Lessons From Amateur Drunk Night

jc pic 10

Thursday, 11:30am
Reno, NV
You’re young, you’re drunk, you’re in bed, you have knives… shit happens.” (Angelina Jolie)


Did you go out and do any damage on New Year’s Eve?

Hope you got home safe, if you did.

The world turns into Crazy Town every 12/31, and you can’t projectile-puke in any direction without hitting people who seldom (or should never) drink pounding down Jagermeister and double-bourbons like they’re channeling Hunter S. Thompson in his prime.

It’s been years since I’ve ventured away from home for New Year’s…

… and even then, I only went out because I was sitting in with a band in some bar or club.

There’s a small bit of safety being on a stage while the rookies party below. Even in the sleaziest biker bar I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing in… the bad-asses never assaulted the band.

They might bust a tweaker’s head against the bar just to see what the dude looked like sprawled on the floor…

… but they wouldn’t dream of crunching a musician’s skull (no matter how much you offended his sense of anti-bourgeois anarchy).  That would harsh the party vibes.

Just make sure you keep playing kick-ass tunes.  My philosophy for playing rowdy joints was simple: Every song had to either…

1. Make people wanna shake their booty, or…

2. Cry in their beer.

So, when I put together pick-up bands, I made sure everyone had the chops and the stamina to play set after set of cranked-up rock at blistering paces… with only the occasional retreat for a slow tune (which had to rip open old heart wounds to make it on the list).

Seriously — you wanna wear out the biker crowds quickly, both physically and emotionally.

The “message to market match” here is make ’em dance, and hit ’em in the soft part of their gut every so often.  So they’re passionately exhausted, gasping for air, and lovin’ life.

This approach works with writing killer sales messages, too, you know.

Reading and watching videos is a passive behavior.  The data goes into the eyes, glances off the brain, and dissipates before any retention can happen.

You don’t want this when you’re trying to make a sale.

Instead, you need to wake your prospect up.  If you can get him to lean forward, and even say “No way!” or “What? This can’t be…” then you’ve goosed him into an active state…

… where the deal can go down.

Don’t get fooled by the massive views that videos on YouTube can pile up.  Scoring a chuckle, or even a ROFLMAO Tweet to buddies is NOT the same as persuading someone to haul out their wallet and fill out an order page.

How do you pull off this “wake ’em up” tactic?

Well, you start by realizing who you’re dealing with.

And that’s why we’re going back to New Year’s Eve.

This annual excuse for Bacchanalian excess is just downright dangerous, in ways few other celebrations come close to matching.  (And I say this, having been Best Man at a few weddings that ended in drunken brawls.)

(I still have a fondness for watching loving couples in elaborate gowns and tuxedos try to cold-cock each other, while the dance floor turns into a booze-sloshed hockey rink.)

Many people should just stay away from alcohol altogether.

Most people should avoid drinking while out in public.

And everyone who values life should avoid mass celebrations where amateur drunks wanna party like Caligula.


Because you have left the world of rational thought… and entered a Twilight Zone where emotions blurp to the surface and obliterate inhibition.

Folks who can’t hold their liquor (and even veteran boozers who’ve wandered past their limit) become dangerous, unpredictable, and uncontrollable one-man soap operas.

I’ve seen hard-ass bikers crumble into sobbing messes of vulnerability, and I’ve seen shy, petite brides growl like werewolves and back down transgressors twice their size.

For a writer, this is fertile info.

For a salesman, it’s a window into the hidden world of human decision-making.

When you’re attempting to sell something, you need to move your prospect out of his comfort zone.  For most people, that zone is a zombie state of near-comatose procrastination.

You can’t close.  You may get them to agree that, sure, what you’ve got there sure seems like a great deal… but you won’t close the sale.

Think about this from a personal perspective:  It can actually hurt your brain to make a decision that involves money.


Unless you slip into that warm and fuzzy irrational state where you can shrug off fear and anxiety and all those troubling doubts…

… and just say “What the hell” and slam your money on the table.

Basically, as a salesman, you’re hosting a little party between you and your prospect.

You’re not literally plying him with drink… but you are very much creating an alternative state of consciousness where the stubborn reluctance of a dude deep in his comfort zone gives way to the uninhibited decision-maker hiding deep within.

Now, I am NOT recommending you immediately begin a life of bar-hopping and booze-swilling, in the hope of becoming a better salesman.

You don’t even need a drop of alcohol to pass your lips to understand the lesson here.

You just need to stop and consider the way the human mind can fool a careless observer.  If you spend your entire day around sober, rational people who never let their guard down, you’re going to be lulled into thinking your sales message needs to appeal to our higher sense of reason and empirical data-crunching.

And it’s just not so.

The old rule of thumb (which I learned from incredibly savvy street-wise sales experts): You pitch on reason, but you close on emotion.

So you’ve got to pay attention to the emotional world most people ignore, pretend doesn’t exist, or hide.

That’s the lesson from Amateur Drunk Night.  Folks aren’t suddenly being controlled by outside forces that make them dance crazy, laugh too loud, and start fights with close friends.

Nope.  That’s just another part of their being, burbling to the surface on a raft of booze.

Let the rest of the business world fantasize about a race of reasonable, astute and clear-headed prospects.

Your inside track:  We’re actually a tribe of unpredictable, erratic, mush-brained emotional lunatics.

We just keep a tight lid on it, most of the time.

Side Note #1: Learning these lessons about human nature does NOT turn you into a snarling cynic.

Quite the opposite.  I find that the more I learn about my fellow travelers, the more I love ’em all.

We’re all sharing this wild, amazing ride… on a planet rippling with beauty, horror, pleasure and pain…

… and none of us have an advantage in living well that can’t be learned by everyone else.

The business owner who learns how to sell, and puts what they learn into action, is just a little more awake, and a little more involved in the realities of existence.

It can be startling, at first, to realize how weird we all are… but after that initial shock of awareness, you really wouldn’t want it any other way.

Most of the world sleepwalks through their day.   They are reactive, not proactive.  (In other words, stuff happens to them.  They don’t initiate much action.)

As a salesman, you have to wake up and take on more responsibility.

And the good ones live deep, play hard, and love without inhibition.  You can’t do all that while snoozing.

Side Note #2: I was introduced to Tony Robbins over 20 years ago… when, after a night out partying, I became entranced by his infomercial on the tube.

I kept my guard down, and just went with the rising sense of “gotta have it” he triggered in my gut.  And I bought his tapes.  (Yeah, that’s how long ago it was — he was selling cassette tapes of his course.)

I don’t know how many folks who buy from late-night infomercials are wasted, but I don’t think I would have gone through with the purchase if I hadn’t been a little tipsy.  (This was back in my youthful days of improper behavior.  I’m better now, thanks.)

Nevertheless, I was glad I ordered, and happy when the package arrived.  Got a lot out of the experience, and was introduced to new psychological discoveries through those tapes.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago: I finally met Tony, down in San Diego, when he interviewed me for his Money Masters series.  (Other experts in the series include John Reese, Frank Kern, Russell Brunson, Dean Jackson and other notables from the sizzling online marketing world.)

He thought it was hilarious when I told him this story.  And it got us talking about the crossroads of passion, emotion and decision.

Tony understands what makes people tick.  Going deep with that kind of knowledge is the key to living large.

It was a real treat to discuss such heady intellectual philosophies with a renowned master of observation.

(This is also what I most appreciate about Zen — a complete acceptance of the entire range of human weirdness, without judgment or idealism.  To understand us is to love us.)

Again: I’m not recommending you start drinking at dive bars.

Just start registering what you observe in your fellow man… in all the wonderful and frightening variations we reveal.



Stay frosty,


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  • Ian says:

    Hey John,

    Best post of the year.
    Plus, I’m the first to post this decade. I’m thrilled.

    Keep em coming.

  • Adil says:

    Calling the 2nd spot Ian.

    John, that was an awesome post as usual.

    This has actually helped me because I am a door-to-door salesman who is struggling but what you said about the, you pitch on reason, but closing on emotion. Just makes all the sense to me.

    Thank you,

    Speak soon,
    Happy new decade,


  • Phill Mason says:

    Hi John, great post, thanks. It sparked off several light bulbs for me throughout the article and I love the way your analogies flow.

    I’ve taken a couple of gems from this – thanks.

    Happy New Year to you, your family and friends, I hope 2010 brings you everything you wished for.

    All the Best

  • jeff says:

    Excellent blog! Sometimes you have to do more than ask for the sale. I think about it as “verbally” shaking people by their lapels. You risk making people feel a tiny bit uncomfortable, but I surprise them into making the right choice. I use the spoken word in face-to-face selling. John, you are the master of the written word.
    Many Thanks for your inspirational thoughts.

  • Mark L says:

    Hey JC,
    Happy frikkin 2010 Amigo!,
    As always, a rippin post, John.
    It’s been one of the few New Years I haven’t had a gig to play. Ahhhh, I’ve had the worst case of flu since I painted that picture for Gary Halbert’s office 20 years ago. I wore a spray mask so I wouldn’t drip mucus on it. I know, TMI.
    I’m a professional bass player – 30 years.
    I’ve watched all kinds of devolvement happen in the dives… and the class parties I’ve played. I call it the “11:45 – 3rd double effect”
    The combo of alcohol and hormones hits critical mass and fun begins! The owner of a bar once accused me of starting a knife fight just inside the door because my new 6 string bass was “vibrating the building and making people violent.”
    I like being up on-stage – especially behind chicken-wire or plexi-glass during the full-tilt bozo hour.
    I had a quiet New Years – next year I’ll plug in the stacks even if I’m at home. Or better idea, I’ll find a gig – if I have to drag that stuff up to Virginia City and we play “Who Do You Love?” all night. ——–
    I’ll do it!

  • James Blute says:

    Excellent Blog.

    Keep it coming.

  • Col Lees says:

    Superb John!!

    As a Scotsman I always ‘party’ at new year.. But this year I actually had a ‘quiet night in’… (Well the music was loud, Skynyrd, Sabbath, Guns n Roses, Creedence Clearwater Revival…)..
    I’m gonna get some business sites movin’ this year, and what you were talkiin about really struck home!!
    Cheers John, all the best for 2010 and beyond….

  • Susie says:

    For some reason, I didn’t get the alert of this post – so here I am, at 3:33 a.m., sitting at my computer, telling myself to I need some “Carlton inspiration” to keep my head in the game.
    I’m part of the “stay at home” crowd, too. A few too many people who aren’t designated drivers on the road for my comfort level (and really, I’m not paranoid – just grew up with an insurance adjuster in the house).
    The pitch on reason, close on emotion is a fantastic reminder to start out the year. So now, at 3:39 am, I’m going to review the copy on all of my websites (she says with a snarl….), and reconsider that video that is on my list to edit and post on YouTube later today.
    PS: Am I the only one who doesn’t know what ROFLMAO on twitter is???
    PPS: I bought those same Tony Robbins casettes. Got a bug up my butt to drive to Vegas (I had an apartment there, but no car) – yep, woke up and said, “I think I’ll drive the car to Vegas today.” Took in all 21 sessions of Personal Power in one trip!! I can still see him throwing water in the woman’s face who was whining about not having a guy in her life, and I can still think about him working with the basketball player who couldn’t make a free throw……
    And now – it’s 3:44…..

  • dmh says:

    Ah… there’s nothing like drinking from the refreshing waters of common sense and insight from JC.

    What a way to start the year. Thanks John

  • GV says:

    It’s rare that I have to go to websters.com when reading a blog post. Not that I have a large mental lexical database of note, it’s just when I read “..Bacchanalian excess…” my interest is piqued.
    As for the rest of the post, well… SPOT ON!
    Make Some Trails!

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for checkin, GV.
      And good job looking up what you didn’t immediately understand.
      For the record… everyone should know enough history to register the term “Bacchanalian”.
      If you do not, then (1) Sigh long and hard, blame your stupid ass teachers for skipping too much of the good stuff in school… and (2) Look it up, just like GV did. Websters, Wiki, Greek and Roman history, all of it.
      You should especially know about this stuff if you love rock and roll. You’ll understand when you figure out what the term means…

  • Roger says:

    John, listen, this is amazing news, my drinking carreer wasn’t a waste.

    I did sell in comfort zone of people, matching and mirroring, noding, and always behind others salesman in sales numbers. TY it’s worth a round …. of applause and a beer 🙂

    NO WONDER I needed a drink after day of work, drown my poor performance and let go crazy in laughter then seriously repeating ad nauseam to my wife Tony Robbins tapes recordings. (1999 version were tapes.)

    AWWWW! Now poverty makes sense: I was a plaster charity angel statue coins drop noding its head when receiving a donation. ARGHHH!. that sound like my sales pitch compare to this presentation on sales pitch!

    Resolution: Do crazy and emotional sales and stop Robbins voice over replay ( whish my wife wasn’t listening to anyway) to apply it instead. Beer carreer was good, now get up, shake thy boots with passion 🙂

    John, “You…you’re good, you…”. (Analyse This!)

  • […] And there are numerous copywriters who are fans of Tony Robbins.  John Carlton talks about how he came across Tony’s work many years and how he benefited in a recent blog post (“Lessons From Amateur Drunk Night”). […]

  • Andrew says:

    Beautiful post John, one of my favorites on your blog – not just of this year :D,


  • Dana says:

    Ah, the good ‘ol days…but were they really? Kinda feel sorry for the people who don’t learn from these experiences. Not really. I don’t think they want to change much. But it’s great to know there’s people like you & Tony & many others who are willing to help those who come-a-knocking. Great posts! Thanks!

  • Jurg says:

    Catching up with these posts…LMAO! Great visualizations… “(I still have a fondness for watching loving couples in elaborate gowns and tuxedos try to cold-cock each other, while the dance floor turns into a booze-sloshed hockey rink.)” Hilarious.

    So when and how did you get over “most” of your self-esteem issues? The desire to be “loved?” Unfortunately, I continue to work hard on this. (Cuz of childhood mental shit). In the end, it’s all about acceptance, attention and needing REAL love. Ya know, though not necessary for the really hot chick who feels the need to get tramp stamp. ??? I love looking at ’em, esp on a hot chick, (But (of course), Lord help if my daughter ever gets one). Anyway, not sure where I’m going with this…guess I’d really like your thoughts on self-esteem and confidence. I have a lot, but also full of voids. Maybe there’s a post somewhere here. In a round about way you do touch on it though… Proscht!

  • Jurg says:

    I’m slowly finding the pieces…kinda fun actually…


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