Making God Laugh

Thursday, 10:03pm
Reno, NV
“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” Ratzo Rizzo (Midnight Cowboy)


If you don’t mind… I’d like to take a little informal poll here.

Here’s the question: What are your plans for the summer?

I’m serious. I wanna know.

In fact, I find myself obsessing on how people plan for seasons. I grew up quite happy to be told (in vague yet restrictive terms) what I could do each new season: Go to school. Go to school some more. Okay, now you can go to school, and play baseball in the evenings. Good. Now, school’s out, so you can do anything your vandalizing heart desires. Just be home in time for dinner.

That routine didn’t work out so well when I reached adulthood.

I still have trouble making too many plans. I have goals, and I’ve laid out “time maps” for reaching them… but as far as specific plans, I’m all about avoidance.

Part of it is superstition. That old saying “If you want to make God laugh, make plans” was tailor-made for guys like me.

It’s like taunting death and nightmare, pretending in June to believe the world will still be here in, say, August.

Nevertheless… I find myself on the precipise of yet another summer… with plans up the yin-yang.

How did this happen?

I’m not complaining. I used to complain about plans being made with me involved, because part of me feared that committing to anything months down the road might keep me from doing something more fun. You know, something else that might come up, last-minute-wise.

I don’t know what.


Back when I was a slacking hippie loser, there really WOULD be cool stuff that popped up enexpectedly. Especially during summertime.

A party, maybe. Or an adventure in Yosemite, or an invite to someone’s cabin near the beach, or…


My more organized friends, of course, were off traipsing around Europe, and apprenticing with mentors, and building thier resumes. That doesn’t happen by accident.

You gotta plan for it.

Anyway… I just made my four-way plane reservations for the first of several trips I’m taking this summer. A little business, a little pleasure, a little grey area mix of the two.

First up: Noo Yawk City.

Where — if you bothered to read the email I so thoughtfully sent you today — Stan and I will hold a rare one-day Hot Seat workshop with five fast-on-their-feet attendees.

If you’re on my list, you’ve been invited. But you gotta score one of those five seats — no one else will get in.

If you somehow missed seeing that email, go here to check out the opportunity:

New York City. What a concept.

We’ll do a full day of hot seats on Monday, June 30 (and then take you out to dinner in the city). We’re offering this because so many people have told us they wished we’d do a Hot Seat seminar on the East Coast, and have it during the week (because some folks just can’t make it for a weekend). So we’re doing this on a Monday.

This is gonna be so cool.

Now, I’m in New York that Monday, because I’m also scheduled to speak at Ron LeGrand’s “Information & Internet Marketing Bootcamp” in Myrtle Beach, SC, on Friday, June 27th. (To check this ultra-cool event out, go here:

I get to South Carolina via Las Vegas, a day before… where I’m meeting up with Jeff and Jon Walker and a whole mob of other top marketers for a big damn brainstorm.

I just booked the airline tix: Reno to Viva Vegas, Vegas to Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach to NYC, NYC to Atlanta, Atlanta to… Reno again.

I’m off on a circular adventure!

Meanwhile, my partner Stan (who hasn’t enjoyed a calm, home-bound summer in a decade) won’t set foot in their San Fran house for six or seven weeks… bouncing between New Joisey, Europe, meeting me during each leg of my trip, back to Europe, back to Joisey…


What do you got going?

I think we’ve scored a cool beach house for part of a week in July. In August, I’m going to eastern Washington to see family, then Portland (one of my favorite cities).

And there’s a nagging notion in the back of my head that I’m forgetting about some committment for a seminar or something in late August.

I’m afraid to bring up the calendar and look.

I’m speaking in Dubai (!) in December, I’m pretty sure (along with pals like Mike Filsaime and Joel Comm).

But that’s a looooooooooong way off.

Isn’t it?

Summer used to last a lifetime, when I was a kid. More things would happen to me in a day than happen to me in a month now. I could get sunburned in the morning swimming, heal by afternoon into a bronzed tan while climbing trees in the park, and get in thirty games of over-the-line before inventing another “monster in the back yard” game at dusk. Then watch sci-fi films until our eyes bled, and be forced into bed at the very latest hour possible, still pumped.

I miss that sense of endless fun.

I miss living life like I was in a Beach Boys song.

So many biz out there think summer is “too slow to consider serious business projects”… which may still be true, for some markets, in the brick-and-mortar world. (Most of Europe still abandons the joint for August, I hear.)

If you’re online, however, summer isn’t recognized by the Web. Some of the most profitable launches in history have been pulled off during the Dog Days of summer. (John Reese made a point of pulling off his breakthrough Traffic Secrets launch in August, cuz he enjoyed the story value.)

One man’s vacant parking lot is another man’s teeming virtual mob of cash-in-hand customers.

I’d love to take the summer off. Do nothing but read, lounge, noodle with music, play with the dogs, soak up some culture and sea air, and let my mind wander wherever it pleased.

I’ll have to plan ahead to make that happen, though, this season. Otherwise, the calendar will be filled by opportunities that despise a vacuum.

Man… I better get Golf Week pehciled into the schedule. (Stan and I haven’t missed Golf Week — where we leave the homestead and the ladies and trundle off somewhere shockingly-cool to do nothing but play successive golf games on bitchin’ courses — in 15 years now. It’s a tradition.) (The best part is explaining to the other guys on our impromptu foursome each day that, yeah, we’re doing this for a whole week. Eat, golf, drink, golf, sleep, golf, golf, golf, golf. The look in most guys’ eyes is priceless — every golfer wants to do something like this, and most just cannot make it happen. The power of goal-setting and planning, right there…)

You doing anything interesting?

My pal Dave Kekich (a close bud of the dearly-missed Big Ugly Guy, who I keep in touch with) has spent a lifetime pursuing specific strategies to live just a little bit deeper each year. One of the ways he motivates himself is to keep a little chart close by… which lists all the summers he has left.

If you figure you’ll live to be 75, you can simply subtract your current age from that number… and that’s how many summers are still on your dance card.

It’s kinda abstract.

Yet, when you see it in black-and-white, on a chart… that number looks so pitifully small that it can clench up your gut.

Summer’s are precious. Heck, every day is precious… and I love each season for the peculiarities they all have. I often consider autumn to be my favorite… except when summer is sliding up fast on the tail of spring, and the nights start getting warm and achingly pleasant…

A dying man would give up all his millions for just one more summer day. Never forget what’s irreplaceable in your life, and what’s just shallow bullshit.

Hell. I’m signing off, and going outside. The Milky Way is blazing tonight, and nothing on TV can come close to that kind of glory…

C’mon, let’s discuss summer plans. Business, pleasure, obligation, rare opportunity…

What d’ya got going?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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  • Jay says:


    This poke really spoke to something inside of me, something I’ve always felt for the summer months but never knew how to articulate. Especially “that sense of endless fun.” Seriously, gave me chills.

    As for my summer plans, I’m trying for a “perfect mix” of work and play. I celebrated the end of my college semester on 20MAY by going to a Van Halen concert. Nothing says “it’s summertime, baby!” like singing along to “Jump” and “Panama” with 10,000+ people!

    Went to a local show last night with this new girl I’ve been hanging out with. It’s a 3 hour drive from here to Philly, but I gotta say, I’ve had some of my deepest and most memorable conversations in cars, on long drives like that.

    I’ve got Pearl Jam lined up soon, a couple of baseball games (Mets and Red Sox) and I’m planning an end-of-summer road trip to West Palm Beach. Hopefully, lots of “God damnit, I’m only gonna be 21 once!” fun and partying.

    Then there’s work. I’m doing well on a freelance basis, but I’m never happy with the status quo. (I think that’s one of the biggest double-edged swords of ambition, but that’s another story…)

    Anyway, once school ended I said to myself, “If I make every day count, I bet I can get some passive income rollin’ in before Fall semester.” Sure enough, I’m gonna be creating my first sales letter/e-course for a client. Ongoing % of the catch and everything. A buddy and I are also gonna launch this “Web 2.0”, community-ish site I dreamed up and see where that goes.

    I look at all this time as an opportunity. A chance to cast a few well-baited lines out there and hope something bites one of ’em.

  • You challenged us to tell stories, so here’s mine:

    18 years ago October, I turned my life inside out – my daughter, Ilona, was born. We’ve been very close and gone through so much together. This summer is all about The Big Launch – supporting her as she takes her first steps into adulthood. Am I crying and trying not to let it show? You bet. Fortunately I can lean on other moms going through, or having survived, the same process. The empty nest looms ahead. I’m gearing up my own work that was slowed down when she needed me more as she entered adolescence. It’s a joy and a challenge to refocus myself.

    From a hungry, little peanut she’s become an intense, goal-oriented high school junior. Together we’ve been through all the usual phases and some difficult crises, spending a lot of time together when her father and I divorced and later when he unexpectedly died. Fortunately I married a terrific guy who’s become the man in both of our lives. He insists that he’s the Evil Stepfather, but nobody believes that.

    In October, we’ll celebrate her 18th birthday. We’ve started planning this early. I expect there will be an all-night party with her close girlfriends playing Apples-to-Apples and scarfing pizza. They even let me play their hyper-ironic version of the word-association game and declared that I’m very good at it and am welcome to join them if I can stay awake that long. For this old writer, it was a proud moment indeed. Nobody does snarkier associations than me! Experience has its benefits.

    “Well she’ll have fun fun fun ’till her daddy takes her T-bird away.” Well, she just got her driving license and her step-dad bought her a used car. I don’t see her much anymore, except when she’s too tired to stagger out the door again. This summer she’ll work for one of our clients, doing office work. She’s got some SAT prep tutoring, make-up work for a course she dropped, and she plans to hit the gym, which she had to drop when her junior year work was overwhelming. Of course, the major item will be cruising with her pals. Fortunately they are good kids so I don’t worry about them doing anything outrageous or illegal. She wants to take the car to Maine for an anime convention, but she has to be well-rested or we don’t grant permission. Last time she came home with a $100 black, “goth Lolita” style, flouncy dress. Who knows what this year’s treasure will be? “Goth Lolita” – hah! I’ve become an expert on things I never knew existed…

    For us, the Big Launch is happening in phases. Ilona will go to a community college next year and get dual credits for high school and college. It will be really weird when her buddies go back to school for the fall semester and she goes, a week later, to the college. She managed to get courses that start in the afternoon and wind up in the evening with astronomy, a huge change from the ridiculous high school schedule that starts at 7 am.

    Vacation? What vacation? Ilona and I will take our Big Road Trip this summer to visit colleges in Philly and Maryland, a 1-week swing from our New Hampshire home. My hubby and I will fly to Nashville for a business coaching conference, with a little time for playing tourist. Living in New Hampshire, summer is the best time to be home. We’re getting the pool ready and joined a so-called “yacht” club (with a “commodore” yet!) on a nearby lake where we will put our sailboat. Last year we got a funky, used, 17 foot sailboat. We’ll go to the club for Wednesday-night cookouts and sneak away to sail anytime we can. I keep inviting relatives to visit, but so far nobody said they’re coming.

    So this summer is a time of major adjustment for me, and some easy-going recreation in the pool and on the boat. My biggest challenge is to fully refocus on work now that my car-pooling days are over.

    And YOU stay frosty, dude!

  • My summer plans:

    * Get railings installed on my porch before my homeowners insurance dumps me because of the “hazardous” condition. (When I was a kid, we used to jump off the roof — now you can’t jump off a little porch).

    * Launch a new partnership with a big-time internet marketer.

    * Spend a week at Bear Lake (on the Utah-Idaho border) with my extended family. Hopefully this time our van won’t throw a rod in the middle of Wyoming — we sure didn’t plan that one!

  • David says:

    Trying to finish a huge remodel on my house and watch my youngest graduate from High School.

    Sending my middle child to Romania for a mission trip and watching my oldest go off to Iraq with my prayers that he comes home.

    Trying to make sense of this internet marketing business and learn how to write copy like John..

    Thanks for the good thoughts,

  • Lisa Manyon says:

    Hi John,

    Ahhhh…summer fun…

    Business-wise, I’m heading to Minnesota next week to shoot some video for viral marketing. Should be cool and I’ll see some of my internet marketing buddies, too. We are going to have fun.

    After that I’ll use the rest of June to work on business plans for 2009. I’m kind of a planning freak. And, then there are the ongoing client copywriting projects which are a top priority.

    July is my birthday month. I’ll celebrate all month long. Chances are I’ll play in Lewiston with friends, attend some outdoor concerts and road trip over to Montana to breathe fresh air. Again, ongoing client projects are a priority (stuff like ghostwriting blog posts, writing sales copy and press releases – you know fun stuff).

    August is going to be a blast. I’ll work remotely while winding my way down the Oregon Coast to Northern California to visit friends and family. Gotta love the 101 scenery.

    Of course, during all the travel, I’ll have my lap top. I’ve created a mobile business model by design. Have lap top, will travel and do travel. I love to work and play. They are the same thing aren’t they…

  • Matt Gallant says:

    Next up: Argentina (going next Wed. to film a HOT new product)…
    Then: Eben’s next shindig (hope to see you there)…

    Then, I’m going back to Canada for a month — maybe more.

    That’s my “summer thing”. Going back and hanging
    out with my best friends of the past. The guys who
    chose NOT to leave the comfort of the area for the world…
    (And that’s 100% cool — the world vibe is certainly not
    for everyone).

    That’s my REAL VACATION ZONE. Isn’t that
    kind of funny? Going “back home” is vacation?
    Well, it is when you live in a wild place like Panama City, Panama.

    I honestly, don’t give a rat’s ass if my entire business falls apart
    while I’m there. I hope for the best and put everything
    in the hands of my able team.

    I don’t think there’s a whole lot of better places on the planet
    in July and August than Canada. So, I’m PUMPED!
    Nothing like reconnecting with the ROOTS.

    BTW, a LOT of my lifestyle I owe it to you John!
    And I don’t just mean the financial side…
    One of the key pieces you communicated WELL
    in your newsletters (which I miss) was:
    Disconnecting from the Matrix…

    I’ve taken that to another level lately thanks
    to Eben’s “Wake Up Productive” strategies
    (which are GENIUS).

    Rock on brother,

    P.S. Thanks for the “insider” info this week…
    I appreciate it! Please tell Stan to send me
    any updates on the other solutions he’s checking out.

  • Karen says:

    Yeah, well…… it is -1.6 degrees outside and big ‘knock-you-out’ size snowflakes have been falling since dawn. Puts a whole new meaning on ‘Staying Frosty’. Summer seems a loooooooong way down the track, but the snow has taken all the hard edges off the world outside, silently, softly…. the fire is going and the dog is asleep on my feet. Life is good.

    (I’m going on a wee adventure in Alaska next month, a mini break to recharge the solar batteries… gonna see what you northern hemisphere people are really doing with your summer!).

    Hey, Dubai is the most INTERESTING place to visit – you’re gonna love the eclectic eccentricity… from the worlds tallest building to the camels on the beach!! Make sure you have time to explore.

    PS. The Milky Way is ours you know, it’s attached to the Southern Cross… we just lend it to you guys every day!

  • Emette Massey says:

    Howdy John,

    Here in the beautiful foothills of Carolina, summertime is showing its face. During the past week, we’d had 90+ temperatures. Now you spinkle in some humidity and BAM– it feels like dog days!

    I love it!

    As far as summer plans are concerned it’s Little League games for the next several weeks. Maybe more if my 9 year old son’s team keeps winning. So far they’re undefeated. Good stuff!

    Then it is off to the beautiful Outer Banks of NC to watch the sea dance and the waves tease us all.

    Like watching Little League games, it’s exciting seeing the kids (and grownups) try to harmonize with Mother Nature as she doles fun and excitement, salt spray and unpredicable patterns of wonder.

    Recently I scored a vintage set of Ludwigs so I plan on rounding up the old bandmates from the past and attempt to make some noise.

    Hopefully this noise will resemble some classic rock tunes from my “glory days” when our dance card was filled with steady gigs.

    And lastly I plan on hanging out my copywriting shingle. I’ve been toying with this idea for years and actually coming dangeously close a time or two.

    Now it’s time to get serious with the plan.

    John, I completely agree with your last post about learning the craft cold, being honest and fair to your clients.

    As a matter of fact that’s been part of my problem. I never thought I was prepared enough to offer my services as a direct response copywriter.

    After literally years of studying from the greats, writing out proven copy by hand, trying to make the rules stick it’s time to put into ACTION what I’ve learned.

    Education without action is next to worthlessness in my opinion.

    Lisa Manyon’s post really resignated with me. Undersell and overdeliver is her UPS and well as all the A Level writers. They all add more value to their clients than they take. And that’s my mission.

    All of you guys have given me the confidence needed to crank my dream into reality and I THANK you all–especially you John!

    and helped me get a game plan of how to approach this crazy business.

    Stay cool and live life deep,


  • Plans give me anxiety.

    I have a hard time even agreeing to a dinner date next week. “Ask me the morning of, or the day before” I’ll reply to anyone who asks me to make plans.

    Also, I can’t predict what the waves are going to be like. And my plans usually revolve around whether or not I’m surfing.

    My plans for the summer are simple.

    1. Ride some waves.
    2. Hang out with my surfer buddies.
    3. Spend time with the girlfriend.
    4. Drink tasty beverages.
    5. Play with my dog.
    6. Attempt to work a wee bit more (if that’s even remotely possible).

    I also don’t really like to travel. It freaks me out. So I turn down almost all invites for seminars, speaking gigs, and vacations.

    But on a rare occasion, I’ll make a impulsive decision and venture out of my comfort zone. However, I can’t plan that sort of stuff. It just sorta happens.


  • Hello World!

    I am 62 and am at peace with myself. I ride my bicycle for several hours daily, eat great quality food which we cook at home, read books of interest, write a travel blog, keep a journal, play golf with old friends and conduct a real estate business from my home. I accept only customers that are reasonable and others I refer to Caldwell Banker or Century 21 or some such agent factory. Every once in a while I’m fooled by a client who uses and abuses my goodwill and good nature. At that time I do what I call “A Ratzo Rizzo”. I pound to the hood of the taxi and make sure they are jolted to the fact that I am a person and will not subject myself to their abuse for the possibility of a future buck(not Joe Buck).

    This summer, in addition to all other activities, I’ll complete my rose and herb garden. So far I’ve planted about forty beautiful roses and many varieties of herbs. My favorite rose is Mr. Lincoln with wonderful scent and velvety deep red color.
    And….drink some good Chianti, too!

    My trave blog is

    Buona Fortuna,


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