Toys And Fresh Air

Monday, 7:30pm
Reno, NV
“He… could… go… all… the… way…” (Berman, MNF of days gone by…)


Do you ever get any of those weird epiphanies about life?

The ones that burst into consciousness like the first bloom of dawn… after a particularly dark and ominous night?

They aren’t necessarily the kind of insight that drops you to your knees and propels you off into a completely different direction.

But they are a critical plot point in your life’s story.

Here’s what just happened to me (and see if you can’t identify with it):

For the last week (has it only been that long?), the global news has been a horror-show.

Politics is tearing the country apart (again)… we’ve got a financial mess that may make the dot-com bust look like a picnic… and, personally, I’ve got biz pressures building up in my head like the Mother Of All Brain Farts.

So, I’ve diving into every distraction within my grasp for Miller Time. (Miller Time, for the uninitiated, is the built-in “reward” I insist all my freelance students create for themselves. It’s main task is to help you officially call an end to the day, which helps prevent burn-out.)

(I came up with the idea while working with Halbert, as a coping mechanism. Without a set point in time where I said “That’s it — done for the day”, the pressure of the tasks at hand would suck me into even longer work hours…

… and that’s not good.

In fact, that’s bad. Very bad. I burned out once, and that’s all it took for me to never, ever, ever want to do it again. Required three years of remedial goofing off to be able to catch my breath.

And I was young, too. I’ve had students ignore my advice on this — dudes in their twenties, cooking with peak internal fuel — and flame out like a dunked match.

Miller Time is serious play time. You quit working. You have a little fun. You give it a freakin’ rest.)

So, anyway…

Obviously, I have a much different philosophy about stress than most business owners.

I don’t avoid stress. In fact, if there’s something stressful on the plate for tomorrow… well, that’s the first thing I wanna dig into.

No avoidance on this monkey.


… neither do I regard stress as something “good”.

It is (and current research backs me up) probably the source of all the bad shit in your health profile.

So how you DEAL with it… is probably one of the most important decisions you make early in your career.

Because you’ve got to make dealing with it a habit. Breaking the stress up and jettisoning it from your system must be on your “A” list of things to do each day.

Otherwise… you’re putting that career in serious danger of short-circuiting.

For me, toys play a big part of “steam removal”. I’ve loved games and toys my entire life — and that’s what guitars, cars, iPhones, Web-surfing, Twitter, cable TV, iTunes, barbeques, and every quest you engage in for anything outside Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is: Games and toys.

It’s been a long, long time since anyone could claim to have a handle on how civilization works. The well-educated dudes of the early Renaissance MAYBE could claim a decent savvy in every skill and knowledge-base in exisitence.

But that’s simply not possible today.

Humans have never been in this situation before — where NO ONE has a handle on how the essentials of the civilization works.

It’s like nobody’s in charge anymore. It’s like glancing down the aisle and noticing that the pilot’s gone. The driver has disappeared. No one goes into the boiler room anymore, because no one knows what to do in there.

A large part of the mob deals with this sense of not being in control… by zoning out. I doubt there has ever been this large a percentage of the population zomibified before in history. Just willingly oblivious.

In my experience, you can’t really hide from stress, though. It builds up, it festers, it infects every joint and synapse in the system.

For those of us who are incapable of ignoring the blinking warning signs now flashing… (and our global engine has been overheating for a very long time)… it’s more important than ever to manage stress.

You do NOT make it go away by eating it like candy. It won’t leave unless forced out.

Thus… to be effective today (and oh my God do we need effective people in the mix right now)…

… you gotta choose your battles. You can work every day. You can gear up and charge monsters every time you go into “work mode”.

But you can’t do it 24/7. You’ll fry.

So… playtime becomes an essential tool.

What rocks your Miller Time boat may change, often, thoughout your life. That’s to be expected.

So you gotta keep a tab on your own responses.

You know what makes you happy… what sucks you in so thoroughly and pleasurably that you forget the smell of the trenches for a while.

Don’t focus on the “what”, however.

Instead, focus on how you feel. You will have to alter things — the games, toys, distractions, etc — that trigger the right response often.

And the new stuff is only going to work — only going to help you disengage so you can re-charge — if it nails the wheelhouse of your pleasure center.

At various times, playing music has been “it” for me. But then I go into another phase, and I need something else. Drawing comes and goes — hours spent completely absorbed in putting ink on paper, creating visual worlds from nothing.

Games, too. I played the first Doom like a junkie. No other game since has held my interest like that. Collecting rare stuff, too. Reading history… I’ve been lucky to have a long list of stuff that works.

But here’s the one tip I really can give everyone: One of the most enduring, and most pleasurable, Miller Times available…

… is simply going outside and feeling the universe swirl around you.

Fresh air, the cool breezes of early fall, the coming harvest moon (big as the sky), the leaves changing so fast you can almost see them turn.

Especially now… especially with so many entrepreneurs welding themselves to cyber-space at a desk…

… it’s essential to reconnect with Nature.

In as giddy a manner as possible.

Just my two cents.

What’s your Miller Time consist of?

Stay frosty,


P.S. One last funny aside: I dove into the world of Twitter with gusto this week. Not obsessed, but having great fun…

… sorta like the first time Mom let me loose in the Fun Zone at the LA County Fair. (Never been a place like that before, nor since. Total art deco sprawl of mazes, haunted houses, vast wheels that spun you in circles half the size of a football field, tight little capsules that swung like hammers at 3 G’s, pulling your cheeks back as they dove… all of it way too dangerous to ever be allowed today…)

I explored the apps of Twitter-land, strolled into little-travelled areas, spelunked in the nether regions of the software (as far as I could go without using code, I suppose).

And today, a new follower told me that, hey, he was happy to see me on Twitter…

… but, dude, I was tweeting too MUCH. “Cool it,” he implored.

I laughed.

Because I had found a new toy that let fresh air into my system. Fun, distracting, with some of the elements of a game. (Trading witicisms and barbs with fellow word-meisters. That’s invigorating, for me.)

And I laughed because I suspected it was time to put the Mac to sleep…

… and go outside for some real air, too. A long hike, paying attention to things. Soaking up being alive for another season.

I’m stressed, no getting around it.

Lots to be stressed about. Unless you’re a zombie, and that’s not a job I’ve ever gone after. (Can’t meet the basic requirements of accepting bullshit.)

So I need all my tools, and I need to able to use them elegantly… and that requires rest, distraction, and rejuvenation.

Miller Time.

You on my Twitter follower’s list yet?


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  • I must say.. your logic here often defines my life.
    Like any raving lunatic of a marketer, my time is filled shuffling project after project, fulfilling, groping, creating, and sharing.

    But the times between? The LIFE between… That my friend is where it’s at.

    Surfing, flying, riding, traveling, photographing, breathing, simply closing my eyes and feeling God, the earth, and power swirl about me.

    THAT sir is life itself.

    Wise words as always.

  • P.S. I will always pride myself as having sold something worthy to the great John Carlton 😉

  • Peter Frank says:

    Hey John,
    Agree totally with the need to zone out on a regular basis.

    I love painting, drawing or going hiking for days at a time. Though my old knees have a little trouble with some of the tougher climbs these days.

    A good book… or if I can find one, a good thriller movie.

    Thanks for posting your insights. Makes me stop and look at my own life more often.


  • […] john-carlton wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptFor those of us who are incapable of ignoring the blinking bwarning signs/b now flashing… (and our global engine has been overheating for a very long time)… it’s more important than ever to manage stress. b…/b […]

  • Wise words and very true. One of the reasons we got into IM was to cope better with stress. I am a psychotherapist specialising in stress management and my husband has experienced major burnout!
    In 2006 we sold up and moved 200 miles to live in the middle of nowhere in South West Scotland. We are 5 miles from the nearest town. We run our business online and can step out of our back door and be in the middle of nature.
    We have our business meetings while we walk our dog. We can sit by the river and watch the deer and the otters. It’s bliss.
    We’ve learnt the hard way and we only needed to be told once – we listened!
    Playtime is wonderful. It’s something I advocate to my clients. Just taking ten minutes a day is a start and build up from there. Some of my clients are so stressed they ‘believe’ they can’t even find ten minutes when I first meet them. It takes time but they start to feel the benefits and then they are hooked.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Thanks for the insight John.

    I have a vegetable garden just outside my office door. Watering, weeding and just “tending” seems to do it for me.

    Living in the semi-tropics means it is a year long activity.

    Lucky hey?

    Live long. Live well.

  • Hey John,

    this post just shows how you start tune in your vibes when you’re absorbed with someones materials.

    Just yesterday night I walked out the door of my office and smelled the fresh air, and decided: ah, this feels so good, I’m gonna walk home instead of taking the bus.

    You know how the air smells after it stopped raining, right?

    And I thought about the same thing: how being in nature recharges my batteries. Brings my life back into balance.

    I’m a city kid, but I like my dosage of nature every once in a while (be it just the trees by the side of the road or the rain falling).

    I guess it really puts things in perspective when you see the moon, the clouds shifting across a dark sky, the wind blowing gently and the leaves doing their little dance. You realize how big this whole thing really is that we’re a part of, and that makes everything ok and puts a smile on your face. And I don’t mean just “realize” mentally – it’s a kinesthetic realization too, you feel it. And say to yourself: “Dude, that’s nice.”

    Take a deep breath, an go into zen mode after a whole day of being caught up in words and ideas and talking and thinking.

    Laugh a bit about the whole hamster-wheel game. Drift a little in the flow of life. Tomorrow you’re gonna struggle upstream again, but for now, just let yourself drift a little.

    Love the fact that you stress this point so much, John. Because it helps a raw rookie like me to tell myself: “Hey, it’s ok if you feel like taking time off and recharge after a hard day’s work. Carlton the headrat told you so.”

    But now it’s time to get back into the front-line trenches for me,
    Copywriting Kid

  • John great post on the chill part. I live in paradise everyday[Florida] so we head for the smokey mountains 2 times a year to climb and hike all we can.

    But my real piece of mine is on my Harley or in my 32 Hot Rod all by myself with the tunes of some oldies and the cool air.

    I am still playing the working rat race to but not for much longer. My site goes live on October 16 so I have burning it up lately but looking forward to some leaves changing soon.

    Thanks and stay cool.


  • Dan Sherman says:

    Thanks for this post. My timing for running across it was incredible. I noticed your email announcing the new post right about the moment I was ready to see how well my laptop fared as a frisbee.

    And this post helped me realize I have been, as you put it, welding myself to cyberspace at my desk. I’ve let myself get to the point where they only time I take a break from working is to pass out at night for a few hours. Not good, and not why I started working from home.

    Time to make some changes. And again, thank you.

  • Kevin Rogers says:

    I don’t have a problem working 12 hour days, I have a problem working only 12 hours a day.

    Funny how it goes, the evolution of a work-at-home freelancer…

    At first you can’t believe you get to do it and novelties abound. Like walking outside – and down the street – anytime you damn well feel like it…

    Giggling through the traffic report on the radio knowing you’ve escaped the gridlocked masses…

    Wrestling your kids on the couch for ten minutes for a break.

    But, if you’re lucky enough to get flooded with work, those little luxuries quickly give way to new stresses.

    Finding the balance of how much you can take on before going mad – or risking quality…

    Training everyone to understand that just because you are in the house does not mean you are “home”…

    Trying to relax and stay focused on family time when your head (and your gut) is ringing the fire alarm about next week’s deadline.

    But the maxim is true: Make money doing something you’re passionate about and you’ll never work another day in your life.

    The hard part is unplugging. I figure I’ll get to that point once I have my talons dug so deep into this gig that there’s no chance of it wiggling away.

    For now though, freedom and passion are still novel. And I’m enjoying the ride.

    John Carlton replies:

    I totally empathize with you here, Kevin.

    However, if you trust me, you’ll get in the habit of having a Miller Time every day. Can be a 10-minute thing. You’ve got to shut ‘er down once in a while. Passion is like your first college affair — yeah, you really wanted to never leave her side… but you gotta go to class once in a while, too. And brief spells away only fuel the passion.

    Recovery time is crucial. Burn out doesn’t come on slowly — it crashes down like lightning.

    Breaks do not hamper passion. They just let your neurons relax and recharge…


  • Kip Lytle says:

    Hi John,

    To me, part of the definition is just how you decide to DEFINE what stress is.

    One definition is that compared to our ancestors, we really have very little daily stress.

    Most of us pretty much know where our next meal is going to come from.

    Most of us have a roof over our heads and a blanket to keep us warm.

    Most of us don’t have to protect ourselves and our loved ones from physical harm by savages on a daily basis.

    Mosts reading this post will have 100’s of times the money, food and comforts than our grand-parents had.

    The only positive stress that our grand-parents had that most of us don’t is the positive stress of daily physical labor – which, in and of itself, tends to reduce/eliminate other types of stress (don’t believe me, try to be stressed out after spending a day throwing 80 lb hay bales around – I’ve done it, and you’re too tired to be stressed.)

    So really, if you chose to, you can “define” stress in such a way that you actually have little or none.

    It’s all in your attitude and intent.

  • Tom Ash says:

    Hi John:

    Miller time is certainly one way to relieve stress, but I prefer Bud Light. Another way I overcome my stress is to volunteer to help people less fortunate.
    I have seen people who are missing limbs try to ski, and smiling the whole time. I have seen a 14 year old boy who was partially paralyzed from a stroke celebrate snowboarding down a hill without assistance. I have seen countless miracles while volunteering, and am reminded how lucky I truly am: the stress dissipates every time.

    John Carlton replies:

    Thanks, Tom. I’ve worked with institutionalized kids, and the success stories were few and far between. Still, once you understood that you may only make a difference once in a while, and you got clear on that, it was all worth it.

    However, I never felt the release of stress that you do. The work drained me, rather than energized me.

    Just goes to show you need to find your own idiosyncratic ways to get it done. I now get stress relief by writing a check to the local Food Bank. I may or may not donate time, as I have in the past. But I make sure I do what I can.


  • I go fly radio controlled planes at least twice a week. And I always need some new plane to work on, getting it ready to fly. The drive out of Berlin into the countryside takes a while but has become a real necessity.

    Markus Trauernicht

    John Carlton replies:

    Cool. I used to watch ’em fly planes off the cliffs at Redondo, where the ocean provided a permanent updraft…


  • Glad to see you are finally hopping on twitter… one of the secret benefits to having young kids is simply getting on the floor and playing with them – it immediately evaporates all stress and tension. That’s my miller time.

    And to answer your other question – YES i am following you on twitter! but right now the relationship is a little one-sided…you gonna follow me? i’m richschefren (the other one rich_schefren isn’t me)

    see you in chicago

    John Carlton replies:

    Dude, of course I’m following you. You may have missed my post about changing my username on Twit — there may be a few things that didn’t transfer so well. But I’m pretty sure I found the right RS to follow…

    I’ll buy ya a beer in Chitown, while we swap horror stories of clients gone wrong…

  • Burton Kent says:


    You’re right in more ways than you realize. Was talking with an acupuncturist about this 3 weeks ago, and he explained that for most of us, our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are majorly out of whack.

    I know what you’re thinking. Our sympa-wha???

    I’ll explain:

    Basically – the sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight part of the nervous system. It releases adrenaline in response to stress.

    Parasympathetic nervous system is all the other stuff, like digestion, insulin (the hormone that makes you fat), liver function, even sexual function.

    Activating fight or flight and ANY kind of elevated levels of adrenaline basically sucks energy from all the other more important bodily functions. The best way to get rid of adrenaline is physical activity, but most of us don’t get enough of it. Most people think exercise gives most of the benefits because of the cardio aspects. Not quite – even walking (which is hardly exercise cardio-wise) has huge benefits because it helps get rid of adrenaline.

    Acupuncture, chocolate, sex, massage, etc. also help get rid of adrenaline through endorphin release. Yeah, I’m recommending getting laid, having a massage and eating chocolate. (And no, I’m not offering, getcher mind out of the gutter, people.)

    So take a walk or do that other fun stuff. If you’re too far gone (sick), you might want to try acupuncture. You’ll thank me for it.


  • Karen says:

    so, I’ve been thinking about this whole stress thing.

    I spend a great deal of time connecting with nature, it is as much part of my life as breathing and no matter if it is playing in the garden or hiking up a mountain, for me, it is a huge stress-buster. And this is why I think it works…

    ‘Stress’ is the present moment demanding attention.

    You simply cannot be stressed AND focused on what you are doing. It’s impossible. Stress happens when you stop paying attention to the present moment and your focus shifts to the future (all the things you have to do, or all the things that could go wrong) or to the past (all the things you might have done wrong or didn’t work). Or if you are simply using the present moment as a means to be somewhere else.

    When you connect with something beautiful like nature you become completely absorbed in ‘Now-ness’ and when that happens your mind is still and you become part of something much bigger than you are.

    Focus is stillness in action. On even in the most insane, impossibly busy days, when I focus on what I am doing (as I am doing it) everything else becomes background noise – I become faster, more creative, and there is an element of joy or satisfaction in even the most mundane jobs.

    Stress-less-ness (peace) is not a future event.

    There is a great saying “Stillness is the language God speaks and everything else is a poor translation”.

    Be Still. It’s where the magic is.

  • Hey John

    You gonna be in Chicago a while?

    I’m here till tuesday (helping out at Perry Marshall’s Autoresponder seminar) … and I’d love to buy you a drink if you are still around.

    Let me know 🙂

  • Mark L says:

    Hi John,

    Wonderful Post!

    There was a great line in an old Maria Muldaur song
    about workin the cotton fields in the South.
    “They worked so hard they died standing up”

    In our case, it’ll be slumping over our computers.

    Nope, don’t wanna do that and yes, connecting
    to the cosmos and feeling the quiet pulse of the
    Earth puts it all back in place.

    I have to admit I’ve added a fresh forbidden
    pleasure to my “time out”. (I don’t drink -sober
    for 22 years). I sit outside late at night,
    enjoy a really good cigar and listen to the
    Live Oak forest that stretches for miles up
    the CA coast. The Big Dipper is framed by the trees
    in my front yard. I hit levels of contentment and peace
    I value beyond words – the noise in my head clears
    and I feel “grounded” again.

    We may be witnessing the rapid decline of Western
    Civilization – Have to get real Zen about it, “notice”
    it go by and acknowledge the Buddha nature of it all.

    Meanwhile, I’m going to plug in my guitar and play
    the raunchy opening chords to “Sweet Jane” by Lou
    Reed – real loud. Now that’s fun!

    Hope Chicago is a hoot – and no throwing TV’s off
    the balcony! (No matter how bad Stan wants to do it!)


  • ken says:

    While I agree that some ‘miller time’ is essential (heck I have virtually every decent game known, a “Xenon” pinball machine which is great, and am an avid reader and watch lots of classic movies)….

    … I also think that far too many people, particularly the online folks, put in far too little time on focused, concentrated honest work, (and the 12-18 hours days it takes) to make millions, if that’s their goal…

    Or even to have a comfortable lifestyle, still takes a lot of concentrated work. Guys like Brian Tracy and Jeffrey Gitomer are great role models; they do like 100+ seminars a year, write books and produce content continuously, that’s world-class stuff.

    I’ve been doing 12-18 hour days most of my work life (I’m 44 now, so that’s 20+ years so far I guess) and love every minute of it. In fact I revel in my long hours because I absolutely love in and believe in what I do. So I suppose there’s some fine line between what we call work and play… since my work IS my play… endless creative video production, copy and more… it’s tons of fun, and earns a lot.

    Far too many people only work real work 2-3 hours a day, then wonder why they’re not successful. The key is to work smarter and harder, then leverage and automate (years 8+) to make it all work. Solid work ethics, what we saw in decades pas


  • ken says:

    (sorry hit the submit key early)..

    …what we saw in decades past, seems like a lost art.

    Like Brian Tracy says “work all the time you work”, and as many say, working on what’s important (not just urgent) is key for productivity.

    Parting thought: one’s “inhale/exhale ratio” — I like to think of time done in competitive research, learning (watching dvds/reading business books), surfing the net primarily as “inhaling”….

    …and value-added production work (designing websites, producing video, writing copy, writing/sending emails, “making stuff that helps others”) as “exhaling”.

    The key is to “exhale”/produce enough to become wealthy, vs spending too much time like the proverbial college “professional student” but transferred into the online world. Keeping a healthy inhale/exhale ratio of learning vs producing is key.. I like to “inhale” 20-30% max re learning. And yes there’s a joke in there somewhere lol.

    I love 18 hour days, particularly near product launches, it’s when I feel most alive. (that and time w/family of course, too).


  • Ken says:

    Cool, successfully added 1 and 6.

    Hey John. I got burned out reading your blog last year, I think it was, and I unsubscribed. I just knew it hit you like a ton ‘o bricks. Sorry dude. Had to get away.

    But I re-subscribed, just moments ago.

    I was checking the links to my site, and I saw a link with anchor text that only read, ‘Ken.’ I laughed. Then I saw where it was coming from. You, John. I laughed some more.

    It was from a post I made last year.

    Then I realized how much I missed you. lol. I came here and felt the urge to sign-up again for your posts.

    So, to discuss something relevant to Miller time, burn-out, etc…

    I am happy to report that I’m putting in 12+ hour days. Many have been 14-16. (Yes, 7 days a week, bro.) Been doing that for about a month and a harf. Lost my day job in early Aug. Been writing my ass off ever since.

    Some days I wake up and my fingers and forearms are S O R E and stiff.

    Last week I sat down to write and my brain would not engage. I tried to force it. I wrote 1 paragraph. Just one, John. Then I got up, went to Dunkin Donuts, got a cup, went for a long drive, and turned the music up LOUD.

    I did that for 2 days. The second day I managed to write a little in the evening.

    I was kicking myself in the ass for not writing. I’ve returned to my normal insanity. But I read your blog post about burn-out. It struck a chord. A Hendrix chord. Know what I mean?

    I’ll stick around and read your stuff. I like reading your stuff, John. Oh… I was thinking about doing the Twitter thing, too. So I’ll hit you up when I’m there. We’ll roam the raucous halls and disturb the neighhors. Sound good?

    See ya…. Ken

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