True Wealth

Monday, 11:01pm
Reno, NV
“Thanks, but I think I’ll keep my soul…” Anyone, anytime, anywhere


Do you wanna get filthy rich?

I may have another clue for you here.

But I guarantee it’s not what you’re expecting.

You may even bristle at the insight.

First, however… I want to thank everyone who logged on to comment on the last post. The whole concept of reading struck a nerve, didn’t it.

I’m very pleased that so many folks still respect and seek out good fiction.

As I said — nearly ALL the top, super-wealthy marketers I know read their weight in books each year. A lot of biz stuff, sure… but just as much cool fiction, too.

Reading a damn good novel does things to your mind no other pursuit can match.

Personally… I’m gonna have my assistant order up every suggested novel from the comments section I haven’t already devoured. I think my reading list is set for the rest of the year.

Thanks, everyone.


… on to “true wealth”.

I just spent a week with family — mostly my sister’s boys and their wives and kids.

Plus my wayward cousin Don. I first met Don when they brought him home from the hospital with his twin David. I was one and a half. They were just born. Our parents were related, and also best friends.

What a lucky break.

We’ve shared our entire lives together. And when I rant about my childhood of adventure, vandalism and really stupid risks… it was Don sharing most of them with me.

I’m not close to all of my extended family. There are other cousins I rarely hear from or see, and many I’ve completely lost track of.

But Don — we make a special effort every year to get together and see what kind of trouble we can get into one more time.

That’s a rare thing in life. Someone you’ve shared the entire ride with.


My nephews are two of the finest young men you’ll ever meet. They inherited just enough of the Carlton bloodline to be defiantly independent (and enjoy crazy-good adventure)… but also enough of my brother-in-law’s juice to be intense family men.

I’m not gonna tell a long story here.

The message is a short one, anyway.

I was sitting in my sister’s living room, watching the great-neices and great-nephew play (ages 2, 4 and 6) with rambunctious glee… and I realized that all the adults were reading books.

No TV blaring. No radio jangling.

In fact, we’d just finished playing some guitars together, and having an intense discussion of world affairs.

You know… like really intelligent people enjoy doing.

And then, while the kids burned off the last of their pre-nap energy… everyone picked up a book.

It wasn’t all great literature, of course. There were volumes of happy trash being devoured, along with some really good stuff.

But I was kinda stunned, just the same.

This was a room full of very educated people. Three were teachers, one was a school shrink, another ran a program for troubled youth.

All involved with written stories. All deeply involved, too.

No one wanted to talk about marketing bullshit. Or ways to get rich. Or how to game any systems to get ahead.

These were family-oriented people, content with doing their jobs well and living their lives as fully as possible within their means.

I felt a little… humbled.

I don’t apologize, of course, for my entrepreneurial DNA. Unlike most of the rest of my family, I was miserable trying to be like everyone else. I chafed at authority, and needed desperately to find my own path.

However, as I hang out with more and more of the elite “winners” in the online marketing world… I become acutely aware how little I am driven by the desire for money.

Not that there’s anything wrong with making money.

But throughout my career, I’ve felt out-of-place among the guys for whom business success was the ONLY thing that mattered.

I honestly do not “get” people who need piles of cash to justify their existence.

I am often offended by gratuitous displays of wealth.

The path I took veered away from the glistening skyline of power and fame most of my colleagues were attracted to.

I like having lots of dough, don’t get me wrong. But long ago, I figured out what “enough” was, and I’ve not sacrificed my other life-long interests to build my pile bigger than my humble little self can handle.

We used to call it “Fuck You Money”, to be honest.

True independence comes when you are no longer desperate for whatever your current client is offering you. You can walk away, and not worry about the consequences, if he turns out to be an asshole. Or the deal seems squirrelly.

You don’t need his money… because you’ve got enough stashed to be confident.

Both Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert spoke of the power that FYM provided, which cinched it for me.

It’s a stash you put aside, and never touch unless you absolutely need to. If you die without every dipping into it, you’ve won.

The psychological juice behind knowing you don’t “need” anyone’s money is staggering.

The size of your FYM stash, of course, is dependent on what you feel you “need” — in cold, hard, liquid cash — to be confident you’ve got enough to tide you over until circumstances change again.

For me, it’s not a huge amount. Enough tax-paid moolah to survive for a year or so with no other income. Being frugal — like Travis McGee — and I could stretch it out for much longer. And still have fun, and still indulge in things I love.

But the key thing is… it’s your support system. It’s not an investment.


… once you get a taste of business success, it’s easy to be lured into living each day FOR that business. You put off other pursuits, you start to obsess on projects, you become…

… boring.

You’ve suddenly got twenty times your basic FYM, and yet still get up each day focused on bringing in more.

I’ve been lucky. My other urges are too strong to ignore.

I’m seeing a group of old college buddies this weekend, for example. None are “successful”, according to any measure a businessman would use.

And yet, all are happy. And all are good friends, and I cherish the time we get to spend together.

They don’t envy my success. And they don’t treat me differently. (I’m still the nutcase, to them, I was 30 years ago at the university. And I embrace that character with gusto.)

We don’t need lots of money to have a great time. So much of life’s best adventures are actually dirt-cheap.

All this gets me thinking, every year around this time, about what “true” wealth is.

Being broke sucks. No getting around that.

But somewhere between being broke… and being stupid-rich, with twelve cars and three homes and more boats than you can count… is a sweet spot where many people live in near-bliss.

Minus the expensive toys.

I think, by now, you know what I’m getting at.

It’s sappy, yes.

It’s all about love, and living well with what you have.

Ambition can be a curse. I’m very lucky to be ambitious… but also to be lazily moderate about pursuing it. I’ve done most of what I set out to do at this point in life. The goals remaining on my master-list are good ones, and I hope I’m around for another half-century to knock them off, too.

But more urgently, I am reminded of how amazingly “rich” my family and friends are who sink their teeth into life without driving ambitions.

Sometimes, playing with your grand-neice on the old swingset at the park is enough wealth to last an eternity.

There is a lot going on in the entrepreneurial world right now. And it’s going to get more intense as we move into Fall and Winter.

Lots of opportunities, lots of cool things happening.

If you have ambitions, this could be your year to break out.

When you do, though… keep a little Zen awareness in your brain about what truly counts in life.

You can’t take your FYM with you when you die.

But you can’t tell me that the love you generate and receive doesn’t travel well to the Other Side.

I dunno.

What do YOU think?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. I’m sending out a number of emails this week about a special opportunity ONLY for people on my list.

I know your inbox is crammed… but please pay attention to these emails from me this week.

Especially if your ambition is raging, and you’re freakin’ ready to finally bust loose…

Just enter your name and primary email address below and we'll send you the new report right away.

"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Kevin Rogers says:

    You know that Tom Waits song, “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)”?

    Classic Waitsian melody about a guy dreaming of his girl while he sweeps up a restaurant. I’ll resist a gratuitous pasting of all the lyrics, but there’s a line that kills me every time…

    *I can’t wait to get off work
    And see my baby
    She’ll be waiting up with a magazine for me*

    There’s something about watching a girl read that makes me instantly fall in love.

    Doesn’t matter to me if she’s reading Steinbeck or the Sunday paper, so long as she’s deeply engaged in it.

    It’s the way her body shifts to cozy up and accommodate the act… (this is enhanced greatly by any cold weather clothing – turtle-neck sweaters, thick socks, blue jeans) It’s the way her lip curls, or her eyebrow raises when the story takes an unexpected turn.

    A vision of intimate beauty more alluring than any swimsuit could ever hope to achieve. Or is it just me?

    John Carlton replies:

    Nope. Not just you.

    You may have hit at the unsaid central point of my rant — the issue of intimacy. It’s got nothing to do with porn-quality sex… more urgently, for the care and feeding of our souls, it’s the shuddering awareness of those small, fragile moments of being so alive it aches.

    You can miss those moments when you’re distracted by future-thinking, or the TVs on too loud.

    Thanks for the post, Kevin.


  • Deb Williams says:

    John, you’ve hit the nail on the head – again! Family, Great Friends, & a great book – who could ask for more, well, after the bills are paid that is. :-))

    Money to me, is a ‘socially acceptable’ method of energy exchange. We expend energy when assisting someone & therefore receive energy back in a different form – money. No need to get greedy – there’s plenty for all.

    Money won’t keep you happy, healthy or warm at night – but Love will help a whole lot!

    In Light,

    John Carlton replies:

    You’re right. “Love” should be capitalized.

    I’m having a sixties flashback here… and, if you were there, you know that’s a good thing…


  • Greg says:

    Hi John,

    Why did you delete my trackback? I was talking about similar things in my post.


    John Carlton replies:

    Hi Greg. I have a staff member regularly comb comments looking for evil nasty trackbacks and other parasite stuff. I didn’t see your post, and it’s gone now. If you do use a trackback, make sure you “look” human in your post — you’d be astonished at how sophisticated some of these spam-type robots are getting…

    You were probably deleted by accident.


  • Brent Spy says:


    Your post is spot on. Nothing annoys me more when you go over and spend some time with an acquaintance and all they want to talk about is work.

    I have a motto – NO SHOP TALK ON PRIVATE TIME! If an opportunity opens up to discuss some business in a personal setting I will get the contact info and talk to them when “I am in business mode.”

    People have lost the art of conversation and connection. Ipods, Iphones, IM’s, Instant Oatmeal, and iGoogle make 30 seconds seem like an eternity. I find people fascinating and want to know their story. And getting to know their story takes time.

    However, people just don’t have the patience to sit and watch miracles develop in front of them. They want to drive on without looking at the beauty of others, their surroundings, and a well prepared meal.

    Some things money can’t buy and I don’t need mastercard to tell me that.

    Savor the moment it is all you have right now.

  • Money is a means to an end – but I like the end 🙂

    And I’m having fun making money (no gruesome job that wears my down).

    So to me, it’s about putting another zero in, and these days everywhere I go I carry salesletters around. I study them on trains, busses, waiting in line… and yep – call me a freak: I even read salesletters on the toilet.

    When I’m with good people, I’m WITH them and enjoy it. I talk a lot about copywriting and marketing, because I have fun doing so, and because many of them have no clue about this stuff and many find it pretty interesting.

    But in the end: it’s all about the time you spend with the people you love and like. And money can buy you a lot of time (and a lot of plane tickets to meet friends in other places).

    But no, I’d not start collecting yachts, even though my greed-glands are intact and fully functioning.

  • Kirk says:


    It’s funny but I come at this from the other side of the story.

    Very few of my choices in life have been based on money. I’ve worked with developmentally disabled kids, taught, did a little construction, and worked in sales. They all were jobs that had interest in the moment.

    I’m also finishing up my Masters degree in Counseling Psychology (just passed my comp exam…yeah!). I’ll tell you right now, it looks like a pay cut for sure if I take a job in the field after graduating.

    My wife and I spent three months driving around the country in ’97, camping and backpacking and exploring (15,000 miles by the time we were done).

    We have great friends and lives and enjoy much.


    I would like to have some FYM. Would like to be less concerned with the budget every month. Would love cash to increase travel, increase experience…actually, a higher return on investment. Not more work (since I currently work full time and spend 20 hours a week in my school internship) but get more for my work.

    And that’s why I’m paying attention to business people, marketers and copywriters. Hoping they can provide a little assistance down that road.

  • Wow.

    This post literally made my day.

    What a refreshing antidote to the greed and chest-thumping that is
    so prevalent in the marketing world.

    Thanks, John.

  • Rob Northrup says:


    Great post. Agrees with my basic philosophy…

    If there is an afterlife, the only things we’ll bring with us are our experiences, our relationships, and our knowledge. I want to have plenty of each, the toys are less important.


  • Hey John..great post…and it
    s funny how you mention Georgle Clinton and Sly…I pretty much listen to their songs everyweek 🙂 (Gotta love the funk)

    …So reading your post man….it did hit home…and it made me think about my current job (IT in the Navy aka Computer Dude for those wondering) I’ve been for 11yrs and well my ride is halfway over but yanno what…my family doesn’t want to move to SanDiego… so I’m pretty much forced to to choose between my Job and my family.

    They say that you have to take risks in order to be successful and I think me getting out the military well this is what I know..and it’ hard to find a job paying what I make with no degree (came in straight after H.S)….but again I think yanno what…I rather have a lower paying job just to enjoy spending time with my 2 boys (they play football -age 7,10)

    So I think im going to have to take that ol’ leap into the unknown (oww yeah they won’t let me just walk outta here – lol)and start that second life. Family is ay more important than money to me…and working a J.O.B sucks but I will keep at it until I’m able to work from home.

    I know I jumped a little but of everywhere but just wanted to share..remember sharing is caring. My name is Desmond and I will quit my job someday .


    John Carlton replies:

    Hey, Desmond — good luck to you, however this plays out.

    Sometimes, we all wish life came with a better “how to” manual — or at least a freakin’ reset button (for when we choose wrong) — but there’s no getting around the fact we’re gonna constantly face tough decisions that have no clear answer or direction.

    Thanks for posting.


  • Mark A says:


    Yours is a refreshing post. It’s the kind that causes a person to reflect and consider the things they hold most important.

    This morning, I was reading a book about building a stronger relationship with my wife. The author reminded me of the Golden rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

    He then challenged me to keep focused on the question, “How would I like to be married to me?” Use it as a yardstick to by which I measure my attitude, behavior and servanthood. This struck me to the core.

    As I pondered it, I realized this applies to all areas of my life. How would I like me as a dad? How would I like me as a friend? and on and on. The affect is sobering. And following this Golden rule serves people in my life well but it is because it changes me and keeps me on track.

    For me, your article speaks to the same thing. Make sure you keep the truly important things important.

    All the best,


  • Ken C says:

    Great thread. Agree re fym is important, gives one mental peace of mind to know you don’t “have” to work/scramble for a few years. Key measure is how many years could you not work, and still be able to just live off what’s in your bank account? My goal is always to extend this from the years I have now, to many more years… and then to be able to give a lot charitably as a secondary goal, to decent causes.

    btw Mark – that’s a great quote re “would I like to be married to me?” I’d run away hollering like my first 2 wives did lol. At least wife #3 is more understanding, 11 years and counting. That’s a good thought-starter. I’ll keep that one in mind, my wife thanks you :p


  • Bill D. says:


    Thanks for this post. It’s good to be reminded of the important, non-business stuff.

    Last week, my father’s good friend came up to visit. It was his turn to pay a visit (they take turns going back and forth every year or so).

    My dad always tells me stories of the pranks and stuff they did while growing up. And I’m always reminded of how great it is to have a friend like that when I see them together. It’s almost like they are back in 10th Grade as I watch them laugh and be smart-asses to each other. I enjoy listening to those sessions.

    Two nights ago, my father got a call from this friend’s son. My dad’s friend had a massive heart attack and died. Last week we were all joking around my parents’ kitchen table – and now, just like that, he’s gone forever. We will never again sit across from each other at the table and laugh.

    Enjoy all the laughs with the ones you love. They are worth more than any amount of money.

  • sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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