 4 miles of water. I often have to visit clients in Switzerland and Austria and when I used to go by air, I not only had to remove my shoes but belt as well.
    I got so pissed off with the long waits, cattle class airlines, and indignities heaped on me at airports, I finally lost my cool, bought a Mercedes car to replace my 238,000 mile wreck of a car, and now drive to my destination instead.
    Gues what?
    I actually arrive in a better frame of mind, less stressed, and it actually takes less time, even though it means driving 600 miles!
    So much for the convenience of air travel.

  • Karen says:

    That was an amazing time. For me it was life-changing and how grateful am I, every day, for the things you and Gary taught me over 15 years ago!

    I will NEVER forget the feeling of being in a room with 100 people who have collectively just learnt something they know is going to change their lives forever……. and the incredible bond that forms throughout the event that makes the last day so bitter-sweet. Completely exhausting and totally exhilarating!! There is NOTHING on the planet more motivating or more valuable (remember the Big Ugly Guy’s ‘Million Dollar Rolodex!’) than networking with these people. Networking, networking, networking…. that is the key (and just one of the “secrets to marketing success” embedded in this post, yes?).

    I really miss that intense connection/stimulation sometimes. Maybe my next adventure will have to include a seminar.

    About travelling… yeah, it can be the most FRUSTRATING exercise in organized(?) insanity…. or…. it can be the most FASCINATING insight into the human condition, it just depends where your head is. Many years (and literally millions of miles) ago my dad said something I have never ever forgotten, he said “When you travel, the holiday begins the minute you shut the front door. From that moment on EVERYTHING is part of the adventure”. Even that moment when you are the last person standing at the luggage carousel that somehow hasn’t produced your bags yet!

    I love this blog. It never fails to produce one of those “A-HA!” moments of enlightened inspiration, it ‘tweaks’ my thinking and………. no one else in my life says things like “I double dog dare ya”.

    PS. I took your advice and threw my name (email address) into the hat to receive the pre-launch promotions from Jeff Walker. What a BRILLIANT example of marketing strategy that has been!! (Has you written all over it John Carlton!)

  • Mark L says:

    Hi John,
    Killer post!
    As human beings, we all gravitate to desired level of personal comfort.
    Of course the airlines are certainly experts at blowing that away!
    Getting through an airport in 2008 might be the closest we get to the primal rush of a paleolithic Mastadon hunt. Think about it… we use the same skill set – hyper-vigilance, frantic running and then dealing with raw hysterics when the prey (your flight) gets away!

    Seminars are a fresh immersion into the evolving world of marketing I might otherwise sleepwalk through . Where else can you soak up the “crazy wisdom” the best marketers serve up. Along with the networking and huge amounts fun, seminars are worth all the hassles of getting there.
    Remember the Cleveland seminar that was 3 blocks away from
    the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame? Gotta love that!

  • Nick says:

    Why don’t I go to seminars? Can’t answer that one because I’ve been to two, and own more then a few seminar DVD’s.

    But I can tell you what I hate about seminars, yes hate to the point that I want to storm out of the room or throw the remote through the TV.

    Here they are in no particular order:

    * Stupid people asking stupid questions at seminars. You have a room full of people who shelled out a ton of money to learn advanced marketing tactics, and there’s always some dolt raising his hand every 5 minutes asking the most basic copywriting questions you could imagine (does long copy work better then short copy?) YES IT DOES!

    The seminar comes to a screeching hult and half the time is spent covering marketing 101 material.

    John, not that you need advice from me, but almost copywriting seminar sales letter says something to the effect of –“no matter what your skill level this seminar is for you…”

    Just once I would like to see something like — “if you’re new to copywriting this material will be over your head. I can’t keep you from coming, but if you do, and constantly interrupt asking me to slow down and explain everything to you I will kindly refund your money and ask you to leave the seminar….”

    * Illegible handouts. Seriously, people pay a lot of money for these seminars, spend the extra nickel at Kinkos on quality print outs

    * The seminar covers the same material as the home study course which sell for less money. Oh well at least the networking was good?

    * And of course pitching sucks. I can watch infomercials for free right from home thank you very much.

  • Ryan says:

    John –

    If you are still waiting in line at airports (especially Orlando)

    Then you are missing one of the greatest advances in post 9/11 tech.

    For $100 per year – the TSA will do an extensive background check and issue you a “special pass.”

    The pass entitles you to the skip right to the head of the security line… just look for the “blue cube” and receive a personal escort right to the front.

    Now, you won’t find “flyclear” lines in every airport – though they are adding cities all the time – They DO have a flyclear lanes in Reno (there’s one in Orlando too.)

    You should probably check it out now before it slips your mind…


    P.S. You can even fill out the application online! (

  • john-carlton says:

    Good points, Nick.

    I’ve been guilty of encouraging rookies to attend my little workshops, but I usually demand they at least are hip to the Kick-Ass copywriting course. I, too, am concerned that people who feel too overwhelmed are not having a great seminar experience.

    The first one is always anxiety-provoking, you know… but once you get the hang of networking and listening for actionable info, you’re in the groove.

    And I NEVER allow people to interupt with irrelevant questions — one of primary jobs of the host is to know how to wrangle a crowd, keep things feisty, and over-deliver on expectations. You’re a bit like a Ring Leader at a circus, but that’s part of the job, so people can get the most from the event.

    Plus, of course, I’ve never given a pitch-a-thon in my career (though I admit I’ve spoken at a few as a guest speaker). I only offer small, intense workshops with lots of intimate teaching, for the exact reason you mention, Nick. I prefer small, intense audiences.

    And where the HELL did you go and get illegible hand-outs? That’s just stupid, on the host’s part. You’re right — there are certain expectations of quality you deserve when you pay for a seminar. A lot of people are giving seminars who should probably learn a little more about the process first.

    Still… I remember some early ones with Halbert that were aesthetic disasters, but worth a fortune in info. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that.

    Your observations are much appreciated, Nick.

    Mark and Karen, who have both been behind the scenes at events, really get the concept of “juice” or “mojo” that seminars provide, and I hope people concentrate more on those elements than the disruption in routine that so often serves as an excuse.

    Getting some great input here…



  • john-carlton says:

    Ryan — I picked up a brochure at the “flyclear” joint in Orlando (is that the right name of the service?)… it was the first time I’d seen it in operation.

    You can bet I’m getting my special pass.

    Reminds me that — up until fuel prices shot up so high — private jets were becoming an excellent option. But there are increasing limitations and hassles with those smaller jets, now, too.

    I want my flying car.


  • Linda Abbit says:

    It’s 2008!

    Give me the jetpack that I’ve been waiting to use ever since watching the Jetsons as a kid.


  • I despise planes. They freak me out and can easily bring me to tears at the first sign of turbulence. It has to be a HUGE occasion for me to get aboard one of those things.

    So, about a year and a half ago I get a call from Ed Dale.

    Ed says… “Jmo, you’re coming to the Underachiever event in Melbourne aren’t ya?”

    For those who don’t know, Melbourne might as well be in Uranus. It’s freaking far!

    Sadly, I had to tell Ed… “Not a chance pal. I can’t fly that far”.

    Ed was bummed and mentioned the event wouldn’t be the same without me there. He offered to pay for the flight.

    I declined.

    He offered to pay for the hotel too.

    I again declined.

    I really wanted to go, but just could imagine 19 hours on a plane. I don’t think any drugs would knock me out for that long.

    Then he offered to take me around to all the cool guitar shops.

    As much as I really wanted to go, I just couldn’t imagine getting on the plane.

    Then he did it. He said…

    “You’ll get to hang out with Carlton!”

    Ah shit Ed… I’m there!

    I can’t believe I actually got on that plane. The ride there wasn’t so bad, but the lift back further reinforced my hatred for flying.

    From now on, it’s a John Madden style tour bus. If you live over seas, well, buy me a hovercraft setup for the tour bus and I’ll consider it.

    Anyhow, despite my intense fear of flying, I had a higher priority of wanting to learn more about John.

    And hey, that weekend I learned a bunch of punctuation stuff that no longer makes me look like an illiterate idiot.

    Thanks John!


    PS: I have a couple other good plane stories, but they are probably a bit too hard core even for this blog to post in public.

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