There Are 2 Kinds Of People In The World…

2-10 iPhone 296

Monday, 3:29pm
Reno, NV
You’re either on the bus, or off the bus…” (Ken Kesey)


Quick lesson here I thought you’d enjoy.

The phrase “there are two kinds of people” is used by comics, politicians, and just-plain-folks trying to set up a point with an easily-understood little story.

It’s an over-simplification, most of the time, of course.  Life is too nuanced and complex to fit into just two tidy categories.

However, sometimes you can make a damn good argument behind the two-groups thing.

In selling, this is what we’ve called “the dichotomy of futures”…

… meaning, you can make two distinctly clear divisions:

1.) The “in” group, which is your target market…

2.) … and the “out” group, which you use as a punching bag to make your point.

The classic example is the old Wall Street Journal direct mail letter that told a story of two men with identical resumes… same education, same dreams, same age, same town, same career.

One dude ended up a total loser, while the other was lavished with fortune and happiness.  The difference?

Dude #2 read the Wall Street Journal, of course.

That letter mailed for a very long time, and brought in a lot of subscriptions.

In that very simple presentation of two futures, we experience the “take away”, the “greed impulse”, the terror of loss, the urge for a better deal than everyone else gets…

… the whole shebang of killer selling strategies that appeal simultaneously to our lizard brain needs and our modern fears.

It’s an ancient tactic.  Philosophers talk about “the road less traveled” (versus the path everyone else takes), soldiers are taught to kill or be killed, and activists say you’re either with us or you’re against us.

No middle ground.  No gray areas.

It’s a nice, tidy, super-simple way to make your point.

However, you can screw it up.

When persuading people, you need to create divisions that resonate and make instant sense.

Good example of what NOT to do: “You either agree with me, or you’re a communist pig.”

You see this type of clumsy attempt used a lot, and it does exactly zero persuading.  In fact, it creates backlash, and you end up with the opposite result of what you wanted.

Folks don’t change their minds… they just get pissed off.

Handled correctly, however, you can actually dissolve resistance and allow persuasion to sneak in the side door.  (As in: “There are two kinds of people — those who agree with me… and those who don’t realize they agree with me yet because I come across as such a goofball.”)

Here’s what reminded me of this tactic: While hosting our super-exclusive Platinum Mastermind Groups this past weekend in San Francisco (screaming successes, by the way)…

… I sprained my lower back.

The ol’ lumbar just went ka-pow on the last morning.

I got through the session fine.  But I was hobbled.

And it reminded me: There are two kinds of people in the world — those who’ve experienced back pain… and those who haven’t.

In the meeting, everyone was generous with the sympathy.

However, there was one guy who instantly connected with my situation… because he’d been down that road before.

If you have never experienced back pain, then sympathy is all you’re qualified to offer.  You cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like, no matter how hard you try.

And once you have experienced it… you’re in a special club.

There really are just two kinds of people.  Those who’ve tweaked, sprained, ruptured or broken any of the gear in their back…

… and everybody else.

I took the one guy aside, and listened to his advice. We bonded immediately.

Some of the other people in the room also had advice, but it didn’t resonate with me.  This fellow-hurting-puppy, though… we had common ground.

In marketing, it’s good to remember this lesson when you attempt to bond with prospects.  (Essential for most selling situations.)

If you can honestly find a natural division between your best prospects and the rest of the world, that you share…

… you already have the beginnings of a persuasive story.

Don’t over-use this tactic, and don’t stretch the facts to make it work.  The dividing line has to be natural and smooth.

In this personal example, I’ve been “open” to advice about keeping my back healthy before — because I’ve had a sore or slightly bummed-out lumbar region for years — but I never paid close attention.

Why?  Because any advice given to me was about preventing the situation from getting worse.

And, as any good salesman (or student of human psychology) knows…

Rule Number One is:  People won’t spend a nickel or invest time to prevent anything…

… but once something breaks, they’ll spend everything they have and focus completely on fixing it.

Once I entered that rare group of actually having a sprained lumbar, I was finally ready to hear some advice about getting it un-sprained.

If what you sell is a solution to a problem…

… then your best prospects will always be experiencing some level of trauma.  (A high level would be a health problem.  A low level of trauma might be needing an oil change in the car before a long trip.)

There’s an interruption in the smooth flow of their life, and they want it corrected.  Fast, easily and at a bargain if possible.

They have a different world view than everyone else.  They’re in a unique group.  And they’ll perk up to stories about this group that everyone else would yawn and ignore.

Good little tool to put in your kit.  Use it sparingly.

Stay frosty,


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

  • Rezbi says:

    It’s amazing: I just came off Drayton Bird’s site where the title of the page I was on is…

    “The world is divided into two types of people…”

    Funny, eh?

    The difference is, the two different types he talks about are the realists and the fantasists. And both examples (yours, John, and Drayton’s) are extremely valid.

    I hope you don’t mind me giving him a plug here. I see both you guys as my mentors: You from my time at the Radio Rant. I really have to come back there once I get a little more time. The feedback and copy critiques were excellent.

    Oh, for Drayton’s site, just click on my name, above.

  • Lisa says:

    John, hope your back is better… I’ve been there a few times and you get so you’re afraid to cough or sneeze. Don’t wish it on anyone.

    Anyway, the post makes me think how I just left the camp of one of the two kinds of people… the ones that make excuses, for the ones that take action… Finally utilizing what I learned in SWS and at the Action Seminar in San Diego… Seeing results of my efforts in less than 24 hours. Maybe not the numbers that excite the masses, but a great start for me and I’m delighted.

    I’ve been both insulted and inspired by your writing (depends on the day and my frame of mind). I’ve never been dissappointed though, because no matter what, I always learn something incredibly useful from it.

    The best thing I’ve learned from facing my fears and taking action, is that it’s incredibly exhilerating and creates a compound effect that reaches into all areas of my life. Especially when you realize that the big bad fear wasn’t all that bad once you stared it down in the first place. Thank you!

    • John Carlton says:

      Excellent, Lisa. Thanks for the note.
      I’ve reminded someone just last night of the need to face your fears, and do it anyway. It’s how most actors face the stage, and how most entrepreneurs launch their biz. Just say “oh, it’s you again” to your fears, and hustle them off to a locked room somewhere in the dungeons of your mind… and get on with it.
      The most significant result I ever got was that first check as a freelancer. Small amount of cash, but HUGE step forward. It’s why so many biz owners frame the first dollar they make…

  • […] There Are 2 Kinds Of People In The World…. <-Article on John Carlton’s blog […]

  • […] There Are 2 Kinds Of People In The World…. <-Article on John Carlton’s blog […]

  • Susie says:

    Hey John,
    Sorry to hear about your back…I had a minor discomfort (from picking up a bag at the wrong angle – ugh) – a couple weeks ago….sat on ice cubes for 3 days (and had that continual fight – which I couldn’t resolve on internet searches – heat or cold, cold or heat, heat or cold, cold or heat….went for cold).
    As far as the “two types of people” – I’m curious – I’ve been doing some promotions for my Kick Butt Booth product. What I explain is that people “think” they know how to work booths because they observe what everyone else does, and they copy it. Problem is – by copying what doesn’t work, they’re not going to get the best results.
    Am I getting too close to “either you agree with me or you’re a moron” – thus, being counter-productive? So far, focusing on very niched keyword promotions, I’ve had one opt-in to my free course. (And I was thrilled!!) But as I continue to dig up additional keyword phrases to promote, I’d love to know if my message is all wrong, or any suggestions for tweaking it.
    Sorry about the back thing….

    • John Carlton says:

      You gotta test. Tough love can sound cruel to a sensitive market who doesn’t know you very well.
      Find out what they need to hear to feel comfortable tip-toeing into your world a bit further… and say that. Don’t force them to hear discordant stuff until you’ve had time to set up the context. Gruff “I know what’s up, and you probably don’t” attitude can work… but not without context. Best: Offer proof that you’re not just a grumpy person, but that what you offer actually works. Testimonials, before and after stories, case studies.
      And cold is always last. Heat doesn’t help with inflammation, and can make it worse. Ice clears out blood while bringing more in. Best: ten minutes of ice per hour. Heat is optional, but you always gotta ice as the last stage.
      I’m an expert now.

  • David says:

    Hi John,
    I remember that Wall Street ad. But, what I am really writing to you about is your back. Mine got the final tweaking in an auto accident about 12 years ago and left me partially paralyzed in my feet and a tendency to be very painful. I found two things that helped: 1. Medx back machine, invented by Arthur Jones (of Nautilus fame). Had me totally pain free in a few weeks. check online for a MD, DC or PT that has one in your area. and/or 2. a book I recently came across, “3 Minutes to a Painfree Life.” I checked it out of the library to see if I wanted to own it and, after doing the TM (therapeutic movements), I am definitely going to buy a copy. cleared up the pain in 1 day. And, yes, it is only 3 minutes plus a couple of minutes to change positions; so, really, about 5 minutes total. and, good for keeping your whole body in tune (not just your back).

  • Mike Singer says:

    Hey John, great timing. Earlier tonight I was remembering what I used to say all the time as a tech writer at Microsoft: “People who don’t read manuals don’t read manuals.” Meaning … you should write for the people who will (and want to) read what you write, not futilely attempt to make your message appealing to everyone and their grandmother.

    My thought tonight was about marketing to the core of a market, not to everyone who “might” be interested in a product or service. What I hadn’t thought about until I read your post is that I can explicitly use this “two-groups” thing in the copy itself. Makes sense, and it might nicely solve a problem I’m working on.

    As for your back … that sucks. I got punched in the sternum a few weeks ago in a martial arts class and my days have been filled with ice, heat, Aleve, Chiropractic and PT ever since. (I’m not getting much sympathy either, since the seminar was on giving and receiving strikes …)

    Thanks again for the tough love on stage at the Action Seminar. Made me feel like part of the “in” group and the “out” group all at once. A really great event!

    • Kylie Doak says:

      “People who don’t read manuals, don’t read manuals” … I like it!

      Thanks for sharing that! I hadn’t heard that before.

      • I had never heard the “manuals” expression before either, but it makes a lot of sense and has a lot of truth to it. Much like the point made about people not investing towards prevention but panicking after a loss. Thanks for the post and the great comment! -Jack L.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Mike. Yeah, it sucks getting punched.
      Somehow, though, it’s even worse that I did to myself. Like Fight Club, without the bloody nose…

  • John, it sounds like you did well to finish your mastermind group.

    I last seriously did my back in on holiday last September. The only way I could get out of bed was to grit my teeth, shuffle to the edge and let gravity do the work. Somehow I landed on my hands and knees which was the only way to get around.

    Cortizone injections did the trick for me and had me on the plane in two days.

    I hope the pain eases soon.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Paul. You know what’s interesting? I hadn’t considered that I’d get so much good advice about back troubles… but next time I have any problem at all, with anything, I’m hitting the blog with a request for input.
      Amazingly knowledgeable group of people here.
      All advice and insight is much appreciated…

  • Hare Krishna says:


    Great post. As always.
    Btw. John, would you be kind enough to reserve “stay frosty” for christmas time and summer time? Gives me a chill up my spine.
    Could you change it to like “stay warm”, at least until we pass winter.
    Reminds me, their are two types of people, people who live in harsh frosty conditions… most of Europe and United States… totally artificial living
    and the other who live in moderate livable conditions of tropics, India, some south and western USA, etc

  • Hey John,
    I feel your pain on the issues that you are having with your back. I’m 31 and all of a sudden, sometimes when I go to bend over to grab things I get this intensely sharp shooting pain in my back and then I raise back up lightening quick in hopes that this feeling doesn’t get “stuck” in my back…lol In regards to this post, I think that it is very powerful how you mentioned that most people will not pay to prevent anything… but when that thing happens to them, they’ll pay anything to find a solution. That is powerful for those who are listening!

  • Sally Neill says:

    Hey John,

    Does that mean if someone was selling an instant fix product for back pain, you would jump right on it? lol.

    Great post, I always love you explain everything so clearly.

    Sally 🙂

  • Rob McNicoll says:

    Hi John,

    First off hope you’re feeling better.

    Second – thanks for this nugget. It’s often the simplest of lessons that have the most impact, and this one has been a epiphony for me.



  • James Fairfield, MD says:

    I’m in the, “I had a ruptured disc camp”.
    I know what back problems feel like — for years.
    Recommended reading for daily comfort:
    “Backache: What exercises work” … by Sobel and Klein. This book is a compendium of simple daily exercises (that can be done easily and quickly) gathered from fellow back issue sufferers.
    Highly recommend it. Perversely — not written by doctors. 🙂

  • John,
    About Ken Kesey ( One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:),
    ” There are two kind of crazies in the world. ( In my world it’s America 🙂 One-is the kind of crazy who is going to eliminate the national debt, I mean just obliterate it to smithereens in a crazy fun way! or Number two-is the kind of crazy that is going to believe that politicians are going to eliminate the national debt through their efforts 🙂 What kind of crazy are you John?
    Respectfully in Truth
    Chief Crazy Captain Christo

  • Gary says:

    Hey John;
    I am presently using this approach in the chiropractic field for a product launch that will be coming in June. Kind of ironic that I am working on a chiropractic product and there you are laid up with the “old back” injury. Maybe, I can send a couple your way for a house call, Ha Ha!! Good stuff as always. Too everyone out there….get the SWS system if you can, your writing becomes the definite edge against the competition.
    Have a great day John and do those back exercises!!

  • Venus Brown says:

    Great post! Gave me an idea about how to improve some copy I’m working on. Also reminded me of one of my favorite jokes: There are 3 kinds of people in this world–those who can count and those who can’t.
    Thanks a bunch,
    P.S. I like “Stay Frosty” and hope you continue to use it year round.

  • Hey John

    I find it interesting that many of the above commenters are trying to connect with you with stories of their own back pain..taking your advice and applying eh? Does it work in short instances like a blog post?

    Your statement that no one spends money on prevention got me to sit up, as I personally believe that’s not true since there definitely seems to be a huge market for “organic” food and products.

    It’s obvious they are targeting people trying to live a healthier lifestyle and prevent future disease. However your point about people will do anything to solve a pressing problem got me to shift my thinking on this as you’re right. People may or may not buy a preventative product but most definitely they will purchase a solution to a problem..a market one would best be served to focus on!

    Thanks for providing your invaluable insights!


    • John Carlton says:

      Think a little more about it, Mark. I do know a few vegetarians who were raised that way (and at least one of them has become a meat eater since leaving home)…
      … but most of the hard-core ones I know (including the raw food folks) got there after experiencing some kind of trauma. Allergies, food poisoning, vague symptoms they attributed to meat… and some are there because their significant other had the trauma and brought them along to Whole Foods.
      Ask someone who eats carefully why they do, and you’ll get horror stories. It could be something personal, or a documentary on meat processing plants. (I was the “hamburger guy” in a meat plant during a summer job in college, and I was so grossed out I ate veg for several years… until I needed more protein, and went back to eating red meat. I feel better eating the occasional steak. But I just another documentary that may yet move me back to more careful eating…)
      Doubt me, but explore for yourself: Hardly anyone is into prevention. They’ve had a scare.

  • Jason says:

    Hey John,
    This was a great blog…

    …I love the way you told the story within the story to help convey your message and teach us some valuable lessons on selling our products. I know that I have heard this “there are two kinds of people” story told to me a million time and I think each time I bought the product. I guess I am just a sucker for this, but now that I know it works so doggone good on me I can’t wait to try it in my copy.

    I just got your “Asskicking Copywriting Course” in the mail yesterday and I am looking forward to tearing through it and creating some great ads that will change my business for ever…

    Hope your back get better…


  • Darrel says:

    Unfortunately you are too right about people not want to prevent something until after it happens.
    You will continue to have episode of low back pain until you treat your second brain with respect. 30+ years of clinical experience has proven this to work-for those that chose to live without health complaints.
    Check out the 7 Secrets of Your Second Brain now or when your back forces you to.
    I appreciate your sharing. We need reminders of what we have learned and new information to continue to plus our lives.

  • Hi John,
    Great as always…

    Everyone wants “to belong” to something and it’s good to, well, help them out. People are almost begging you to place them somewhere don’t you think?

    They want you to pigeonhole them (even if they’re in a group called “I can’t be pigeonholed”, that’s still a group).

    Also, in my own experience in arguing with folks (I love debate) while you certainly can’t “push” people into changing their minds, you can use one very special technique do the next best thing.

    That technique? Properly worded questions. In an argument you can merely ask people questions like, “what do you mean by that,” and, “how did you come to that conclusion?” or, “have you ever considered that…” in a very respectful and sincere way.

    These questions aren’t offensive, and they keep you out of the “hot seat” by forcing the other person in the argument to do all the work.

    It makes them explain their reasoning, because like the communist example you said above, that’s an assertion, not an argument. And most people have no idea why they believe what they believe.

    Questions help expose their thinking, if someone’s fortunate enough to have gone that far…and if so? Then I learn something too.

    There’e a lot more to it, but I think of the great example of Jesus responding to those who wanted to trick him about paying taxes to Caesar. He responded with a pointed question that effectively demolished their efforts (that time around at least) in one sentence – by letting them answer to their own accusation by the response they had to give.

    Way off track here, sorry. And as far as stories go, it’s the most powerful form of persausion as it’s not a “push” but a “pull” strategy.

    It allows the listener to reach the same conclusions you have, but on their own by their opwn reasoning. Of course, it helps that you’ve structured the story to that end anyway 🙂

    This passive approach allows them to reach the same conclusions you have (using stories to make a point) but in a much more persuasive way because they’ll trust their own conclusions far more than yours.

  • Judy Cullins says:

    John, I love most of your pithy advice. Guess I used it recently on my book group at Linkedin. I know as a book coach, I’ve helped many 100’s with their titles. But I had a dry, dull one for my new book on Linkedin Marketing. I asked for help in my groups and got an avalance of great ideas, one of which I rewarded with a copy of the book.
    Shows you the genrosity and creativity of Linkedin groups who keep me coaching and buy my books.
    This finalist: Linkedin Marketing: 8 Best Tactics for Book and Business Sales ( we wanted the key word first for Google) I know it still isn’t sexy, but it is clear…

  • Steve says:

    John–You are to run, not walk over to and buy at least one book from Dr. John Sarno. You are to read and re-read it. You will spend 7 bucks, not including shipping (or you can get it on your Kindle for 10 bucks immediately). If you’re open minded to what is written in the book, you will never experience crippling back pain again. I know that I haven’t.

    BTW, no, this is not an affiliate link, nor do I have any form of biz relationship with Dr. John Sarno.

  • robert says:

    There are two types of practitioners in any field:

    Those who have experienced, first-hand, the problem they claim to solve… and those who don’t.

    I invariably find that those in the former group are much better at their trade, regardless of industry.

  • Warren says:

    Brings back memories of my working days as a Salesman on the road. The way you have to relate to the customer, no mater what condition he or she is in, or how badly there machine is running or maybe broken.
    Then to turn that around with how good there situation is going to be by purchasing your product.

  • Doberman Dan says:

    Lots of gold nuggets in this post.

    And I hope my temporary solution to your back sprain didn’t get you into any trouble with the airline nazis. 🙂


  • Fritz says:

    Switch to Camel Lights.

  • Being about 80% paraplegic due to an auto accident, I sympathize with your pain. Like many others, I *urge* you, to make sure you know the why, and proper what to do. Had I received competent treatment early on, I might not be as bad off.
    As to your stratification of people, it’s all too true. The trick to moving people close to the line, is to analogize to something they are likely to fear. With oil changes, it can be by using the idea of cleaning dirty plates. Repairs can be compared to nagging injuries to their own body. Many will ignore such, but the “fence straddler,” might be moved, if they have had such recently.
    I hope you recover fully and quickly, so we don’t need another personal example of health, used to teach us.

  • ken ca|houn says:

    I had severe lower right-side back pain this year, for the first time, it lasted for nearly three months… went to doctor, got a scan (cost 1k), that didn’t help much… they prescribed pain meds, though what seemed to work best, was the lidocaine patches you apply directly to the skin, helped a bit, though not much. hot showers seemed to be about the best thing. get well soon!


  • Mathias says:

    This post had me thinking a lot…

    Why don’t we just do anything to prevent ourselves from anything bad happen to us? (so things don’t surprise us)? Because we are not superhumans. We don’t have the capacity to motivate ourselves and to solve all problems long before they appear and start nagging us. We can’t possibly be aware of all potential dangers, and if we were our minds would be totally overloaded with stuff and worries.
    Therefore we deal most of the time only with what is depserately painful right now. And we might not even deal with it, because we might associate more pain to dealing with the problem than ignoring it.

    Tony Robbins say, in order to knock your prospect over the edge, you gotta push his pressure points so that he really feels the pain upfront.

    John, It’s like the guy who had back pain before you just unconsciously became your friend/therapist or authority because you realized he had the solution or experience to help you versus all the others.

    Maybe there’s a lesson in this…
    hmm… goes something like this.

    The more expereinces you get in life the more people you can connect with on a deeper level…
    Presupposed: If you’ve taken the time to reflect upon those expereinces and learned a lesson, it will give you and edge over those who say” I know how you feel” Even though they have no reference to back that statement up(exept in their imagination)

  • Hey John,
    One Crazy copywriter needed for Orange Race Card Angels. ” How to Erase the National Debt ” without outsourcing anything> In other words, America it is time to ” work hard ” .
    and smart
    Respectfully in TRUTH
    Chief Crazy Captain Christo
    P.S. If you notice John, I was number 14 in the comments page. The online onslaught of the end of the National Debt begins 1/4/11.
    Stay FFFFrosty:)

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  • Eldahman says:

    Me too! Thanks

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