The Voodoo Of Video

Thursday, 8:03pm
Reno, NV
Bring out the champagne…


You either hate… or love video.

Doesn’t seem to much of the old “in between” on this.

And I think I can clear up some misconceptions about it here in this post.

First, however…

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Last night, as my partner Stan and I were discussing the subject matter for our next Radio Rant Coaching Club call, I realized that today is (sob, choke) our one-year anniversary. On March 13, 2007, we launched the club with little fanfare, but a lot of intense interest from insiders.

Frankly, I’m stunned. Not that we lasted out the first year with bells and whistles… but that another year has snuck by.

I mean… who do I write to about this time-zipping-by thing? Is Einstein still taking calls?

Seriously. For most of my life, I followed a barely-functional form of (I guess we can call it this) hippie-tinged Zen awareness… which focused on the “here and now”. Americans have a bad habit of living in the past or the future (obsessing on past injustice, for example, or believing their life won’t actually start until they do X).

This is a horrible way to live, avoiding the present. Memories are great, and plans are good.

But you can only live in the present. The past is gone, and the future is a crapshoot. (I have friends who were killed by buses and unexpected crap falling on them. It’s no joke to realize that — literally at any moment — your ticket can get punched. Ride over. Plans cancelled.)


There’s even an old semi-wise saying: “You wanna make God laugh? Make plans.”

Nevertheless, I didn’t get my professional life moving until I learned how to entertain the concept that thinking ahead a little bit is how you get shit done. I bought my first-ever year-long appointment calendar, and starting scheduling stuff out, like, weeks in advance.


Even today (long after the moment I really should know better), I feel creeped-out writing in some commitment for speaking at a seminar, or meeting some deadline, more than a few months hence.

I mean… how the hell do I know the Earth will even BE here in August? Let alone that I’ll still be a guy who speaks at seminars, or meets deadlines, or hasn’t been locked away in a mental ward?

Silly, I know.

But I swear to you that, up until a few years ago, I would agree to something a few months out… and relax, because there was plenty of time to prepare… and there really WAS plenty of time.

Now? I write the commitment down in the planner… seven months and two complete seasons away… and then, like, TWO DAYS LATER it’s time to get on the plane.

Somebody’s been screwing with my sense of time.

My father is now 88 years old. Healthy as can be. Takes his lovely wife Marge out dancing three times a week (real hard-core ballroom dancing, too), keeps up a social calendar that would exhaust me, and travels frequently to joints like China, South America, Alaska, that kind of thing.

I sure hope I have his genes.

But here’s why I bring it up: In our last phone conversation, Pop sighs and laments the way time is flying by so quickly.

Wait a minute, I say. I’m feeling like it’s rushing by like a speeding bullet. Just HOW fast is time flying for you at 88?

Faster than it did when I was your age, he says.

So now I’m completely freaked out.

I’ve even studied the phenomenon. There are tricks to “slow time down”, like learning new stuff every day, challenging your brain by avoiding habitual behavior, meditating, that kind of thing.

Works a little bit.

But I’ve kinda had a revelation here: While time is a human invention, it’s NOT gonna slow down much for me.

In my twenties, a week seemed to last forever. More stuff would happen to me in a day than happens to me in a month now. So many possibilities crowded my awareness then. Adventures cascaded upon my head like rain.

But something changes when you age. It may well be that once all those adventurous possibilities fall off the radar (no way am I joining the Peace Corps now, nor am I gonna move to Greenwich Village and form a punk band), life becomes more about finishing up goals I’ve already decided are my main focus… and that makes time more real. Deadlines, when I’m able to self-impose them, arrive like bricks thrown at the door in startling succession. (I’ve got three unfinished novels in my file cabinet — the youngest is ten years old, the geezer is over twenty.) (No lectures, please — I consciously put them aside all those years ago when I realized being a novelist would bankrupt me… and I decided, instead, to concentrate on what I’m doing now. Writing for the real world, and teaching.) (Still, I want to finish the little bastards at some point.)

This may be the ultimate generation gap.

You know, I tell everyone who’ll listen (and I’m really lucky to have so many colleagues who still find my stories entertaining) that for MOST of my career… I was the young hotshot rebel in the room. My job was to make life uncomfortable for the old farts, and inject some youthful energy and enthusiasm into projects.

Then, one day (and not too long ago in “John Time”), I realized I was the oldest guy at a big brainstorm of Internet colleagues. By twenty years, too.

It’s a testament to how hip these younger Web honchos are that they not only put up with me (cuz I WILL tell you stories)… but actually go out of their way to hang with us. My friends and mentors were always all over the map, age-wise. Frequently, Halbert (thirteen years older) and my now-partner Stan (fifteen years younger) would sit around bullshitting and having a good time. Age tends to be irrelevant when you’re hip, smart, and open to evil fun.

Still… it seems to me that dogs have it right.

A dog truly lives in the moment. When you’re gone, or dinner’s late, she’s understandably ferklempshed and upset. When I’m gone for a week on biz, my little rat terrier mopes and checks my office for signs I’m there, constantly. Yet, the MOMENT I arrive home, she is happy to see me… and promptly forgets that I was ever gone.

Dogs — as any vet will tell you — have zero sense of time.

And the good ones — the lucky dogs among us — live each day with passion and gusto and lots of groovy naps.

Bark heartily, is their motto. Then go eat the cat.

I know this time thing is just a worthless obsession. There’s no way to tell how other people experience time, because it’s such an objective perception. (Though, I once made Yanik Silver shiver in horror in a San Diego bar when I told him to blink… and then said “The next time you notice you’ve blinked, twenty years will have zipped by.” Startled him. Almost spilled his vodka.)

It’s all freaking relative, I know. I’m as happy, and more healthy, than I was twenty years ago. If my genes play out, I have another mini-lifetime left to enjoy. (Consider that, in 1900, at the dawn of the last century, the average lifespan of an American was around 30 years. My generation didn’t begin to feel like adults until we hit our 30s, for cryin’ out loud. The current generation is still living at home at 30.) (So, if 30 is a lifespan, I’m heading toward the end of my second shot at it. It’s not exactly “borrowed time”, but I’m very aware that my health and happiness is a product of living in the times I live in, and not because I’m special. My friend Dave Kekich is obsessed with increasing our lifespan, and I’m listening closely. But, mostly, I really want to concentrate on squeezing the most from the time I know I’ve got — today.)

Is this relevant for a business blog?

Hell, yes, it’s relevant. I get “woe is me” email from young men who are convinced their life is over because they’re not wealthy yet. And I get “can’t wait to test more shit on my new Website” email from ancient geezers who only recently got over their fear of turning a computer on.

And, when you consider all factors, that young guy’s life might really BE over soon. I’ve lost a big damn bunch of the people I grew up with at this point… and way too many dropped dead before their first wrinkle. Life ain’t fair, never pretended to be, and the inherent risks of being a carbon-based oxygen-breathing mammal in a semi-hostile environment isn’t gonna change anytime soon.

And, just as possible, the old guy may live another mini-lifetime yet. May write the Great American Novel (it’s a stupid, mostly-American myth, that the best writers are young — they aren’t). May invent that flying car I was promised back in the fifties in my brother’s beat-up copies of “Mechanics Illustrated”. Might even father (go for it, dude) the child who will grow up to save the planet.

Movies don’t help much. I have to force myself not to break out of the suspended disbelief required to get absorbed in film and realize “Hey — he’s dead” when I’m watching a great actor do his thing. (And because a “classic” movie buff like me gravitates toward REALLY old movies, I often remember that ALL the actors are dead. Been dead, too, for a while.)

Time is fleeting.

Anybody up for the Time Warp, again?

And… I guess that’s a good enough segue into video, as promised.


In honor of the one-year anniversary of the Radio Rant Coaching Club… I have pulled another post of mine off the Forum. It’s pretty good, and a good example of the cool stuff you can enjoy as a member.

So, with no more fanfare (I’m running out of time, you know), here’s my reply to someone’s post asking “Does anybody read copy online any more?”…

(Note: The “Jason” I refer to is my young colleague, Jason Moffatt. He answered the post just before I logged on, saying — as a self-admitted “video guy” — that getting a sales message across online was really a “mixed bag” that includes copy and video and everything else.)


” Dear [name omitted for privacy]. I’m really glad that Jason popped back into the Forum — he truly “gets” the entire marketing mindset online, despite being mainly a video guy.

The “mixed bag” theory of communicating a sales message goes back to the very beginning of direct response marketing. Companies used print ads, door-to-door salesmen, direct mail, television (you didn’t think the infomercial suddenly sprang into exisitence full-blown in the 80s, did you? The very first commercials in the fifties were looooooong damn ads… in fact, single companies sponsored entire shows), radio, spectacular PR events, supermarket tastings, etc.

You want to engage as many senses as possible, and video expands the visual. (Reading is visual, as are photos, but it’s static. Video moves.)

The only thing we’re missing, today, is smell. We experiment with it, occasionally, with mail samples, perfume samples in magazines, and Smell-O-Vision at the movies. But the virtual experience kind of makes it impossible, for now, online. (Can you imagine a Wii console squirting out odors for, say, an adventure game in the jungle?) (Even bowling alleys have a peculiar smell, you know — I grew up in one, Lebowski-like, and remember it well.)

The split between people who prefer to read, or watch, or experience things in multiple ways, is NOT age related — it’s part of your DNA, how you perceive the world. We’re complex creatures, but you can still draw a flow chart of finite ways we engage with the world (kinestetic athletes and risk takers, introverted readers, gourmets, sculpters vs painters, and so on).

Smart marketers use it all. I love video, and plan to do more and more… but as Jason points out, it still needs to be scripted (even if only with notes). And of course, I’m primarily a writer — you cannot edit or rewrite with video, and the best writing is the result of many go-throughs.

The top marketers avoid using one medium over any other on ideological grounds — we do what works. Right now, you can enjoy the “mixed bag” of possibilities in getting your message across.

These are special times, full of possibility and generously tolerant of new ways of doing things.

Enjoy them.

Before you blink, and it’s 2028 (and your flying car is in the shop).

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Love to hear your thoughts about time, and about video.

I’m all over YouTube these days, you know. Though I look so much younger in the film taken last year…

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  • Vinnie says:

    As a 23 year old newbie marketer this is one of THE most valuable blogs (and posts for that matter) that I read…this was absolutely amazing…in 2028 I’ll be mailing my subscribers about this old “marketing rebel fart” who gave me the real deal on what living in the PRESENT really means…thanks John

  • Billy Kirkley says:


    I’m 34 (no I don’t live with my parents) and what you just wrote was like you have been living in my head for the last 4 years.

    I have always thought that the defining moment of becoming an adult was when you discovered how fast the day’s begin to kick over.

    I remember in my 20’s (and its not that long ago) day’s would drag. I also remember how much I got done when I was at high school (6 subjects all with homework and still had time for 2 -3 sports)

    So far in my short life this has now been my biggest freak … SHIT a week is as fast as a day was once.

    Thanks for taking my thoughts and putting them into words

    Billy Kirkley

  • Hi John,

    I figured out the perception of time thing a while back and why it appears to accelerate as we grow older. For example, at age 5, one year is one-fifth of our time alive; at age 25, one year is 1/25th of our time on planet; at age 50, one year is 1/50th of our experience, etc, etc. Each passing year becomes shorter to our perceptions as the ratio to our time alive decreases, even though a year is the same amount of time.

    Video is powerful juju. Kern is doing some great stuff figuring out some amazing insights on how to make the material incredibly compelling, eg, taking the viewer on a ‘journey’ to increase the bonding experience. Having the tools available on my Mac to produce polished vids that approach studio quality is pretty darn cool.

    Sorry I’m unable to hang w/you and Stan at Kern’s San Diego gig, as I already had plans to visit Mom. Looking forward to some other time though.

  • Larry Foster says:

    We’re approximately the same age. I’m 58.
    As a country kid, I roamed the hills, played ball, cowboys and Indians and had a ton of adventures every day.
    My mom said that the older you are the faster time flies. Of course, like most kids, I paid no attention.

    Now, the days fly by like a runaway freight train.
    It seems I just sit down to get some work done and the next thing I know, another week has gone by. Often with little to show for it.

    It’s 2008 but it feels like it should only be 2002 or 2003.
    My son is almost 17 and daughter is almost 13.
    It seems like only yesterday, each was a tiny baby.
    Where did that time go?
    Philosophically, where does time go?

    Rolling back the clock can’t be done. I haven’t found the Fountain of Youth that will bring back the time when a day was 24 hours instead of 24 minutes.

    What’s my point? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ramblings as I practice for senility.

    Larry Foster

  • Karen says:

    Yup, it’s true, after a certain age it always seems to be Friday or Monday – what happens to the rest of the week is a complete mystery.

    Personally I have found the speed that the day/week/year passes is directly proportonal to the number of times I stop what I am doing to realise how good life is.

    “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana” Groucho Marx

    Kind of says it all doesn’t it!

  • Karen (again) says:

    OK, more thinking on this time thing…

    The reason I love the Groucho Marx quote is cos ‘time’ is a “non-sense” – it is not conceptual, trying to understand it is like trying to grasp the vastness of space.

    AND it is a ‘quantum-type’ thing, where the very act of thinking about it alters the ‘reality’ of it for the thinker… in that moment.

    Which seems to explain why when I stop to ‘real-ize’ my life right NOW it seems to stop flying out the door.

    … and fruit flies like a banana!

  • Louis says:

    James Brausch held a contest on his blog to see if anyone could create a video that would beat blank space in a multivariate test on one of his product pages. Blank space won every time. He’s tested pictures lately too and usually blank space beats those too.

    Because I speed/photo read, I usually don’t like watching video or watching audio unless there’s a lot more going on than just the words. It takes too long by comparison.

    That said, I’m just about done creating my first info product and it’s going to be a video with pdf summary. Some things I just had to show as part of the explanation. There won’t be any video in the promotion though.

    As for time… I’m approaching 30 myself so I guess I’m just about to reach that first roller coaster hill. I haven’t lived at home since I was 16 though.

    It is true though that some of the people I enjoy spending time with most as peers are 20+ years my senior. I don’t notice the difference unless we start talking about kids or parents.

    It’s been said that the purpose of time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at the same time. Maybe as we age, we develop more resources for processing our experiences. If something happens and you enjoy, learn or get over it quicker, then perhaps time will have seemed to speed up. That’s my theory today anyway.

  • Patrick says:

    Hi John,

    Cool incites…

    But a bit scary too. To think that I am not (or may not be) living life to it’s fullest because of the way we as humans habitualize and automate our reactions to life’s experiences. So much so that that our reactions (and our experiences) become unconscious. Freaky!!!

    That’s an “ah-haa” moment for me.

    Until now “it” was one of those things that just bugged me, in the back of my mind.

    Thanks for that John.

    Regards from Patrick.

  • David Craft says:

    Hi John,

    I think one of the things missing here is choice. When we are young we choose things to do by what we think we want, might like or sound fun. We look for ways to speed time up by testing things for fun, desire and – without realizing it – fulfilling. The older you get, the more things you’re “expected” to do – pay bills, buy food, keep a roof over your head.

    Finding ways to do this, especially if it’s a job you don’t really enjoy, becomes something you HAVE to do instead of what you WANT to do. Then the time flies by because what little you have left to do what you want to do becomes smaller. 80/20. 80% doing what pays your bills, 20% to sleep and have fun.

    Even if you are doing a job you love, the limits it imposes becomes a part of your choice process. And there’s still those nagging issues like paying bills, etc.

    Ever noticed how fast school goes when you have fun? How slow it is for those who don’t? Ever notice how attendee’s at a seminar think it goes by way too fast when they’re finally “getting it” and how slowly it goes when you realize you went to the wrong one?

    How well do you get “Time flies when you’re having fun!”? Enjoy the ride or get off. Maybe that “starving mindset” is still entrenched a little too much when you can’t enjoy the ride. A scarcity mindset does not apply to just money, it also applies to time and relationships – and isn’t everything basically a relationship issue?

    Thanks for the ideas!


  • Pete Moring says:

    Hi John, This time Vortex thing is REALLY challenging, especially as my youngest daughter at only 16 is remarking how fast the weeks go by.

    I don’t remember thinking like that at 16, infact the opposite seemed true. The weekend always seemed an AGE away.

    So are we actually experiencing ‘time’ itself speeding up as this solar system of ours is being ‘sucked’ into a ‘Time Vortex’?
    (Or Black Hole?)

    At 57, I hope the next 20 years don’t fly by at the same rate as the last.

    Great blog by the way. Why on earth have I only just discovered it?
    Too much catching up to do now.

    Great stuff.


  • Donna says:

    For me, at age 42, time is reflected in the faces of my children – because they are so spaced out . . . 17 year old son graduating from HS and moving on to the culinary arts, the 7 year old son looking forward to second grade because they make cooler art projects, and the 3 year old little girl whose little face brings the brightest smile. Each of them are in their own little world – going through their own private time warp that I get to sit back and wonder at how different and the same they are at each stage of their lives.

    There are those sad moments though when the memories of my now almost grown son make me feel like I didn’t pay enough attention to each day, and at the same time grateful that I realize the preciousness of it all while the time is still mine to enjoy with the two that have such a long way to go.

    Thanks John

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