Bamboozled By Babble


Thursday, 11:03pm
Reno, NV
Don’t let me be misunderstood.” (The Animals, #15 on Billboard, 1965)


Quick post tonight… cuz Conan’s second-to-last Tonight Show is on in a few.

(I’ve never been a die-hard fan of the dude, but these final shows should be history-making.)  (I stopped watching late night talk back when Letterman abandoned his DaDa-esque 12:30 show for a boring earlier slot on CBS…)


As a lifelong wordsmith (that’s “writer” to you), I long ago learned to respect language.

It seemed a no-brainer to me.  Language is our primary communication tool… and English just happens to be the most flexible and use-able one ever created.  Unlike every other language out there, it inhales foreign words without problem, gives group-hugs to slang, and offers an amazing cornucopia of choices when you want to get your point across…

… just right.  Blunt, nuanced or sneaky… English has produced the best patoi since our ancestors started grunting at each other.  (French peoples, send me your hate.)

Unfortunately, most of my fellow citizens have vocabularies that ceased growing when they were around 12.  (Newspapers write to a mostly-mythical 8th grade level… and prime time TV shows try to dumb it down even further.)

This can be fine… as long as communication still occurs.  (And I’m a fan of using fancy words only among folks who appreciate them.  Most of my writing, and especially all of my teaching materials, are carefully scrubbed of fifty-cent words… because I want to be understood.  Never use a ball-buster from the Thesaurus when a nice piece of street slang will do the same job, is my motto.)

The trouble is…

… the culture is still pretty much stuck on the 9th floor of the Tower of Babble…

… when it comes to being precise about important words.

I could write for days on this subject.

But I think these few examples, below, will do the job.

These are the words that I see causing the most trouble when I do private consultations.

I used to literally drop my jaw, stunned, when I realized that a client was merrily bustling down a dangerous path… believing he was on the road to happiness…

… when he was actually about to plunge head-first into a pit of misery.

All because he misunderstood a couple of important ideas, as expressed in words.

I see this a LOT.  So listen up:

1. Do not confuse ignorance… with naivete.

Rookie entrepreneurs… and veteran business owners who’ve strayed into mysterious new marketing territory… would do themselves a huge favor by realizing there are vast gaps in their knowledge base.

Just own up to being ignorant of how things get done…

… for now.

Ignorance is the absence of knowledge.  And it’s totally okay to admit to yourself that you’re a babe in the woods at this current stage you’re in.

Your first job is to get a handle on what you don’t yet know… that you need to know.

Then… go get it.  Fill your brain with the data, ideas, secrets, skills and direction necessary for you to succeed.

You’re going to kiss some frogs along the way, so you need to dive in and start sorting it out.

Ignorance can be cured with info.  Just as fast as you can light up your brain nodules with data.

Naivete, though…

… is often a condition that needs bitter medicine to fix.

When I encounter a client who is naive… it means the right thing to do is not pile on more info…

… but rather to perform the most brutal Reality Check they can handle.

The ignoramus just lacks data.  Many will fight having that data absorbed into their system… cuz most folks are terrified of change (especially when it means altering your worldview).

But it can be done.  I was ignorant of pretty much everything about being a freelancer when I became my career.

But I knew I was ignorant… and I gobbled up knowledge like PacMan in an ongoing process of de-ignorizing my bad self (which is still going on today).

Naive people don’t yet realize they are under-prepared and under-equipped to move forward in life.

And — worse part — they tend to aggressively resist being de-naived.  They blunder on, oblivious of their vulnerability to things like experience, savvy and skill in their competition.

So know where you’re at on the scale.

If you don’t know something, fine.  No shame in that.  Get hip, get educated, get mentored, master the needed skill-sets.

And if you’ve been sitting on what you hope is secret self-knowledge that you really don’t understand squat about what you’re doing…

… just get out of your own way.

Stop pretending.  Stop faking it.  Stop believing that good excuses can cover your act for an entire career.

The business world is like the jungle.  The predator doesn’t give a rat’s ass if you’ve got the vapors, or had a bad day, or just aren’t good at some things (because you refuse to get better).

The excuse-model that maybe worked to get you through the miserable school system without consequence… doesn’t do so well in the real world.

And it sucks to get eaten.

2. Don’t confuse experience… with wisdom.

Took me a while to nail this concept.

Back when I was always the young punk at the table (yeah, that was me for most of my career), I knew I couldn’t match clients for sheer years on the job.

And often, I just plain didn’t know as much as they did.

So I sat on my ego… and went to school with every new consultation and meeting with a client.

Didn’t take long before I’d had enough gigs under my belt to qualify for “mucho experience”…

… but more important, I kept focused on what I learned from each experience.

And that’s when the big “a-Ha!” buzzer went off.

Experience does NOT automatically translate to wisdom.

You nearly always need experience before you attain wisdom, yes.  But it’s not a guarantee.

In fact, over my career, I’ve always spent the first minutes of any consultation diving into the experience-wisdom correlation with new clients.

Their ego screams “wisdom”.  But their actual savvy whispers “hasn’t learned shit in all those years”.

The smart ones remember why they went looking for a consultation in the first place, and we can get moving on solutions and fixes.

The dumb ones fight it.

3. Do not confuse ego… with self-awareness.

Ego is bullshit.  At most, it’s a sense of being in the game, and keeping score (often in ways that no one else cares about).

Self-awareness must be earned.

And while most modern people can’t entirely murder their ego… they can at least overwhelm it with self-awareness.  So when it flares up, or gets bruised, or starts interfering…

… you can just say “oh, hell, my ego’s involved in this” and get over it.

Do you set goals?  If you set goals to satisfy your ego, your life will be miserly and grim.

The really good goals in life are always larger than “you”.

Don’t get confused about who’s running the show.

4. Don’t confuse expertise… with fast-talking charm.

I recently met a business owner who was extremely bright…

… when it came to delivering in his biz.

The marketing side?  Not so much.

In fact, as we chatted, he was almost giddy when he revealed he was about to solve all the horrific problems he was having making his online efforts work…

… because he had just paid a small fortune to genius ad guy.

Who was this genius?

Why, the guy behind some of the most recognizable jingles in the history of television prime-time ads.

On Madison Avenue, this genius never has to buy a drink, cuz he’s famous.

For jingles.

I almost choked when I found out the price tag of this jingler’s services (which, I guessed correctly, were centered on bullshit “branding” nonsense that had zero chance of even causing a ripple online).

This problem — confusing charm with real expertise in what you need — is like a weed or rat problem in the entrepreneurial world.

People who can talk the talk… but can’t walk the walk… are causing some serious financial damage out there.

It has ever been thus… until you get hip to how things really get done.

When money is on the line… especially your money (connected to the success or failure of your biz)…

screw charm.

Some (actually, maybe most) of the best marketing and business minds I’ve ever met…

… are charm-challenged, grizzled, anti-social quasi-nut jobs.

You don’t have to like the dude who rescues your ass.

You just gotta learn to tell the difference between him, and the dazzling scumball out to gut your wallet.

Let your trust be earned.


5. Don’t confuse asshole customers… with righteously angry folks who have a legitimate complaint.

You blackball the first.

But you embrace the second.  As tough as it can be to hear someone point out the flaws, foibles and blunders in your biz…

… you cannot grow without that kind of reality check.

Getting good advice, insight and direction is almost never pretty.

This is business, folks.  Not junior high.

6. And… don’t confuse real humor… with puns.

That’s just my own personal crusade.

Man, I hate puns.

Brrr.  Horrible little things…

Okay, that’s it for this post.

As a funny side note… I took a break to go watch Conan… and there was PeeWee Herman, doing a hilariously creepy bit on…

… language.

The entire line-up for the show was dripping with pathos.  PeeWee’s career blew up after a peep show bust in the 90s.  Robin Williams has been vilified, gone through public addiction purging, and worse through his equally long career.  Barry Manilow… well, he had to be Barry Manilow all these years.

Butt of jokes and derision.  You don’t really laugh all the way to the bank in those situations, you know.  It hurts to stick your head above the fray and dare to stand out… and get kicked.

Don’t get me started on critics.  Miserable little twerps…

Anyway, have a good weekend.

And if you’re feeling lucky, see if there’s a seat left at the Action Seminar next week down in San Diego (Jan 29-30):

Grab One Of The Last Seats

Unbelievable line-up of Marketing Royalty will be there.  Spectacular networking, and a chance to see history made… as we renovate the tattered state of the Live Marketing Seminar with real audience interaction (and zero hard sell pitching).

Make 2010 your best ever… by getting some direct, specific and spot-on advice and ideas from the best in the biz.

Okay, I’m done.

Funny that Conan’s last few shows actually reveal how good late night network TV could be… if the Suits would just let go and allow the Talent to air it out.

You know… like they do on cable.

Hey, stay frosty,


P.S. Do not… I repeat… do NOT leave any puns in the comments section here.

I’m serious.

No puns.

Unless they’re really good…

P.P.S. Conan Update: Did you see the final show Friday night?


The final minutes were a pick-up band with Will Farrell singing “Free Bird”… which is funny on multiple levels because that’s the song MOST requested in bars, which bands HATE to play cuz it’s so long (and overplayed).

Choosing that tune showed how hip Will is — it’s an inside joke for musicians.

Stocking the band with Billy Gibson from ZZ Top, Beck, Coco, Ben Harper, Max Weinberg…

I was in tears from laughing, loving every squelch and missed turn-around…

That’s how rock is supposed to be played, folks.  Sloppy and fun.

One for the ages…

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

  • Jason Ayers says:

    Point #3 is well made… and often a dangerous trap when trying to impress clients. Thanks.

  • Great stuff.

    I struggled with point 2 early in my freelance career – I’d get hired to write copy by some successful marketer, but after I finshed it, the “wise” clients would decide they didn’t like my headline or something. So they’d pull it and write their own – having never written a successful ad in their life.

    Then the letter would bomb, and I’d get the blame.

    Looking back I can see that I went into these situations assuming the experienced guys knew what was up, and that led to them thinking they knew better than me, the consultant they’d paid for.

    Not a mistake I’ll be making again… and coincidentally since I started behaving like the adult in the room, I get more hit letters. Who woulda thunk?

    -David Raybould

    • Romeo Blais says:

      Don’t you just hate those know-it-alls.

      it’s like someone going to see a medical doctor whos been in practice for 40 years, and after the doctors prognosis(Sp?), that someone says “hey doc, I believe you’re wrong.”

      and this someone hasn’t studied a day of medicine in their life.

      I swear, in the past, I tried to do copy for small business owners(who fell ass backwards in money from some relative), and because they have the money they think their genius when it comes to marketing that business.

      Worst part: Just about everyone of them said ‘I don’t like it’, when I did the sales copy for them.

      I’m writing copy for myself from now on.

      Morons. All of them.

  • Ed says:

    What’s a pun?

    • John Carlton says:

      A humorous substitution of words that are alike in sound but different in meaning (see double-entendre), as in this passage from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll:
      “And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
      “Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “nine the next, and so on.”
      “What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.
      “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”

      The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
      Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
      Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  • Dana says:

    I have to agree with you on #5, the “the customer is always right” philosophy holds true MAYBE until you own your own business. When I was in retail, I asked more than 1 person find the nearest exit. I was also wondering if you looked at my blog & if my fitness writing “worked out” for you(no pun intended).

  • Thank-you for the wisdom. I personally got the most out of 1-through-3.

    #5 I couldn’t agree more with. “Don’t confuse asshole customers… with righteously angry folks who have a legitimate complaint.” Too many people confuse these two, and burn customers who are practically begging to become raving fans.

    Good luck with your San Diego event. Wish it was a few days earlier – I’m here right now, but need to fly home to Melbourne on Monday.


    • John Carlton says:

      We’ll miss you, Brent.
      You know, the more I think about it, many of my now-best friends started out as someone I either disliked or was viciously suspicious of.
      There’s a ton of Freudian implication in the way we regard other people… and the first clue that you’re dealing with someone who maybe should be in your life in some capacity is the strength of the emotion involved… not whether it’s dislike or like. The meter can swing wildly in both directions in a heartbeat…
      Interesting insight there…

      • Paul says:

        Must be catching. I’ve found that most of best friends have been people that I’ve actively disliked when we first met. It probably stems from a recognition that we’re not as unique as we like to believe.

      • Hal Hoadley says:

        Good point, John. I’m working with someone now that I took a dislike to when we first met online. Turns out the guy is brilliant when it comes to marketing. He’s a little wierd at times, but he knows his stuff and so does his crew around him. Who is this guy and what does he do? Right now he’s running across the United States barefoot to raise $100 million for homeless teens.
        Stay warm up there in them Sierra’s,

        • John Carlton says:

          Ah, yes, our old pal Tellman.
          Just traded IMs with the dude on his birthday last week… he’s still nursing that bottle of Absinthe we gave him for his last b-day…

  • Charl says:

    Great post John! My favorite >>Their ego screams “wisdom”. But their actual savvy whispers “hasn’t learned shit in all those years”.<< So true 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Good looks and witty charm will take you far in the world. Unfortunately, the ones who realize this tend to be sociopaths out to con folks into giving them their votes, money, resources and life-force.
      Always double-check the Savvy Quotient. Never take it for granted.
      Thanks for the comment, Charl.

  • “charm-challenged, grizzled, anti-social quasi-nut jobs”… I reflect that description.
    John, all the best for 2010, Scotty

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks, Scotty.

      • Just own up to being ignorant of how things get done…
        … for now
        Been doing that for a *long* time. Sigh. There is so much to learn, and the hardest part is finding the best teachers. The ones like John Carlton, John Reese, Frank Kern. Steven Pierce, Paul Myers etc. There must be 10 others for every one of them.
        “charm-challenged, grizzled, anti-social quasi-nut jobs” That comment made be wonder if he knew me from somewhere, and I didn’t know about it. Of course, I’ve been active in SF (Science Fiction) Conventions, since 1981.

  • Rezbi says:

    “Some (actually, maybe most) of the best marketing and business minds I’ve ever met…
    … are charm-challenged, grizzled, anti-social quasi-nut jobs.”

    I’m glad you said this. Can’t quite claim to be a marketing genius, yet, but I definitely qualify for the second part.

    So there’s still hope for me.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Rezbi. Yeah, I think a number of folks are thinking “Well, I got that goin’ for me…”
      Just remember that a lot of people who meet these qualifications…
      … really are whacked-out.
      Be careful out there…

      • Rezbi says:

        Just yesterday Drayton Bird referred to me as a fantatical student of marketing… and a genius.

        Bit over the top, I thought – but hey, who am I to argue with the great Drayton Bird?

        So, looks like I’m getting there.

  • Speaking of ignorance. The last time I leased a car I figured I was getting a great deal, but boy did I get taken for a ride.

    Sorry John. Just trying to have some pun here.

  • “Don’t confuse asshole customers… with righteously angry folks who have a legitimate complaint.”

    It’s the ones with a real complaint that represent a HUGE opportunity in which to create a lifelong relationship. When you take care of them more than properly (emphasis on “more than”)…the emotional swing can make them a raving fan.

    Great stuff John (as always). Hope it wasn’t too much of a “late night” for you in writing this (pun intended). 🙂

  • Stewart says:

    Hey John,
    Thanks for sharing those insights because the Internet marketing space is crowded with cockroaches and parasites exhibiting those qualities.

    I wish I could appreciate the learning process but it was painful and expensive. I can now filter the dross and the “so full of themselves” people but experience and the ability to make good decisions came at the expense of bad decisions.

    The really important thing is I won’t let that rob me of my dreams.

    Just one other thing and that is your distaste of puns. Many of them are outright pathetic of course while others are only 2/3’s of a pun…p u.

  • Doug says:

    Thanks for the brilliant tips as usual John.
    I could see it spare me years of unnecessary pain once heeded.

  • Sticking with starting musical/lyrical theme

    Talkin’ ’bout my Generation
    The Who Nov 5,1966

    That seems to sum up the Jingle Writer (No. 4) story. This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile generation and the next one won’t even know what an Oldsmobile is/was. Let alone who Ransom E. Olds was.

    Today’s internet changes more than ’50s auto styling, with more reason. Technology produces changes in technology, which in turn produces mass acceptance.

    • John Carlton says:

      You’re right, Mike.
      My next great pleasure in life will be watching the smug young punks of today’s Web mastery getting their heads handed to them by the generation just now entering high school.
      I’m just a body-surfer, bobbing on the surface and catching the easy waves here… staying as current as possible while the storms move in. Most of my old-school colleagues long ago went under. It’s not hard staying on the cutting edge… but you gotta stay flexible, and willing to de-learn something while learning new things that challenge everything else you believed.
      Actually, it’s kinda fun. I was a master of the old-school world, and I’ve mastered the best parts of the new world online. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
      But I also keep making new friends, especially among the younger generations. They crave my experience (and evil-fun stories of the old days), and eagerly bring me up to speed on the new crap.
      There is zero reason for anyone to get “left behind”, unless that’s what they want to do.
      We’re on the greatest ride humans have ever experienced right now… just let go of your bullshit, and enjoy it…

  • Lina says:

    Hey John
    Thanks for sharing veteran wisdom with a newbie like myself. I’m happy to admit my ignorance. In fact, I’ll hang it out on the line with all my other dirty laundry. I need to learn, quick. No time to waste pretending I know stuff I don’t. So thanks for the reality check mentoring. I’m looking forward to San Diego.
    Lina, from Sydney

    • John Carlton says:

      Be sure to say “hi” when you see me, Lina…
      I think I just saw your Survey Monkey response in the pile…

  • Karilee says:

    Good stuff. I think “Don’t confuse experience with wisdom” resonates the most for me. I can throw tons of information at a client (and so can the internet). My greatest value is when I help them pick out the right information to act on.

    Just in case you doth protest too much, and really DO like puns, you might want to check out almost any of Spider Robinson’s fiction.

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    Hey John,

    another cracking post…

    by the way I do have to point out here, John, that your last post on pitching on reason and closing on emotion has made my sales go up to a good average… not enough to get what I want from you but good enough to help out around the house.

    On this post though all of it helped me out but the thing that stuck out most of all was point #2.

    Thanks again John,

    Hopefully I can get an interview with you for my site at some point lol 🙂


  • Bob Howells says:

    It’s indeed a great ride, John. Happy to be on it as a fellow soul whose intentions are good. Proud of what I know, honest about what I don’t. Which is a lot. See you in SD.

    • John Carlton says:

      Nice use of lyrics from the Animals tune.
      I just discovered that they first heard it from Nina Simone, same year they released it. God, I love Wikipedia… it’s a music-nerd’s Nirvana…

  • Lamo was his namo says:

    Great post— just want to let everyone know I’m on a seafood diet…. I eat everything I see. Ehhhhhhhhhh!!???! Good one- gotta tell the guys on the golf course that funny little nugget of hilarity.

  • K V Boomer says:

    A wise man understands it matters less how much he knows, and much more how much he communicates to others. Well Done!

  • Matt Gallant says:

    “Carlton Weaves The Gold With The White Hairs Of His Wise Beard Once Again”…

    Seriously classic post. Very few if any (I just don’t see it out there) other marketers could of written this post. They don’t have the WISDOM. They have the expertise, but they don’t haven’t synthesized it into translatable wisdom like you.

    Keep on shining,
    P.S. BTW, I was at NAMM last week… And I thought of you as I saw all of these gorgeous PRS guitars.

    P.P.S. Thanks for the crits you’ve been giving Claude and I. We’ve been upgrading and rocking it to the next level thanks to your “trim tabbing”. GO!

    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, Matt.
      I didn’t see your name in the seminar scrolls. You used to be a regular. I’m not giving events much anymore, may never offer another one.
      Just sayin’…
      And send me another testimonial. Glad we’re helping.
      I’ve always wanted to go to NAMM… just never plan for it, dammit. It’s like Guitar Porn there.
      Now I gotta go play my new honey (a weirdo 70s-era Gretsch electric that doesn’t appear on the Gretsch website… I think it may another of their experiments, and possibly worth a fortune… I grabbed off the rack of a used axe joint, loved that crumb-burn sound of the Gretsch pickup… okay, I’m off to play it again…)

  • Tim Hillwood says:

    This id CLASSIC J. Carton. Love it. There’s no sugar coated substitute for someone who has spent time in the trenches and paid attention to which way the bullets flew and why. I’m pushing the reset button to make sure I’m not just having an experience without learning something from it.

    John, sounds like you’re a guitar lover/player. After years of procrastinating (who knows why) I finally got my CD on CDBaby last week and made it available to the world after a friend of mine verbally kicked my butt about doing so. This one is not electric, but you might like the chops on the sample cuts. Got it al back and more after busting my hand in 93′.

  • I admit, I’m shellfish about puns. I can’t carp about the fact that so many consider them fishy humor. If they don’t, just steer them to something else, and let them dig themselves a different joke. If you like what I’m saying, do the same as for John’s blog, egg us on. If you don’t then the yolks on me. In which case, I’ll just leaf this joint, before I get a contact high.

  • Puma says:

    Thanks for the straight up, in your face blogpost. Served up, just the way I needed to hear it this evening!

  • Hi John,
    A friend (marketing genius in his own right) just turned me on to your blog. Your style is very different from mine, and – no matter – I like it anyway.
    My quest is to bring Emotional Freedom Technique to the world, and marketing is not my foremost natural talent. So I’ll stop back here to learn from your insights to reach as many people as possible with this miraculous system of personal transformation.

  • Susie says:

    Hey John,
    I just got home from “movie marathon” – hadn’t been out to any for a couple months (which is truly odd for me) – so in the past two days, I watched “It’s Complicated,” “Blind Side,” and “Extroardinary Measures” (and, of course, bawled my eyes out at that one).

    As always, thanks for the insight. I do have a question: As far as writing with humor – do you teach those techniques? And is it a “skills” or strictly a talent?

    Read a book written by one of Phyllis Diller’s writers that was interesting – but any suggestions?

    From soupy rain-mixed-with-snow Minnesota – (GO VIKINGS!) (And for total disclosure – I’m a “fair weather” fan! Also cheered for the Twins when they made it to the World Series…..)


    • John Carlton says:

      I just bought a book recommended by Kevin Rogers (comic-turned-copywriter), titled Comedy Writing Secrets, by Helitzer. Haven’t read it yet, so can’t comment on it.
      If Kevin chimes in on this thread, he may have more suggestions…

      • Kevin Rogers says:

        Great, John.

        Hall of fame worthy — despite the ironic instigating of punnilingus.

        Glad you got your hands on the Helitzer book. Damn good read. Had slipped past me somehow.

        We had a terrific thread about using humor in copy during in the last SWS session. Here are some highlights:


        JC: Trying to use comedy in your ads is like trying to mix up bomb ingredients — if you don’t clearly and unambiguously know what you’re doing…

        … don’t do it.

        There are a handful of ad writers who can pull it off. That’s why it works so well for them.

        Trying and failing at comedy in your sales message can cause horrific damage to your credibility and bottom line.

        Remember: Most people do NOT have a sense of humor about anything at all. Many of your prospects are, in fact, in some state of trauma — they’re looking for solutions to a problem.

        KR: Comedy is often about nuance, and unless your list is rabid to read every word you write (think Carlton, Kern, Pagan perhaps) those hints of sarcasm and innuendo will be lost.

        Too risky.

        As marketers, our focus has to be on clarity first.

        Having said that, you DO want to use your personality in your marketing. But it needs to read very genuine.

        So, if you’re not the kind of person who gets a laugh at dinner parties, or no one has ever told you how funny your are… chances are, you’re just not outwardly amusing in an instantly recognizable way.

        (NOTE: Any story that consistently ends in you saying: “Guess you had to be there”, should be pulled from your rotation immediately.)

        Comedy is all about commitment. In writing, just as in live comedy… if your audience sees you second guessing a line, a bit, or a character portrayal — you’re dead.

        JC: In being the go-to-guy for your market, you must be the Adult In The Room… meaning, you have taken on the responsibilities of leadership (which cannot work if you do not take it very seriously).

        Comedy can be a form of leadership… but it’s never the only element of good leadership. And it can go haywire (as Kevin pointed out).

        Know that it’s a tool. Pursue it, if you like, as a tool to help you lead in your niche.


        Susie… the answer is “yes, it can be learned”… but perhaps not by everyone. If someone is missing a funny bone, then it’s unlikely they could learn to write humor well.

        Because underneath all the tricks and tactics is a deep DESIRE to get the laugh. And to own that desire you have to “get” how to get a laugh.

        I recommend the Helitzer book. Also, listen closely to comics like George Carlin, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, for the patterns of their jokes.

        Even write out their jokes word for word and note the style. You’ll quickly begin to see how it work for them… and maybe even discover your own unique style in the process.

        Hope that helps,

  • Edgar Tucker says:

    Appreciate your content and direct approach to marketing. Edgar

  • Janet says:

    Don’t try to murder the ego. It’ll just retaliate. One wonderful program for acknowledging the ego without letting it take you over is “Big Mind Big Heart” developed by American Buddhist monk Genpo Roshi. I took a weekend workshop with him and it was fantastic. He’s very down to earth. And funny and entertaining! He has you acknowledge the different parts of the ego (your angry self, your fearful self) and appreciate the good they do. But he also teaches you how to be sure the deeper self is in charge. I can’t say I do it all the time, but years later, I do still use the technique and it works. You can find out more at

    I also find Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” helpful, and as you say, the key is being aware of the ego. You can’t just make it go away. You can only shine a light on it. When you do, it disappears, because it’s false. I find Tolle’s book helps me see this more clearly.

    I know these two paragraphs seem to contradict each other – we need the fearful self to help us know when there’s danger present, so if that’s part of the ego, how can it be false? Well, it is and it isn’t. In this physical world, we need it. It’s just one of those crazy Zen paradoxes.


  • Hal Merrill says:

    Great post John. Reading some of the comments about technology overtaking technology and you just body surfing and dodging the storms, that scares me 🙂 I just made my first $3.50 on line and I’m wondering if the technology will change by the time I learn this stuff to REALLY start making money at it. But I always value your advice.

  • Michael McKenzie says:

    THANK YOU for a great example of language as action. Sadly most people do operate somewhere around 8th grade, and it gets a little frustrating when a slightly nuanced word gets met with “huh?” I remember hearing a long time ago that Shakespeare used something like 250,000 words and the average American uses 4000!!
    Thank you for your willingness to put the vital importance of our language front & center.

  • lj says:

    this is really a reality check for reading this post…
    Great Post John! 🙂

  • […] In the last couple of days I’ve read a couple of things that I thought I should pass along. First, these words from John Carlton’s latest blog post: […]

  • Watched a Steve Vai concert on Palladia this week. While I’m not a huge fan you have to respect the talent. I would not stand a chance cutting heads with this guy, but would I jump on stage with him given the opportunity?
    Hell yes.
    Would my ego get crushed?
    Most definitely.
    Would I learn some valuable new licks?
    Oh yea.
    Would it be worth the humiliation?
    Guess that depends on what’s really important,
    for me…yes it would.
    I have been writing radio and TV ads, newspaper ads and the such for 25 years and have had a small (really small) ad agency the last ten. I should know something about copy writing… just like after playing guitar for over 40 years I should be pretty good… but you know what? I’m just decent at the guitar and I understand how little I know about writing. That’s why I come here and read John’s stuff…and pay close attention.
    I want to become a really good freelance copywriter…just like I would love to play like Clapton… but I don’t yet have the chops.
    I’m just a 50 year old guy who has been selling stuff all his life.
    Thanks John for a needed reality check.
    Now I know I am just ignorant,
    not oblivious to my vulnerability.

  • P.S. If I knew where Grandma’s jewelry was…
    I would see you in San Diego. No, I am not a scum bag…she hasn’t worn it in years.
    Saving for the SWS though…soon…very soon.
    If you have the means,and are not oblivious to your vulnerability (damn that’s a good line), you should be there.


  • Victor says:

    Just tried to watch “free bird” clip from the final show on youtube as I missed it live, the clip says
    “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by NBC Universal”
    Sign of the times.

  • Sherry says:

    Great post John. I think one of the most frustrating things I run into is people that email asking for help, and then argue with the answer. Rather than tell people they are going to be wealthy and famous overnight, I tell them to roll up their sleeves and prepare to learn. In reality, moving into an online business is a change of career. No one would expect to become a professional in the traditional sense of the word without spending time, money and sweat equity to earn their degree or professional recognition. It amazes me to no end when they think they should be able to run an online business with a total lack of computer skills, no training and zero investment. The industry itself has a lot to answer for in regards to this, but there are thankfully a few good teachers and mentors out there to help.

  • It’s almost ground-breaking to hear a marketer of renown, using terms like ego and awareness…
    You’re very right John; let’s hope the seed you’re planting now, will grow.
    Awareness is ever there in everyone, shrouded by the ego. When our honesty cuts the veil, their hearts listen.


  • John,
    You wrote: “2. Don’t confuse experience… with wisdom.”
    Completely agree. Some have five years of experience with 50 years of wisdom; others, sadly, have five years of experience where they lived the same day 1825 times.
    Make some trails!

  • Tim G says:

    Speaking of puns, I once entered 10 puns in a pun-writing contest hoping one would win, but no pun in ten did.

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