Congratulations, And Now Stop Being A Wuss

iPhone09-2 225Monday, 7:55pm
Reno, NV
But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash“)


Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.

That’s probably a good thing.  I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.

See, I have a university “education”.  A BA in psychology.  (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.)  I earned it several decades ago…

… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…

… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world.  Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.

I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Depression (Nixon’s post-Vietnam wage-freeze, record unemployment, gas-lines, near-total economic turmoil)…

… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?


While today’s graduates are facing similar grim economic times, there’s been a significant change in the concept behind a college education.  Somehow, over the years, a bizarre mantra has taken hold in kids minds: “Get a degree, and it’s a ticket to the Good Life.”

A job is expected to be offered to you before the ink is dry on your diploma.

And it really, really matters WHICH school you get that diploma from.

You know what I say?

Bullshit.  Okay, maybe if you go to Yale or Harvard, you can make the connections on Wall Street and in Washington to get your game on.  Maybe.  (More likely, those connections are already available, if you’re gonna get ’em, through family bloodlines… and the Ivy’s are just playing up their famous track records in a classic sleight-of-hand.)

Put aside the advancement opportunities offered to spawn of the oligarchy, though… and the realities of life-outside-of-academia do not jive at all with the propaganda doled out by the university systems.

Many of the richest guys I know are drop-outs.  Some are HIGH SCHOOL drop-outs.  The few friends who did go to the kind of school whose name causes eyebrows to rise…

… are ALL working far outside their major.  To the point that nothing they learned has proven to be even remotely useful to their adult life.  (Unless they stumble upon another over-educated dweeb at a cocktail party and get into a bare-knuckle Trivial Pursuit marathon.)

Too many people get all confused and bewildered about “education” as opposed to “going to college”.

It’s not the same thing, folks.

Some of the most clueless individuals I’ve ever met have impressive diplomas… while nearly all of the most savvy (and wealthy) individuals I know done got educated all on their lonesomes.

I learned more about history, business and psychology in 2 weeks of serious library surfing (with a speed reading course under my belt) than I did in 4 years of college.

And I learned more about life in 3 months of hanging out with street-wise salesmen than I did from ANY source, anywhere, up to that time.

By all means, go to college if that’s part of your Master Plan to having a great life.  You’ll meet interesting people, and it’s a Rite Of Passage for many Americans these days.

But don’t do it blindly.  Just cuz The Man says it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.

Do some critical thinking before you jump in.

And if you really want that degree in Russian literature, or women’s studies, or political science, or whatever… then fine.  Go get ’em.  Grrr.

Just KNOW that you can probably educate your own damn self on those subjects… and even get a deeper understanding of it all… by reading every book written about it, and interviewing a few experts.  And if you can get private mentoring from someone, even better.

This can all take place during evenings and weekends, over the course of a few months, while you hold down a day job.  Even if you buy the books, instead of hitting up libraries, you’ll have spent less on this specialized education than you’d pay for a single semester in “real” school.

And, unless you’re the laziest screw-up ever, you’ll actually learn MORE in those few months of intense immersion… than you would with a full-on degree.

You know how I can make this bold claim with a straight face?

Because this is what I’ve been doing as a freelancer for decades.  Every time I wrote for a new market, I spent weeks immersing myself in it… learning everything I could about it from the inside-out.  And this process often made me more of an expert than the client himself.

And I did it over and over and over again.

It was just part of the job.  All top freelancers do this.

Once you lose your fear of self-education…

… you can finally let it sink in that WE LIVE IN THE FREAKIN’ INFORMATION AGE.  The joint is crammed to bursting with books, ebooks, videos, websites, courses…

… the whole world is CRAZY well-stocked.  There are teachers and coaches and mentors available if you need supervision.  (I’ve partaken of this opportunity frequently over my life.) Boards and fan-zines and forums and membership sites abound (for bitching and moaning, as well as for networking with peers).

It’s a cornucopia of knowledge, experience and adventure out there.

Yes, there are blind alleys and pitfalls and wrong turns…

… but once you’re committed to learning something, these are just brief excursions off the main drag… and you can use even your failures as advanced learning tools as you gain expert status.  (In fact, it’s really required that you screw up at least a little bit.  Otherwise, you never get perspective.)

And best of all…

… you can engage with life as you go.  And skip the jarring nonsense of the Ivory Tower bubble.

(One caveat to self-education: You must, early on, read up on how debates are actually taught.  Or join a debate club.

I’m serious.  Best thing I’ve ever done.  As you sample debating, you should demand that you are given the OPPOSITE viewpoint that you currently hold for any subject.  This forces you to look beyond your petty biases, and to open your mind to other points of view.

This is a HUGE advantage to have in your toolkit throughout life.  Everyone else will be hobbled with un-examined party-line nonsense and indoctrinated crap they can’t even begin to defend when challenged…

… while you — with your rare ability to walk in anyone’s shoes, and to feel the pain or glory of alien thought patterns — will forever more see beyond the sound bites and cliches.  And be able to eloquently explain anything, to anyone.

You will actually begin to sense vestiges of “truth” in the wreckage of our modern culture.

I don’t have to tell you how that might apply to marketing, do I?)

Most people will not go this route of self-examination and immersion-learning, of course.  The concept of taking control of your own education seems kinda threatening and foreign to the majority out there.

We spend the first years of our lives sitting quietly in classrooms, being trained to believe we don’t know shit (and that Teacher knows everything).  That’s excellent training for hitting a groove in college and post-grad pursuits…

… but it’s piss-poor preparation for Life In The Concrete Jungle.

Again, nothing wrong about going with the status quo.  No shame.

Just don’t expect to learn much about the way the world works.  You’re learning how academia works.  Different animal.

Wanna hear my short speech on how to prepare yourself for life?  (I’ve edited this from a recent post I wrote for the Simple Writing System mentoring program.  Lots of great stuff keeps coming out of that gig…)

(Okay, quick plug: Check out to start your own adventure as a high-end sales master…)

Here’s my mini-rant: I’m extremely prejudiced about this subject, of course.  If I ran the world, everyone would get at least a taste of being an entrepreneur.

It will taste bitter to most people.  And that’s fine.  No harm, no foul.  Move on to getting that job with The Man.

But for some… it will be sweet nectar.  A thrill like nothing else they’ve ever experienced before.

Being an entrepreneur takes balls.

But you don’t have to “be” a ballsy kind of person.

You just have to understand how to implement your goals… which requires a little savvy about getting stuff done in the face of opposition and obstacles.  Which is the definition of “ballsy”.  Most of the people successful at achieving goals were not “born” with the necessary guts.

They learned the skill of living life with guts, just like they learned every other important skill associated with the gig.

I OFTEN intervene even with long-time professionals (like freelance writers, or veteran biz owners) who are screwing up their efforts to be successful.

My main advice:  “Stop being a wuss.  Everyone is scared.  The successful ones acknowledge that fear, put it aside, and just get busy taking care of business.”

It really is that simple.

Life beyond childhood is for grown-ups.  If you’re scared, you can take a regular job somewhere, and stay far away from the risks and realities of being your own boss.

On the other hand… if you’ve got entrepreneur’s blood in your veins… and you really DO want to be your own boss…

… then allow the reality of doing so to wash over you, and embrace it.

Everyone is unsure of themselves out there.  There are no guarantees in life for anything… and getting into biz is among the riskiest things of all to do.

A tiny percentage of skydivers will die each year while jumping… but a vast chunk of rookie business owners will fail.

This is why you pursue the skills of salesmanship.  Learning how to create a wicked-good sales message, how to close a deal, , and how to bond with a target market is the PRIMARY weapon you want walking into ANY business environment.

Will you still fail?  Maybe.

But you will NOT fail because you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. If knowing how to persuade and influence can make your business sizzle, then learning salesmanship means you’re armed to the teeth.  Like everything else in life, having the right tools for the job at hand is the best way to put the odds in your favor.

MOST people are not meant to be their own boss.  The world needs followers, too.

Here’s what I tell students in the Simple Writing System, when doubts about their future bubble up:  “Just by diving into the SWS, you have shown that there is something different burning inside you.  No one held a gun to your head and forced you to come here to learn these skills.  You decided to join all on your own.

“Even if you’re not yet sure why you’ve joined us here… you need to understand that MOST people would never even consider doing anything like this.

“Independence freaks most people out.  The thought of standing up and taking responsibility for the birth and success of a business is terrifying… and most will refuse to even entertain the thought.

“This is, by the way, why you should always enter the entrepreneurial world WITHOUT relying on your current crop of friends for support.

“They will not support your efforts.  They think you’re batshit crazy for daring to even consider being your own boss.  They will (consciously or unconsciously) sabotage your progress if they can, and rejoice in your failures… because if you DO succeed, that kills their main excuse for not succeeding themselves.  Most folks believe success is all about luck and magic.  When you dig in and actually do the work necessary to succeed, you piss all over their world view that The Little Guy Can’t Win.

“If you’ve made friends or started a network of fellow travelers here in the SWS, great.  Most entrepreneurs have to operate alone (until they find places like this, where they can find help, advice and coaching).  That loneliness just intensifies the fear and sense of risk.

“But I’ll tell you the truth:  As scary as being independent is…

“… once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be hooked.”

Most entrepreneurs who enjoy even a little success instantly become “unemployable”.  After thinking for yourself, after taking responsibility for your success or failure, after engaging the world fully aware and experiencing the thrill of living large…

… you’re worthless to a boss.  He can’t use anyone who thinks for themselves.

Are you wracked with doubt?

That voice you hear — the one knocking you down, digging a knife into your gut and highlighting your worst fears — is JUST A VOICE.

In psychoanalytic talk, it’s your “Super Ego”… the scolding parent’s voice, the doubter of your abilities, the whiny little bastard bent on keeping you down.

And it can easily be sent packing.

Most people allow others to rule their lives.  Rules and bad advice and grim experiences dating back to childhood somehow become “the way it is”…

… and regardless of any proof otherwise, they will obey that voice until they die.

And yet, all you have to do…

… is acknowledge the voice (“Yes, I hear you, you little shit“), realize it’s not your friend… and lock it in a dungeon deep in your brain, where you can’t hear it anymore.

I speak from experience on this subject.  I was ruled by The Voice Of Doom for the first half of my life.  I didn’t even try to take responsibility for my success, because The Voice told me it was hopeless.  That I was hopeless.  That Fate had nothing but failure in store for me.

Then, I realized that The Voice was actually full of shit.  I proved it, slowly at first, by setting a goal outside The Voice’s warnings… and then achieving it.  And then doing it again.

It’s like superstition.  I used to be the most superstitious guy you’ve ever met.  Literally, my life was dominated by superstitions.

Then, one day, I just decided to see how real those superstitions were.  So I violated every single one of them.  On purpose.  If I had previously thought some action was “bad luck”, I would do it, blatantly, just to see what kind of bad luck occurred.

And, of course, no bad luck ever appeared.

The human brain is crammed with bullshit like this.  Superstitions, bad rules, dumb beliefs, unfounded fears and ridiculous feelings of guilt and shame.

Especially guilt and shame.

You know what a fully functioning adult does?  They don’t approach life believing it should be a certain way, or wish that life was a certain way.

No.  They engage with life the way it really is.  You make your own luck.  Rules sometimes make good sense, but deserve to be broken when they’re clearly stupid.  Belief systems often have nothing to do with reality.  (You can “believe” you’re gonna win the lottery with all your heart and soul… and it won’t change reality one tiny bit.)

Fear is a natural part of our defense system… and it can get out of hand in modern times.

So you need to dig in and get to know your fears.  Some are fine — don’t walk down that dark alley if you’re not prepared to deal with the shit that happens in dark alleys.

Others are bullshit — you had a bad experience once when you were 12, and so what?  Get over it, put on your Big Boy Pants, and re-engage with life.

And shame?  Guilt and shame are useless.  On the road of life, feeling guilty about something is like setting up camp and refusing to move or progress any further.

Instead, try “remorse” — recognize when you’ve done something wrong, clean up the mess, fix what you’ve broken as best you can, and make amends to people you’ve hurt.

And don’t “vow” to do better next time.

Instead, actually DO something to change your behavior or habits.  Promises are bullshit.  Action is the only way to move through life in a positive way.

Don’t promise to do better.  Just do better.  This will probably involve learning something new — a new skill, a new way of dealing with life, a new set of behaviors.

Doing this will set you apart from the majority of other people out there, too.

The modern Renaissance Man or Woman is something awesome to behold.  While the rest of the world increasingly sinks into a snoozing Zombie-state — indoctrinated, fooled, manipulated and played– you have the option of becoming MORE aware, more awake, more alert and ready to live life with gusto.

However, no one is going to force you to do this.

If you want to join the Feast of Life, you have to stand up and earn your seat at the table.  You will not be invited in.  You will not stumble in by accident, or stroke of luck.

Nope.  You must take responsibility for your own life… figure out what you want… and then go get it.

It’s a daunting task for most folks… too daunting to even contemplate.

For the few who know it’s what they want, however… it’s all just a matter of movement and action.

Yes, it can be scary.  Life is terrifying, at times.

It’s also only worth living, for many people, when you get after it with all your heart.

There are no replays on this game.  No second tickets for the ride.

You’re allowed to sleep through all of it.  Most folks do.

If that’s not good enough for you any more, then welcome to the rarefied air of the entrepreneur world.

It’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s scary, and there’s no safety net below you.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s the commencement speech I’d give.

Put you to sleep, didn’t it.

Okay, my work is done here.

What would YOU tell new grads?  Lay it out in the comments, below…

Stay frosty,


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  • You just wrote my life in a blog post. It’s uncanny.

    I attended university because my parents wanted me to. Originally I was “supposed” to be an engineer because I was good at it, but I always wanted to be an entrepreneur like my dad.

    So they sent me off to learn business management and marketing at university (though I paid for it all with my hard earned money). I don’t know how, but somehow I heard about internet marketing, and it intrigued me. I got into it a little bit, and realized I was learning a ton on my own.

    Then I realized that my university professors who were supposed to teach me business had never sold a darn thing in their entire lives, and they were just regurgitating what they learned when they went to university.

    I learned so much on my own that it was unbelievable. And when I got out there and started using what I knew, I got experience and it was an amazing education.

    I ended up getting a 0.2 GPA my first semester of university because of a woman and because I was teaching myself about internet marketing, and then I went for another semester (because my parents wanted me to and I didn’t want to let them down) and I ended up getting a 0.5 GPA, which came with a letter from the dean telling me they don’t like my kind and they had de-inrolled me from the classes I signed up for the next year.

    So I went and started my own business and learned through experience & self-education. I am constantly reading, learning and educating myself on pretty much any topic I desire.

    If I suddenly get the urge to learn about something, I’ll study it hard and learn everything I possibly can. Every day I learn something new. If I don’t, I feel like I screwed up.

    Like you said, I fail. But I just figure out why I failed and I fix it for next time. If I fail, it just means that I’m taking action and that’s a good thing, as long as I learn from my failures.

    And the thing about debates is something that I totally relate with. I never was on a debating team (I went to a private school that didn’t have one) and I never really learned how to debate, but I’ve always been the type of person that loves to just get into a debate with someone.

    I’m fairly opinionated, but not like most opinionated people. I do my best not to form an opinion unless I have thoroughly investigated both sides of the subject.

    When I do get into debates with people, I can usually argue their side better than they can, but I can argue my side better. Unfortunately people argue emotionally so no matter how much proof you have that they’re wrong, they still believe what they want to, but that’s another matter.

    Debating is incredibly valuable, and knowing both sides of the argument is amazing. I kind of wish I could’ve joined a debating team, but I got in enough debates at school and at work that I don’t think it would’ve made that much difference.

    Pretty much every lesson you mentioned in this blog post is the core of who I am, and I learned each one through experience and thinking similar things that you thought.

    I’m not nearly as successful as you yet, but I’m 19 so I’ve got lots of time (and I’m working hard to get there).

    Reading this was quite refreshing. It’s always nice to read posts from someone who’s not afraid to just lay it all on the table.


    P.S. I’m with you. If anyone ever asked me to give a commencement speech, I’d probably have to decline otherwise they’d get a rant that would probably turn them all into dropouts.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Shawn. Pretty impressive story — getting kicked out of school… by the dean, no less… because you learned some biz savvy (and had some fun) is the kind of tale that can define a man.
      I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more from you in the biz world. Never let the bastards get you down…
      Thanks for the post. You give me hope about how your generation is gonna handle the mess we’ve bequeathed you…

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Hartmann and Eric Graham, James Foster. James Foster said: Congratulations, And Now Stop Being A Wuss: Monday, 7:55pm Reno, NV “But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The… […]

  • John, you are the man!

    I am glad you had the gut’s to say what you feel even though I am sure you will take heat for it.

    Growing up I always had trouble in school. They put me in the special math, reading and spelling class. I struggled all through school…and the simple fact is…if you can’t keep up you are left behind.

    I wound up growing up just feeling stupid. After my freshman year in High School I wound up dropping out.

    At age 16 I started working full time and continuing my education on my own. I started learning the way that best suited me.

    From outside pressures I always felt like I would never amount to anything without schooling and so I decided to give college a try.

    In fact I gave the whole traditional thing a try. I was going to college, I got a job as a 911 operator and was making $4,000 per month at age 19.

    It came as a shock to my friends and family when I decided over night to quite my job and drop out of college. I think everyone thought I was stupid. (My girl at the time, now wife, was the only one who supported this crazy decision.)

    I took a few months off and started surfing the web and researching. I started learning about being and entrepreneur and how to start a business. By age 19 I started my first company.

    It was a janitorial company and the two years I owned that company it grew to over 6 full time employee’s and over a quarter mil a year. I learned more in those two years than I ever have before.

    Once I had that taste of entrepreneurism I couldn’t stop! Through trial and error and busting my ass I kept working for my self.

    Now I own a software development company and do internet marketing. I couldn’t imagine ever going back or changing anything I have done.

    All my friends went through college. I see them just getting out of school with a mountain of debt and working day in and day out for someone else. Making someone else money. They are the one’s making less money than I do…with more debt than I have…and yet some how they think I am the crazy one.

    John, you really hit it about school. I think school in general beats the creativity out of people and teaches them to be employee’s.

    I really only support the school system for people who have a passion for a specific job…(Lawyer, Doctor, etc..)

    Getting a degree for degree’s sake just makes zero sense.

    Keep it up John…Speak the truth and keep kickin’ ass!

    Michael R Roberts

    “Why we want you to be rich”
    by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki
    (This was a great book covering the same kinda thing.)

  • Yep, a few of us are gathering together here. 🙂

    I dropped out of college too, and started my own computer retail biz “Golden Apple Computers” at 18. (I sold 1 computer and drove the biz into the ground because I was still a kid and dumb as a rock business-wise.) I was going to enroll in the Business College division of my university, but my GPA was too low (2.5). Thank goodness for that.

    Now I’m 30, own a very successful computer repair brick-and-mortar biz that’s contract with the Military, and my internet marketing is finally taking off as well (Would’ve been quicker, but I was too “distracted” by my offline-biz pursuits.. hehe).. All success due directly to self-study and getting my ass kicked in the trenches. It’s the only way I know how to learn… I couldn’t imagine getting anything functional out of textbooks and homework.

    You’ve been one of my personal hero’s for years, John. In all seriousness. Thank you, you’ve taught me a lot over these years.

  • Chris Hunt says:

    Don’t have many debate clubs in England…

    …just inquired about a public speaking group. Been trying to think of ways to bend my mind to cajole and incite new, wider thinking.

    I’ll leave it at a congratulations for another insightful blog post…

    …I enjoyed the firm and awakening slap of reality!

  • Jim Munro says:

    Great (and world-wise) statements. Only I wish I’d heard them (and had the tools to understand them) when I was about to enter college. The university systems are becoming an endangered species. They have acted as gatekeepers (give me $ and you will get this certificate which will get you a job and the $ to pay off the loans you used to get this certificate) for too long and they’re becoming unnecessary as people get smarter.

  • Kyle says:


    BY FAR the best piece you’ve written since you dropped the Rebel Rant newsletter. Seriously, holy shit man! Do more posts like this. Absolutely OUTSTANDING.


  • John,

    Great stuff (again).
    So many people who even consider the “entrepreneur’s path” seem to get trapped into thinking:
    “I’m the only one who’s scared.”

    And like you mentioned, we’re all scared.

    Those that get over it, and truly “set it aside” as you mentioned, are the ones who usually move on to greater things.

  • Joel Helfer says:

    Hey John,
    I couldn’t agree with you more.
    My son Zach graduated the University of Illinois approx two weeks ago with a degree in Architecture.
    He loves the stuff, worked his but off and graduated within .03 of high honors – 3.59 average.

    But unfortunately, not only were their no jobs out there, there were no interviews. Needless to say Dad
    was pissed.

    I sat down with him, created a simple wordpress
    website, created a list of 800 architects in the Chicago area by hand,
    ( bummer ), wrote two emails and landed him 5 interviews within the space of a week. He just received a part time job for the summer, which is better than nothing, till he goes back to grad school. Two more years of BS – but we are going to add one thing.
    Thanks to you and the SWS course, which I am about to complete for the second time, I was able to write two emails and web copy good enough to
    create interest in the Chicago architecture community for my son. We used a modify Jeff Walker Internal Product Launch, and all the persuasive elements of your course I could muster.
    Funny, he was the only one to get I interview, let alone 5 from his graduating class, and It all came from internet marketing strategies.
    So kudos to you, your course, and all the other internet marketers I have learned from, that made it possible for me to help my son.
    We are going to continue to market him to architecture community for the next two years to position him to get several job offers.
    PS – My son Zach asked this question right after he graduated. “I wonder how much debt walked off that stage with my fellow graduates… and Now how are they going to pay for it?”
    Regards, and thanks
    Joel Helfer

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Joel. Excellent use of web-strategies, and the SWS will be a boon to your son for the rest of his days. Even architects gotta sell their concepts.
      I found your story here very uplifting. No one who really “makes it” in life had it easy, especially in the early going. This little adversity… especially the cold water in the face about all the other grads getting no interviews… allowed both of you to engage your skills and brains. Really nice job, all the way around.
      Life should be an adventure. You get better at handling the obstacles as you get practice (not theory), and the risks that scare others become just routine problems to be solved.
      Really enjoyed reading this, Joel… good luck to your son…

      • Joel Helfer says:

        Dear John. Thank you very much for your reply. Your comments just give Dad and Zach more enthusiasm and energy to implement the knowledge we have, in the face of current tough economic times… that will eventually get better. And when that glorious day come, we will both be positioned to “ROCK THE WORLD”.

  • Pamela says:

    I love this! It never dawned on me that most people wouldn’t go to a seminar like SWS – my whole life has been about seminars, and I’m headed to another one today. I have SWS on DVD – got it at Paid for Life last year! I would tell a new grad to think very carefully about the financial repercussions of a college education. If you have a scholarship – GREAT! Go for it. Free money is free money, and the sheep skin isn’t going to hurt you. If not, then re-think the plan and know, going in, what your debt is going to be when you have the sheepskin in hand. Actually DO the math and write it down somewhere where you can review it. It is true – companies are screening more and more for employees who have a degree – so the fear of not going to college is understandable. However, if you think you have even an ounce of entrepreneur blood in you, try that FIRST, because by the time you get out of the institution, you’ll be too far in debt, and you won’t have the guts to go for it. The institution isn’t going anywhere, so it will be there if/when you decide that you’re better off being employed by someone else. And yes…I’m using “institution” quite purposefully. 😉

  • Mark L says:

    Hi John,
    Since I’m involved deeply in the Carlton Universe (and have been for quite awhile) as an SWS Senior Instructor, I must second the motion, as Kyle said… this is one of your most ripping blog posts yet!
    College gave me a chance to see how chaotic and disfunction-ridden academic life really was. I did meet some inspiring teachers and the University library was a gold-mine.
    By far, it was the books you and I traded back and forth – Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, Henry Miller’s collected works and all the Beat writers that served as the “real-deal” primers for further adventures in life.

    • John Carlton says:

      And don’t think I don’t remember it was you, Markie, who gave me those Henry Miller tomes… with orders to “read these NOW”.
      The years I spent devouring the books that are now on my “must read” list really tweaked my brain in good ways. I remember stealing time whenever I could to shut out the world and dive deep into novels and non-fiction… it was pure sustenance.
      Thanks again for channeling so much knowledge my direction, pal. I envy people who are encountering this stuff for the first time… they’re in for a startling ride…

  • Tanya Smith says:

    Thanks for a great post John.
    I did a marketing degree more than a few years ago (!) and came out of it, realising that they had never actually taught us how to sell anything!!
    My kids are nine, and watching me growing my own business, so I’ve already started to tell them that going to college is not necessarily the be all and end all. Sure it shows you can apply yourself to a certain level – but that’s about it – especially for the woolly non-vocational courses.
    To me ongoing education in life is critical (as well as application of that knowledge of course) – a mind that is no longer inquisitive is owned by someone already with one foot in the grave!

    Thanks for reminding us all of this 🙂

    Tanya Smith

    • John Carlton says:

      You’re welcome, Tanya. Thanks for posting…

    • Anilia says:

      Tanya, your comment reminds me of an argument I had with an old friend. She recently completed her marketing degree… and argued vigorously with me that online business cannot be successful without a brick and mortar counterpart. She wasn’t hearing that I know of entrepreneurs who don’t even sell physical products… or their OWN products for that matter… “thats not realistic, it can’t work”, she said…

      yeah, ok! =)

  • John,
    I love what you are saying, and I rue how true it is. I dropped out of college after three weeks because I was totally convinced that nobody there was serious about learning ANYTHING. (later I learned in psychology class, my reaction was something called “projection.”)

    I ended up going back because some people I was living with, grad students in seminary at Berkeley, convinced me I needed a bachelor’s degree as my “union card” to become a writer.

    And years later, I went back to school, got a Masters Degree, and even started — and dropped out of — a PhD program.

    My life turned around when I realized that a combination of work and walking into a vision of what I wanted was the key — and that most of what I had been taught at school was either intentional lies or misinformed half-truths and misunderstanding.

    I think the most important thing to remember is not about the knowledge, or pseudo-knowledge, they teach you in school. It’s the subtext. The hidden message under the message. The attitude they are pushing.

    It’s basically this: Be perfect, or really close to perfect, first time out, or hang your head in abject shame and just give up.

    Whereas the entrepreneurial attitude you describe, the resolute stubborness to achieve in the face of temporary setbacks — they don’t teach that anywhere, except maybe in sports. I’m not a jock, so I didn’t get any of that indoctrination.

    I hope someone in high places at an academic institution has the balls (and the Merry Prankster gene) to hire you sometime to give a commencement address. I’d love to be there, just to watch the fur fly!

    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, Garf… thanks for the insights.
      Folks: If you haven’t read Garf’s guest post in the archives titled “The Big Lie”, then get to it asap. Excellent stuff, in line with the subject at hand here.
      The Merry Pranksters gene survives…

  • Bud Bilanich says:

    You asked for the advice I would give today’s graduates. It’s all in my new book “Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less.”
    Your readers can get the eBook version for free at
    Bud Bilanich
    The Common Sense Guy

  • D Kluz says:

    To quote the late, inimitable Frank Zappa, “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.”
    Here is my preferred strategy for getting a university degree after high school. I am hoping my kids will follow this path:
    1) Decide what you love and start working in the field
    2) Learn it from the bottom up; Become the best you can at it
    3) Start networking; Develop contacts
    4) Brand yourself; Provide great value and grow a stellar reputation
    5) By now you should be prospering — give back generously to the community
    6) Receive an honorary degree from a prestigious university

  • Parris says:


    You just captured everything I’ve been meaning to tell my own kids when they reach college age. I’m going to print and save your post and show it to them when the time comes.


    P.S. Wanna know the difference betwen an Ivy League education and an “average” education? A degree from Boston College will get you a starting salary of $51,500 and a mid-career salary of $101,000 … while a degree from Harvard will get you a starting salary of $60,000 and a mid-career salary of $126,000.

    The top copywriters make more than that from one ad.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Parris. Yeah, it’s shocking when you do the numbers. Those two degrees will cost you close to a quarter of a mil, too, with all the expenses included (which SHOULD include “lost income” cuz you’re not working while you’re in school).
      The ONLY reason I think college still has a role in society… is that you get to see how your peers live and party. That’s not worthless info — unless you succumb to the “never grow up” mantra many kids develop (when they move back home after graduating).
      Go get some lumps and scratches in the real world, people. Parents: Stop coddling your grown kids — you are murdering their chances of a full life.
      As Parris points out, the money is a side issue… cuz to earn that $51k, you gotta sell your soul and burn 50-70 hours a week (prime time hours, too) helping someone else get rich.
      The revolution starts inside your soul.
      Don’t wander around dumb and clueless — a real education starts right now, and never ends.
      Go read a freakin’ book already…

  • Rory says:

    Wow John!!! You really NEED to deliver a talk like this at commencements across the world.

    I too studied psychology…first earning a BS (you know what that stands for), and then finishing up with a PsyD in Clinical Psychology. It was a great education…but like you know…did NOT prepare me for the “real world.” Both degrees taught me how to “play a good employee,” which as an entrepreneur at heart…I make a terrible employee.

    So much was promised to my classmates and I, and so many are still hurting…years after graduating with a higher education degree.

    I am grateful for having read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” during my grad studies. He opened my eye to what the world was really about, and eventually would lead to learning from people like you, Dan Kennedy, Jay Abraham, and the list goes on…

    I have learned more in the last 3 years than I did in a lot of my formal education…and it all happened from hand on learning, taking a HUGE leap of faith, and picking myself up (and learning from) mistakes.

    This post is incredible, and I hope you get 100s if not 1000s of comments about this.

  • Charl says:

    Awesome post John! One thing I just don’t get is how people pay big bucks to learn skills from people who’ve never actually put those same skills to use to get what they think it will get them. You hit the nail on the head with “Just don’t expect to learn much about the way the world works. You’re learning how academia works. Different animal.” I’d rather learn from someone who’s been there and done it and actually got the results I’m after. Thanks for sharing! These things need to be said. 🙂

  • Hans Hageman says:

    I went to Princeton and Columbia University School of Law. This brought me a temporary key to the “club” and I have been able to do some good things here in the US, India, and Africa. When my values conflicted with my overlords on my Board of Directors, my integrity dictated that i give the “key” back.

    I now walk with your Freelance Copywriting Course as I head off into that dark alley you talk about. Once I get these skills mastered I will continue to do my good work without putting my soul at risk. Your message and materials are also things I will be passing on to my younger children as they make choices about the Matrix.

  • Dima says:

    Haha, epic rant John. I was having a conversation along these lines with my parents earlier today (for the 100th times), they still ask me questions like “Is (insert name of one of my good friends) finished University yet?”, and upon me answering “yes!” the floodgates open as to how I should of gotten a Uni degree.

    It seems they’re unable to comprehend how next-to-useless university degrees are compared to real world experience, and how for an entrepreneur they’re even MORE useless.

    But it’s all fine, it’s only a short while until my success grows to the point that questioning my decision to quit my dead shit boring accounting/finance degree in favor of information marketing becomes a total no brainer and I suppose at one level they’ll be happy for me and at another I’ll REALLY piss them off at that stage because at that point I would of proven that their world view is limited at best, and outright wrong at worst.

    Well, thanks for confirming what I already knew to be true… With all the ignorance about the true value of University/college it’s about time someone as successful as yourself spoke up in such a way about it!

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Dima.
      But cut your parents some slack — they may be wrong, but their hearts are in the right place.
      When you take the path less traveled, you really have to understand that almost NO ONE will cheer you on. It violates their worldview, and scares them… and when you succeed, it really freaks ’em out. They can’t fit it into their head, cuz the bullshit and myths crowd out logic and reality.
      Not their fault. You’re up against a system out there fortified moment-by-moment by The Man… and he’s good at it. Mean, often evil, psychotic about winning… and you don’t need to fight against him.
      Let The Man and the rest of the world do what they gotta do. Tend to your own garden.
      There may well come a time when you’ll be called upon to challenge all this… but not now. For now, grow strong and keep your mind sharp. History is playing out, and we’re in a good space to get stuff done right now.
      Things can change fast, of course. And ignorance usually wins the early battles, when it gets nasty.
      We live in interesting times. Stay frosty…

  • Rezbi says:

    How can you say all that with a straight face?

    It’s like you honestly believe the majority will believe you and take your advice. No way. 🙂

    Incidentally, would all those students have debts as big as they have if they actually stuck to studying instead of going out clubbing?

  • Nathan Segal says:

    Thanks very much for the post. I too, don’t like the educational system. It’s necessary if you want to become a doctor or lawyer, but for many other things I think it’s highly overrated. One of the best things I ever did was to quit university. No regrets.

  • Kip Lytle says:

    Hi John,
    Loved this post. Like many, will be saving for my 13 and 15 year olds to read as juniors or seniors in high school.
    Do you remember what speed reading course you took?
    Thanks Again!
    Kip Lytle
    QLaser Solutions – you can eliminate pain without drugs – find out how at

  • Kip Lytle says:

    Hi John – sorry if I sent this twice?
    Loved the post … will be mandatory reading for my two kids (13 and 15). What speed reading course did you study?
    Thanks Again!
    Kip Lytle
    Eliminate pain without dangerous drugs – find out how at

  • John McDermott says:

    I have two words about this post “Damn straight”.

    I did get two college degrees: it was the early days of the computer revolution (mid 70s) and I learned a lot I still use today. But for anyone who wants to be something other than a doctor or lawyer, there are better ways (there may be better ways than that, too, but the system makes lawyers go to college in most states).

    A friend homeschooled himself by hiring tutors — pretty balsey for a high school student. I hope we see more of this.

    Our whole education system, K through College is totally screwed up. I’ve worked with charter schools to try to change things, but it often feels like a losing battle…

  • Brett says:

    Finely written John. I might of finished with a stronger appeal to “light the fire” under their asses, but you covered it well.

  • Eric Transue says:

    Excellent post John!
    I just emailed this out to several people. I’ve been saying something similar to my friends and family for years and I’m sure you can imagine the reaction I get.

    This past weekend I attended Frank Kern’s List Control event and probably learned more networking with people there than I learned in any study session I ever attended in College.

    You mentioned that you took a speed reading course. This is something that I would like to do in the near future. Do you have any recommendations for courses or books on speed reading?

    I enjoy reading all your stuff. Keep giving us such awesome content!

    • John Carlton says:

      I took the Evelyn Woods speed reading course. A hundred bucks or something. I can’t recommend it, but it was the only one out there at the time. I do NOT speed read now — in fact, it wasn’t so much the speed reading that helped me, as the tactic of “auditioning” books before you sat down to read. I’ve written about it before… but it essentially consists of grabbing a stack of books on one subject, and reading the contents page, the forewards, skimming through them, picking up little hints and stuff. When you do this with books on one topic, names start appearing over and over again, as well as buzz words and topics. Just keep burrowing into the stack until you can confidently discard the bad ones, and corner the few that are obviously the best. (One hint is when the other books recommend or use one of the books as a resource.)
      There’s more to it, but basically you want to start with a huge stack, and cull it down to a workable few… and then devour those.
      And then repeat the process with the next stack.
      Anybody else got a recommendation on a speed reading course, or other tactics?

      • Wow, someone who does the same things I do. I will admit that I have a high natural reading rate, which helps. What I do is read the blurbs, and then open the book at random points. I read a few p[ages, and see if it makes sense.
        I do *not* recommend this for everyone. The number of books I’ve read is in the 10’s of thousands, so I can pick up material quickly. One way to develop speed reading, is to just simply read books, papers, anything. The more you read, the better (faster) you get.

    • There is a book called “photoreading” by a smart NLP guy called Paul Scheele.
      When you apply this stuff and you get really good at it you can read at the rate of 26,000 word a minute. It’s all about bypassing the conscious mind and it works a treat.
      They did tests at an American university with text being streamed passed people trained in this stuff. 95% recall on stuff that was inputting at 380,000 word per minute.
      I seriously recommend it.

      NLP trainer

  • Jane L says:

    I did enjoy your rant John, and I so agree with it. More of same, please!
    I went to Oxford University (which I guess is a kind of UK ivy league thing). I learned a LOT about sex and drugs and rock and roll and the theatre, and did a fair amount of growing up. I learned almost nothing about how to learn, or about my chosen subject. In fact I had to take an extra year to get a degree – I was having such a good time. It was free back then. I did enjoy myself, though!
    Kids in UK now have to pay. I don’t think the education they got is any better than the one I got – like me, most of them don’t learn how to learn, except by reproducing stuff parrot fashion. And they all seem to have such a miserable time with it now, as they are crammed harder and harder with information, but emerge knowing bugger all about anything.
    The strange bit is that I’ve always been someone who loved to learn, and it took a long time to rediscover that talent in myself after I had been through the sausage machine of the school and university system.
    (As an aside, in UK we regard salesmanship as something of a dirty word, and salesmen as low life worms. We don’t talk about selling, but marketing – it sounds better. Not a profession you would want your son or daughter to go into – on a par with waitressing).
    Our latest Prime Minister (D Cameron) and the last but one (T Blair) also went to Oxford – and look what a mess TB got us into. Not a lot of learning going on there, either, and certainly Zero for listening to others.

    • John Carlton says:

      Salesmanship is also regarded with distaste and horror here, across the pond, Jane. That’s why courses like the SWS are such a hard sell — people squirm, and go after magic bullshit, and do anything they can to avoid facing the difficult truth about learning what they NEED to learn: salesmanship.
      Once they get over their bad selves, though, and come aboard, their adventures in life can begin in earnest.
      Poor Tony Blair. He seemed like such a smart dude. Just got sucked up into his own worldview, and got conned by savvier politicians.
      It’s a cruel, unfair world… though still enormous fun when you’re awake and busy being happy…

  • Chris Bryant says:


    Bored me to tears?


    This should be absolutely required reading for every high school senior, junior, sophomore, and freshman in the country.

    When I see the attitude that kids have regarding college – it’s just as you said. “I’ll get this degree and my professional success is guaranteed.”

    Look, we all get our asses kicked coming out of high school. It’s a rite of passage.

    It’s just a lot harder to handle when you buy the line of “golden future” BS peddled by many colleges and guidance counselors today ..

    … and it also guarantees their ass-kickings are going to last a lot longer than they should.

    Rock on.

    Chris B.

  • Bill says:

    You hit it. Universities have become bloated jokes for the most part. And even employers are starting to recognize that.
    The silver (make that golden) lining to this cloud is that information marketing is there to fill the void. Imagine how much tougher our jobs would be if universities were actually relevant?

    • John Carlton says:

      For many years, I’ve told folks with MBA’s who came to me for advice that, first, we’d have to spend some serious time knocking the bullshit out of their skulls. Then, we could get down to biz.
      They always laugh, thinking that surely I’m joking. How could an MBA be bullshit?
      I do not relish seeing the shock on their faces when they realize the truth… but they can’t get to any “a-HA!” moments without knowing they were (for the most part) suckered by the profs.

  • Hey John,
    if you gave that speech at my grad I’d get up and cheer. The thing is you couldn’t do that because I dropped out of the system years before that.
    I left school at the tender age of sweet 16 and it was the best thing anyone could ever do. Sure entering the world with no qualifications maybe wasn’t the smartest of things but what it did was it forced me to educate myself on what is important. Providing stuff that is useful to people.

    Giving folks what they need and what they think they need to get into the somnabulent groove that is this weeks flavor of the month. ( Kind of an oxymoron there…? )

    I agree with you about street smarts. The richest guys I know grew up on street corners in slums with holes in their pants.
    What that did was it made them HUNGRY for what they didn’t have. That hunger burned and raged inside and nobody can ever put it out, or quench it.
    Sure the entrepreneurs life is not safe and it won’t suit those who buy into the 9 to 5, cradle to the grave, bullshit mentality.

    As you say the air is rarefied and sweet because it doesn’t have the stench of slavery to the man.

    John this is the best post you have written in freakin’ ages man.

    PS It’s quite synchronistic that I just started reworking my way through the SWS a few days ago. Thanks for the boost John and stay frosty

  • PJ McClure says:

    Rant on John!

    I headed to college right out of high school because my friends were there. After my third freshman year, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I’m smart like that.

    There were a lot of reasons behind my inability to make it happen. The two most prominent were both things you mentioned…
    1. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and was unemployable
    2. I had been selling since I was 16 and was making more money than my friends were projecting to make with their degrees.

    I eventually went back to college at the tender age of 32 because I wanted to find out if I was missing anything. From a knowledge standpoint, I wasn’t. However, the degree process as a “non-traditional student” had a profound impact on me. So much so that I went on to complete my BS and MBA before hitting 38.

    What I received from the process wasn’t a bucket full of indispensable knowledge. You’ve already covered that you can get that anywhere. My prize from the pretty paper on my wall was the ability to recognize and think critically. The exact skills you touch on with your comments about debate.

    The ability to consider an opposing argument without losing my sense of self, my perspective, or my mind was worth the price of admission to me.

    It made me a better salesman, writer, podium speaker, husband, dad, and business man. And even though college isn’t required to gain those things, it just so happens to be where I got them.

    To the grads, I would ask them if they learned how to learn. Not to be enamored with the knowledge they acquired (in between bong hits and cheap beer), but to covet the idea of life-long learning.

    “No one owes you anything just because you finished college. A degree doesn’t make you relevant in the world or set you up for success. Maybe someone should have told you that before you enrolled.

    Relevance comes from value and value comes from solving problems for others. The bigger the problem, the bigger the value, the bigger the pay check.

    Fall in love with the idea of finding and solving problems for others. If you can fall in love with that… you’ve got the makings of an entrepreneur.

    If you can muster up the guts it takes to step out on your own, come play with the rest of us. Our table is competitive, aggressive, and sometimes brutal, but respect is the norm. The stakes are incredibly high and the house doesn’t offer credit, but everyone that plays has a total different taste for life than those who never belly-up to the rail.

    Is your life worth a shot in our game? Mine was… and I’ll never look back.”

    Thanks John. Be your best.


  • Stew Kelly says:

    Hey John,

    Thanks for the hearty laugh I got from your peeling back the curtain. Ignore the funny man Toto.

    I did college and college did me. I’m ABD (all but dissertation). I decided I learned enough and walked out. I don’t regret my education because even then I knew you needed to get self-education if you were going to make sense of the stuff I was learning.

    Textbooks are written by funny morons for dolts.

    I was a science major and fortunately had one of the “old school” applied biologists as a mentor. He wasn’t keen on theory, all hands on and what can YOU do with this knowledge.

    He got me an internship in Israel where I studied how to grow algae to make biopharmaceuticals and on the board of a conservation group working in Belize.

    Because of him I’m in the Internet business…and because of Eben Pagan working on creating high value information products on the environment, life-styles, hobbies, aquaculture, and sustainable living.

    I like the idea that I’ll probably have the last laugh when formal college and university educations are extinct; over-shadowed by Internet educations.

  • Joe Jutrisa says:

    Is this “The Best Blog Post of All Time”?!!

    I gotta say John…this is seriously good stuff that every parent, student and thinking individual should read!

    I wrote a book along similar lines some time ago and trialled it in a giveaway. Like your post here, it got a great response so I think you’ve struck a chord.

    For a long time, I thought I was the only one who thought this way and then I discovered that there were others like me but they weren’t found in day to day jobs, schools and universities.

    Look into the world of small business, on the streets of life, and the internet. That’s where you find individuals endowed with the “E” gene and the “D” gene….people who will take a a chance, who buck the system and risk all in their quest to attain their dreams and find true freedom.

    I seriously think that the system is archaic and in serious danger of becoming irrelevant. We can see the result in that it’s turning out highly “educated” and ever broker dummies.

    I’ve met people who spent their whole lives in the shelters of a university, have degrees up their arms, are suddenly 50 years of age, own nothing, drive a “rustbucket” of a car and are still living in shared accommodation! At least they got their degrees!

    On the other hand, I know “dummies” and “dropouts” who actually took action (any sort of action!) and have built rewarding and successful lives.

    What do we tell our children?

    Chances are that the advice we give them may no longer be of relevance or of value. It may even be dangerous. If you know other parents or students, send them here! Encourage them to read this post and to discuss it.

    Their future may depend on it!

  • Great topic! Thought-provoking too! Here’s the thing: What is the alternative?

    Sadly, the university education of today is the equivalent of a high school diploma just a couple of decades ago. Additionally, the kids coming out of high school aren’t prepared for college, much less for the “real world!” A high school diploma in and of itself is a dead end! Yes, a BA in psychology will get you a warm spot in the unemployment line, unless you took the time to learn to think, read, research, and question. Majoring in psychology is an easy out, party time, unless you have considered the fact that you are going to need a masters or a doctorate to use the knowledge and went in with your eyes open. Unfortunately, the academic and career counseling at most universities is at best atrocious, at many schools nonexistent!

    Of course, you can always sell insurance! Or used cars!

    The real value of a university education is not in the nuts and bolts, it is in the seasoning that is offered. I said offered…and the fact is it is usually not taken advantage of. Imagine the opportunity to rub elbows with the greatest minds in a given field. What usually happens? Office hours at most universities are useless, a joke! Most students do not engage their professors, they go to class and head out to…to wherever. True, at many schools there is a binge culture and education is an afterthought…but that is true in life. For many, getting serious about making something of yourself is an afterthought because many have never learned to think for themselves, creatively and objectively. Interestingly, and sadly (once again), it took Zach’s Dad to apply real world insight, gleaned in part from your course, to help his son get looked at. Zach’s Dad also showed resourcefulness, and perhaps a little desperation(?), intangibles that define success. He also demonstrated moxie, street smarts, business savvy, whatever; and, that comes with age and experience, something most 22 year old college graduates haven’t had time to gain.

    yes, the current education system needs a massive overhaul, from the top down, but it will not happen, it is too firmly entrenched in our culture. The German education model has long been recognized for its effectiveness but try to get it in place here? The comment made about the debt walking across the stage should be a clear message to anyone wondering why we can’t change the system, the current system is big business and, like all things affected by inertia, it will not be moving or changing anytime soon!

    Great topic and I agree!

    But once again I ask, what is the alternative for an 18 year old kid? A nice crew chief position at McDonalds, complete with acne? Cleaning cars and delivering pizzas? “Where the hat!” Or a seasoning process that at least allows him or her to grow up a bit…perhaps learning to think along the way!

    Thanks John!


  • I was homeschooled in a very basic way. My mom bought books and told me that if I ever wanted to get anywhere in life I would have to get my own self into college. I did, with two scholarships and an incredibly high ACT score that impressed the socks off of a lot of people who thought I was going to fail because I was homeschooled. Similar people have predicted my failure in many other endeavors thoughout my life. They were all wrong. I struggled through college for 7 years, working 40-60 hours a week for most of that time.

    I got the piece of paper – then promptly went into business for myself. I was lured into the business world for a while a few times, but each time I was desperate to break free. I guess I missed out on all those early years of training to be a desk-jockey.

    What college taught me: how to write, a lot and pretty fast. It also taught me that I was a pretty decent writer since most of my professors loved my work (except for the helmet-haired English professor who told me I had no “content” and that she knew I would never get anywhere since I was homeschooled). Funny, I have made most of my living (both working for myself and others) off of my writing all these years. She needs a day job – I live off my writing (and marketing) skills.

    The most useful skill I have ever learned, though, came from my mother who claims she barely graduated from high school. I learned to research. I learned, as you say, to immerse myself in a subject. From that, has come all of my success.

    One of the most frustrating things I hear supposedly intelligent adults say is “I could never start a business/cook like that/write a book/build that/create that like you do. I don’t know how.” For crying out loud, you CAN read can’t you? You have an internet connection? A public library? There is NO EXCUSE for not learning if you have access to the information. Go, find it, read it , ask someone questions.

    And, for the record, if I had invested my college tuition money in my own business, or even the stock market, in the early 90’s – I’d have been rich instead of struggling to pay off student loans for years afterwards.

  • Sean says:

    Great post.
    Also a college dropout… ok, flunked out.. English Lit major.
    Since then I’ve been in the military, worked 3rd shift in a factory, sold door to door and owned my own handy-man business. Now, I am a freelance copywriter for one of the big dogs in the financial newsletter biz.

    I wouldn’t go back to working for someone else for any amount of money.

    Another great book is “How to get Rich” by Felix Dennis… another very rich dropout.

  • Julie says:

    Hi John,

    I couldn’t agree more with your recent post on Academia and the illusions that so many labor under.

    I have been discussing college with my daughter–and although I am confident that a higher education would be a worthwhile experience for her–I am not convinced that it will adequately prepare her for life in the corporate shark tank.

    I would be far happier to see her connect with a great mentor and follow her entrepreneurial passions (as I have done).

    Teaching our grads to be the self sufficient creators of their own destiny is the greatest education of all.

    Julie H.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Julie.
      You know, I didn’t get into this in the post… but I actually have advice for young folks considering college: Take a year or two off after high school, and get a real job. Work your ass off, get an apartment and learn how to pay your bills on time. Earn your fun time with friends.
      Then, go to college. Every decision you make, from which school, to which major, to living in the dorms, will be very different than if you’d gone straight from the folks’ house to the dorm.
      Preparing for the real world should include a little time spent IN the real world. College students who arrive in class after some time outside academia kick their less-mature, more-spoiled peers asses pretty thoroughly.
      If I was in charge of things, you wouldn’t be ABLE to go straight to college after high school.
      But then, that’s me. I would have HATED the current me, as a 19 year old. I just wanted to party and avoid responsibility at all costs…

      • Julie says:

        Hey John,
        You make some excellent points.
        I took a year off after High School and worked at IBM–because I needed the mental break from the academic routine. I was the youngest person on staff–and I got the job because the boss liked my initiative. (I wrote an ad promoting myself in the local paper). After a year of work, I returned to college–with a purpose, a direction, and a little more maturity under my belt.

        After many years in the corporate world, I could no longer deny that I was a square peg in a round hole. The corporate B.S–and all that goes with it–was just not my cup of tea. Once I realized that, I set out to create a new reality for myself–one that put me in charge.

        Sure, the world of a self employed entrepreneur is scary–but then, isn’t the illusion of corporate security even more frightening?
        I think so.

        Thanks for your insights and your edgy posts.
        I just love to sink my teeth into a juicy discussion like this.
        Keep em coming!

  • Diwamani says:

    Right on, John! But nothing new – Henry Thoreau said it long ago, and some other wise dudes too. The problem with education system is – it’s designed to stuff us with info, rather then help to bring natural talents and abilities into actuality. It’s basically is a system to condition people to remain slaves. Learning is definitely a process everybody should be taught how to do. Once we learn how to learn – we can be on our own.
    Everybody is different, I definitely share your notion – jobs suck. Personally, I consider myself a success. Don’t have lots of money, but got MYSELF, my freedom to live life on my terms. I did it and keep doing it MY way and it’s all that matters at the end of the day.

  • Miguel Arechavaleta says:

    Mr. Carlton,
    I am a big fan of your work and I am an aspiring entrepreneur (I am running into difficulties as I move forward). You are correct that the academy doesn’t prepare individuals for the brutality of the real marketplace. You are sadly mistaken that knowledge for its own sake is unimportant. The fact that reading the great works of art and the great minds isn’t appealing to most people doesn’t mean that it isn’t significant. You show your own ignorance by making such a statement.

    • John Carlton says:

      Well, first of all, Miguel, I never said that.
      In fact, I even laid a very precise plan to read up on every subject out there. Cuz, you know, I’m a big fan of reading both the famous stuff, the important stuff, and the fun stuff (including the essentials on every main topic in the culture, from history to poli-sci to, yes, even women’s studies).
      Are you suggesting that the ONLY place you can read the “great” works is in college?
      You obviously just skimmed the piece, and missed everything of importance.

  • Vince says:

    Hey John!
    I agree with everything 100%!!! Funny thing is I was just having this conversation with the superintendent of my kid’s school… and yes I took heat for it, but so what. They just don’t get it. Which use to frustrate me because to me it’s pretty simple and natural at this point in time (not having had a job in 35 years). But then someone pointed this out to me… he said “Im glad they don’t get it. If everyone got it, it wouldn’t work!”

    I live in the middle of Yuppieville, USA. Two income families with college educations that can’t figure out why I appear to being doing better than they are without ever leaving the house to go to work. The rumor I’ve heard is they think I’m in the mob or selling drugs or something. Yes, my neighbors hate me, but at least now I understand why.

    I too, wouldn’t have it any other way!!!

    • John Carlton says:

      All our neighbors think I’m living off Michele. There is no other possibility they can conceive of that explains why I never get up early and drive off somewhere to a job.
      I’m loathe to let any of them in on the secret… after 6 years, it would only cause problems. I’m fine with them believing I’m a bum.
      Thanks for the note, Vince…

      • Vince says:

        John, You mentioned “emersing yourself into new markets.” After taking the SWS course (which I highly recommend), the one thing that sticks the most is “knowing your market intimately.” The rest kind of falls into place. Do you offer any training specifically on how to you do this? Suggest anything? Point me in a direction? Thanks.

  • JR says:

    Thank you John,

    My mother and I used to have talks like this when I was still in school, back in the 80’s. We knew that school was o.k., but life taught you way more, if you are willing to pay attention.

    What most people don’t realize, even in college you are self educating, “The Man” just sets the bar. A very vague and low bar for most degrees. I do have a lot of respect for lawyers, doctors, engineers, and other specialties because it takes a huge commitment to really be good in those fields, and the learning never stops for them. (Most people don’t get that)

    Everyday I struggle with how to teach my kids that what they choose to learn and take action on, will mean more than anything traditional school can give them. Since my oldest is going to start kindergarten this year, I have some time to work on it. Maybe I will go read up on how others are addressing it with their kids. What are they doing outside of school to teach these ideas? Obviously modeling for them will be key. What else can I do?

    Did I just prove a point?

    John, thank you for this post. It really reminds me of what some of my priorities need to be with my children.

  • Spot on!
    I was the kid who didn’t fit in in high school (we graduated 23 students). I was the non-athletic nerd, yet I wasn’t rejected. I just didn’t like sports and wanted to be an engineer.

    The principal gave me a radio-TV servicing course he didn’t have time to finish, and I finished it for him a few days past my 16th birthday in my junior year. I graduated at barely 17, and started college in sophomore calculus and physics. At 18, I was taking 3rd year engineering statistics and differential equations (no wonder that stuff seemed hard!).

    I got married after 2-1/2 years in Denmark and finishing my sophomore year in college, and started a business. A year later I owned a TV retail shop and 2 cable TV systems. One class short of graduating with a BA in physics, I started at HP as a technician on an assembly line.

    3 years later I was a full-blown engineer. After 10 years at HP I was licensed as a registered professional engineer, quit R&D and went to marketing as a tech writer. Did that for 20 years
    and retired after 30 years with the company.

    My conclusions:

    Colleges are factories meant for little other than churning out worker-bees for business, industry, and government. Most professors (not all) have no experience in the real world. Kids are “educated” by over-educated fools. They’re learned and therefore think they are wise.

    College grads are not prepared for real world life. I know a graduate with a graphic design degree. I asked her what they taught her. She said she learned to use Creative Suite from Adobe and some typography stuff. Now she’s thinking going back to get more so she can find a better job instead of clerking in a store.

    I have nine kids. My youngest graduated cum laude in business with a finance major, but doesn’t like marketing. He speaks English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Our youngest daughter (#8) just got her doctor’s degree in audiology. Another daughter lost her job at IBM when it went to India. They’re smart kids. But…

    With the garbage going on in DC and screwed-up politicians running and ruining the country, you better have some business-operation and entrepreneurial skills or you’re going to get hungry.

    The educational system is so cumbersome, slow, and ineffective, it cannot possibly prepare kids for the kind of world that’s coming where half of what you know is obsolete in just a few years.

    In 1980, four years after I left engineering, 1000 Gbytes of disc storage cost $100,000,000 and took 1,500,000 watts of power to run. Today you can buy a 1 terabyte hard drive in a retail store for about $100 that runs on 10 watts or so. College professors ***CAN’T*** know what they’re doing because they’re not out there watching the real world as it flies by — they’re too busy indoctrinating the next generation with screw-ball ideas about some utopian way of solving society’s problems by electing some incompetent moron to make a fool of himself while trying to run the biggest enterprise on planet Earth.

    Go read some good classics — Emerson, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Shakespeare. The masters. Get some depth in your life and forget the junk they pass off in universities as “education”. You can get much of it for free at your local public library — or as a community patron of a nearby college or university library.

    And you won’t spend the rest of your life repaying your college loans.

    And don’t spend your life looking for the “easy money”. Plan on earning what you get.

    Remember: 15 PhD degrees from Harvard and five bucks will buy you a Big Mac.

    Oh yeah, I was an announcer and the chief engineer at a radio station when I was 21, plus I’ve been a competent welder since I was 14 — over 50 years ago. To really live life, quit trying to be like everyone else, and go learn on your own. And quit hanging around losers who drink themselves to oblivion and call it “fun”. When you’re sober, you wake up the next morning remembering what happened the night before.

    People ask how I know so much about so many things. I didn’t waste time being a party animal. I spent my life learning. It ain’t hard. Just decide you’re made for better things than a life of mediocrity and quiet desperation.

    And do everything with excellence. When I left the corporate world, a year later my old boss of 10 years was asking what it would cost to get me to come back, and he wasn’t the only one extending the invitation to return.


  • Gary says:

    I find it funny that you don’t think you used your education. Psych major and copy writer. What could they possibly have in common? 😉

    Granted, you didn’t fall into this profession right away, and I fully agree with you that you did not receive any training in real life scenarios. I sure didn’t. Not in undergrad anyway.

    The best advice I ever received was in dental school from a part-time instructor. He told me that all of my education up through graduation was about giving me a base to build on and the knowledge of how to go about getting the info and building on it. Everything that I would really use and need to know would be learned from postgrad courses, practical experience, and mentors willing to show me the way. I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right! This also seems to be exactly what you did, but without the benefit of someone kind enough tell you that in advance. Guess I really didn’t get it in advance either since I went through 8 years of higher education to get it.

    I completely agree with the rest of your post.

    I have had the opportunity to be a commencement speaker, and guess what my talk (speech) was on? Setting goals, stopping fear, plan your actions and act your plan. The actual title was “Dare to Ride a Dream”. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone paid attention to it. Do you remember any of the commencement speeches from your graduations? I sure as hell don’t! Parents loved it, but that’s not who needed to hear it, well, they probably did but didn’t know it.
    Anyway, good stuff as usual. Thanks!

  • meryl says:

    Hey John I could go on at great length, but I’d rather enjoy this rant…and I think you would too

    Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine
    I’m on the pavement thinking about the government
    The man in the trench coat, badge out, laid off
    Says he’s got a bad cough, wants to get it paid off
    Look out kid, it’s something you did
    God knows when, but you’re doing it again
    You better duck down the alleyway, looking for a new friend
    The man in the coon-skip cap in the big pen wants eleven dollar bills, you only got ten

    Maggie comes fleet foot, face full of black soot
    Talking that the heat put, plants in the bed but
    The phone’s tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say
    They must bust in early May, orders from the DA
    Look out kid, don’t matter what you did
    Walk on your tiptoes, don’t try No Doz
    Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose
    Keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes
    You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

    Get sick, get well, hang around an ink well
    Ring bell, hard to tell if anything is going to sell
    Try hard, get barred, get back, write Braille
    Get jailed, jump bail, join the army if you failed
    Look out kid, you’re going to get hit
    But users, cheaters, six-time losers hang around the theaters
    Girl by the whirlpool looking for a new fool
    Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters

    Ah, get born, keep warm, short pants, romance, learn to dance
    Get dressed, get blessed, try to be a success
    Please her, please him, buy gifts, don’t steal, don’t lift
    Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift
    Look out kid, they keep it all hid
    Better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle
    Don’t wear sandals, try to avoid the scandals
    Don’t want to be a bum, you better chew gum
    The pump don’t work because the vandals took the handles .
    Subterranean Homesick Blues , Bob Dylan

    • John Carlton says:

      Ha! Great stuff, Meryl. One of the first music videos. That’s Alan Ginsberg and I think maybe Wm S Burroughs chatting over on the left. Total beatitude, man.

      20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift…

      I took a lot of wisdom from the last line, too, growing up: The pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handle.

      You take wisdom from any source you can.

      And God said “Next time you see me coming, boy, you better run…”

  • Donna says:

    John – thanks for your words of wisdom…. something you definitely don’t get in school. I was a straight A student all through elementary and highschool. When I graduated highschool at 16, I told all my teachers I was not going to college and they all said I was ruining my life. I am glad to say I ruined the programmed, dull, non-eventful, limited life I would have had if I had went to college. Instead I am living life instead of existing.

  • John says:

    Now I know what is the matter with me. I’m damaged goods. Not just in poor mindset but employ-ability too. I’ve owned a business or been my own boss since I was 25. I never realized how much different I am then the “normal” people.

    It’s time to quit being a wuss and get back to being who I am. The person in the crowd who knows deep down that the voice/and others are wrong.

    Don’t have the cash to afford your products now, but I’ll get them. Used, borrowed or otherwise.
    Thanks for the swift kick John, I needed that.

  • Hal Hoadley says:

    John, I was having a conversation with some friends over the Memorial Day weekend. The topic came up about the education system in California. I made the statement; oh, you mean the “dumbing down of America.” The next thing that happened was so typical of many here that work in our school system. I was told in no uncertain terms how mean spirited I was and that the parents need to get more involved with their children, and blah, blah, blah.
    Well, I’ve made that comment for many years so I am used to the reaction I get. I wished that I had your rant from today so that I could have used some of your points. You’re brilliant when it comes down to reality and what life is like in the trenches. With your blessing, I want to send this post to several in our school system.
    All the best,

  • Alex Newell says:

    WOW, What a blast John!

    As an unemployable ex teacher who walked out because I was embarrassed facing my students and not being able to teach them properly due to mad management bullshit…my best advice is probably don’t go to college or go with a plan. Maybe just, “Get a life, not a degree”!


  • Helen says:

    Hi John, when studying dance, all tender and passionate, I was told after the first year that I would not make it as a dancer; According to their prescription of dance; I said bugger you, changed programs, moved to another city, and then left the country all together for 6 years. Danced, created experimental works and studied with the worlds best improvisors around the world. Operated as an independent artist all my life. I remember doing an audition in Brussels and they said we welcome your in put, we work collaboratively so I did. Well I learnt pretty quickly that actually people mostly don’t want your full in put into their creative processes if your the hired help so to speak!!! Suffice to say I did not get the job! LOL!

    Still burning on the edges of entrepreneurial fire, I related so well to the discomfort of being independent and believe that is what Nietzsche, meant by what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger! It was a timely reminder to drink a can of toughen up, ‘pull on the grown up pants’, not to lose ones self confidence when learning new stuff, as I begin a new journey of entrepreneurship in business.
    P.S. I also love your debating and other points of view exposure training, this has been golden! Love your writing, dig your anarchic say it as it is gritty realism! Big Ta! H

  • Venus says:

    Loved this blog, John. Very timely, too.

    A day or so ago I read a story online about a young woman who graduated from New York University (or some such) with a BA in philosophy & women’s studies (or some such) and is now freaked out because she can’t get a job and owes $97k in student loans. Ouch!

    Let me say I don’t fault her the undergraduate degree or the subject area (my BA’s in philosophy and religion), but the thought that you need to go into debt to the tune of $97k just to get a job is ridiculous!

    I think some folks need to go to university and, while there, should make the effort to really learn stuff, their professors and guidance counselors not withstanding. Some may even need master’s degrees to do what they want in the world.

    But the truth is they DO NOT need to go to expensive schools to accomplish this. Where did that LIE ever come from?

    And the truth is also that NOT EVERYBODY out there needs a college degree. Some folks just need a good tech school or community college. Look, we need plumbers and electricians and all sorts of med techs who aren’t doctors and nurses–and that’s just what first comes to mind.

    Higher education is just another business model where the product for sale is a degree with the promise of a better job. There’s no longer even the pretense of actually giving you an education for your money. Most universities have just become trade schools of one sort or another, so it’s best for students and parents to realize that.

    There is rarely the need to go $97k into debt just to get a job. Even in this economy.

    Again, great blog, John. Now, I’ve gotta run. Have a great day everybody!

  • Gary says:

    “You’ve ruined your kids future……”that’s what I was told by my sisters. I went through the school system and saw the “entitled” peers running and gunning for the top spot. I was raised with hard work on the farm and watched my dad work in the factory for 39 years to keep things going and knew that I wanted something better so I did the after high school thing. Went all the way to the doctor level, while still working during the time I went to school as the entitled group just lived off dad or the student loan system. I independently acheived my goals and thrived in a private practice. 20 years later, I’m selling the practice and moving onto more scary goals, but what the heck I am only 50(sisters think it’s a mid life crisis and I’ll get over it….there’s no crisis, just a burning desire. That’s what it takes). I taught my kids as they grew up that they can be who they want to be………. the results? “You’ve ruined your kids future, they need to focus on their education like you did!” “Well, sis it’s like this……39 years and a watch isn’t what I taught my kids to strive for” Did I ruin that for them?……hell yes!
    How are they doing? My son, first year on the dean’s list at a very excellent business school returns home and says ” Dad, I can’t go back there all they are doing is teaching me to work for someone else” I smiled as loud as I could, and said “Next week at the family reunion I want you to tell your auntie’s your decision”
    Good stuff as always John……Spot on as they would say.

  • ken ca|houn says:

    Interesting post; here’s my take on it. I agree with some of your comments, I found a hybrid of ‘best of both worlds’ worked best…

    For example, the career path I took, eg getting a degree (or two, I’ve got a Masters’ and taught mba courses, plus worked in big companies)….and “doing time” in the corporate world, was very valuable. What I learned during my 20s, til my last corporate job as a 30-year old, was superb. (project management, team meetings, how to improve companies’ operations, hands-on stuff in manufacturing and engineering environments, was priceless, and I still miss it to a degree even here 15 years after I became an entrepreneur)….

    And from the college side of it, benefits like learning how to research and write, are key skills that you primarily get in college, doing hundreds of research papers. It teaches you how to articulate yourself and write very well. (which is important for great emails, articles, video scripts and more)… Plus, becoming better-spoken, sounding (and being) more intelligent as a result of years in academia, is also a big asset I’m grateful for.

    But… there comes a time when one has to leave the nest. Or in my case get booted out for being too independent, not being a ‘team player’, I was, like many here, not suited for a life in a suit.

    Taking all that stuff from corporate, and then the consulting work I did as a sales trainer, and applying it to the internet (plus learning all that stuff, re IM skills), was a great transition…. and I’ve been sitting in front of my computers making a fulltime living online since ’99…and you’re right, that’s the best life of all, by far.

    So there is hope for the corporate brick and mortar folks, making a transition to life online. It’s just a lot of hard-as-hell 18 hour days for years, to make it happen… it’s not easy, nor should it be.

    Here’s the main, critical point: like John says, learning salesmanship is a key, core, must-have skill more than anything else in life. That’s very true. Also, there’s so much uncertainty if you stay in the corporate world, you will Not be prepared for life-after-65… and that’s a frightening thought, for millions (and it should be). Being old, broke, dependent on welfare/kids/medicare in one’s golden years, because you got laid off from your corporate job at age 55 and unprepared to be an entrepreneur, is a disturbing reality for millions.

    One of the safest ways to live, is to become a successful entrepreneur, taking years to learn how it works, to add value, so that you can keep helping people from your computer into your 60s, 70s, and 80s. Remember nobody hires 60- or 70-year olds (except mcds), and how do you support yourself in your retirement? Successful entrepreneurship, trying a lot of sites/niches/jvs, is the key.

    Anyways point being college is a wonderful life changing experience and I highly value my ucla/csulb degrees and experience… agree though that it’s just the start, and the ivory tower doesn’t prepare one for life…. but it is a rich, wonderful asset to have, my biggest source of personal pride is being a ucla grad (go bruins, class of ’86)… and something I’d still encourage people to pursue, as it does open doors and provide options.

    But agree it’s just the beginning, the real learning is the sales skills, writing/speaking/site design/coaching/consulting/other ways to produce and add value to people.


    • John Carlton says:

      Great input, as always, Ken. I added an amendment further down here in the comments that reflects much of what you say here — I’m all about finding education anywhere you can dig it up… and if school’s the best/easiest path, then gung ho, dude.
      My main point, of course, is that a well-rounded person is flush with learning shit all the time… and, as you have done, you learn fast how to use CRITICAL THINKING to discern the good stuff from the nonsense.
      Thanks for posting this insight…

  • Addison says:

    BAD…ASS!!! (as in pretty fricken’ cool) Talk about striking a chord with your market. This has got to be the best blog post ever. Thanks for packing it full of “nuggets.”

    There is so much value in this post it is pathetic! This has been bookmarked, tweeted, facebooked, shared… etc.

    Oh, by the way, why isn’t there a “share” button on this blog post? That would’ve been easier…

    Anyways, great blog and great comments as well.

  • Sayjay says:

    Dear Younger Version of Myself:

    Congratulations on your graduating from college. That’s quite an accomplishment, but your diploma is just one of many tools available to you. Just because you have it doesn’t mean you’ve arrived — you’re merely starting out! This journey is like many other things in life — it’s what you make of it. A couple things I would like you to know, though —

    1) Learn from others’ mistakes. Really get into the nitty gritty of the “why”, and discover the nature of the mistake, and don’t repeat it. Then, step back and look at the whole picture. Things tend to go in cycles and you may begin to notice a pattern you didn’t see when using the microscope. The only thing better than learning from your own mistakes is learning from others’ mistakes, and that’s one way to do it

    2) It’s never too early or late to bless those around you. Your net worth may be squat, or even negative. That’s when your true grit is revealed — you may be only to afford to give a smile and a pat on the back (since by now no one would want the shirt off of yours). But don’t wait until you feel you can afford it, otherwise it will never happen.


    Your 30-year-old-self
    I’ve been self-employed since I was 11, and the business I have now was hatched when I was 13. Graduated college, got married, had five kids along the way. I’m still trying to figure out if I want to make this a life-long gig or not (the business, not the family, duh)! I recently feel like I’ve climbed high, looked down, and frozen up. John’s starting to unfreeze me though, even though his motto is “Stay frosty”. Thanks, man! I’ll be climbing again soon!

  • Ron A Solman says:

    Hi JC
    This just brought a big, big smile to my face. It shouldn’t because kids everywhere are spending ten of thousands of £ and $ only to find at the end they actually know lots about not very much.

    One thing’s for sure, if the colleges had to put a guarantee on their products like we do in the real world, students’d be queueing round the block for return cheques.

    Listen, without getting maudlin here’s my story.

    My mom died when I was a kid (14) but before she went she taught me to look after myself – you know cook, clean, iron, sew, wash etc – but most importantly the VALUE of money and the VALUE of WHY and WHY Not! Never be afraid to question if you think something’s not right.

    At 16, I went to college for 1 term/semester (Business Studies) and learnt rapidly that most college lecturers know books, books and bugger all about the real world and that they were wasting my time. I left because I was fed up of being preached politics views on how life is by imbeciles with no life experience other than schooling. AND if you ask them WHY or WHY NOT the result was printed in the first reference an employer got from them about me ” Ronald is argumentative to the point of disruption and with this attitude will never achieve much in business”. I got to see this reference as the guy that interviewed me liked me anyway, gave me the job (he didn’t like college lecturers either) and had me running a store for him within 18 months (I took a peek into my personnel file and there it was!)

    Now, I’ve been unemployed, I’ve flipped burgers for a living, I’ve even caught and sold rabbits for some extra cash when money’s been tight.

    I’m now a shareholder and director of a small business and we’re making a tidy living and things are going OK – through hard work and taking opportunities. About 10 years ago we stopped employing graduates straight out of college as, through experience, we found it takes a minimum 2 years to get “I’ve got a degree, I know how it’s done, my lecturers said blah, blah,blah” out of their minds and get them into learning real world stuff like profits and happy clients.

    I haven’t stopped learning since I started working. For example I taught myself accountancy by doing the books. I developed a database with one of the people from the dark-side, I’ve learnt man-management and hundreds of other things.

    My latest adventure has been the SWS course – I’ve just posted exercise 17 – and what it’s given me is just a whole bundle of information, insider techniques and above all a blueprint of how to structure a sales letter. I’ve got lots of work to do putting it into practice now but it will stay with me now as a side-arm for rest of my working days.

    Thanks JC and everyone involved. It’s been worth every single minute.

    Stay ranty


  • Michael says:

    Amen Brother! Best sermon I’ve read in a long time. I’m all pumped up. Going to bookmark this page and read it every day.

  • Rezbi says:

    I went to sort out my bacnk account a couple of weeks ago and the woman dealing with me asked me what I do.

    When I mentioned copywriting and marketing, she started quizzing about how I do marketing as she had done an MBA in the subject.

    And here she was, a bank clerk.

    I had to explain to her the difference between REAL marketing and the stuff you learn in college.

    I was quite chuffed that I knew more than someone who’d done an MBA in marketing.

    Proves you’re spot on.

  • To start with, I (sort of) apologize for the length of this comment, but there is madness to my method. 🙂 For once, I agree 100% with John (contain your shock). I’ve been in college twice, and made it to mid Junior year. The second time, I started in Engineering, and finished in Computers. Since 1978, I’ve started/run 3 businesses (working on a 4th), and had to give them up due to injuries. At one point, I was told I had the _equivalent_ of a Masters, due to self-education.
    It took me a long time to realize that while I can be a “Suit,” I’m really a “Jeans.”
    I’ve always been an immersion learner, and not well suited to normal schools. It was only when I was disabled in 1994 that I really accepted it. Due to the pain from the injury to my good knee, I couldn’t program any longer. So, being a good Jeans, I started a business doing custom promotional items. In 2000, I had to give that up, due to back injury, from a rear ender. Ten years later, I’ve written a book (unpublished as yet) on how to Advertise, Market and Sell effectively. I can tell you, nothing beats actually having to sell Face to Face, to make a living, for learning to sell.
    Especially something that you know little about. =8-0 Helping to sell Jewelry, when you don’t wear any, is a real education.
    I learned more about selling than 10 lifetimes, in school, could have taught me. I became good, because I learned how to “meet” the customer, to satisfy their wants and needs. I recommend actually helping someone who sells for a living, by traveling around to shows. You will learn to size up, and please buyers by helping them. Which is the real secret. If transactions aren’t win-win-win, everybody looses.
    Which brings me at last to Advertising and Marketing. Advertising is nothing more that saying. “I have a solution to a general set of needs.” Marketing is an extension of that. “I have a set of solutions to this specific set of needs. IOW, Advertising says. “I make and sell vehicles.” Marketing goes further. “I make and sell Cars, Trucks and Vans of these types.” Selling completes the pattern, by solving the actual need.
    John’s “immersion in the subject,” is learning what types of needs there are, and how to tell people his client has them. The better he explains the solutions offered to the problems, the better sales are.
    Which brings me at last, to a final point. School is for teaching you how to learn. The rest is up to you. Even Home Schooling can only do that much, the rest is up to the individual. If you want to learn, nothing will stop you, not even being 85% paraplegic, like I am.
    The internet can, with help, give you an education greater than any person has ever had. Even the great Library of Alexandria didn’t contain as much as you can learn today. There is no excuse to stop learning, except lack of effort. It’s like opening up an encyclopedia the size of a country, and starting to read it.
    Take John’s SWS, learn how to communicate, and the world is yours, no matter how you make a living. You will know more, and faster, than almost every person you compete with.

  • Ralph says:

    Absolutely amazing straight to the point post. What’s funny is I was just working on a similar post that I’m trying to work into a sales letter. Apparently, I need to hurry up and get my self a copy of SWS so I can grow up to be just like you one day 😀

  • David says:

    You are writing from my soul – thank you!

    It’s about 5 am in Germany, I’m the only one I know who is still up learning…

    Over the last 10 years or so I thought I was the one who is crazy – how could I not understand what everyone else KNEW? That it’s the obvious, smart thing to become ‘someone’. To get a degree in order to get a good job so I could let someone else decide over my time and income…

    The concept of a degree, of getting judged for how well you can regurgitate something and that this will then qualify you for getting a job done – sorry but that’s just plain crazy, too.

    So there was no place for me in the traditional education and carreer structures. I was imprisoned in my own mind, desperately searching for a way out, halfway convinced that I was the one who was stupid and not really knowing what I was searching for.

    My life today is a blessing. The freedom and inner peace are amazing. Never knew that life could be like this… Yes, I could go broke tomorrow but I KNOW that that would only be temporary.

    Every day now I jump out of bed, eager to work on a current project. Not without obstacles, but with a calm and trust that I can make things work. If you get stuck, all you need to do is change the approach, gradually improving and success becomes almost inevitable.

    I ran 2 businesses in the ground before succeeding, so what – sat down and learned from it. Seriously, anyone can do this and it is just so worth it.

    Best success to all of you,

    – David

    P.S.: I ‘should have’ handed in my thesis 4 years ago… so technically I’m still a student. The opportunity cost of 6 months wasted on a thesis seperates me from a degree in industrial engineering right now. Well and maybe a bit of childish resistance 😉

  • Hey John,

    Thanks for the great post. This post is the second thing to remind me this week of “Easy Rider” class of ’69 and my freshman year at Screw U.

    Great work my friend.

    All the best,
    Mad Guy

  • Marty Winsor says:

    John – I was impressed that you were able to use the word “shit,” either alone or in compound nouns with the names of various animals, 10 times in such a short article. Your children must be proud of you! Is your specialty copywriting or coarseness?

  • Dana says:

    John – Kudos to all those that have shown the traditionalists your ass cheeks, told them to kiss ’em & made yourself a success. It drives me nuts when I see an entrepreneur leave his job to pursue his dream and the critics just rant and rave how “crazy” he is or how “good” he had it at…The jobbers just don’t understand it. They’ll go through life bitchin and moanin about everything but NEVER DO ANYTHING about it. They conform…go to school…get a job & the only explanation they have is because “everyone else is doing it.” How pathetic. I always wanted to be my own boss & I think most people do…they just don’t have the kahunas to go out & make it happen. I went to school for construction mgmt.(That was stupid) Then I bought my own retail franchise and had that for six years. I learned more in those six years about people and life than in all my years of schooling. The years of the forty year career are over. I believe university type institutions will soon start to disappear. My wife thinks education is just great…and it is for certain things, but now these teachers and professors think they have to poison our kids minds with their religious and political views too. Excuse me(hand raised)…”I’m here to learn about physics/algebra/biology, not your bullshit political viewpoint…proceed.” I tell my kids they can be/do anything they want and they don’t need a college education to be successful(this doesn’t always go over to well with the wifey but…) most of the highly successful people I know and read about, don’t have a college degree. I’ve learned more from you, Kern, Pagan, AWAI, Rohn, Robbins, etc. than any institutionalized book or course and this “outside the box” thinking has been incredibly more beneficial. I couldn’t agree more with this post. One more thing…save your breath trying to explain yourself to the jobbers, they’ll never “get it.”

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Dana.

      There are some side threads in the comments here where people kinda missed the point. Maybe I didn’t make one of my points clearly enough: I deeply value education and knowledge for the sake of knowledge. In the Info Age, our brain is our most valuable resource.

      It’s just that you can’t trust the traditional ways of feeding your brain anymore (if you ever could). A good teacher should instill a lifelong love of reading in you at a young age… doesn’t matter if it’s your 3rd grade teacher, or your home-schooling parent.

      But that love of reading is only a HABIT. WHAT you read is important. And you should strive to understand as much about the world and the cultures in it as you can. Even if you’ll never use that knowledge to make a buck.

      My advice for college-bound folks: If you have a major you definitely know you want to pursue (like math, astrophysics, law, medicine, etc), then by all means follow the path of your predecessors and take the right courses.

      However, if you’re unsure of what the rest of your life will be like, but you still want to go to college…

      … then get a freakin’ liberal arts education. Don’t get tied down to ANY major… instead, take several courses in EVERY discipline, from math to theater to biology to poli-sci and philosophy.

      That’s why I keep talking about the “modern Renaissance” person — get a good general education, in all parts of the culture, and privately pursue the other things (like earning money online) on your own.

      ALL the top marketers I know have far-flung interests in all kinds of cool stuff. Music, travel, literature, alternative medicine, history… there are no limits.

      Engage with life with all cylinders blazing. If you don’t understand some part of the culture, then research it. If you find it fascinating, pursue it with passion.

      The passion and adventure of going deep with certain subjects trumps everything else. A poor man with intense passions is happier than a rich man staring into the abyss of a desolate internal life. Learn to love learning. It’s the only way to enjoy the ride…

      • Dana says:

        I totally agree…one must be educated but be careful who you trust as your educator. I get a little wound up on this subject because people think the traditional method is the only way to be successful, yet, most people just go through life doing what someone else told them to do and they live a miserable existence because they are not pursuing their passions. Keep stimulating our minds John.

      • ken ca|houn says:

        Excellent point… loving learning is a key to happiness, and pursuing worthwhile goals to apply what you’ve learned. The older I get the more I read, the more I study, the more I “inhale”, in addition to creating businesses. (I look at learning as inhaling, and producing products/services as exhaling; key is balance). Agree too re having far-flung interests is a great way to keep ‘alive’ and vibrant, to gain exposure to lots of different things, constantly, is a great way to keep in mental shape. I like your analogy re modern renaissance person approach, that’s what it takes in this info-marketing era we’re in.


  • Nathan Rufus says:

    Mr Carlton (…feel I should call you that because it’s the first time I’ve come to your house and it’s hard to shake off how you’re brought up, especially by an iron fisted mother that could knock out Mike Tyson).

    I heard about you from Frank Kern talking about the SWS. Came to check out your blog before but lost my way on the entrepreneurial trail until now and came back and read this post.

    Funnily enough I’m in the middle of a mentoring program myself learning how to build an internet marketing business from the ground up and everything is going well.

    Just wanted to come here and thank you really because I think something strange has happened and I’ve only just noticed it by first reading this post and then going back through (a lot) of your previous posts.

    Frank Kern described you as the best direct response copywriter there is (…and he’s not too bad himself…) so I came to have a look at “the best”.

    And what happened is…


    I’d never put up a blog before, or written blog posts or anything like that and I must admit that on my first few visits to your blog I did not spend enough time here, was just passing through.

    But when I started to blog (…something which I haven’t done in a few days now, letting “the plan” slip already) I started to get these comments about “my writing style”.

    I believed that I didn’t have a “writing style”, just wrote what I was thinking (…sometimes exactly how I was thinking it. Not good.)

    But I’ve come back here and noticed things that are very familiar to me when I’m thinking about writing a post.

    I thought it was a good idea to always start off with some sort of quote. Someone speaking or just exactly what I was thinking as if I were speaking it out loud.

    There are a few more things that I won’t go into because you’re probably not going to approve this comment for being too long.

    But just want you to know that all those things I didn’t intend to “copy”. I didn’t even know that’s what you did until I started DOING this stuff (…instead of just learning it…) and I just wanted to say a quick thanks (…or, as it is a very slow one) for passing that little bit on.

    I’m not in the best financial position in the world, but I KNOW I am on the road to financial independance.

    The one skill that I REALLY want to master (…or at least get very good at…) is copywriting, and I have made it my very first business goal to dedicate my very first $797 in profit to get SWS.

    I’m really upset that I missed the personal mentoring version, but was still to busy procrastinating, twiddling my thumbs, sitting on my ass or whatever you want to call it.

    Will achieve that first business goal. Got no doubt about that.

    I will be a future customer of yours, because it’s just an investment in my own future (…and that just can’t be bad)

    Thanks a lot Mr Carlton.

    Nathan from the UK

    (…sorry for the length, that’s one thing you’ll have to teach me. How to keep things short.)

  • […] Carlton has a new post “Congratulations, And Now Stop Being A Wuss” all about education and getting the right […]

  • Joetta Bell says:

    Great post! Reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon goes off on the pretentious college kid about the education he could have gotten from the library for nothing, and the benefit of having an original thought as opposed to his thoughts being a regurgitation of those of his professor.

    I, too, was a straight A student, supposedly bound for college, but chose a different path. I can honestly say, other than the experience, college had absolutely nothing to offer me. 30 years later, I make more money than I ever could have with a degree, I have the freedom that only comes with self-employment, and I would be bored to tears with a ‘normal’ job. College was expected of me by others, but not by my parents. They never pushed it. Senior year of high school, a couple of teachers stopped me in the hall and asked if I was considering getting a teaching degree. I laughed. Of course, seconds later, I chastised myself for what surely must have seemed rude, but it was just a natural response.

    I think this advice should be shared with someone just entering high school, not when the brainwashing of college has already occurred. Educate kids about everything that is available, and let them make the decision. If my 8 year old granddaughter still wants to be a Vet when it’s time for college, then by all means, I will support her and make sure she has that opportunity. In the meantime, I will help raise her to have an entrepreneurial spirit and the confidence to go after any dream she has, whether it’s starting her own business, or being a missionary in a jungle somewhere. Education is absolutely essential, but like the great Jim Rohn said, “Formal education will make you a living. Self education will make you a fortune.”

  • Romeo Blais says:


    What do I mean by this?

    This: With a college degree under your belt… you have to “work” for someone else.

    Namely, a corporate business.

    And what comes with this? yup, you said it bucko… TAXES.

    Think about it: as a self employed business man… you can easily evade taxes. This is because you’re in control of your life.

    The U.S. government DOES NOT want that. oh no, charlie.

    They want control over you. Their little slave to fund their wars and pockets.

    so yeah, they would love to grant you money… after all, they’ve got you by the balls for the next 40 years of your life.

    • Fled Shermer says:

      And then there is the (AMT) Alternative Minimum Tax. 26 U.S.C. § 55.

      What a rip! If the tax man can’t get you one way, he WILL get you the other.

      He owns your balls!

      We need Reform…NOW!

      • Romeo Blais says:

        Fled… I don’t invest in stocks.

        I bury my money.

        • Fled Shermer says:

          It would take me months to bury my money.
          Just like John, I make tons of dough…cash…geetis.
          I keep mine in 53′ reefers on my back lot.
          I had a couple stolen, but so what. I still
          have plenty of them left.

  • […] The successful ones acknowledge that fear, put it aside, and just get busy taking care of business.” – John Carlton […]

  • Ken Oneill says:

    Isn’t it sad they the system does such a bad job by the time a kid graduates. They are forced to amass 100k + in debt to get marketable skills.

    We are in this economy because we sold houses to people who couldn’t afford them and convinced people they can retire when they get enough rental income.

    We will stay in the downturn because we are pumping out people with expensive educations. Tons of dept. Who can’t do anything but move home with mom and dad. Forget about buying a house in the next 10 years.

  • Sam Quechech says:

    This is a outrage!

    Kids NEED to go to college. They need to
    be taught…
    1. how to act in public
    2. how not to get their ass kicked
    3. how to talk to their elders
    4. how to respect authority
    5. how to drink responsibly
    6. how to take the Taser at the frat house
    5. how to go to work for her dad’s company
    6. how to retire as a feeble old cuss at the age of 47
    7. etc…etc…
    And so much more that you can’t learn at home
    eating mommy’s cooking.

    Outrage I say! A dang outrage.

  • Mathias says:

    In the Gary Halbert letters; The great Gary said something in the line of:

    “A non player with an education will propably make more money than a non player without one.” But if you’re a player, none of that really matters…Okay… at least that’s how i interpret his words. Work on developing the qualities of a player and the rest will follow.

    It’s great to know the truth…
    That succes is something that naturally unfolds as you get your hands dirty and do the work that needs to de done. Now… I need to start applying this principle into my day-to day living… (That is the hard part) But believe in myself and that I can do it.

  • Mathias says:

    The problem with schools is school itself… the idea that kids conscious minds must be overloaded with tons of information and then be remebered in order for them to do well in life… that’s yeah…stupid, idiotic(fill in the blank)

    There is no such thing as “subjects”. In the real world… you master a context, a situtation, an industry, a field, a skillset… and then, Hey you’re doing great.

    Mastering a subject is for those delude themself into thinking theyr’e utterly smart because they can beat their adult friends in games like trvial pursuit, jeopardy, etc.

    The ugly truth is that school is a comfort zone…
    Where You can hide yourself from the real world… until… You are outthere. and suddently there’s no way to go, you gotta figure out how to really make it on your own, no teachers being nice to you.

    Going to school will cause you to believe weird things, and make false assocations.

    Like: Good grades and sucking your teachers
    ass = Succes
    Degrees = Money & Intelligence

    If you walk through life with these beliefs, hmm…
    How the **** are you gonna make it big?

    Especially, when there are people who are aware of the big picture…

    The naive one’s with stupid ideas passed on by generations of parents and teachers… they’re gonna be smashed tomatoes…

  • Sammy says:

    John Carlton,
    I don’t like this blogging post at all.

    I are educated from Stanford Universities. And I are smarter than most everybodies I known.

    Get real John.


  • Jackson says:

    Hi John,
    get a job get a job get a job. That is all I heard when I went to college. I had that inner voice telling me I can’t wait to get out of college. everyone raved how great it was. My experience was very close to Shawns 1.8 gpa haha. Who would hire me. Even to this day after graduating in 1988 they still want to see transcript. If I take the Simple Writing System I want a damn transcript from you. Wait I won’t need one. That little fricken voice has dominated for a very long time. After researching about you and Dan Kennedy and likes there is an alternative then being stuck in regular job. AND, AND know that I was right in thinking that traditional college was a waist of time. Thanks John for the read. You are pretty damn cool.

  • I once knew a young guy who was a drunk, a full-blown alcoholic at the age of 35. He was very successful, making over 6-figures for many years. But the pressures of life and business got to him and he saught stress relief through the bottle. By the age of 50 everything was gone. His successful business, cars, classic cars, boats, motorcycles, house on the golf course, wife and kids…everything…gone. He went into many rehab treatment centers, stayed sober of a while, then relapsed back into his old lifestyle. All of his friends and family felt there was no hope for him. Then one day everything changed. He got sober. How did it happen everyone thought? Ironically, the same pressures of life that lead to his alcoholism, lead to his sobriety. Life had beat the hell out of him and it came down to a choice of life or death. He chose life. He made a firm decision to change. Today, he is sober and he has redirected his career and business into internet marketing. Financially, success has been slow for him, but everyday sober is a great day and a new opportunity. I personally know this guy, because it’s me.

  • Polly says:

    I’ve been surfing through a few of your articles and I love them. The education thing is so very true. I have a license in cosmetology, ‘ass’ociates in marketing and bachelors in business and the most education I have ever received was from running/owning an audio/video business (something I knew nothing about). Street learning is the way to go. Now…with 2 kids and one on the way I really want to start freelance writing and a blog that I want to call….(nah, I won’t indulge too much info.) Any thoughts on how to get started? If I could get we’re talking, but just a hobby on the side for now is what I’m looking for while I try to raise productive members of society!

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