Archive Monthly Archives: May 2008

Burn Down The House

Thursday, 8:53pm
Reno, NV
“Code Blue! Gimme the paddles…” Dr. House (alot)


You got a favorite TV show?

I was a charter member of the first TV-addicted generation, and I may yet live to see the end of network television as we’ve all known and loved it all these seasons.

The Web’s already killed it for the youngest generations.

Once the last of the Boomers wander off, we’ll take our fond memories of Howdy Doody and The Twilight Zone with us… and no one will much care, being too busy with fourteen incoming Twittering IMs on their ear/eye implants and a fresh scene loading up from the new Grand Theft Auto XXVII they just injected straight into their pituitary gland.

Sometimes I think about that.

Television, easily the most culture-shaping technology advance in the history of mankind… eclipsed before it reached seventy years old… murdered by hotter, more intensely interactive tech. (Okay — I know that television was actually viable in the 1920s, but get real. It wasn’t a cultural phenomenon until the fifties.)

But that’s not what I want to write about tonight.


Instead, something else triggered my interest.

I thought back to the season-ending episode of “House”, which had everyone in the room reaching for tear-soaked tissues (including the cat, who was barely watching).

And, if you’ll give me a minute here, I’m gonna tie that show in with you making money with your ads.

VERY major lesson coming up, so pay attention.

First, though, you gotta put up with some ranting:

/Begin rant: Television, overall, has followed the same arc that — in micro — the show Saturday Night Live has followed: Great for a couple of years… suck for several years… recover, and be great again… then quickly descend into Suckdom once more… and over and over, in a cycle that (someday) historians will probably be able to track down to the second. (“As we can clearly see, class, the show left the rails thirteen minutes into the first episode after Lorne Michaels left in season five… you can almost — chuckle — see it jumping the shark as Louise-Dreyfus sputters in yet another vapid, unfunny scene…”)
/End rant

Speaking of rants, you’ll get some of my very best when you sign up for 11Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now. You get it for free, right here.

And I believe we’re currently in one of the recurring “up” bumps. Always good when you realize there are actually a couple of shows on that DESERVE to be watched. Not brain-dead watching, but active interest watching.

What do you Tivo?

We religiously record House, 30 Rock, The Office (though I suspect the shark is in mid-air on that one), and Manchester United games on Fox Sports. (Okay, Michele won’t watch soccer with me, and I can’t stomach Brothers And Sisters with her. Trade off.)

I love the medium, but I don’t “need” it.

I grew up watching all the sixties sit-com, sci-fi, drama and kitsch I could cram into an evening (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Addams Family, Outer Limits, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, She-Bang, Soupy Sales, Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Monkees… God, I’m embarrassed to admit all that…).

But I watched, primarialy, because it was there. Mom had the kitchen radio on all day (it’s how I discovered rock and roll), and the boob tube was cranked on when Pop came home, and wasn’t turned off until beddy-bye. (Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Where The Action Is, Your Show of Shows, The Match Game…)

Once I was old enough to beg Pop for the car keys, my evening rituals changed dramatically. I didn’t even own a TV through the seventies. (Never saw a single episode of Mork & Mindy, Mary Tyler Moore, or Three’s Company, thank you very much.) (One of TV’s “down” cycles, I would say.) (Showed up, often drunk, at friends’ houses with toobs for SNL, of course.)

MTV and cable brought me back to the fold, fitfully.

Now, I’m in a groove once again.

Gotta have my “House”, and the occasional Law & Order SVU. (BTW: Why is Rooney not playing for Man U lately? Did he get hurt? Traded? What’s up? He wasn’t in the Moscow grueler…)

Okay, back to the point of all this:

The last episodes (it was a twin-hour ending show) of House were pretty riveting television. I’m ALWAYS impressed with good writing (Boston Legal, CSI: NY, the commentors on the World Series of Poker, Californication)… and I’ve learned to watch both passively (to enjoy the moment)…

and to go back over what just hooked me, and watch critically.

I like to break down exactly what the writers did to tweak my emotions, my interest, and ESPECIALLY my resistance to being sucked into the story.

That’s right. With every show, I challenge the writing to do its job.

We have an unwritten rule in the house: Any time either of us can start predicting the dialog before the actors speak it… that show is toast.

The shark has done jumped, when the script is so weak you can burble along with the actors in real time.

So here’s the thing…

… this House final episode (WARNING: Spoiler alert!) polished off one of the major characters. That’s not unique in television… but the way the writers did it defied what any viewer would have predicted.

It was as if… the script burned down the house.

Just created all kinds of emotional havoc and brain-tickling mayhem.

It was that riveting, and satisfying.

I can’t wait for next season. Seriously.

I’m pissed I gotta wait.

I’m addicted.

Consider what the writers did, as you consider how to write compelling, riveting copy yourself.

Sometimes, you gotta burn down the house just to get your prospect’s attention.

Not literally, of course (“you idiot”, House would add).


Most ad copy is like an episode of Three’s Company.

At best, vaguely suggestive, but nothing you’d remember the next day (or even the next hour).

Great copy, on the other hand, is like South Park.

You simply cannot snooze through it.

You gotta be prepared for the reaction, too, if you ever get ballsy with your writing. Not everyone will cheer you on. “He can’t say that, can he?” will be a common response.

“Somebody’s got to do something about that repulsive material.”

“Can’t we shoot them, or deport them, or something?”

I’ve never gone for straight outrage, but neither were my first golf ads greeted with encouragement at the big golf magazines.

They swallowed hard during the first round, took the money, and pretended not to notice how much those 3-page copy-dense beasts fouled up the pretty “look” of their publications.

When my client went back for multiple insertions, it was almost too much to bear.

Fortunately, the publishers were shameless money-grubbing whores, and the ads ran despite the cries of alarm from readers. (But only from readers outside our target market. The guys we were after LOVED those ads.) (Still do.)

We, essentially, burned down the nice golf house, like vandals in a riot.

Something to think about, the next time you absolutely have to get attention for your copy. Don’t you think?

What TV shows do you remember fondly? (I’d watch MTV for hours in the first years, when it was all video, all the time… and I still consider The Larry Sanders Show to be one of the best ever written. Entourage ain’t bad, though it’s occasionally infuriatingly stupid. The Simpsons, yeah. Seinfeld, I guess. What else am I missing here?)

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Do you really want to know how to write ads that “burn down the house?” People are still ripping off my ads from decades ago, and you can find out more about my secrets right here.

Tech Snobs, Geek Angels, and Dinobots

Monday, 7:33pm
Reno, NV
“You called me… Bizzaro. Must be my name.” Bizzaro, Superman’s twisted doppleganger (circa 1958)


I think I just created a new word.

Tell me what you think of it.

It came about this weekend while Michele and I were taking her nephew David out for a “grill lunch”. A grill lunch is where you hold someone you care about (but haven’t seen for a long time) captive for a couple of hours while you grill them on every detail of their lives.

When I was growing up, I always resisted such info-mining, and became a petulant, sulking zipped-lipped prisoner, offering nothing. To this day, the worse way to find out how I’ve been or what I’ve been up to is to ask me directly.

Child psych still works pretty well with my type, though.

Trick me into spilling the beans, and I’ll give it all up.

If you want to stay on the cutting edge of salesmanship and marketing, you can join us right here, and get my free report to boot.

I’m easy that way.

Nephew David, however, is of better stock. He handles grill lunches with grace and wit, and he’s a joy to hang out with.

He’s also my main contact in the new generation coming up the ranks. He’ll be a senior next year at a major mid-western university, studying subjects that didn’t exist when I was in academia.

That is, he’ll be a senior if his summer “project” doesn’t haul in a million bucks, which it could. The kid is tech-savvy to a scary degree, both as a creator of sites and ideas, and as a cutting-edge consumer of technology. And now he’s honing his business chops, too.

He’s got entrepreneur’s blood in his veins, and he smells the financial adventures ahead.

However, my guess is that, like his other summer projects, he’ll experience some success, gain amazing experience, have too much fun, and finish out his education like a champ.

Or, as he refers to himself: Like a budding tech snob.

In other words: He’s SO wired into the virtual culture, that he has a sixth sense of what’s coming down the pipe… and waiting a bit longer to launch into the business world might be an advantage during this phase of the blossoming online world.

What I’m taking from talking to him… is a cultural warning: Increasingly, the gap between tech-savvy kids and technophobic geezers threatens to become an unbridgable chasm.

However, it doesn’t mean the tech snobs will automatically win.

Take, for example, how the ability to be in “constant contact” with your friends has morphed into something weird and icky: A few short years ago, the dude with the cell phone permanently screwed into his ear — so he could chat with both hands free — was either a cultural warrior bravely navigating the far reaches of technology (as he saw himself)… or a shallow chatterbox, devoid of deep thought (as the people around him thought).

This condition (“Phone-Welded-To-Brain-Itis”) is no longer startling to encounter. You see someone walking around in a distracted state, babbling loudly to no one in particular, and you just shrug. He’s not crazy — he’s wired.

Though, sometimes I can’t help myself from leaning over and telling him to say “hello” to Kathy, and that I sure hope she gets those packages out to Fed Ex in time. I mean, I felt such a part of his conversation (it’s called “cell shouting”, with no known cure), it’s like we’re now old buds.


… cell shouting now seems SO innocent, with the arrival of “micro blogging”.

Texting constantly to people wasn’t enough. No.

Now, it’s critical to keep whole populations of other folks hip to exactly what you’re doing at this very second.


I can see where this is going, too.

Once we combine GPS systems, micro-video, and IM with Twitter into something that can be wired directly to your autonomic nervous system, you can be a walking reality show.

Everyone you know will have instant, unrelenting access to your every thought, action, and movement. Like “The Truman Show”, only more invasive. (“Hey, everybody — my iPhone just alerted me that Susie’s blood pressure spiked twenty points, so she must have arrived at the prom… and… wow… looks like she’s gonna fart…”)

Listen: I live with someone, and I often don’t know where she is in the house, or what she’s doing… and I don’t NEED to know.

A little mystery, folks, is not a bad thing.

Here’s some insight from a guy who’s walked both sides of the knowledge divide: When I first met Gary Halbert, I was composing ads on a personal computer (early model), playing hip video games, and totally clued-in to the cultural Zeitgeist… while he was still usng a No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, had zero video-game dexterity, and considered MTV as something akin to an alien invasion of UFOs.

I was in the room when he was ridiculed by other writers, in fact, for his retro-style. Younger, hipper, more tech-savvy writers actually shook their heads and pitied the guy.

That was an important moment for me.

Because I knew that the accoutrements of writing — whether pencils and paper, computers and hard drives, or chisel and clay…

… were irrelevant IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO SAY.

What Halbert possessed was deep experience and knowledge of classic salesmanship… stuff that transcended the physical act of writing. Or talking, for that matter.

For me, it was a major epiphany that still reverberates in my career today.

Technology is fun, and important.

And you very well may be left behind if you refuse to get hip.

If you need to get hip, check out the incredible array of valuable resources right over here. It’s like getting an MBA in biz and marketing in a weekend.

But, dude… it’s still JUST human-to-human communication.

No matter how much electronic whiz-bangery occurs between the thought in your skull and the receipt of that thought by another person… the rather crucial issue of IMPORTANCE still matters most.

I often get blank stares from seminar crowds when I bludgeon them with the concept of learning classic salesmanship early in their quest for wealth and fame. I understand how confusing it can be, too.

In many of the first marketing seminars we gave (back when we were inventing the model), we would often get some guy who would stand up and announce that he’d just popped for THE most expensive and tricked-out computer in existence…

… and now he wanted to know HOW to make money with it.

We’d sigh, collectively. And then patiently explain that, no, it’s not the equipment that brings in the bucks. It’s the brains behind the equipment.

In fact, in most cases the equipment is just a side-show.

I do not remember ever having any of those guys do a double-take as we explained all this, and suddenly say “By Jove, you’re right! I need to learn salesmanship and marketing skills!”

Usually, they stared at us without comprehension. Our answer couldn’t find a toe-hold in their brains.

Back to kids and tech: Nephew David called himself, in a moment of rueful self-actualization, a “tech snob”… because he is SO wired into the technological hinderlands, that he gets bored with “dumb” tech (like software or games or devices diluted for the masses).

When you can write code, you have little patience for people who can’t make their new GPS system work in the car. (We call our GPS “Know It All Betty”, cuz the voice sounds like a Betty, and she DOES pretend to know it all… especially when you miss a turn, and she goes into “scold mode”…)

His aunt Michele, however, sees him as a “Geek Angel”. Because he can explain things in ways she can understand.

To her credit, she first takes the technology she wants to learn to the absolute furtherst reaches of her learning curve… so she’s not bothering him with questions she could find out herself.

When she presents a problem she can’t figure out, she really can’t figure it out… because she’s spent massive hours in dead-ends, and needs help.

A Geek Angel will never be out of a job.

He possesses a rare ability to both immerse into the mysterious Tech Culture and thrive… and yet still be able to sit with unfortunate earth-bound tech-illiterates, and reveal some of the magic to make their lives better.

I’ve heard many tech-savvy people complain about the way clueless friends waste their time with incessant demands to “fix” their buggy computers, or detangle the electronic miasma of their TV remotes. (I have 3 remotes for my plasma, sound system and cable, which can all be thrown utterly out of synch when the dog sits on one of them. Don’t you?)

I sympathize.

I learned long ago not to tell people I’m a writer.

Trust me — soon after revealing your occupation, one of the folks you’ve just enlightened will approach you with a killer offer: “Hey, man. I’ve got a great story to tell. How about you write the screenplay, using my idea, and we’ll split the profits from the movie 50-50?”

I’ve had guys get ugly when I’ve begged off, too.

Hey — all I had to do was write up their idea, you know, do that “typing thing” for a few hours. Greedy bastard. How dare you withhold your pathetic little writing tricks from the rest of us?

I’m sure it’s the same when you’re super tech-savvy, among the tech clueless.

And you ARE an angel when you help, though. Consider it a good deed, which will fortify your karma. (But make sure your second help session includes contacting a professional outfit that offers computer help, so your desperate technophobes have an alternative path when their bugged-up laptop crashes the next time, and they can’t find you.) (Or, you don’t want to be found.)


Here’s the new word I invented: “Dinobot.”

It is, of course, a quasi-clever combo of “dinosaur” and “robot”… and I consider it a description of the best place to be in business right now.

Part old-world, part new-world.

It’s important to have a certain level of tech savvy, if you’re gonna do any online marketing. If you’re a newbie, this transition may be painful… but it’s critical.

Technology is a fact of modern life; no need to get gnarly about it.

There is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.

And we ALL need to learn to thrive in BOTH.

Gone are the days when a marketer could proudly proclaim to be ignorant of new tech. (Hey — it wasn’t that long ago when direct mail, print and broadcast media were the ONLY way to go.)

Also gone are the days when simply being hip to the latest and greatest software applications will give you any astounding advantage online. (Again, not too long ago, just having a pop-up squeeze page would so overwhelm a visitor to your site, that he’d give you his email and name out of existential fear.) (Man, those were the days, weren’t they?)

I don’t expect to win over many converts… but I’ve always taught that the best position to be in… is to straddle the worlds of old-time salesmanship and ultra-modern tech.

Thus: Dinobot.

A little bit of the stubborn street-wise classic salesman… welded to a shrewd knowledge of what the tech is capable of providing you in terms of traffic, attention-getting tactics, and practical social networking.

Emphasis on the word “practical.”

Look — I have immense respect for my colleagues in the online entrepreneurial world. Some of these guys are pulling down vast fortunes while literally creating the business model for Web marketing that will be around for decades to come.

True pioneers.

However, the models they’re creating are all based on concepts that go way back. Essentially, online biz is all about finding a hot market, becoming the “go to guy”, and creating a greased slide sales funnel. Just like offline marketing.

The difference, of course, is in scale, and cost. What would have worked in, say, direct mail… and cost you fifty grand to pull in two hundred grand… can now be re-fitted for the Web, and cost a couple of hundred bucks to bring in the same two hundred thou. Or more.

And instead of months using the postal system… you can use email, and get ‘er done in a few days.

The Web has created an opportunity for anyone to become a filthy-rich capitalist from their kitchen table, using a laptop and a few low-cost online vendors for processing orders and managing data.

I have been one lucky son of a bitch to have a front-row seat for much of this current marketing revolution, too.

I make no claims for exceptionality, other than I have remained open to opportunity my entire career… and I happened to start in the old-world model of direct mail and infomercials, and smoothly segued into the new-world model of online marketing.

And from this cat-bird seat, I can tell you without doubt that the guys raking it in… are all using classic salesmanship, welded to a basic understanding of the current technology. They are NOT geeks. They hire electronic cowboys to wrangle the technological details.

It’s an important realization.

The world is fast moving to a new class system:

  1. The top layer will be the guys who know how to USE the technology to their advantage… and they do not need to be masters of the code and electronics.
  2. The second layer will be the geeks who roll up their virtual sleeves and immerse in the Grid to keep the tech alive.
  3. The bottom layer will be a tiered mess of technology consumers. Some will be mostly clueless. Others will be wired to the max, with a satellite connection installed in their brains.

But they’ll still be “just” consumers.

You wanna grab a seat at the top?

Become a dinobot.

Dude, I’m telling ya. It’s the path less trod, but it’s the way to go.

Okay, I’m done.

What do you think?

Stay frosty,




Lying Little Weasels

Monday, 9:28pm
Reno, NV
“You can always tell when he’s lying to you — his mouth is moving.”


Has anyone lied to you today?

Have you loosed a zinger yourself?

Do you have a sophisticated grading system for your own non-truths, so you can ameliorate any guilt you feel when you only lie a little tiny bit? Or only lie to, you know, spare someone pain? Or keep them blissfully in the dark?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about lies and the miserable bastard weasels who use them as tools for doing business and for controlling their social lives.

One of the hardest lessons to learn, while I was sculpting my career, was how to deal with lies. In all their myriad forms and nuances.

I hung out with shrinks as much as I could — both as paid listeners and as biz colleagues (cuz most psychologists desperately want out of the job of professionally raking the muck in other people’s brains and hearts… and every time one would sense an opening through Halbert or me into the entrepreneurial world, they jumped at it). (Some of the weirdest stories I have entail shrinks and marketing misadventures.)

Dudes who study human behavior (and all its sordid and disheartening variations) professionally know some amazing things about people. For a salesman, this is fabulous insider knowledge, and we crave and seek it.

And one of the main things I picked up from a shrink wannabe-entrepreneur… was his idea of how to divide the human population into three basic categories:

1. Those who saw the world as mostly safe…

2. Those who saw the world as mostly dangerous…

3. And those who had a well-defined, balanced view of things as they really are.

This last group might well be called “adults”. Not as in “you’re just turned 21, so you’re now an adult”… but rather “you’re the only guy in the room who isn’t driven and tortured by demons, guilt and sick needs.”

I must say: Growing up as I did… snug in the biggest bulge of the post-war Baby Boom and nurtured by parents devoted to giving their kids a real childhood (without spoiling us)… I treated the entire world around me as a big, mostly-safe playground. I easily took too many risks, pulled too many completely stupid stunts, and contantly put myself and others in situations where somebody could have gotten seriously hurt or killed.

Living through it made us stronger. Amazingly, no one suffered any permanent damage (other than a few nasty scars, busted bones and popped vertebrae).

My cousins (co-agents of adventure with me throughout childhood) and I are just stunned by the leeway we were given: We absolutely had to be home at certain hours, and we never dared break that taboo. We had to be polite to grown-ups, and do what we were told. We had a few chores here and there, and any added responsibilities that came up were to be done without complaint.

Other than that… we were like little Viking mauraders, unleashed on the neighborhoods to pillage and lay waste to everything we could tear up, burn, or steal.

Mom would wave goodbye on a typical summer day, warn us to be home for lunch… and then she would not have a clue where we were or what we were doing for the next four hours. We’d show up, dirty and panting (and maybe a little bloody), gobble food, and leave again until dinner.

No questions asked, no information offered.

The world was ours. As far as the folks were concerned, kids needed to be kids… and you just sort of hoped some sense or help from angels or something would intervene in any serious danger.

(Once, exploring New York City with my pal David Deutsch, we started chatting with a couple eating pizza next to us, because David has a couple of kids nearly the age of their two young boys. I was shocked to learn that the oldest boy — who was almost thirteen — had NEVER been out of their Manhattan apartment without adult supervision. NEVER! They talked excitedly about maybe allowing him to take a walk around the block or even — gasp! — ride the subway for a stop or two… alone. Maybe they’d let him do that, in the near future. Maybe. I’m still stunned at that — kids growing up without the space to get in trouble, and figure out how to get OUT of that trouble. I don’t think that’s a make-up skill you can master very easily, once you’re an adult…)

Anyway, my point is that I grew up with this possibly exaggerated sense of how safe the world was. This caused some problems as I got old enough to drive… and challenge other boys for the right to date some girls… and try to find my place in the hive.

We started losing friends in car crashes. I myself was in around a dozen bloody wrecks before I left college, and I’m pretty sure our Boomer sense of invulnerability was behind our dumbest choices and decisions.

I was in high school before I started realizing that some of the other kids didn’t share my sense of entitlement to enjoy the wonders of the world. They were hostile to the idea of unfettered adventure, or had such strict home rules they never dared dream of going out at night to see what might happen… or, sometimes, they just seemed cowed and broken.

Like the weight of the world was crushing them.

I even went out of my way to make friends with some depressed kids, and drug them into my social circle almost as a sponsor. But there was always some horrible secret burning inside them, and they tended to suck energy out of the room rather than supply energy.

Many years later — after life had delivered some very adult-like blows to my self-esteem — I got a good taste of what depression could do to you. It tightened you up, bled you of vigor, and exhausted your heart just getting through a day. Fun was hard to come by.

The world seemed… hostile.

I have empathy for people in all the categories now. Been there, felt that, survived all of it.

Makes you humble. And gives you insight.

The world, as I now clearly see it, is both dangerous and delightful… often at the same time. I hitch-hiked for years without problem (and with a novel’s worth of adventure) before I even knew what a serial killer was. Can’t even imagine doing it now. Can’t believe I never had any trouble before. Would NOT recommend it to anyone today.

There are dark alleys, here and there, you can wander through without fear. Mostly, though, I avoid them all. (I’ve been writing for the self-defense market too long, perhaps… seen too much of the bad side of people.)

I have no allusions of safety among my fellow citizens. Nor do I keep a loaded pistol next to my bed, though. (I prefer the baseball bat.)

What’s all this got to do with lying?


See, when the world seems safe, you don’t look for lies. You take people at face value, and accept statements as either true or possibly true until they are proven otherwise.

This seemed like a great way to move through the world, for a long time.

Once I went deep into the business world, however, I realized I was being seen as a fool for having so much trust in other people. I started encountering whole roomfuls of folks who considered everything you said an outrageous lie until you could be proven to have told the truth.

Lying as the default position?

This was like Alice in Wonderland for me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a world where you couldn’t trust most folks, most of the time.

It felt too… lonely. Like it was you against the world, every second of the day.

Fortunately, I soon discovered a whole segment of business people who felt as I did. Except, they had developed a kind of “lie radar” inside their intuition that operated 24/7, quietly and in the background.

They would always entertain whatever they were told as true, but not act until they got the report from their “lie radar”. It might start with a feeling, that you followed with a little easy research or a phone call to someone who might confirm or deny certain elements, followed with some mild questioning of the speaker.

I liked this approach. It didn’t matter if the other guy was lying through his teeth, because I wasn’t gonna act one way or another on what he said until I verified it. There was ALWAYS something positive to pull from any meeting or experience in business… even if what I pulled from it was a little practice in being patient, and testing my immediate intuition against hard-core research into facts.

I don’t feel so lonely, as I would if I walked around (like many folks I know) assuming that everyone was lying through their teeth, and out to get me.

I probably get “taken” a few more times than the paranoid dude… but I’ll enjoy my calmer life (full of friends who share my worldview of “mostly not dangerous”) and accept the occasional screwing like a man. (Besides — I’ve also noticed, in my long career, that the pissed-off, brick-on-shoulder guy always looking for the scam also gets tricked fairly often anyway. His snarling defenses are like an empty moat, as worthless against a skilled liar as the most gullible dude around.)

I get irked when people lie. Don’t get me wrong.

But I don’t take it personally (unless it IS personal) (which hasn’t happened to me in decades).

People lie. For all kinds of reasons. They can’t handle getting yelled at, they’re just trying to spin things so they don’t look like idiots, they think they can avoid responsibility or consequences… it’s a long list.

Some do it just because they can.

Others do it to position themselves.

And when you think about it… once you get over the myth that lying is an aberration in human behavior, and realize that most folks waddle through their day weaving one tall tale after another (often for reasons they can’t even fathom themselves)… there’s little downside to conducting yourself with full knowledge that everyone around you is delivering a soupy mix of truth, half-truth, and damned lies every single day.

Heck — James Bond, one of my literary heroes, was a professional liar. Just part of his toolkit for survival. I have friends who exaggerate so much, you start to doubt every detail they offer in a story… and yet, they remain friends. I just work a tiny bit harder to find the nuggets of truth in what they say, and ignore the fluff.

I’ve been a lifelong fan of tall tales, too. I’ll add a few outrageous details to a story, just to emphasize some angle, or to call attention to the absurdity or irony of a plot twist. (“The poodle was, like, twelve hundred pounds. Couldn’t fit through the door.” “We loved going spelunking in the county sewer pipes, where you could walk for miles in six-foot diameter tunnels in pitch darkness. Sometimes, we’d lose one of the kids if he fell behind. I’m sure there’s at least one of them still down there, turned into a troll.”)

Professionally, however, I have developed a sharp ear for red flag lying, after years in the smoldering center of the biz world. Sometimes it’s just a tiny blip on my “lie radar”… a tick that others can’t even detect.

This happened last week, when one of my assistants related the “confirmation” of all email problems being fixed by an Infusion customer service rep. To my ass’t, the FUBAR situation must have been cleared up, because the CSR weasel told him it was.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Tell me exactly what that ‘confirmation’ was.”

“He confirmed all was okay,” said my ass’t, confidently. “He said everything should be fixed now.”



“Terminate the batch emailing,” I ordered. “Right fucking NOW.”

One weasel word, which slipped by less experienced ears, froze my gut.

And, it turned out, I was right to be alarmed. The bug wasn’t fixed at all, and if we hadn’t terminated the job, tens of thousands of blank emails would have gone out… ruining my reputation and denting our credibility. (As it was, several thousand did get out… thanks to the lying little CSR weasel at Infusion.)

Words matter. Doctors repeated told my family — back when my Mom took sick — that they were “confident” they could predict how the cancer would take her out. Six months, for sure, some said. Three months, said others.

This didn’t sit right with me. I dug deeper, and discovered than four different docs had four different ideas of what KIND of cancer she had. Bone. Breast. Liver. Lung.

They were lying.

They didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

We didn’t ask them for a prediction of when it would be over. They just offered it.

Lying weasels.

What IS it about so many people… that they are simply incapable of saying “I don’t know”?

I have searched in vain, my entire career, for the answer to that ridiculous question.

There is no shame in not knowing an answer.

And yet, to my mind, there is TERRIFIC shame in making something up, as if your imagination and your desire to be a know-it-all trumped reality.

Lying is all around us.

It’s a piss-poor way to get through a situation, but some forms of lying are just built into the human hard drive.

Work on your own “lie radar”. Simply make a mental note of what someone tells you, and then check it out. They don’t need to know what you discover. But you do.

You don’t “win” anything by confronting a liar, most of the time. Many people cannot abide by what they consider an affront against Truth, and they will verbally assault anyone they catch lying. As if the universe will not be right until the lie is confronted, confessed, and scorched by the light of day.

And these avengers lustily engage in lie-witch-hunts while ignoring their own culpubility in twisting things once in a while.

It’s not your job to set everything straight in the world. In my experience, liars don’t often “get away” with much, over the long haul. They may see short-term benefits, but they’re living a spiritually unhealthy life… and it catches up with you, eventually.

The Zen warrior would rather learn the truth in secret, than share in a communal lie. That can be lonely… but when you surround yourself with honorable people, the truth is always welcome, and you can even forgive small transgressions (since you don’t act on their version of things without fact-checking everything first, anyway).

Sure, it’s complex. Tangled webs and all that.

Work on your intuitive radar.

All top marketers possess it… and most became good at it only after years of disciplined practice and follow-through.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Just a small warning — the slots in the “Launching Pad” consulting program are dwindling, especially in the near-term.

To see how you can be “John’s New Best Friend” for a month, and get unbelievable personal access to me (and Stan) while going deep into your biz and plans, go to:

And see what’s going on. It’s intense mentoring, as the folks who’ve been through it will tell you.

And I ain’t lying.

P.P.S. One last thing — for folks like Karen, who aren’t getting their email notifications when I blog (thanks, Infusion)… just remember that I’m being fairly faithful to a Monday-Thursday schedule. I blog on Monday, and then again on Thursday of each week.

That’s the plan.

Rain or shine. (Though I did miss a couple during the heavy traveling days recently.)

So go ahead and drop by, even if you haven’t gotten an email.

I’m always dinking around here with some idea or notion or whatever…

Yes, That Funky Email You Just Got Was A Mistake…

Thursday, 11:58am
Reno, NV
“No, really, everything’s fine, I swear it…”


If you received a strange email from my office this morning, please just delete it. And forgive us.

We trusted the geeks, and we got burned.

We’ve got our fingers crossed here that the damage has been somewhat controlled.

But damage there is.

The company that handles our outgoing email blasts loves to deliver fresh hell whenever possible to clients.

Their system went berzerk last night, like a crazed robot in a bad science fiction flick. And it sent out several thousand emails from me that were either entirely blank… or full of gobbledegook.

The beauty of this blunder is that the company KNEW there was a glitch in the system… but they didn’t want to tell any of their clients. Thought they’d sneak in a fix before anyone noticed. They alerted NO ONE of this problem.

They are assholes.

We think we stopped the emailing monster before it went to the entire list… but I’ve gotten a few private messages from friends mocking me about the stupid-looking emails they just received, so I know these errors went out to a lot of folks.

It makes me look like an idiot, and that’s just something I’ll have to endure. Shit happens, as they say.

Actually, in the great scheme of things, this hardly qualifies as a catastrophe. It’s an annoyance that may cost us the trust of some people, may cause some opt-outs, may dent my credibility.

We’ll survive.

The company behind the email FUBAR may fare less well. An organization that is charged with the care and feeding of someone’s list — the most valuable asset of any client, anywhere — needs to think carefully before trying to hide software screw-ups like this.

We had one of their “customer service reps” LIE to us about what was going on. Just lie, as if making something up would somehow create an alternative reality where everything really was fine.

This sniveling little twit told my assistant that “your emails should be okay” when we called to ask about the disturbing test emails coming back blank. That word “should” sent shivers up my spine, and I ordered the job terminated.

Now, they tell us they’re “pretty sure” they stopped the damage at a few thousand blank emails.

Oh… and we “probably” shouldn’t email anything until tomorrow. All will be hunky-dory then.

Of course it will.

Again — my apologies if you received one of the blank (or otherwise funky) emails today.

We trusted the geeks, and they failed us.

Ah, well. It’s a lovely day outside…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

The Amazing List of Vanishing Shit

Monday, 8:31pm
Reno, NV
“Where’s my flying car?”


This doesn’t exactly qualify as a “deep thought”… but I’m wondering what you can come up with to help fill out this list.

What list?

Why, the amazing “List Of Vanishing Shit”, of course.

It’s a low form of looking ahead. Prognosticating. And, maybe, predicting the future, too.

I started this list back when I was living at the beach near Los Angeles and — I still shudder just thinking about it — occassionally considering writing a screenplay for the moving pictures.

Hell, everyone else I knew was doing it. Even the guy flipping burgers at Scotty’s on the Strand had a dog-eared script in the glove compartment of his car. (“It’s Die Hard meets The Brady Bunch!”)

You think movies are bad today… you’re just in denial.

They sucked even worse 25 years ago. It’s been a long, horrifying slide to the bock-like dredges of mediocrity and beyond.

And this is where “The List” got started.

See, back in the bad old 1980s, Hollywood started producing movies filled with technology. And they didn’t realize how badly ANY mention of high-tech would date the flick, almost within the year. They’d have actors pretend to interact with computers, for example, but the graphics on the monitor were obviously created by some special effect yo-yo who’d never used a PC before. (Producers were just beginning to realize how much money there was in post-run profits… starting with foreign sales and those new-fangled video-rental stores popping up in every neighborhood…)

There was no mention of the Web until the nineties.

And cell phones… well, I just saw a late-night cable action flick where the hero had a mobile phone the size of a shoebox, with a three-foot aerial you had to pull out. This was supposed to be a sign the dude was cutting edge hip, like James Bond.


And the monstrous phone was connected by a cord to a backpack. That was cell-phone technology, circa late 80s.

I know. I bought one of those monsters. They called ’em “car phones” back then, because you needed a power source, like the cigarette lighter on a dashboard. The main unit weighed around six pounds, and came with a strap.

Cost around a grand… and cell coverage, even in metro LA, consisted of maybe ten square miles.

I heard of a group of people recently who compete with each other, while watching old films, to point out when having a real cell phone (like you have today) would change the plot of the movie dramatically. It’s shocking.

I just watched a few minutes of a late-nineties film where people mocked the guy who had a cell phone — it was a faux pas to even possess that Yuppie shit. Like he was being pretentious.

My, how fast things are changing.

Anyway, every time I started to even think vaguely about a plot for a screenplay, I was conscious of how tough it would be to write one that wouldn’t need serious changes when technology changed again.

That problem is easily solved by either writing a period piece from the past, or going WAY into the future and making up new technology (harder than it sounds — “Alien”, from 1979, spent a gazillion bucks dreaming up the most out-there technology… and the computers they presented — outrageous for ’79 — weren’t even close in function to the first clunky PCs that hit the market just a few years later).

In fact, nearly all the sci-fi from pre-2000 seems tame or silly now. No one, back then, could even conceive of how SMALL silicon circuit boards would get.

There’s now more computer power in your cell phone than all of NASA had for the first moon landing. (Most of the tech they used was analog, too, not digital. Those guys used slide rules to figure out life-or-death actions while approaching the lunar surface.)

I never did write a screenplay, and probably won’t. (I decided to write novels, slowly, as a hobby instead… and set my plots safely in the past, where unforseen technology mutations won’t change things.)

Still… that list — of Vanishing Shit — keeps getting longer.

The stuff that makes it onto this list… is anything we’re currently using, that is doomed to be a Smithsonian artifact within two-to-five years.

While the early things to make the list seem obvious now — 5-1/4″ floppies, amber screen monitors, expensive digital watches (my friend Art bought one of the first, for two grand… around six months before the first twenty-buck Casio watch came out, with fifty times the features and a teensy battery that wouldn’t quit), carbeurators, mullets, 5-day deordorant pads, bell bottoms on guys (oops, those seem to be coming back), Air Jordans, tuning forks, photo negatives, pay phones in every aisle on the jet, color separation shops, home popcorn machines, etc — I can tell you from experience that NOTHING was obvious just before the changes happened.

My Pop had the same AT&T dial-up phone on the wall of his house for fifty years. Same phone number, too (though it kept getting longer as stuff like area codes were added). We put on a longer cord at some point (so I could yank the phone barely outside the back door to talk to girls), but that was it.

Hell, we were on a party line for my entire youth. (You don’t even know what that is, do you. You shared the phone line with neighbors… so, when the whack-jobs across the street got drunk and left their phone off the hook, you could sit for hours listening to them fight. You couldn’t make or receive a call until they hung up, though. It sucked.) (And the nosy old lady next door listened in on calls — you could hear the click as she picked up, and as she got more deaf over the years, you could hear her breathing while you chatted, too.)

I grew up with 45rpm singles and 33-1/3 LP records played on a turntable with a diamond needle. In the car we had 8-track stereos (a few losers had 4-tracks), and if you wanted FM you had to buy a separate tuner at Radio Shack and spend all afternoon shorting out your electrical system hooking it up. Cassettes were a revelation. CDs were a conspiracy.

But hey — no moss on this dinosaur. I still have a bulging file of free songs I pulled off the original Napster (when it could take an hour to download “Itchycoo Park” from someone’s computer in Prague)… and my iTunes library will play for a week without repeating.

I’ve copied all my document files to floppies, then to Zip discs, then to CDs, then to backup hard drives, then to thumb drives. (Ever try to find a Zip drive lately?) (Try eBay.)

Okay, you get the idea.

Here’s what I’ve come up with to add to The List lately:

Free email. Virtual “postage” is coming, no matter how much you hate the idea. People will look back on these days of casually sending out batch emails to 50,000 names at no cost with disbelief.

Anything that’s “just” a camera. My new Flip videocam has all the other cameras at Best Buy shaking in terror — the simplicity, the ease of transfering (it’s YouTube ready!), the stunning image quality… all of it is just the tip of iceberg. Do you honestly think we won’t have video cams implanted in our hairline soon… in an out-patient fifteen-second operation done by clerks in stores?

Credit cards. Either fingerprints or retina scans will bury the plastic. ATM cards, too. (Plot points of cutting out someone’s eye and using the bloody pulp to get past retina scans are now plentiful, but I’ll bet the actual technology nullifies that idea.)

Keyboards. They’ve been tough to kill — I now use ergonomic split-and-raked QWERTY keyboards… but it’s a mystery why the superior DVORAK models never took hold. Now, it’s a moot point. Soon, voice recognition will replace most keyboard useage, along with tablets. The keyboard will never go away entirely… but just as email caused a resurgance in “letter writing” ability, so the tablets will (I think) bring back handwriting. Maybe. Okay, maybe that’s a nutty notion…

Glasses? I’ve set up four different appointments for corrective laser surgery, and cancelled each time. (I’ve got dry eyes. And I’ve met a few of those “one percent” folks for whom the surgery went South. Not good. Still, I hear even newer technology is arriving soon that eliminates even the small problems…)

TVs. How long until your TV is just a rolled up sheet of resilient screen that you hang anywhere, and use a tiny universal remote the size of a booger to operate? Or, heck, where’s our 3-D stuff, like in Star Wars? I know several guys whose only reason for living is the prospect of 3-D porn…

Free water. Just wait. Fresh water is fast becoming the new oil. The first modern shoot-out in this country over drinking water is just around the corner.

Money. Cue the conspiracy theorists. The greenback hasn’t been backed by anything other than a vague promise from the Man for a generation. And your bank accounts and IRAs and brokerage accounts are just blips in a computer somewhere. The cashless society is nigh.

Cell phones. The evidence is mounting that we’re frying our brains with the things. Something’s gonna give, once the initial suspicions become double-blind facts. And, just like cigarettes, they’ll have to pry the phones from our cold, dead fingers…

Heck, I’m looking around my office, shocked. I’m cleaning out some nooks and crannies, and in the five years I’ve been here, just the technology for the computer mouse has morphed into weird new directions. (And yet, I had to haul out a corded “regular” phone recently, when my wireless models kept screwing up the audio on some teleconferences.) (CORDS on a phone! How retro chic.)

Static photos in frames, that don’t move. Or have audio. They use up too much power, but I love those new frames that loop long videos of foreign scenes and scenic landscapes in real-time. I can see having dozens of them throughout the house, with personal videos playing, custom video streams, and video feeds from something like a subscription satellite-based company. They fire up whenever a carbon-based lifeform comes near.

Paying for wireless access in hotels. Already going away.


…it’s your turn.

What would you add to The List?

It’s not a waste of time. I know someone who paid big bucks for a new TV last year that had no HD capability. Last year! He bought a non-BluRay DVD player, too. They saw him coming.

More important, just thinking about this stuff will keep you hip to how things are changing. Cuz they ARE. I’m guilty myself (especially on this blog) of sticking with dated designs way too long… but we make up for it by using video, Web 2.0 networking, and other cool innovations even while they’re still cutting-edge.

Sorta like having a covered wagon with a satellite dish and solar panels, but that’s what’s great about the entrepreneurial world: You can be eccentric, and still make it work.

Anyway, what’s your addition to The List?

And no fair saying it doesn’t matter, cuz we’re all gonna go up in a nuclear holocaust soon.

That’s no fun. And I’ve been hearing that bullshit since I was ten years old. (I’m one of the original “duck and cover” Boomers, you know.)

C’mon. Think about it. Golf courses, gone? Bowling alleys? (They’re already vanishing as fast as the buffalo.) Gas guzzlers? The Concorde jet went bye-bye, replaced by Air Busses the size of Vermont.

With rising oceans, are Amsterdam and Venice going the way of Atlantis?

Just consider the implications of water shortages. On sewage removal, for example. Yuck. On lawns in suburbia. Ice in drinks.

Boxing is getting pummeled by mixed martial arts. Hockey could make a comeback with HD (finally, you can SEE the freakin’ puck!)… just as older actors quit in horror at seeing every blemish magnified.

And why are ties still around for men’s suits? Even Jimmy Kimmel wears one. Jimmy Kimmel!


Okay, I’m done for now.

Let’s hear your contribution.

Put it in the comments section below…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. (Is the “P.S.” doomed to the dustbin of history, too?) We’re planning some truly stunning stuff for the near future here at Marketing Rebel.

If all you’ve been doing is reading this free blog, then you’re already missing out. The easiest (and cheapest, you cheap bastard) way to get involved is still to hop over to, and join the Marketing Rebel Radio Rant Coaching Club.

You’re a fool not to at least try it out. You can quit anytime, with zero penalty. We play no games, do no sneaky stuff to trap people. It’s an amazing resource.

Check it out. Stan and I are waaaay out on the cutting edge on a lot of things now cooking online, and we share it all.

Time to get involved.


Thursday, 8:17pm
Reno, NV
“…and I’m doing this, and I’m signing that…” Mick Jagger, “Satisfaction”


I’m gonna be flat-out honest with you: I’m freaking exhausted.

The “17 Points” workshop is in the can, but it took a piece out of us to pull off. Three entire days, morning to evening, locked in mortal combat with Truth, Insight, and The Path To Riches & Spiritual Fulfillment.

Man, it was fun.

But grueling. In that “everything got revealed (and then some)” way.

I’ll be sharing more of what exactly was shared at this one-of-a-kind event later… but for now, I just want to gloat a bit.

I mean… NO ONE else puts on events like this. I honestly believe hosting one of these marathon teaching workshops would kill your average guru. Even the ones half my age. Just curl ’em up and leave a singed hulk trailing wisps of bacon smoke.

You really shoulda been there, you know.

Oh, wait… you were invited. But you missed out on your spot by not gaming the auction, didn’t you.

Ah, well. I’d say “next time”, but without an act of God (like the video spontaneously combusting), there won’t BE a next time. My entire career was metaphorically aimed at this one single in-depth workshop… and I pushed myself as hard as I’ve ever pushed.

And I ain’t never giving it again.

It was just too exhausting.

Have you ever stood on your feet for three solid days, keeping your mind completely engaged, in fever-pitch mode… working without a net, in front of appropriately-greedy people who have paid big bucks for the opportunity to suck every scrap of wisdom from your skull?

I can’t say I recommend it.

Other folks put on big damn seminars with a mob in the audience, and as impressive a line-up of speakers as they can bribe or cajole into showing up. The actual host is onstage for only a short amount of time. He’s more of a ring-leader and MC.

I like that model fine. It’s a good way to present a lot of stuff to a lot of people.

But my DNA just won’t allow me to host that kind of event.

I cut my teeth, long ago, with Halbert, doing intimate and shockingly-interactive seminars with relatively small groups of people… most of whom were highly skeptical of the whole scene. We had no script, no “battle plan” for how to proceed, no clear idea of what was gonna happen from hour to hour… and it was just us on the stage, with little or no backup.

And we liked it that way.

It was theater-meets-the-barroom-brawl time. We took each attendee through their paces, and kept the entire event utterly and completely focused on real-world solutions to the actual marketing problems they brought to us.

No theory. No bullshit academics. No clever speeches. And no pitching.

Just raw, nasty, front-trenches marketing hard work.

Once you get a taste for that kind of impromptu action, “regular” seminars full of talking heads seem boring and nowhere near dangerous enough.

My seminars are always small, always unpredictable, always pumping adrenaline and endorphines… because the live, unrehearsed, uncensored interaction of host-and-attendee IS dangerous and exciting.

Hey — the action kept me going for three packed days.

Kept the attendees on their toes, too.

It was a raging success, by all metrics.

But I’m never, ever, doing it again.

Still, I’m sitting here laughing out loud, remembering some of the stories we pulled from the extended weekend. It was great having my long-time buds David Deutsch and Garf (David Garfinkel) as wingmen, watching my back from the audience. The hotel was perfectly placed between Chinatown and North Beach (where Kerouac and The Dead hung out) — fabulous food, ambience up the yin-yang (literally, if you went into Chinatown), all the energy that comes from hanging out in the nerve-center of a bitchin’ city like San Francisco.

Plus, witnessing Deutsch attempt to murder Garf with an IED of olive oil and glass was just priceless. Later, we all made up and toured Carol Doda’s old haunt for laughs, along with the new “Beat Museum” (Ginsberg’s typewriter!).

Ever had a Chinese foot massage in a room filled with top Web marketers, all half-drunk and giggling?

I’m truly sorry you missed this event, I really am.

We may have a few video snippets to share with you, soon. But we will not be releasing the DVDs of the event (like we have for the other seminars/sweatshops I’ve held).

Naw. This one was too special. For now, the hot stuff is staying in the vault.

And I’m gonna bask in the warmth of having pulled it off for a little while here.

A little creative gloating. There hasn’t been anything in any of the other marketing events you’ve heard of… that is even remotely close to what was shared in this workshop.

I wish you coulda been there.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

PS: Just a note to the curious here — the schedule for the much-desired “Launching Pad” coaching option (what we call around the office “Be John’s New Best Friend For A Month”) is starting to look like the 405 during the morning commute. In other words: Packed.

Over the past months, while we’ve been on the road (to Kern’s “Mass Control” event, Eben’s “Altitude” spectacular, Schefren’s Orlando seminar, and everywhere else we’ve been traipsing around) people have aggressively cornered Stan or me and grilled us on the availability of this super-intense consulting opportunity.

If even a fraction of those folks follow up, we’ll be booked solid soon. It’s first-come, first-served, though… so, while there are spots on the schedule, you have a shot.

Check it out at