Intelligent, Educated Savvy

Wednesday, 11:56am
New York, New York
Truckin’, like the Doo Dah man…” (Grateful Dead)


Sorry for the little vacation here from the blog.  I’ve been hunkered down in “launch mode”, on the road, and ministering to various biz projects…

… all of which have messed with my “sit down and write, dammit” time.

I’m actually handwriting the first part of this post in a hotel room, just before heading to La Guardia to fly home after a week in the Big Apple.  (Those of you following me on Facebook may have seen pics of the dispicable weather display we braved to watch the Jets b-slap the Vikings on Monday Night Football.  We spent 4 solid days in meetings, while the city basked in perfect Fall splendor… and the one time we ventured outside, thunder and lightning and a deluge of biblical size dumped on our sorry asses.)

(Still, it was worth the drenching.  Great story to tell whenever anyone needs one-upping on weather disasters…)

By the time you read this, I’ll be back in exciting Reno, catching my breath.

I am one bone-tired road dog, I’ll tell you what.

And I can’t wait to be sitting back at my cluttered desk, writing.  Dammit.


… quick post here, just to get the blood moving again.

I was thinking about this subject while reading up on the gossip whirling around the online entrepreneurial community.  It’s starting to jive with the blistering political attacks dominating the mainstream news cycles…

… and it’s scary.

The details of the gossip don’t really matter.  Rumors come, rumors go… same as political movements and all other fads and moments of temporary insanity.

But there is an overriding theme here that will never go away:  A rabid distrust of intellectualism.

In plain English:  Americans are suspicious of folks who claim to be “the smartest dudes in the room”.

Now, I understand the righteous anger many people feel toward the high-paid quasi-felons in our culture — arrogant Wall Street psychopaths… brainiac political wonks… pundits and guru’s who seem to enjoy talking down to people who aren’t hip to their insider privileged knowledge… and anyone who sneers at you because they deem your opinion to be dumb.

But here’s the thing:  I’ve spent decades hanging out with idiots and geniuses…

… and I can tell you there is both real wisdom in simplistic worldviews, and real doofus-moron-dipshit cluelessness in Mensa-type thinking.

And vice versa.

In other words… smart isn’t always smart.  And dumb ain’t always dumb.

Where folks get confused, I’ve found, is in figuring out the intellectual credibility of the other guy.

This took me years to figure out, and it might help you, too… when you’re trying to judge whether someone deserves your attention or not.

Here’s the breakdown of what I’ve learned:

Intellectual Credibility Factor #1: Some people arrive in life front-loaded with raw intelligence.

They have a high IQ, a bloated cerebral cortex, feisty synapses, or whatever it is in the brain pan that allows a small percentage of the population to excel at thinking about complex stuff in ways that leave the rest of us gasping in awe.

Intellectual Credibility Factor #2: Some people gorge on education.

They are walking libraries and resource centers on facts and figures and historical implications.

Intellectual Credibility Factor #3: Some people earn street-level savvy from serious time in the trenches.

No theory for these dudes.  They know what they know, because they learned it from doing it.

Intelligence.  Education.  Street savvy.

Which do you think wins out in the game of life?

Go ahead, think about it.  And think back on the times you’ve encountered someone you either wanted to trust, or had to trust…

… and how you decided to move ahead, based on your assessment of their brain/resume/experiential mojo.

I’m betting a lot of readers here would pick “savvy” as the most important.

And I’m here to tell you that I’ve known street-wise guys who — within their world — could absolutely demolish any outsider.

But the key words there are “within their world“.  It’s way too seductive to believe that because you’re a stud in one area of life… say, in a specific market or business model…

… then you will be just as studly in any other area of life you choose to invade.

And it’s just not so. Surgeons who fearlessly root around people’s essential organs, saving lives and kicking butt against disease… are often the most vulnerable patsies to financial scams.  Wildly successful biz owners get their heads handed to them when they venture into politics.  Sports heroes can’t keep a decent relationship together.

Just for example.

One the primary things I look for when consulting with clients is how much ego they have invested in their personal myth.  If they believe they “should” succeed at something, because they’ve succeeded at something else…

… we got problems.

Same with raw intelligence.  For whatever reason, many of my closest friends growing up had IQs in the stratosphere.  They chewed through school like a tiger devouring prey, and I marveled at their capacity to think Big Thoughts.

However, not a one of them has accomplished much in life.  Several are struggling to make a decent living, and they’re really trying, too.

I remember a study many years back — can’t find a trace of it on Google right now, but it was a big conversation point for a while in the late 80s — that claimed the “ideal” IQ for an entrepreneur was somewhere above average and below Mensa-level.

It’s easy to see why you’d need a certain level of intelligence to comprehend being in business.  It’s less easy to see why more brain power doesn’t translate to more comprehension.

What I’ve seen in my friends is that too much IQ-wattage muddies practical thinking.  It’s not even getting bored with the day-to-day necessities of running a biz… it’s more like an inability to see the simple path to success.

I’m not saying that you’re doomed if you’re super-smart.

It’s just not a guaranteed Ticket To Ride to the good life.

Same with education.

One of the core pieces of advice we give to budding entrepreneurs…

… is to STOP educating yourself at some point.  Often, you don’t need to read another book, or take another class, or get another degree.

Instead, what you desperately need to do is put what you already know into ACTION.

I’m a voracious reader.  I will never stop the self-education process, and there are parts of my college years that still come in handy.

Nevertheless… there were only 3 books that fueled my own launch into the entrepreneurial world: Think And Grow Rich (Nap Hill)… How To Win Friends And Influence People (Carnegie) (also known as “the salesman’s bible”)… and Tested Advertising Methods (John Caples).

All other books — while still providing insight, advice, new skills and useable tactics — were just sub-categories of those three.  My self-education was transformed instantly when I discovered those classics.  (Published originally in the 30s and 40s, no less.)

The Big Dog entrepreneurs I’ve worked with shared a common idea about over-educated biz experts.  The joke was that you could hire someone with an MBA (a master’s in business)…

… but they wouldn’t be of any use until after you knocked the nonsense out of them.

No.  Education alone can just load you up with stuff you can’t (or won’t) put to use.

Intelligence, alone, can turn simple implementation strategies into obstacles.

And savvy, alone, can blind you to new realities.

The best place to be?

Having all three in the mix, of course.

This seems like one of those “duh”, super-obvious observations, doesn’t it.

And yet, I’ll tell you that the MAJORITY of clients I’ve counseled and worked with over the years have been befuddled by it.

It’s natural to look for partners, colleagues, advisors, friends and allies who bring something essential to the table.  And to search for the voodoo fueling the success of your competitors.

For me, judging credibility finally made sense when I realized how intelligence, education and savvy all fit together.  The combo is not a guarantee of success…

… but it sure puts all the right elements in your favor.

The remedy for fuzzy thinking remains simple:

a) Wake up. Examine your life, and soak up reality.  Use critical thinking to learn from your successes and your mistakes. (Critical thinking is nearly a lost art in modern business.  Putting it to use can instantly erase any lack of measurable intelligence.  A frosty, hyper-aware and open-minded person trumps “genius” every time.)

b) And then apply what you’ve learned, as you build up experience. Theory stops when you start actually trying to create results.  Drop all bullshit belief systems that hold you back (like magical thinking and anti-intellectual bias).  “Truth” may be hard to nail down in this complex world, but “reality” in business can be measured in results and resilience in the market.

c) Read. You are responsible for your education… and it’s your job to go outside the box to get the good stuff.  School is fine, as far as it goes.  Devouring libraries and interviewing experts and going deep with research (by never allowing any single book or author to define what you know about any topic) is infinitely better.  But do your reading while you…

d) ACT on what you discover and learn. You don’t win by having the most books on your shelves, or the highest tower of notes on your desk.  Implementation is King in business.  Movement is rewarded in the universe.

e) And a little mentoring can trigger massive leaps in figuring shit out.

The goal is to be intelligent, educated, and savvy.  These elements moderate, boost, and compliment each other.  Without all three, there are gaps in your ability to get stuff done.

Part of allowing reality to govern your pursuit of goals is to counter-act the limitations that come with intellectual isolation.

Alone, we all start obsessing on our faults.  We all have moments of doubt (sometimes looooong moments of it)… we all screw up… we all are blind idiots at times.

If, in your head, you have some BS belief system cooking that insists you’re a terrible person for fouling things up occasionally… or you’re unworthy of success… or you’re being punished for some vague trespass earlier in your life…

… then part of your education is to corner that belief system, beat it to a pulp, and bury it somewhere it will never crawl back from.

If you’re scared because you keep encountering situations where you don’t know what to do next… then building on every moment of experience you have, and learning from it, is what constitutes the kind of savvy to be competent and confident.

Be eager to attain competence and confidence, but don’t panic while you’re in the process.  Be patient, and keep pushing.  The tipping point will arrive sooner than you ever dreamed possible.

And if, while examining yourself, you come across gaps in necessary knowledge…

… go forth and fill those gaps in.  With coaching, mentoring, specific courses or books or memberships… whatever makes sense and gets it done.

The “knock” on Internet information marketing is that too many people are trying to make money pedaling lame info.

That’s one way to look at it.  Focus on the bogus shit out there, and smear the entire market as worthless.

The other way to look at it…

… is to marvel at the abundance of legitimate knowledge, insight and personal access to mentoring available.

Yes, there are charlatans in abundance.  So what?  Life is a smorgasbord of choices, some bad, some so-so, a few that are spectacular.

Put together what you’ve got, fill in what you need, work the system for more and better experience as you continually examine the entire ride.

Get hip, get knowledgeable, and use the intelligence you have.

No?  You don’t agree?

The comments are open for ranting, opining, and arguing.

For those of you who missed me while I’ve been gone, it’s nice to be back.

For those of you complaining that the blog went a couple of weeks with no action (yes, I read your “crickets chirping” comments)… well, just remember that this is a FREE fucking blog, okay?

And I missed your belligerent musings, too.  Seriously.  One of the great things about this blog — and what keeps me coming back for more — is the interaction in the comments section.

The threads that sometimes get going here are just mesmerizing and evil raw fun.

So have at it.

We’ll do another Quiz soon, too.

Hope you’re enjoying autumn.  My favorite season, you know…

Stay frosty,


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  • Adil says:

    yet another brilliant post.
    In your absence, I had to go spelunking through the archives to find some brilliant info.

    agreed mentoring is by far the most powerful of them all. And I’ve had the good pleasure of being accepted to work with someone in Canada, and i thank YOU for this, as it was you who originally put me on the path to writing.

    I’m excited and looking forward to keepin’ on.

    Gonna, as always, apply what’s here.

    Thanks again

    The Copywriting Kid

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Hartmann, Eric Graham. Eric Graham said: By @johncarlton007: Intelligent, Educated Savvy: Wednesday, 11:56am New York, New York “Truckin’, like the Doo Dah… […]

  • May Mitchell says:

    Hi John,
    Love that philosophy!
    * wake up * apply * read * discover * act
    * be mentored * be patient * be real…
    Aim for — intelligence & education & street savvy
    Loved your post – love your thoughts – keep the authentic and ‘real experienced copywriter/marketer wisdom’ coming 🙂
    – May

  • Thomas says:

    Wowza, This came at just the right time for my brain to soak up the positive spooz oozing from your savvy-coated observations. Feeling a little befuddled at my lack of techno-knowledge, wondering how many f-ing times I can input the same crap and it still pisses on me. Insanity with a mouse!
    You slowed me down enough to take stock of my non-genius spot on the charts, and consult my savvy friends for some mentoring. Thanks

  • Simon says:

    Gee, thanx a lot for that John. Most times am being driven by my genius wisdom. Now i knw what has been lacking to make thngs work. You dnt knw how mch clearer things r to me after ths post. Thnks again. Simon

  • Hi John,

    It’s good to hear the voice of “street” experience with all of the “hoopla” lately.

    I equate it to a vacuum cleaner…if you get close enough to it, it will suck you in, grrr. I try to stay away from it.

    Some encouraging words in this post for sure.

  • John, this is a great post.
    You’ve put your finger on the exact phenomenon that blows my mind every time I attend a marketing conference of any kind.

    … folks keep coming to them, getting fired up and going home to do nothing about it. These are the same people who buy hundreds of self-helpish books each year.

    I call ’em Self Help Junkies – people looking for a quick fix that’ll fire up the motivational glands so they can go off and do some “planning” to feel good about themselves and their business.

    Annoying as they are, these folks fund the entire professional/self development industry with their lose wallets.

    How do you approach working with them.. or avoiding it?

    • John Carlton says:

      I’m of two minds about self-help junkies (a term, btw, that goes back to the early 80s in our industry):

      1. I devoured self help books when I was starting out, cuz I was alone. No mentor, no colleagues, no support system whatsoever. So for every biz book I read, I also read a self help tome. The cornier the better — I loved Og Mandino, and the really old dudes from the 30s (when self-help got started). I’d haunt Wilshire Publishing, which printed the first Albert Ellis “rational emotive” stuff (as well as great early direct mail manuals).

      These self-help books — both the cheesy and the more serious ones — kept me centered and sane, during a time I had no other voices in my life giving me any support.

      2. However… there came a time when I cut self-help stuff out entirely. After a couple dozen books, I could write my own woo-woo book, and I knew which of the classics really provided ongoing support, if needed (like “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” — both cheesy, and useful). (I still recommend “Constructive Living”, by Reynolds, to everyone without hesitation.)

      You gotta cut off the supply when it’s time. I’ve known far too many people who just use self-help crap as an addiction — something to focus on while they stubbornly remain stuck, frozen in an emotional way-station on the path of life.

      Baba Ram Dass has a great line: “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”

      So, it has its place, but it can also be a hindrance. Just like everything else in life.

      The main thing people realize when they get some good therapy, of course, is that they’re not alone. They’re not the only feeling the way they do, or going through what they’re going through. This can be the breakthrough needed, in some cases. Others need to know it’s not their fault.

      But all need to know there are actionable things they can do to change behavior, stop bad thoughts from dominating dreams and daytime thinking, and take advantage of the brain’s inherent love of positive movement.

      Anyway, thanks for the post.

  • Matt says:

    Hi John,
    Well I recently really woke up. After having been treating people for about two years as a therapist I realized that it is not the business I want to follow anymore.

    After I took Morpheus’s “red pill” in the form of having been exposed to internet marketing strategies I had to fall really deep to now finally answer to my calling really get on with it and finally do it.

    And this is what I will do. I will be savvy in getting a good sales job with a strong company that recently offered me a job to learn about prospecting, client relations and team work. And at the same time I will save money up for my internet marketing education. For I really see information is power. 3 days ago I watched Frank Kern’s “Core Influence” and boy it opened up my heart and mind.

    I know all the stuff that I was learning in there will help me while working for a company so I can finance my IM marketing education. And one of the first things I will educate myself on is your material. I really “vibe” with your stuff and there is just so much value in it. And I will not make the mistake of using my credit card – I am following your advice here actually from a former article.

    You guys (Frank, Eben, John W., Jeff J…) are doing so much for the business community all over the world. Giving away all this amazing information how to truly sell to people what they need is just amazing. As well I am aiming to get in touch with James Schramko from he is right up my alley as well and he endorses your material as well very highly. His clarity and precision is impressive.

    Enough ranting and writing practice for me today… Thanks again. You are a legend. My dream and goal is to buy you a beer one day. 🙂

    • Bob Berman says:

      I love John. I love his insights. I pay him for those (except for the ones on his Blog-“its a FREE fucking blog”). That said, I couldn’t skim by your comment without giving you a bit of unsolicited advice: Dream Bigger. At least dream that John is buying YOU a beer.

  • John,
    When intelligence doesn’t help?
    I believe that it happens when one treasures his or her own Intelligence. It just slows the person down.
    and it is a great tool, the ability to understand the world and people is like fuel for your car. But it is not the car.
    I remember a conversation with a very talented guy- in music, art, extremely funny and open, but he said…I am a genius. well..genius doesn’t know that he is a genius.

    You mentioned the study “that claimed the “ideal” IQ for an entrepreneur”, it was funny!(ha:))

    thank you,

    • Brian says:

      Correct! But don’t get sucked into the Ego Boom (bar your marketing efforts) Inviting information, education and advice is always a good thing. it’s ammo for your efforts, but too much can cloud your thinking. I know what I.Q. is but really. Some of the dumbest people I know are a success.

  • Jurg says:

    Wow…Bulls-eye. I think you were consulted when they decided what lines to use for The Oracle, in the movie “The Matrix.”

  • RonnieS says:

    Good Evening Mr C

    One of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. Just makes perfect sense – thank you.
    Ronnie – in cold, old England.

  • Ruby says:

    Hi John:
    Well said! It makes me laugh to hear from IM ‘gurus’ who slam other ‘gurus’ and then turn around and do the exact same thing they’re slamming the others for. Just because they have a different slant they seem to think it puts them on some sort of pedestal.

    I’m in the action phase now, and avoiding the call to buy in most of the launches. Not that I don’t try to learn from them if they apply to what I’m doing. LOL

    • RStevens says:

      To many people mix up studying with working. Ed Dale said at his conference in Melbourne last Feb….”Work is something that makes you money!” Nothing else qualifies as work! No shit…those words run through my head day after day when I hear someone who is learning saying they are working! As always good post, John.

      • John Carlton says:

        Operation MoneySuck, R. Stay focused on the moolah… everything else is a hobby. Which is fine, but don’t confuse the two.

        Thanks for the reminder via the Edster…

  • Bob Berman says:

    Hey John,

    I’ll be sending this Blog to my kids. Its good.


  • Kevin Rogers says:


    Thanks for this. Nice to have you back and in dry shoes.

    I take a lot of comfort in the reality that some folks just soak up intelligence better than others. Because I’m not one of those people. I’ve got to read, reread and then quiz myself constantly to retain passing (if often vital) knowledge.

    The only time I “get it” on the first try is when I live the lesson, as you said.

    One more thing I’ve found critical to progress is to take a damn break once in a while so my sizzled brain has a chance to cool and process some of the stimuli I cram into it every day.

    I’m determined to take December off from client work for this very purpose. I feel like there’s a point of saturation when we’re no longer progressing our abilities… just peddling faster to keep from toppling over.

    Kinda like that Tom Wait’s line: “Never saw my home town till I stayed away too long.”

    It’s difficult to see how far you’ve traveled if you never stop to look back.

    Thanks for another doozie.


    • John Carlton says:

      Good plan, K-man. I’ve recently had to go through the looking-glass of “too much shit going on”, suffer the consequences of pre-fry, and have — yet again — that breakthrough revelation that I just need more time to wander lazily through my inner brain landscape, letting stress and urgency flitter away.

      Taking time off is good, good, good. Americans remain the only civilized country that refuses to take off lots of time, once we’re in the hunt for wealth and glory. More naps, more vacations, more wandering aimlessly and happily is the answer…

  • Steve Wyman says:


    My first visit to you rblog and a great read this is.

    Not a lot i can add. Other than I was in my 40’s before i got this. I have those skill sets (so im told) I had grown business (and sold them :-)) but I lacked the ability to get to the next level. I simply needed to apply all atthe same time and then apply ACTION


  • Cheri Ruskus says:

    Good stuff and amazingly what I have been seeing a lot lately in working with entrepreneurs. Education is important but not the end all to success. The answer I often hear when things aren’t working out business wise is either, “I will have to get a job (which isn’t so easy to do these days) or just go back to school.” For many it is without acknowledging that school is what got them into a career they did not have a passion for to begin with!

    In my blog today I talk about perfectionism and how so many wait for everything to be perfect – school being one of those perfections – to set out and do what they have always really wanted to do.

    Thanks for the share…

  • David Miller says:

    Hi John,
    Thanks for the post. Having attanded my fair share of conferences and courses, the one thing I do note is the power of selling in a room where the love is well and truly shared, have walked from rooms where accountability buddies hug and see their shared success, only to see it peter out when reality is factored in and life returns to ‘normal’. The big leap is taking some sort of action to change the normal, all about accepeting what you do and don’t want in your life. I have the utmost respect for anyone willing to get off their arse (go the Aussie spelling there…), have a go, take stock of what worked and what didn’t and step in the ring for the next round.
    Cheers and thanks
    ps you seem to divine realy crappy weather, maybe to a farm tour downunder and breaks the drought 🙂

  • Great insight John. I’ve taken off some time from my business to study, and yes, while I get a lot of knpwledge, my challenge is to take action on this. So thanks for the kick in the ….

  • Tony says:

    Great blog post (as always). My observation is that lots of us are addicted to new information and we think that the missing piece of the puzzle is going to be in the latest, greatest new offer, course or video being bandied about online by some self-proclaimed guru….

    …when actually — if we actually ACTED on 10% of what we’ve already learned in these courses — we’d be kicking ass in our chosen fields.

    Take weight-loss for example. If someone wants to lose weight, they could just jot down the top FIVE things they know to be true about weight loss and do them. Doesn’t even matter what they are. Any five will do. (Stuff like ‘cut back on sugar’, ‘walk every day’, ‘drink more water instead of soda’, ‘cut back on carbs’, etc.)

    Any five done with consistency would create weight-loss. But nooooooo….we usually can’t let things be that easy. We gotta have the latest shiny object.

    Anyway, great post as always!
    P.S. One sidebar: I thought it was interesting that you avoided the word “bitch” by saying “b-slap”….but you had no problems dropping the F-bomb at the end. 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      I started out this post feeling like I needed to hold back on the cussing…

      … and ended feeling “what the hell”.

      Well-placed f-bombs make a point. Being too free with jarring slang is disrespectful to the reader, though. So I try for the right mix…

      Great word, the f-bomb. When used properly and with care…

      • Brian says:

        Your right John,
        The F-bomb is a great word. Like any well placed bomb it creates ACTION! The Whole point your making isn’t it! Energy is not static but just transfers in form and motion.

  • John, you are right on the button (you usually are).
    A high IQ without knowledge and street smarts to back it up is useless. In fact all three are useless without the 4th ingredient – action. Nothing will work unless you do.

  • Gary says:

    good to have you back in the mind saddle.
    It was once said that too little thinking causes one to lose out in life, but there comes a time when you need to stop thinking so much and get the move on to take action. No, it ain’t easy putting something together like a product or a project but here’s the deal it’s not about you…’s about how your widget(something truly useful) is going to help someone else out. That bigger idea will keep you doing and will make you want to find that mentor to get you to that next step because it’s something you know needs to get done.
    If it’s a pile of junk you are trying to sell that’s not going to be helpful to anyone you will get the same in return(yea, you make make some money or maybe a lot of money) junk: returns, no community, no followers, and maybe just maybe some jail time( if you mess with enough or the wrong people).
    WIshing something to happen won’t get it done, you gotta roll up those sleeves, shut off facebook and twitter, and do your thing. If your thing is big enough(gutter minds….focus) you will find a way to get it done, usually through the help of someone not so close to the project.
    “If wishes were horses beggars would ride”.

    good stuff
    P.S. This Minnesota boy didn’t appreciate the b slap that the Jets did in the rain, but hey it’s just a game……right?!

  • Good to see you back (on the blog) John, and thanks for a terrific, energetic post as always.
    It’s the brain mistaking activity masquerading as progress that leaves many stuck in the rut. Order that course, and the “I’m doing something” need is sated, even when it sits on the shelf in its cellophane wrap.
    The books and CDs are my mentors too. I’ve got no one near. But fortunately those books, and this blog post, preach taking action. And linked to that is setting a good goal. Give that action direction. And watch things take shape and change. I’ll never forget where I was when I heard your KACWS CD – nearly crashing my car on an Irish country road – and I knew, ‘this is for me’ (writing copy, not crashing). I do a bit every day. And this was a bonus. Thanks.

  • Great Post John, I have been quietly listening to and reading your posts for awhile now and have quietly built my business online with nothing because i followed your directions by taking action and learning as I go. I own 3 SJV text ad exchanges, a Safelist, Several niche sites and I am running a successful SEO service. Thanks John, Keep kickin ass!

  • James Dillon says:

    I enjoyed this post very much. It reminded me of a great speech that Paul J. Meyer gave once. He had an incredible life and it’s a great inspiration.

    Mr. Meyer achieved amazing success, in spite of enormous obstacles, constant rejection, and bad circumstances as a young man. When most people would fold up and quit, he always persevered and took massive action.

    After being rejected by fifty or so publishers, Mr. Meyer got ticked off while interviewing with a prospective publisher.

    He asked the publisher, “Why do you guys always deny me?”

    The publisher replied, “Well, you have no education, Sir.”

    So, Mr. Meyer replied… “Sure I do! I’ve got a PHD from UHK!”


    “Yeah, I was Poor Hungry and Driven. I attended the University of Hard Knocks. Our colors where black and blue, and our Alma Mater was ‘We Will Overcome’!!!”

  • John,
    Fantastic post as always…
    This engendered a Robert De Niro “You talking to me?” moment and reverberated like a Hammer in a Tom & Jerry cartoon! Thank you!

  • Andrew Stark says:

    Hi John,

    I knew their was a reason I didn’t unsubscribe from your mailing list and this was it!

    It’s amazing how the 3 books you mention have all stood the test of time, and many people have basically “swiped” the content and applied it to current times to make their own forunes.

    Personally I have realised that simply being an affiliate isn’t going to give me my own business, you have to step up to the mark and actually release your own products and services. It’s much better to be taking a small %age of all sales and building a list of buyers than sending all your traffic to someone else’s business.

    Education can teach you how to start an online business, but without savy and practical application you can’t turn it a profitable business. If you’re too intelligant you over complicated the whole process as with all things computer related the best idea is to keep it simple – try to understand everything and you’re doomed for failure.

    So a mixture of all 3 plus some action seems like the perfect mixture for success. Here’s hoping that I’ve finally got my mixtures right!


  • Allan says:

    Thank you, thank you!
    Being new to the copywriting world, I often struggle with which step to take next. And as my luck would have it … you send me an e-mail of your latest blog post with detailed instructions on what that next step should be.
    I say this because … today I was going through my PDF files, books, and copywriting programs trying to figure out what to learn next.
    But what ultimately helped me to decide, was the comments that you made in your paragraph titled “ACT on what you discover and learn”.
    For me that makes allot of sense. And that, is the direction i’m going in right now.
    I know you didn’t do that on purpose. But that’s o.k.
    I just want to say … thank you for sharing your knowledge. It’s so very very much appreciated.
    God Bless

  • Dana says:

    John, great post. I’ve often noticed that the highly intellectual people have a hard time fitting in, unless they’re in a lab or in front of a computer screen. The highly educated people often have a chip on their shoulder that they know more than the rest of us, but don’t seem to be able to do anything with their knowledge except make sure they have it and we don’t. The savvy, well, they’re usually the toughest s.o.b.’s of the bunch, know more of what’s going on in different arena’s and are the more well rounded. But they still need the right mix of all three to ‘get it done,’ with a lot of action on top…kinda like the perfect cocktail. If you need more of an ingredient, you go out and find it.
    -Dana H

  • Patrick says:

    Ha,ha, haaa… You’re fucken funny John.

    You sounded like my “Old Man”, about the free blog. My “Old Man” has never been one to mince words, which I find rather refreshing.

    The rest of your blog was thoroughly delightful, thought provoking and in places, for me, emotionally triggering.


  • Dianna Helm says:

    I like your writing. You pack a punch right square in the eyes and keep us wanting more. Two things you said stuck out the most. ” Acting on what you discover and learn” and “Movement is rewarded in the universe”.
    Have read 2 of your favorite must have books several times and now will read John Caples book.


  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi John,

    Great blog post, thanks.

    On the subject of intelligence; people born with a good dose of it may get A grades in exams but they often forget most of the subject immediately after.
    The not so gifted on the other hand need to study harder to get by with just a pass. But, 9 out of 10 will remember the knowledge gathered with hard work for the rest of their lives.

    Anyone believing that what you’re advocating here can’t be done because it needs a level of intelligence that they don’t have needs to stop this self-doubt. The vast majority of people do have a brain that, with a bit of effort can be programmed to learn new things. And the good news is, there is no age limit. Yes a old dogs can learn new tricks. This of course is provided that it is combined with taking action as you quite rightly advise.


    • Romeo says:

      Elizabeth… you obviously know nothing about intellgence (IQ)

      They have remarkable memory.

      Stop talking out of your ass Please.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Hello Romeo. Thank you for your encouraging reply to my comment. It demonstrates a definition of “intelligence” exquisitely.

        • Chris says:

          Thank you Elizabeth for evoking such a wonderful example. If one had written that exchange in a novel, it would have been rejected as too pat or not realistic. LOL

          I do love the Internet!

          If you’re on Maui in February or March, dinner is on me!

  • Excellent post. Glad to have you back and writing John. I know I have a decent IQ but not too high so I guess I hit the sweet spot.

    I have to say these five steps are excellent.
    a) Wake up
    b) Apply what you’ve learned
    c) Read
    d) ACT
    e) Mentoring

    Sometimes I just want to learn, to read more books and gather data. Though I may slip into (slightly excessive) learning mode at times, I know its useless knowledge without acting on it. More and more I work to act better and faster then before. In the end that is what it is all about.

  • Brian says:

    Nice blog post John,
    First time I’ve visited your blog. I’ve worked for myself forever and done quite well with a contracting venture. My partner and I are starting a new venture this year (visit the web sites) but finding it a challenge as we’ve never dealt with the Internet or Social Media before. Your words ring true! We’re learning and listening!

  • Robert Scanlon says:

    Thanks John – your posts always stand out from the bland mass-produced cereal churned out by the snake-oil salesmen on the INTERNET. I REALLY appreciate your incisive points and that you PROVOKE ME TO THINK. A great read … so thanks for continuing to take the time for a “FREE fucking blog” … love it!


  • JG says:

    Yes John, it’s time to ACT and pace forward.

    But you know what? I’m exhausted so I’m going to bed early tonight:)

    Thanks for a great read,

  • Dax L'Amour, Ph.D says:

    As always, this tells it exactly like it is, John.
    All of your writings hit like a hammer!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Let’s have some more soon.

  • All I can say is that mentoring is the best advice I have ever taken. Robert Gibson is my mentor in SWS and it is pretty neat to meet someone who can spot the bullshit you tell yourself before you even knew you were telling your self bullshit.

    Amazing to find someone who know WHAT to say on your level to light a fire BOMB under your butt to get you moving and realizing that the fire and everything that you need was already in you.. you just needed someone to tell you it is ok to USE the fire and create something Good.
    Glad I found you John & Robert 🙂

  • Dude I so so enjoy reading your stuff as it brings life to whatever your topic de jour is and I have been striving mightly to emulate your lesons.
    I picture you cruising with Dr Hunter S on a road trip in a land yatch, hatch down, wind flappin and empties clinking in the back man, what a ride that would have been to listen to!

    Looked for the books and found this on Wiki
    Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
    1.Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
    2.Give honest and sincere appreciation.
    3.Arouse in the other person an eager want.
    [edit] Six Ways to Make People Like You
    1.Become genuinely interested in other people.
    3.Remember that a person’s name is, to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
    4.Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
    5.Talk in the terms of the other person’s interest.
    6.Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
    [edit] Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
    1.Avoid arguments.
    2.Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong.
    3.If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
    4.Begin in a friendly way.
    5.Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
    6.Let the other person do the talking.
    7.Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
    8.Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
    9.Sympathize with the other person.
    10.Appeal to noble motives.
    11.Dramatize your ideas.
    12.Throw down a challenge; don’t talk negatively when a person is absent; talk only about the positive.

    • Romeo says:

      I tried the “smile” thing.

      It works with women- not with men

      Almost got into a fight at the gym one day because I smiled too much.

      Was accused of the “gay” thing.

      no joke.

      Gyms are full of neanderthal types, anyways.

  • Darlene says:

    Great post as always. It seems that people focus on their business; however, neglect to forcus on what external factors are really effecting their lives and businesses. There is a lot going on in Washington DC now that people need to wake up. Thanks for the post.

  • Such a rant …… I like that word. My thoughts are that we never know where another is in their evolution and so its wise not to judge in any way. Each person’s journey is different and unique ….. and so I just trust that others are on their way whether it seem slow to me or fast, it is not my business. My work is to focus on what is best for me to do, whether that be learn more or is it time to act …… or play more or …….
    We will all get there sooner or later……..the joy is in the journey.

    I am just learning about your work John, you are a bit of a legend in internet land …… with your copywriting magic. How nice to have that gift. I look forward to learning more from you.

  • […] living copywriters is John Carlton. He writes with a style that’s unmistakeably his In his latest blog post he delves deeper into what we perceive as what makes someone credible. He also goes on to ask us […]

  • Sean Breslin says:

    Good post John… Not sure Why I Read It all to be honest, I’d figured out the end at the beginning. Your blog can usually be quarranteed to have content no one else does… is the reason most likely!

  • Jac says:

    Good one as usual John.
    Just add one more ingredient to the recipe and that is the humility to know that there will always be somebody who know something you don’t and somebody who can do something you can’t.

    If you can harness that kind of humility to ask for help or offer some when and where needed and then also act on everything you learn… “What a wonderful world it would be.”

    Like one ole dude in history said, “Take only that which is good from the past and build on it in the future.”

  • Michele says:

    You are so on the ball John.

    There should be some sort of invention, like a big swinging fly swat, that the minute you start mooching about and pretending to be ‘working’, it swats you over the head good and hard.

    I am going to put your post where I can re-read it again and again. Then I am going to pin “It’s the doing, stupid” right by my computer.

    Thanks again.

  • Karma's Bitch says:

    If, in your head, you have some BS belief system cooking that insists you’re a terrible person for fouling things up occasionally… or you’re unworthy of success… or you’re being punished for some vague trespass earlier in your life… then part of your education is to corner that belief system, beat it to a pulp, and bury it somewhere it will never crawl back from.

    Even when I’ve known since earliest memory this time around is punishment?
    Even when I’ve found proof of my guilt in the most recent past life? I’m not kidding John.
    Even when after decades of searching I’m told by three sources who don’t know each and who I didn’t pay for advice, that living a monk’s life this time can help me atone for what I did in the past?
    I’d like to believe that if I ignore the woo woo advice and hard evidence… and instead spend decades reading business and the odd self help tome and plug away… and persist like all the successful people say… that someday I’ll stop failing miserably.

  • Elda Titus says:

    Interesting post John, and very thought provoking. Makes me think of this quote by Oliver Wendell Holms, “Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber if he has the common sense on the ground floor.”

  • Aidan says:

    Goddammit. Just having a really lousy day and in perfect depressed mode – and you came along and motivate me again. You’ve got to stop this – it’s killing me with hyper-activity

  • ken ca|houn says:

    Right – the balance is key. As a brainiac I spend most of my working days figuring out how to dumb down my content and approaches to reach “the masses” who want pushbutton ease for everything. Most of my customers are very intelligent, and that means I’m missing the mass market; a continual challenge.

    Your training, John has helped fix a lot of that, re learning to get in sync with the REAL conversation inside the guys’ head, their real hopes/fears and craft copy to elicit the right responses. It’s very hard to get it right.

    On education vs taking action: I like to use the analogy of learning as “inhaling” and producing/taking action as “exhaling”. Lifelong students who don’t figure out how to contribute stay educated and poor. Being of genuine service is the key to success; “exhaling”/adapting, creating and helping solve other’s problems w/products/services that are easy to use.

    The world wants pushbutton brainless entitlement somnabulent sloth-like riches and results with no effort. Diet pills and magic fairy dust. Cold hard reality is complex, hard to do. Like your graph from years ago, John, about highest sales from make it simple, low sales from complex hard reality teaching.

    It’s a struggle to fit both together, with integrity (not overpromising like many do), the ease-of-use and pitch points, vs reality and what it really takes. It’s still frustrating to see how many unintelligent/lazy customers/people there are in the world that “want to believe” in the miracles of quick and easy product/solution fixes when that’s not the truth of the situation.

    I’d really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on the topic, for us teachers of the hard difficult complex reality of our content, and how to reach the masses with it. I try to build bridges, but they want pushbutton software, pushbutton do-it-for-them answers, which doesn’t work in reality.

    And reaching them, yes in copy the street smarts to connect, and the intelligence to position oneself as a “normal guy who done right” and figured out the solutions, is a big part of it.

    to integrity in marketing,

  • Eric says:

    Howdy John, I’m a big fan of your stuff, but I’m curious about your thoughts of Eugene Schwartz. I’m in the process of devouring everything I can about copywriting, so I can get into the freelance thing and there are some people that swear by his stuff, but I’ve never seen you mention him (and I did research this a bit before I decided to ask, haha), and his book was never mentioned in your’s or Halbert’s must read list. Are you specifically not a fan? Or just didn’t come across any of his stuff while you were learning? Or something in else entirely?
    I respect your opinion a lot, and would love to hear anything you have to say on the topic. Thanks for your time John, and thanks for providing a great blog,


    • John Carlton says:

      I have not read Schwartz’s book. It’s been on my shelf for 15 years, though, if that counts for anything. No reflection on Eugene whatsoever — I’ve heard good things about his stuff. And I believe Gary knew him, even. There are a lot of dudes worth investigating — Joe Sugarman, Clayton Makepeace, Dan Kennedy, etc. Most of the time, we all more or less agree on the substance of creating ads and marketing strategies. There’s cross-over, synergy, different views of the same solution, and more going on. Sometimes we very vociferously disagree… but that’s rare.

      So the thing to do is to find someone you resonate with, who offers either a program or a deep well of written material… so you can expand your own base of knowledge, using them as the conduit or guide. When a guy has just one book out, you can’t do that. There’s no other option after reading that book. That’s why I have seminars and coaching and consulting and mastermind programs (as does Dan)… and that’s why Joe has written multiple books.

      We’re not all the “same”, by any stretch. We have different teaching methods, we have different philosophies (sometimes)… and, most important, we have different courses. Some are dense and long, others (like mine) are all about the shortcuts (with options to go deeper).

      Choose wisely, after examining them all. It’s important that you resonate with your teacher’s methods.

      Hope this helps.

  • Pearl says:

    So true!!! REALITY is king, queen and the whole kingdom. Anything else is a dream, fantasy, nightmare which Kill time. Don’t murder time!

    Babysteps to do, learn, get better at it, redo, twik, master the thing, and welcome the next step. Use what helps but don’t skip the process, try to cheat and we’ll be the victim of our own lies.

    Good post.

  • Louis says:

    Great blog I found by accident. Yes, commonsense is a rare commodity these days, especially amongst overeducated idiots. Nothing beats experience, self education & the application of the golden rule my Scottish aunt taught me “Do as you would be done by” – (pity Wall St bankers & their mates in high places didn’t follow it).

    Someone else caught it well when he said “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”! The trick is to learn from it.

  • Richa says:

    wooollaa wat an ‘inspirational insightful’ post. I have just started following John Carlton and boy I am so impressed!!! the writing style is captivating (who cares if its a long drawn post once you start you gotto finish), the thoughts and insights are equally educational. This particular ‘i am going to enliven you’ post couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. Thanks John. Will look forward to more of your thought-provoking thinking:)

  • Cindy Cieplik says:

    John-you are one helluva writer! Enjoyed the post and the comments–life lessons apply to my new adventure in business–like never before it seems. And, I’m a dinosaur–but heck, dinosaurs too have more than one life, right? Thanks for your wisdom and humor.

  • Joann says:

    Wonderful post John! Alot of us do get caught up in the learning stage and get stuck by not taking action on what we did learn. I like the way you tell it like it is, no sugar coating from you.

  • Roger says:

    Spot on post, John!

    I am definitely one of those guilty of over-educating myself. I devour business education books – about three a week.

    I finally gave up trying to cut down and admitted I do this more for “entertainment” than a need for additional skills.

    So, I took the time out of my TV watching time. Looking at it that way helped me stay accountable during “work hours” for taking action.


  • […] Leave a comment It was once said that too little thinking causes one to lose out in life, but there comes a time when you need to stop thinking so much and get the move on to take action. No, it ain’t easy putting something together like a product or a project but here’s the deal it’s not about you…’s about how your widget(something truly useful) is going to help someone else out. That bigger idea will keep you doing and will make you want to find that mentor to get you to that next step because it’s something you know needs to get done. via […]

  • Romeo says:


    I was a member of the triple9 society.

    an I’ll tell you- after going to several meetings, I quickly learned that these guys were NOT the “take action” kind of guys.

    I’ll admit, I was not either.

    Most, however were just not entrepreneurs

    IQ has nothing to do with hard work.

    most of the guys I met were in their 40’s still living in their mothers basement… working on string theory.

    On the other hand, this puts fourth the fact that most millionaires do not have a high IQ… or savvy

    Many rich inherit their money… or fall into luck.

    I believe it was a book called “Outliers” that addressed this.

    Malcolm Gladwell was the author, I believe.

    Having “the right” opportunity and family connections help, as well.

    Here comes the bragging…

    I got all 3- Intelligence, education and savvy.

    Intelligence: at the age of 13, I seen a full page ad by John Wright and his “royal road to riches ad”

    It clicked in my brain. The “ah-ha” moment

    Savvy: I was savvy enough to collect only the best of the best ads. Gary Halbert and John Carlton… and come up with some ORIGINAL hooks for a product i will soon be selling(kills all competitors)

    Education: After buying up lots of old black belt magazines and collecting John Carlton ads… as well as Gene Swartz… I can happily say I’m far from being a novice.

    now, there’s a thing called EFFORT…

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Romeo. I, too, stumbled across that same book (though under a different name: “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches”… and Wright’s real name was Joe Karbo).

      And yes, effort is key…

      Thanks for the note.

  • John,
    Thank you for the excellent article. What really stood out to me was the 3 books that you spoke of. I’ve read both “Think And Grow Rich” & “How To Win Friends And Influence People.”
    I’m reading Think And Grow Rich again and this time, I am mind mapping the whole book. I will be buying “Tested Advertising Methods” soon.
    In the past this has been my method for failure:
    Inhale…Inhale…Inhale…Inhale…Hold my breath say a little prayer as my face turns bright red…then exhale having already forgotten most of what I have inhaled. lol.

  • Steve says:

    I am going to ask a question to you that I have asked a few other people lately.

    How do you learn to Think?

    How do you get this stuff out of your brain. It’s all in there how do you learn to regurgitate it, and present it as value?

    Is it all from learning and experience?
    I have yet to figure out how to get what I know out of my mind in a cohesive valuable article that is right and has value.

    Your comments please.

    And thank you for your inspired teaching.

  • Jason says:

    Great post as usual John. Wish I had a beer to wash it down with. A rum and coke will have to do.
    In all seriousness, I just want to bury the lazy fuckers out there who don’t understand why they’re not successful after reading every business book on the face of the earth. It’s called I.M.P.L.E.M.E.N.T.A.T.I.O.N.

  • Casey Owen says:

    Hi John,

    More than two months late on this one but “bitch-slapped by Lady Luck”?

    Excellent stuff.

    Don’t let Oliver Stone read that. Come the next out-of-left-field economic collapse he might decide on a final instalment of an increasingly clunky trilogy…

    “Wall Street 3: Bitch-slapped by Lady Luck”…

    Starring Naomi Campbell in the title role and, let’s say, Charlie Sheen as the sucker getting fleeced.

    Uh, I’ll stop now. Just loved the line.

  • Jebbs says:

    Well hell…John does post on this fucking free blog.

    As I glance over at all the fucking FREE
    courses I have bought from this FREE blog.

    And I love every one of them…I’m not bitching.

  • Ray says:

    Holy Crap!

    Great post John. This should be a starting point for all newbies, especially in internet marketing. So much can be learned and so much time saved from the info here, including the comments.

    The tides are a changing. Like Frank Kern’s post about you being your own best guru, seems like a lot of people are focusing on action and accountability. Or maybe I’m just changing . . . what’s that saying? When the student is ready, the message/teacher will appear.

  • Great post, John. I think the distrust of intellectualism comes from people who make decisions based on hypothetical logic. You can have clients and partners who can make near air-tight arguments for why a proven sales letter or website design will not work. I guess we all have to look at it on a case by case basis.

  • John,

    I can definitely relate to what you said in this post. I guess I must have had the ‘gift of the gab’ as a kid because I ended up in the Elite class at high school. The smartest kid in the whole of New Zealand sat beside me and many others with well endowed IQ’s.

    I was the anomaly – I remember the teacher asking me to come to the front of the room one day after we had an IQ test. She turned to the class and said ‘Gentleman, you have just witnessed a miracle – gauging by Mr Stevenson’s test scores he doesn’t have the intelligence to be able to walk.’

    While the super smart kids went on to do well the guy in the class that blew the cover off everything just worked the hardest..I mean this guy was perverse…and not only did he get almost 100% in every test for his University Entrance Finals but he was in the NZ badminton team as well, and ran the School Entrepreneurs Club and got invited to all sort of high profile company Board Meetings at the age of 17.

    While not exactly a business-orientated story, when I was 17 my mother saw an ad for a weekend Self Hypnosis seminar and I withdrew what little savings I had and plonked down the fees for the course hoping that this at least would be what I needed to pull myself out of the mental ‘quicksand’ that I was rapidly sinking into. While the individual conducting the course ended up being for the most part an egotistical charlatan with the personal ethics of a piece of desiccated dog turd, the course opened me up to the wonders of meditation, self-image psychology and introduced me to a book called ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. This book made such a profound effect on my mindset that I saw dramatic personal transformation happen within the first year of reading it. I went from fat to trim and toned; being shy and introverted to being the life and soul of the party; virtually friendless to having truckloads of loving friends; from being suicidal to wondering where on earth my next adventure was going to take me.

    If I were to favor a learning method over any other it would be those 3 books you mentioned (they are my 3 too) and hanging with Street-savvy dudes with an awesome work ethic.


  • […] the grizzled veterans of direct marketing are chiming […]

  • Fazila Patel says:

    Don’t think I’ve enjoyed the blog &
    comments than this one so far :))
    Seems my currents interest revolve around
    3 kiddy books: rocks and mineral (lady bird)
    A book on Tea & Enid blyton the far away tree
    Now The connection almost surprises me.
    Neway will come and ponder later & read comments

  • Andy says:

    Good stuff, John!

    I’m currently learning Copywriting… and as the Chinese say

    “It’s better to keep searching for the right teacher than to spend years under the wrong one!”

    When it comes to learning something new…

    I always 1) keep in mind that there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything has already been done before by someone in some way or another.

    And 2) simply learn from the best of the best.

    In Copywriting this means reading the classic books written by the old giants, writing out famous ads by hand,
    and devouring wisdom spit by guys like you, Bencivenga, Halbert, Kennedy, Abraham etc.

    All while testing out stuff in the real world, of course.

  • dieta keto says:

    Thank you John for another “dose of reality”. Your writing is amazing – gotta learn more from it. Anyway, Imma bounce out now. And, lastly, it’s true – having a high IQ (as I believe I do) it’s not nearly enough. There’s more…

  • >