DIY vs. Mentoring

jc photo 11

Thursday, 12:15pm
Reno, NV
It’s too hard.  You’ll never figure it out.” (What the first copywriter I ever met told me about writing ads.)


I’m going to tell you about two promises here.

The stories behind them may help you chart out the rest of your life… as they did mine.


Promise #1:

The above quote (“It’s too hard.  You’ll never figure it out.”) are the exact words that a professional copywriter said to me when I innocently asked for advice.

They are burned into my cerebral cortex, because it was one of the first times I had ever nurtured a small ember of actual hope about my future in business…

… and she crushed it like a bug.

All I’d wanted from her was a smidgen of advice. Maybe point me in the right direction.  Or offer a small word of encouragement.

I was lost at the time.  Trapped in the drudgery of a dead-end J.O.B. that sucked big-time.

And I was genuinely clueless about the process of writing anything for business.  I’d never met a real copywriter before, and was very interested in finding out more.

I didn’t even know what the word “mentor” meant at the time… but I suppose I would have squirmed with joy if she had said, instead, something like “Let me help you learn how to do this.”

Still, she did me a HUGE favor by being such a miserable, hateful bitch.

As I stood at her desk, burning with shame for having asked for something and been so brutally refused…

… I promised myself that I would prove her wrong.

And I used that promise as motivation whenever I needed some extra oomph in the next year or so, as I figured out — on my own, without help from anyone — how to write killer sales messages.

So I owe her one.  She did me a proper by igniting my until-then-dormant ability to Do It Myself.  Literally with a vengeance.

I launched my solo career as a freelance writer entirely on my own.  I took the Do It Yourself ethic and ran with it…

… and 25 years later, I don’t regret a single moment of the journey.  Even though long stretches of it were soul-shaking scary while I hacked my way through the wilderness of Cluelessness into the light.

Promise #2:

I made another promise to myself soon after that little episode with the Hateful Bitch.

When it became glaringly evident that I wasn’t going to get any kind of help from anyone in my quest for success…

… I stumbled onto the Big Damn Secret of how to do it all on my own.

Actually, it’s not much of a secret, but it remains under-utilized by folks who could be changing their lives with it.

The secret: I just got busy setting goals… and going after them like a bulldog chasing a squirrel.

I figured out how to sell stuff, and do it through writing, step by step.

And I took notes along the way.

Why did I take notes?

Because I’d made another promise: When (not “if”) I made it as a professional creator of ads that sold massive quantities of stuff…

… I would bend over backwards helping others to make it, too.

And I’d help them do it much more simply, and much easier, than I did.

Those notes I took during the Wilderness Years — when I was learning the ropes of advertising and salesmanship rung by rung — turned me into a flat-out great teacher.

Because I analyzed everything I learned.  Dissected information… ran it through my internal Bullshit Detector… tested ideas and tactics in the real world…

… and worked like a madman to discover the techniques and tactics that actually persuaded prospects to take action and buy stuff.

So, when I started teaching others, I had a couple of decades worth of incredible notes to use as instructional material.

I can easily knock years off your quest to learn the inside secrets of advertising and marketing.  I know all the dark alleys to avoid, and I know all the shortcuts around the tedious nonsense.

I take my promises very, very seriously.

Doing so brought me out of my prior existence as a Clueless Slacker, and launched me into a prime seat at The Feast Of Life (where happiness, fame and wealth await you).

If I have taught you anything over the 5 years of this blog… or if you have heard of my prowess as a teacher from anyone else…

… it’s because I walk the walk.

Here’s why this is so important to the Rest Of Your Life: During my journey, I used both the Do It Yourself method…

… and the Mentoring method.

I know that both work.

I always recommend mentoring first.  If you have an opportunity to be taken in by someone with the chops you wish to learn… do so.

I worked for Jay Abraham for years, for free.  In exchange for getting to hang around his offices, and learn from him.

I met Gary Halbert through Jay.  And turned away from millions as an up-and-coming copywriter for the Big Mailers, in order to learn from the Master himself.  Personally, one-on-one, over a couple of years of hard-core mentoring.

I “delayed” earning my fortune, because I intuitively suspected (correctly, it turned out) that — as moderately successful as I was when I met Gary — I still had much more to learn in my quest to get as good as possible.

So mentoring paid off for me.

As did the Do It Yourself method.

What’s this got to do with you?

Everything… if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve been offering folks over the past week or so.

The Simple Writing System is built on the notes I took during my career.  It’s everything I know about writing, and selling, and marketing at the highest level of efficiency and power.

For anyone who wants to learn how to write kick-ass sales messages… for ads, for websites, for email campaigns, for video scripts, for speeches, for anything and everything necessary to succeed in business…

… the Simple Writing System is your ticket.

Now, there are two ways to indulge here.

First:  We’ve put together a faculty of pro writers to help me mentor students personally.  One-on-one, personally customized, hands-on mentoring with a pro.

It’s the program I wish had been available back when I started out.  I would have crawled through broken glass to get involved with this kind of coaching — from a proven professional, who watched my back as I learned.


… the mentoring program is now closed.  All the available public spots have been snapped up.  She’s full up.


Second:  The Do It Yourself option is still available.

In fact, it’s the perfect option for anyone who prefers to do it themselves, without the time and cost of adding a mentor to the mix.

Again — I always recommend mentoring, when it’s possible.

However, the next-best-thing is to do it yourself.

The Simple Writing System, as I created it, is tailored for exactly this kind of learning.  In this program, I teach you everything I know… in a way that has been proven (over decades of trial and error) to help people “get it” quickly.

It’s my pride and joy.  I’m hanging my hat on this system, and I’ve lovingly and patiently molded it into a course that really can transform your ability to persuade, and sell, with writing.

So… if the time-boxed limitations or the cost of the mentoring option made you hesitate to get involved in the coaching program we created…

… or if you’re just a rebel at heart, and (like me when I started out) want to do it yourself…

… we’ve just released an option that suits you perfectly.

To get the details, go here:

I understand… better than almost anyone else you’re going to meet in your journey to find your own success… how doing it yourself and being mentored offer different paths to the same destination.

The key is to get moving.

If you dithered about getting into the now-closed mentoring program… or if you didn’t find out about it in time to grab a spot… you now have before you another option.

Which can effectively and quickly ignite your transformation into the Killer Marketer you need to become to reach your goals and attain your dreams.

The main thing is… choose to make today the day you begin your transformation.

Get moving.  See what’s available.

You don’t have to choose the Simple Writing System.  If you believe you have other options out there — either mentors to woo, or courses to dive into — then get after them.

I wasted half my life wondering how to even take the first step toward The Feast.  (I was in my early thirties when I finally started my career.)

You know it’s time to choose when that hunger inside you starts burning.  You cannot wait for magic.  You cannot delay just because you’re scared.  (Learning the first few steps to take, in fact, obliterates fear better than any other tactic you’ll ever find.)

You have no excuse, now, if you’ve been telling yourself you’re waiting for the “right opportunity”.  I’ve just laid the most rational, easy, and affordable opportunity at your feet.

Just see what’s up:

And come back here next week.  I’ve got a back-log of free advice and goodies to share with you.

It’ll all go excellently with your evolving transformation to Killer Marketer.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo.

Probably 18 months into my solo career… doing everything myself, from a cramped desk in a cramped bedroom in a cramped apartment near the beach in LA.

The mess on that desk (and taped to the wall) includes many of the early notes I was obsessively taking while learning how to write copy that brought in results.

Proof, here, that I was once not only young, but quite handsome, wouldn’t you say?

No?  Well, I was young, at any rate…

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  • Kyle says:

    That photo is awesome John.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Kyle. Actually, that photo kinda scares me. Look how tiny that monitor is, next to the bed. It’s there because I had to clear the monitor and keyboard off my desk in order to do anything else — it was so cramped, I was working on top of myself.

      And yet, I was happy, happy, joy, joy. Because I was moving forward, I was my own man in a small business that grew almost daily… and life finally had become a kick-ass adventure.

      For a slacker unaccustomed to discipline, I could actually feel my body change as I took on challenges instead of fleeing from them, and woke up raring to go every day. Fueled by the energy of independence and learning skills and secrets that awed clients as they paid me the big bucks.

      The “ride up” is always the best part of any new adventure. This photo catches me in the heat of my daily efforts to mold a career out of, literally, nothing.

      It was tough, but invigorating.


  • Hi John,
    Mike here. I want to put in my two cents worth here about the SWS.
    I had done lots of courses on copywriting and all the other stuff about becoming a great marketer.
    NOTHING clicked.

    It can be really daunting to sit there day after day looking at a blank page or worse still a page filled with unconvincing garbage. It brings you down and gnaws away at any belief you may have about your ability to write.

    For those of you reading this.
    you know just what a drag it can be to be utterly in the dark about the steps you have to take to write great copy…

    I was there. Right where you are now. Right with you.
    Until now!
    I’m still with you in spirit, don’t get me wrong.
    Actually it’s not that hard. You just need the right system and the right training in how to use it.
    Plus lots of practise. Same way as you got good at anything worthwhile. No-one’s born a natural and those that are. Well, usually they don’t know how they do it and so they can’t explain it to you..

    John Carlton was not a natural though you’d never know that. He got there through…
    Sweat and practise.

    Which means that you can get where he is too. by using his system and copying his actions

    This is a testimonial to John and the SWS .
    And it is freely given.

    It is so, so deserved.

    Since doing SWS with John my confidence has soared, my writing skills are getting pretty damn good and for the first time in years I am actually sought after as a writer and a marketer.
    ( Just been headhunted by a new client from Australia. Putting together a campaign for a mindboggling new miracle goop that kills every bacteria known to man and stops them from mutating into superbugs…)

    The scene in front of the mirror from the movie ” Taxi Driver” springs to mind…
    “You talkin’ to me ? You friggin well talkin’ to me?
    Yep !!

    You !

    I am so buzzed up and trying damn hard to stay frosty and in the zone.

    Thanks a million John. I believe that you are the best copywriting teacher that a guy or gal can get

    When we meet I’m buying you a beer or two. Or a brewery if you want…( joking )

    All the best
    (A one time, small town loser that has made very very good …)

    PS If you’re still on the fence about this one then decide right now what you want your life to be. If you want all of the good things in life then this is very definitely for you.

    PPS Why the hell are you reading this…? Go on. Get out of here and get your copy !
    NOW !

  • Glenn says:

    You are incredible . . . and appreciated. Thank you.

    • John Carlton says:

      Well, thanks, Glenn.

      You know, it’s not easy laying your story out there for everyone to see and pass judgment on. But I did make that promise, and honoring it has taken me far in life.

      I can recommend staying true to promises.


  • John Stiles says:

    Hey John,

    Quite a story and one that I can sure relate to on many levels. It’s high time to relate to the 2nd half of the story! I’m in.

    John Stiles

  • Zach says:

    You let the real secret out of the bag w/ that photo…

    Vanilla Wafers.

    Rationed one per dynamite paragraph, and a guy would get pretty good, darn fast.

    I won’t tell a soul.

    My best,


  • sean says:

    Hello John…
    Your course (DIY version) will be my next investment bar none… Please do not sell out!
    See you soon… Sean.

  • Steve says:

    Hey John–I’ve taken the plunge and purchased both the Kick Ass package a few weeks ago, and the home study SWS yesterday. After having heard you speak at the Paid For Life seminar in San Diego, and speaking with several people, I reached the same conclusion that you teach: Writing is the one thing you do NOT outsource. I’m looking forward to “digging in.” And one more thing: Your assistant Diane is a rock star and she deserves a shout-out right here on this blog. Responsive, positive, and helpful. She does you good (bad grammar intentional). Cheers.

  • Rezbi says:

    I wonder, has anyone else asked, is the Hateful Bitch still around… and does she know about your success since?

    Would that be a stinker… for her?


    • Comedian-Turned-Copywriter says:

      she’s probably in copywriter hell, now.

    • John Carlton says:

      I haven’t had the urge to look her up, Rez. Part of her problem, I believe, is that she left a New York agency to come work in Silicon Valley when I met her… and she was pissed off that San Jose had nothing in common with Manhattan night life. I’ve met a lot of ex-pat New Yorkers over the years, and they ALL hate California for the first 6 months they’re there. Then, after they’ve had a chance to go back and remember why they left NY, they come back and pretend they’re “native” west coasters.
      It’s very annoying to actual west coast folks, who never asked the Big City nut cases to come visit, let alone stay.
      Thank God Nevada isn’t a landing place for New Yorkers. We’re blissfully backward here in Reno.
      As to “copywriter hell”… it’s an interesting concept. I wonder who else would be there?


  • Rezbi says:

    If there is a copywriter hell you boys better get out now, y’hear?

    Beast, (no typo)

  • ken c says:

    And as always, there’s a lot to learn about copywriting & marketing from John in the fact that he always shares these “eye grabbing” stories, his story, the nitty-gritty tales from the journey which make for great reading, and involvement, as part of his way of connecting with all of us.

    I’ve been reading John’s stuff for many, many years and it always grabs me, doesn’t let go til he’s done, and connects in an easy, “gives us a glimpse into someone else’s soul” way that demands and deserves attention.

    And that’s saying something. There’s very few people I keep reading for years, learning new things from all the time; these columns are a great example of how to bond and sell the right way – John does a great job. On many levels, if you pick up on it all, and learn, then use it to connect with your audiences.

    It comes down to authenticity — John’s authentic real-world, and we value it. Many of my competitors try to copy my emails/rip my site copy, but they always “miss” on some key ingredients, and readers can tell the subtle differences…. learning how to write from John is a must-do for anyone wanting to be more successful.

    To the journey,

  • steve says:

    Making a decision.

    I made a purchase today. An $800.00 purchase of a simple writing course, was it the right decision?

    I don’t know yet! There is a 30 day guarantee, I haven’t seen the product yet. The sales page sounded good it convinced me to buy, the testimonials were great, but why would you post a testimonial that wasn’t great.

    Would any one post a comment that said, bought you product, it was a cheap imitation of what a hundred other people are selling and the information was worthless. Thanks, but no thanks

    We wouldn’t post that in our sales letter, so I always discount the testimonials and not give them a hundred percent value to the truth.

    So how did I make my decision to purchase the product!

    I had been looking at the product for over 6 months and fought the urge to buy. I read as much available information as I could find about the person offering the product, and I followed his blog during that period of time, and view some video he had been in, and looked at his experience.

    It was all good, actually it was all great.

    Next I asked a question. Is this product a want or a need?

    Is it something I want? Answer: yes.

    Is it something I need? Answer : maybe.

    My next question- Will this product possibly bring about a fundamental change in my life and carrer if I put it to work as presented? Answer yes.

    Next question, what is the risk? $800.00, time, and commitment.- am I willing to put in the time, put in the real personal commitment, and am I willing to lose $800.00? Or am I going to review it and send it back in 30 days and utilize the guarantee. Answer: Maybe.

    Next question, does this product have enough value to return me a 10 fold return on my $800 dollar investment in one year? Maybe not the right question but if it didn’t return at least that much for my time and commitment would it be worth it otherwise.

    Would the information possibly launch me on a new career path or dramatically improve some of the things I am already doing?

    I don’t know, I think It has potential, my research says it does, but my research does not answer the personal question, Will I do the work? Will I pay the Price?

    My past history says no, I won’t. But at least I understand that and am willing to take the risk. I don’t know that this won’t guide me and invigorate me and help me motivate myself to a new level. If It does that and I stay with it, then the program and information is worth it at almost any price.

    But here is one point, I won’t know unless I try!
    So after 6 months of soul searching I took the leap and spent the $800.00, I can at least try.

    Thanks John

  • Comedian-Turned-Copywriter says:

    smart move steve.

  • Devin says:

    I just purchased it too, before it is taken off the market-I own just about every big marketer’s course, and still have yet to dig into them. The reason I got this was I missed out on the coaching program, and didn’t want to miss this.

    Being a lazy bum I also did not want to take the long hard journey as John Carlton did-I already do it in too many places in life.

    Also if he can write that persuasive a letter, have so many people credit him with helping them so much (Frank Kern, Ken McCarthy) and Dan Kennedy’s stamp of approval, then it appears all that is needed is my desire to do it to get it going and apply the info.

    I met John for the first time briefly at Mass Control seminar in San Diego, spending 2 years with the Navy right now saving money, and investing, and now getting my business journey started! Next time I meet him, at least I’ll be able to know what to ask him and thank him for the great learning!

    Looking forward to the journey…
    Aloha, Devin

  • Razvan says:

    Great blog post John,

    You’ve got me hooked of your articles now. I kind of share your situation … at least in some ways.
    I’m a copywriter, just turned 19 and have my plans for world domination … sorry … writing great copy in order.
    I could say that I’ve heard the same stories of “you can’t do that”, “get a real job”, “go to college” … again and again … and proving them wrong is an good enough motivator as my goals are.

    Right now I study more on the Makepeace/Kennedy side … but I’ll give your program a try as soon as possible.

    One question: You were 19 when you wrote your first letter for Jay Abraham?
    There are not so many people at my age writing copy and improving daily … so seeing someone who started the same way is very motivational.


    • John Carlton says:

      No, Razvan, I was in my thirties. I partied hardy during my teens and twenties. Original slacker. Wasted a lot of time, having fun.
      Got busy when I realized it was time to get serious about carving out a place for myself in the world.

      • Razvan says:

        Then it seems that I have the chance to make history myself.
        Being a copywriter is a lousy perspective unless … unless you want to become the best.
        By the best I understand writing famous promotions (like the “One legged golfer” or Oglivy’s “Rolls Royce Ad”) or why not … become the best paid copywriter possible.

        One thing though … something I don’t really understand. Copywriters in the past had limited opportunities, they could write for companies like Agora, Philips, maybe enroll in AWAI.
        Now, with the launch of info products … what stops us writing for us?
        As an example, instead of writing a copy for $100.000 flat fee + royalties … any good copywriter could create a launch product sequence (the ones promoted by Frank Kern) and make $100.000 … $500.000 … or even one million in 24 hours.

        I really believe now (the 21th century and the info products revolution) is the best time to work in marketing.


        PS: Thank you for your reply. I don’t know if this blog is for commercial purposes only or you want to bond with your subscribers … but your advices and personal replies are much better than a lot of commercial products out there.

  • says:

    This is the second entry I read tonight. And I am on my third. Got to think which one is next. Thank you.

  • Captain Rob says:

    Damn John, you are funny. Well, a funny writer anyway. Harharhar….

    I’m spittin’ tea (what I drink after the pot of coffee) on my laptop!

    I’m a bigtime DIY’er kind of guy. I read, read, and read more on anything and everything.

    I’m afraid to look back through old photos of myself way back when I was starting out in grownup life. I think I just felt a shiver down me back…..

    Arrr. Captain Rob

  • Your “story” about how you got started, and what mentoring means to you, is great. I got a great piece about writing, about 36 years ago that I’ve always tried to follow. In simple terms it was. “Be yourself, and write as if they are right in front of you.” It may not be PC, or even the best way, but it works for me. 🙂
    I agree on determination to succeed. I’m currently rehabbing in a Nursing Home, to rebuild leg strength, in spite of being ~85% paralyzed from a back injury (degen. disk disease from T11 to L5). I could just vegetate, but I work to rebuild so I can get out. Meanwhile, I work on finishing a book to “teach” everything I learned about Advertising, Marketing and Selling, over my lifetime (I’m 60 now), including being really bad at selling, when I was young (couldn’t even give away free samples). Later, I learned two things.
    Be passionate about what you sell (want to fill _their_ needs). Second, make it two people talking about the product/service, not me selling to you. That means take time to be honest, and be friendly. It won’t make a sale right away, but leads to a lifetime of buyers. I can’t afford the SWS, on what’s left of my disability check now, but when I can. The honesty and way you write makes me want it. I count you as one of my “mentors,” even though I’ve never met you, and appreciate what I learn from you.

  • James says:

    John, I had that exact same flannel shirt!
    Great post man.

  • John, this is one of THE most powerful posts that I have EVER read. And I have been online for quite a while.

    I am no longer mad at myself for being a do-it-yourself kind of girl. I also do understand the importance of getting a caring mentor. There’s a huge difference in having a mentor and having a MENTOR.

    Keep up the great work.

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