Watching People’s Heads Explode

Thursday, 8:35pm
Reno, NV
“How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?” Pvt. Hudson, “Aliens”


Okay, so I’m a little grumpy today. I’m still exhausted from the Kern “Mass Control” seminar (major blast, but even fun can suck the juice out of you), I’ve still got days of hard work ahead getting ready for the workshop next week…

… and we just had a flurry of FIFTY freaking earthquakes today. The largest was 4.2 (definitely not fun), and there were at least half a dozen over 3.0 (the kind that rattle the eaves).

This would be a slow news day in California… but folks in Northern Nevada are freaking out. Like most of the continent, we’re settled on a few fault lines here and there. But they’ve never been this antsy before, that anyone remembers (or has kept records of).

So if you never hear from me again, you’ll know why.

Freakin’ earth swallowed us up.

So, yeah, I’m a little grumpy.

And I want to take full advantage of this grumpiness… and continue, just a wee bit further, on last week’s post on paying taxes.

First, let me be clear: I LOVE it that people post comments, and I urge you to disagree with me whenever you feel the need. That kind of “heat” keeps the blog full of energy and action. I wanna hear whatever you have to say. Don’t be shy.

Not that any of you are.

If you read the comments from the most-recent “Cuz I’m The Taxman” post, you will have noticed the plethora of near-dumbfounded disagreement with my attitude about paying The Man his pound of flesh. I know many of the posters, and I respect and like them. (Yes, in spite of the flogging they delivered.) (Hey — “blog flogging”! Much better than the tired old “flaming” phrase, don’t you think? I just invented another word!)

And trust me on this: Because of a tech glitch, only a fraction of the comments made it into the blog. The rest, I had delivered via email… and man, they were viscious.

Because, when it comes to ideology… and getting all riled up about taxes is very much an ideology… sparks can fly.

And I must have gouged an ideological nerve with that post.

To recap: I wrote about my feeling of “belonging” when I first paid quarterly taxes as a freelancer. Early in my career — because of my success — those estimated payments alone were more than what I used to earn in a year.

And, instead of obsessing on having to “give up” all that money… especially to a dysfunctional government that was dead-set on wasting it… I chose to take the advice of a very, very rich man who was also very, very centered and happy. His nudge: Pay all you owe, and forget about it.

In fact, he said, look at your glass as half full — you’re paying so much, because you’ve earned so much. You’re a freakin’ success. Go make more.

Stop bitching.

Gary Halbert and I used to have a saying: “Just tell me who to pay, and how much.”

It was our code for GETTING THINGS DONE. The joke was that, in a world run by gangs and mobs — which is how the joint IS run, without organized governments, by the way — you were expected to pay extortion, protection and bribes just to engage in normal biz activity. And so what if it’s now called “taxes”.

Just point out the guy I’m supposed to pay, and let me get on with my day.

The other relevant saying: “Choose your battles.”

You wanna get all high-blood-pressured over something? First, make sure it’s a matter you have some control over.

Otherwise, you’re like the fabled king who stood on the shore ordering the ocean to stop making waves. Huff, and puff, and blow as hard as you like — if you’re railing against a monster that will swat you like a gnat, then you’ve chosen the wrong battle.

Check Sun Tzu if you need to. The Art Of War is all about achieving desired results, not “winning”. You can let the other guy win all the battles, and still end up demolishing him. You only reach the real endgame intact and ahead… IF you know what the war really is about.

For me — and for the scattered few folks out there who share my shrugging off of the “tax burden” — I’ve got better things to do than obsess on taxes. Things I can control. Like being successful.

Guys like my old buddy Ken C., and Jim, and Ian, and Kyle in the comments section understand. Thanks for chiming in, boys. I was starting to feel like a punching bag.

And if you read my prior post without letting your rage blot out your eyesight first, you know that my meaning was clear: Taxes suck (that’s a quote)… the world’s not perfect… and this is a piss-poor battle to choose to fight.

Cuz you’ll lose.

Yes, the government is riven with corruption. Yes, the education system is a rat’s nest of problems. Yes, America is stumbling like a giant drunken beast, lashing out blindly and ineffectively.

Things aren’t perfect. They aren’t even remotely good.

So fucking what?

I’ve been on the warpath against idealism for decades now. I loathe idealism because I WAS an idealist when I was young. I saw the flaws in the system, and I recoiled in horror. No way could I join the adult world, if it insisted on existing in a flimsy state of near-unconscious stupidity. Count me out, dude.

Except, that attitude didn’t work out so well for me as time wore on.

And I didn’t have to leave my intelligence, or my dignity, or my lust for making a difference at the door when I finally entered the business world and became a full-fledged capitalist.

Idealism sucks. It’s a mostly-empty threat to take your ball and go home unless everyone immediately starts playing by your rules… and the universe will laugh at you for the entire time you insist on this quixotic quest for an ideal civilization.

Me? I’m amazed that civilization works at all. As a species, we’ve still got one foot firmly back in the primeval jungle. The corruption and bullying and murderous greed that soils our culture is imbedded in our DNA. Our natural state is closer to anarchy than order… and if you just got through your day without barbarians torching and pillaging your town, then you may need to sit back and take stock of exactly what we’ve accomplished in this imperfect country.

Yeah, I hate a lot about the place. I’m appalled at the high incarneration rate, embarrassed by our national level of ignorance about the rest of the world, and saddened by the aggressive dunderheaded arrogance of our leaders.

I’m also nervous about the way critical thinking is denigrated, and pissed off that celebrity has become a religion.

Are these battles I can fight? In small ways, perhaps. I’m not above choosing a fight that will exhaust me. And yet, I can count rather impressive numbers of people whose lives have been affected by what I’ve shared. It’s a long way from a revolution, but I’m damn proud of having dragged (kicking and screaming) a small mob of folks into business success, by helping them break down the process (and the obstacles) and get busy with living the life we OWE all the men and women who died to keep some trace of real freedom alive in this little democratic experiment.

Yes, our country is flawed.

It is still, however, the dream of every serf and slave and vanquished schlub over the long, cruel course of history who ever wished for just a small shot at being able to live without undue interference. Without a boot on his neck. With an equal opportunity to do what he wanted, how he wanted to do it.

The folks whose heads explode even thinkiing about taxes need to stop and consider: Even though a huge percentage of your dough is being confiscated by the gummit… are you being restrained from being more successful? Has some jack-booted thug come by and placed a ceiling on your dreams and goals? Are you being thwarted from creating your own little empire of wealth and fame?

Okay, if your idea of a good biz is engaging in illegal shit, then sure — you’re being thwarted.

Otherwise… gimme a break.

Choose your battles.

And if you want a seat at the Feast of Life, get your head clear. People with a chip on their shoulder, permanently pissed off about boogeymen coming to steal their “stuff”, aren’t welcome. The Feast is an optimistic place — not immune from caution, prepared for calamity, and alarmed at real dangers… but still hugely and gratefully optimistic.

The entire world needs help. Not bitching and moaning, but real help.

And we can all start by tending our own gardens, and doing what we can to harrass the evil bastards who want the good times brought down.

Choose your battles. If it’s taxes, then great — I wish you all the luck in world. Taxes suck.

It’s just not my battle. I’ve got other, equally urgent and important things to attend to. And I enjoy not having my head explode every time I need to write a check for estimated taxes. I spend somewhere in the vicinity of eight hours a year even thinking about taxes. That’s it.

The rest of my time is mine. To quote Pete Townsend, I call that a bargain.

Geez, I AM grumpy today.

I’ll be better tomorrow, I promise.

If the earth doesn’t swallow us up, that is.

Just felt another one. Screw it — I’m off to the fridge for a cold pale ale…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. At the Mass Control seminar, I announced to the world that we were taking the Bag of Tricks off the table very soon. So it’s officially on the nearly-extinct list… a breath-taking offer so generous (especially with personal attention from me) it will be the stuff of myth when it’s finally gone.

However, we will honor all promises as long as the offer is up at

If the reason your head is exploding is your lack of biz success, then you may wanna check it out.

While it’s still an option, that is.

P.P.S. And, right on cue… Hollywood star Wesley Snipes just got handed a 3-year jail term for avoiding taxes. Misdemeanors. Three years.

He did not wisely choose his battle.

The Fed plays rough.

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  • Laura says:

    John, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Kudos!

    I hope to be writing my first quarterly tax check soon. I’ll keep you posted! 🙂


    P.S. I am an optimist to the core, and would rather be penniless and have all my bills paid (and my taxes) and sleep well, than toss and turn and worry all night and day about it. Not my battle either, my friend.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll save a seat for you at The Feast!

  • Personally, I made a decision 5 years ago to put aside certain sum off ALL my incoming money regardless of the sum I’m expecting and regardless of current expenses I absolutely need to cover – I just told myself “Man, spare yourself at least of this particular headache – you’ve got plenty other things to worry about”. And I didnt regret about that decision not a sinlge time. As saying has it, “you’d better make yourself earn more than trying to make yourself spend less”.

  • Jay White says:

    Great stuff, John–my first year as a copywriter I was a sole proprietor. I knew I was going to get hit with a hefty tax bill, so I basically took 30% of everything I made and put it into a separate account.

    Come tax time, when my accountant handed me the amount owed (with shaking hands), I calmly wrote a check. Because the money was already there. In fact, we overpaid by several grand, so there was a nice bonus.

    Now we’re doing the LLC and S Corp thing, so I’m also paying on a regular basis. And it doesn’t bother me a bit. If that’s the price to live in the greatest country on earth, like you said–“Who do I pay and how much”? 😉

    Keep it comin’…


  • Mark Thrice says:

    (or 27 in Canada)
    Hey Carlton!

    Nice job! if we could all pull our collective heads out of our collective dark tubes, the world would be a brighter place (from a personal perspective)

    Everyone is writing their own story. It’s either a book of excuses covering why we failed or an epic adventure telling the story of our odyssey.

  • Erick says:

    John, even though you are grumpy 🙂 your words only reveal the clarity on which you have chosen to live. People can say and believe whatever they want, but in the end only a cheap guy (or gal) would choose to become bitter for doing something they cannot avoid.



  • Kyle says:

    Another great post John. A lot of the people who disagree with you really need to get their shit straight and listen to guys like Dan Kennedy and Jim Rohn talk about money.

    It’s funny. A lot of people get angry over taxes, and when we say we are still the dream of the world… even if certain aspects of other countries are ahead of ours… they get even more upset.

    I don’t get it. The things that affect you and I day to day are things we can directly control. The bigger things in our country, we have little (if any) control over we a lot of these guys need to learn to ride them out.

    The economy and the country is going to be in constant change. People can bitch about it all they want, but the truth is, they’ve got to deal with it.

    If people are fed up with taxes being too high and USA not being as “great” as other countries… well… get the hell out. If it’s that big a deal, why are they living here still? In the words of Dan “You’re not a tree. Follow the green signs above the freeway to a new destination.”

    Wow – a mini rant of my own. Again, great post John

    Side note I was watching TV and they were saying milk has risen in price and consumers are going nuts. I was reminded of Halbert talking about the price of stamps going up 35 cents, yet peoples INCOME had gone up in even greater proportion, making stamps an even BETTER by than when they were 2 cents.

    I just don’t see how an entrepreneur or business owner following your advice (or Gary’s, or Jay’s, or Dan’s) could continue to bitch about the price of things or taxes… when we have — literally at our finger tips — the ability to make money out of thin air.

    And do it faster, more effective and easier than 99% of the rest of the population.

    People who read this blog should not be bitching about anything. They should be out their creating what they want in life and being grateful to have the opportunity to do so.


  • Karen says:

    Yes! You may be grumpy JC but you are absolutely right! (No matter which half of the globe you live on, or who you pay your dues to!)

    At least you are only ‘literally’ on shaky ground!

    “Happiness is not a destination: it is a manner of travelling”.

    Yeah, life is good.

  • Loni L. Ice says:

    Mr. Carlton

    Thank you.

    If more people took action to fix their problems instead of trying to convince other people to act on their behalf, it would be a less stressful world by far.

    I wonder when people are going to realize that we all have infinite power and control over our own actions, and exactly none over anyone else’s. I see far too many waste time, energy, and their own daily happiness trying to scream loud enough, when they could be much better occupied by being an example.

    So again, thank you, and I hope the earthquakes don’t swallow you up.

    Loni L. Ice

  • Rocity says:

    How many times is this going to have an impact if
    you are consistent with payments?

    This John at his best and if you don’t see the activity
    then John is not at his best.

    Way to go you make it very interesting.

    Thanks opened my eyes!

  • Leo says:


    I needed that….

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