The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life, Redux

Thursday, 2:39pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)


I’m re-publishing, below, a portion of one of the more influential posts I’ve ever put on this blog.

It’s just a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year… but that tweak makes all the difference in the world.  I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

Most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless.  Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits.  I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis.  It’s timeless shit.

Here’s the relevant part of the post:

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

Yeah, yeah, I know a chat about goals can quickly turn into a boring, pedantic lecture. But then, so can a chat about space flight.

And, in reality, both space flight and your goals are VERY exciting things.

Or should be.

It’s all in the telling.

What I’m not going to discuss are “resolutions”. Those are bogus pseudo-goals that have the staying power of pudding in a microwave.

No. It’s merely a coincidence that I’m suggesting a review of your goals in January, just after the New Year’s supposed fresh start.

I mean… there’s not much else to do, so why not sit down and plan out the rest of your life.

This is, of course, a very damp, cold, and bleak time of year.

The depths of winter and discontent.

A good percentage of the population suffers fleeting depression because of lack of sunlight… thanks to the geniuses behind Daylight Savings Time, who arrange for dusk to arrive around 2:30 in the afternoon in these parts.

We also just got slammed with back-to-back-to-back “Storms of the Century”, each one dumping a record load of snow on us. I sent photos to friends, and many emailed back wondering when I’d gone to Antarctica to live.

We had a little cabin fever brewing. Didn’t help when the local PBS channel ran a special on the Donner Party, either. Three feet of snow drifting down, the lights flickering, enough ice on the road to make the SUV sidle like a Red Wing goon slamming someone into the boards.

The safest place was home… but man, the walls start to close in after a few days.

I’m telling you, I had excuses up the yin-yang for allowing my senses to get a little dulled. The natural response is to turn your mind off, and hibernate until March.

And I succumbed. Started moping around, watching CSI: Miami reruns instead of reading a book, surfing the Net for stuff I didn’t care about… you know the drill.

I’m sure you’ve done your own version of it now and again.

And I’m also sure you already know that no amount of “buck up” happy talk will mitigate the gloom.

In fact, there are a few enlightened health pro’s who say we should let our bodies wind down every year or so. Get a full system-flush type of cold, crawl under the covers for a few days and let the demons and other bad stuff bubble to the surface.

So you can purge the crud. Evacuate the used-up bacteria and tube-clogs out of your pipes, physically. And shoo the whispering monsters out of your head.

We’re not perfect creatures. We need to sleep, we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to stop and get our bearings. At least once a year.

So don’t beat yourself up for the occasional down period. We all have them, and the healthiest folks just roll with it. It’s not good to repress this stuff.

It only becomes a problem when you sink into clinical depression. That’s the cold, empty state where nothing looks good, and hope is an absurd memory.

I’ve been there. Several times. The year I turned 30 (for example) I lost my job, my girlfriend and my place to live all within a 45-day stretch.

That shit can wear you down.

Now, I have two things to say about this:

Thing Numero Uno: If you think you’re losing a grip on your mental state, seek professional help. Don’t head straight for pharmaceutical land, though — give “talk therapy” a try with a real, qualified psychotherapist.

Choose this therapist carefully. You’re going to dump every secret you have on him.

Keep in mind the fact that everyone goes through bumpy emotional states. And that the percentage of people who actually do lose it every year is rather small.

That’s why talking about your problems with someone who has perspective can be so beneficial — the first thing you learn is that you aren’t alone.

And what you’re going through is not abnormal.

Most of the time, you’re gonna be fine. Even when your problems seem overwhelming.

There are tools available to help cope. You don’t often come across these tools on your own.

This is one of the few times that the “science” of psychology earns its keep — finding out how others successfully dealt with the same nonsense you’re suffering through can change everything.

A good book to read (while you’re waiting for the spring thaw) is “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. I’ve recommended it before, and it deserves another nod. (The blurb on the back cover, from the New York Times Book Review, starts with “Vaulted me out of my funk…”)

I haven’t read the book in ten years, but I remember the main lesson well. A study, explained up front, stands out: Someone tested the “happiness” quotient of a vast sample of people, including Holocaust survivors.

And it turns out that, at some point in your life, Abraham Lincoln was right — you are as happy as you decide to be.

This is startling news to anyone lost in despair. Because it seems like you’ve been forced to feel that way. With no choice.

But it’s not the case. The happiness study revealed that you can not tell from a person’s current attitude what sort of trauma they had gone through earlier in life. People who had suffered horribly could be happy as larks, while silver-spoon never-stubbed-a-toe folks were miserable.

The difference? Attitude. Optimistic people work through setbacks and trauma… while pessimists settle into a funk that can’t be budged.

And it’s a CHOICE. At some point in your life, you choose to either live in gloom or sunlight.

This realization rocks many folk’s boat. Especially the pessimists. They dominate society, politics, business, everything. And they are very protective of their gloom and doom outlook. Invested, heavily, in proving themselves right about the inherent nastiness of life.

Maybe you’re one of ‘em.

If you are, you’re killing yourself, dude.

Current studies show that heart disease rates are HALF for optimists over pessimists. So, even if you doubt the ability to measure “happiness” — it is a rather rocky science — you still can’t deny the stats on dropping dead from a gloomy ticker.

Now, I am most assuredly NOT a clear-eyed optimist. I get creepy feelings around people who are too happy all the time.

But I do prefer having a good time, and appreciating the finer things in life (like a deep breath of cold alpine air, or the salty whip of an ocean wave around my ankles, or a secret smile from the wonderful woman I live with).

I’m just good at balancing out the bad with the good.

Being in direct response helps. Lord knows, there’s a LOT of bad with every piece of good news in this wacky biz.

Gary Halbert and I have a term we’ve used for years now: We’re “pessimistic optimists”. (Or maybe we’re optimistic pessimists. I forget.)

How does that work? Easy.

We expect horrible atrocities at every turn… and rejoice when we defy Fate and unreasonable success rains down on our undeserving heads.

We groove on the good stuff in life… and just nod sagely at the bad stuff and move past it as quickly as possible.

If you focus on the bad things that can go wrong, you’ll never crawl out of bed in the morning.

When you finally realize that — not counting health problems — pretty much everything bad that business, or relationships, or politics can throw at you will not kill you… then you relax.

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

Have you ever had your heart broken? Hurts like hell, doesn’t it. Feels like your life is over.

Well, from my perspective, sitting here at “just past 50” and pretty darned happy, all those women who broke my heart long ago look just plain silly now. And my resulting deep depressions — where I was sure life was over — are just tiresome lessons I had to get through.

Not a one of those ladies was worth a burp of angst. They were fine people, I’ll agree to that. A few were exceptional (and very skilled at certain man-pleasing arts).

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m now a certified realist. My youthful idealism has drained away, and my brushes with hate-everything dogma never took.

And guess what? Contrary to what an embarrassing huge number of self-righteous folks would have you believe… being a realist has not dented my passion for life one little bit.

In fact, it has opened up a whole new world of unexplainable spirituality (which cannot be contained within any formal religion).

I’m not against religion. Let’s have no “save my soul” emails here. One of my best friends is an ordained minister with a doctorate in theology. And I have other friends committed to various belief systems ranging from fundamentalist to Buddhist to humanist.

We get along because, on a deep level, we understand that true spirituality transcends whatever way you choose to express it or appreciate it.

I loathe black-and-white views of the world. It’s a shame that our great country has descended to this “you’re nuts if you don’t agree with me” mentality… but it’s part of the pendulum that’s been swinging back and forth ever since we left the jungle.

The far edges of our institutions — political, religious, cultural, all of it — are in spiritual and emotional “lock down”. They’re sure they’re right, they’re positive you’re wrong, and neither facts nor logic will sway their position.

Mushy liberals seem astonished that anyone would ever not love us, or want to destroy our culture. Repressed conservatives seem intent on crushing everyone who pisses them off (and that’s a lot of people).

It’s “whatever” versus “blind obedience”. And neither works so hot in the real world.

I have no use for dogma, or idealism, or punishingly-harsh rules that have been cooked up by hypocrites.

Hey — I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live their life. I’ve screwed up plenty, and if I have any wisdom at all, it’s only because I’ve survived some truly hairy situations.

But I don’t believe anyone else is in a position to tell you how to live, either. That’s gotta be your decision.

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

Fortunately, while I can’t tell you how to live, I can move some smooth (and proven) advice in your direction. Take it or leave it… but give it a listen anyway, cuz my track record on successful advice-giving is fairly impressive.

And I’m telling you that having a hateful, brooding attitude will stunt your growth. It will make you a smaller person, a less-wise person, an older and feebler person.

And you won’t grow. Not spiritually, not physically, not emotionally. Not in your business life, either.

Most people don’t want to grow, anyway. Growth only comes from movement and change… and the vast majority of the folks walking the earth with us today are terrified of change.

You can’t blame them, really. Change is a form of death. Whatever was before, dies. And whatever comes next must be nurtured with devotion and sacrifice.

That’s hard. That’s a hard way to live, always dying and being reborn.

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

I suspect, if you’re reading this, you are not afraid of change.

But you may not yet understand the power that REALLY giving yourself to change offers.

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

That’s a subtle point many people gloss over. Rookie goal-setters often get stuck on stuff like quitting smoking, or vague concepts like “become a better person”.

Or “get rich”.

That seldom works. Goals need to be specific… and they need to involve profound change in order to take hold.

Halbert often talks about “image suicide” — the necessity of killing and burying the “self” you are so heavily invested in, before you can move to a new level of success.

I see this all the time in my consultations. Biz owners refuse to do even slightly risky marketing, for fear of damaging their “reputations.”

And my question to them is: What reputation?

Unless you’re the top dog in your niche, no one gives a rat’s ass about what you think or do. No one is looking at your marketing for inspiration or condemnation, because you aren’t the guy to look at.

No. What these scaredy-cats are talking about when they say “reputation” is what their family and friends think of them.

And that’s a sure sign of a losing attitude. That ain’t Operation MoneySuck.

My friend Ron LeGrand, the real estate guru, is one of the best natural salesmen I’ve ever met. The guy understands the fundamental motivating psychology of a prospect at a master’s level.  And he knows that one of the major obstacles he faces in every sale… is what the prospect’s spouse (usually the wife) will say.

She can nix the sale with a sneer. Or she can nix it in the prospect’s head, as he imagines that sneer.

Ron counters both sides of the objection expertly. He encourages the prospect to get his spouse involved in the decision, so she becomes invested in it.

Or, he suggests waiting until the first big check comes in… and letting the money explain to her about what you’re up to.

This is the reality of most people’s lives. As much as they want what you offer… they are terrified of making a mistake. Cuz they’ll pay dearly for it at home.

It’s a huge deal-nixer.

That’s why you include lots of “reason why” copy in your pitch — to give your buyer ammunition for explaining his decision to the doubters in his life.

However, as Ron knows, the best (and simplest) “reason why” is results.

Money, as they say, talks.

The top marketers seldom give a moment’s thought to what a risky tactic might do to their “reputation”. They don’t really care what people think about them.

You can’t bank criticism.

I know many marketers who are involved in projects they are passionate about… but which bore their spouses to tears. Some (like Howard Stern’s former wife) are even deeply embarrassed.

But they don’t complain much. Because the money’s so good.

Aw, heck. I could go on and on about this. The story of Rodale’s shock and dismay at the brutally-honest ad I wrote for their timid “sex book” is a great example. They refused to mail it, because of their “reputation”.

Yet, after it accidentally did mail, and became a wildly-successful control for 5 years, they suddenly decided their reputation could handle it after all.

The people who get the most done in life are all extreme risk-takers. They embrace change, because growth is impossible without it.

But you don’t go out and start changing things willy-nilly.

You need a plan.

You need goals.

Now, there are lots of books out there that tell you how to set goals. I recently found, in a moldy banker’s box, the ad for Joe Karbo’s book “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” that I’d responded to back in 1982. The exact ad! With the order form torn out… it was the first direct mail pitch I’d ever encountered, and it changed my life forever. Joe’s book was essentially a treatise on setting goals. And it’s good.

It was a wake-up call for me.

I’m having that crinkly old ad framed. Can’t imagine why I kept it, but I did. Pack-rat riches.

If you can’t find that particular book, there are dozens of newer goal-setting guides on the shelves. But they’re all based on the same formula:

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

3.Read the list often, imaging as you read that you have already achieved each goal.

What this does is alter the underpinnings of your unconscious. When one of your goals is to earn a million bucks this year, and that goal burns bright in the back of your mind, each decision you make will be influenced.

So, for example, you won’t accept a permanent job somewhere that pays $50,000 a year. Cuz that isn’t going to help you attain your goal.

The problem is, to earn a mil in a year, you need to average around $50,000 every two weeks. This is why it can take a while to get your goal-setting chops honed. As I’ve said many times, most folks don’t know what they want.

And they aren’t prepared for the changes necessary to get what they want, once they do decide on a goal.

What kind of guy earns $50,000 every two weeks, like clockwork? It takes a certain level of business savvy to create that kind of steady wealth. It doesn’t fall into your lap.

What kind of guy makes a windfall of a million bucks in one chunk? That’s another kind of savvy altogether.

In that same moldy banker’s box, I also found a bunch of my early goal lists. And I’m shocked at how modest my aims were.

At the time — I was in the first months of going out on my own, a totally pathetic and clueless rookie — I couldn’t even imagine earning fifty K a year.

My first goal was $24,000 as a freelancer. And to score a better rental to live in. Find a date for New Year’s. Maybe buy a new used car.

Listen carefully: I met those goals. As modest as they were, it would have been hard not to. I needed them to be modest, because I was just getting my goal-setting chops together.

And I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time even bothering to set goals.

Let me assure you, it was NOT a waste of time.

The lists I found covered several later years, too. And what’s fascinating is that many of the more specific goals I set down were crossed out — I wanted those goals, but didn’t feel confident about obtaining them.

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

A couple of decades later, I realize that I’ve attained every single one of those “forgotten” goals. The big damn house, the love of my life, the professional success, even the hobbies and the guitars and the sports car.

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and you don’t have to belong to a religion to realize this. The whole concept of “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened” was well-known by successful people long before Luke and Matthew wrote it down.

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

Back to making a million in a year: Some guys know what they need to do to make this goal real. They’ve done it before, or they’ve come close.

Setting the goal is serious business for them… because they are well aware of the tasks they’ve assigned themselves. Take on partners, put on seminars, create ad campaigns, build new products. Get moving on that familiar path.

I’ve known many people who started the year with such a goal… who quickly modified it downward as the reality of the task became a burden. Turns out they didn’t really want the whole million after all.

Half of that would suffice just fine.

To hell with the work required for the full bag of swag.

Other guys don’t know what they need to do to earn a mil. So their goal really is: Find out what I need to do to earn a million bucks.

Their initial tasks are to ask, seek, and knock like crazy.

And change the way they move and act in the world. Because they must transform themselves into the kind of guy who earns a million bucks in one year.

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

So, for example, reading “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” suddenly becomes an “A” task, while remodeling the kitchen gets moved to the back of the burner. Sharpening your ability to craft a killer sales pitch becomes more important than test-driving the new Porsche.

More important, even, than dating Little Miss Perfect. And test-driving her new accessories.

Tough choice?

Nope. When you get hip to the glory of focused change, you never lament leaving the “old” you behind.

It will be hard, sometimes, no doubt about it. Especially when you discover your old gang no longer understands you, or mocks your ambition. They liked the old, non-threatening you. They want him to come back.

But you’ve changed. And hot new adventures are going to take up a lot more of your time now.

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

Every January 15th, I sit down and write myself a letter, dated exactly one year ahead.

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2009, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2010.)

It’s a subtle difference to the way other people set goals. Took me a long time to figure it out, too.

For many years, I wrote out goals like “I live in a house on the ocean”, and “I earn $24,000 a year”. And that worked. But it was like pushing my goals.

Writing this letter to myself is more like pulling my goals. For me, this works even better. Every decision I make throughout the year is unconsciously influenced, as I move toward becoming the person I’ve described.

But here’s where I do it very differently: My goals are deliberately in the “whew” to “no friggin’ way” range. Mega-ambitious, to downright greedy.

There’s a sweet spot in there — doable, if I commit myself, but not so outrageous that I lose interest because the required change is too radical.

I’m pretty happy with myself these days. Took me a long, hard slog to get here, and I earned every step.

And I want to continue changing, because I enjoy change. But I don’t need to reinvent myself entirely anymore.

So here’s what makes this ambitious goal-setting so effective: I don’t expect to REACH most of them.

In fact, I’m happy to get half of what I wanted.

There’s a ton of psychology at work there. The person I describe a year away often resembles James Bond more than the real me. Suave, debonair, flush, famous, well-traveled… and in peak health. I hit all the big ones.

However, long ago I realized that trying to be perfect was a sure way to sabotage any goal I set. Perfectionists rarely attain anything, because they get hung up on the first detail that doesn’t go right.

Being a good goal-setter is more like successful boxing — you learn to roll with the punches, cuz you’re gonna get hit.

You just stay focused on the Big Goal. And you get there however you can.

I’m looking at last year’s letter. I was a greedy bastard when I wrote it, and I didn’t come close to earning the income figure I set down.

Yet, I still had my best year ever.

And — here’s the kicker — I would NOT have had such a great year, if I wasn’t being pulled ahead by that letter. There were numerous small and grand decisions I made that would have gone another way without the influence of what I had set down.

I didn’t travel to the places I had listed. But I did travel to other, equally-fun places. I didn’t finish that third novel. But I did position it in my head, and found the voice I want for narration. That’s a biggie. That was a sticking point that would have kept the novel from ever getting finished.

Now, it’s on power-glide.

There’s another “hidden” benefit to doing this year-ahead letter: It forces you to look into the future.

A lot of people make their living peering ahead and telling everyone else what to expect. Most do a piss-poor job of it — weathermen are notorious for getting it wrong, as are stock market analysts, wannabe trend-setters, and political prognosticators.

Yet, they stay in business. Why? Because the rest of the population is terrified of looking into the future. That would require some sincere honesty about their current actions… since what the future holds is often the consequence of what you’re doing right now.

If you’re chain-smoking, chasing street hookers, and living on doughnuts, your future isn’t pretty. For example.

Or if you’ve maxed out all your credit cards, and haven’t done your due diligence to start bringing in moolah, your future isn’t nice, either.

No one can “see” into the future for real. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

In fact, it’s easy, when you have a little experience in life.

Things you do today will have consequences tomorrow. If you put up a website today for a product, and you do everything you can to bring traffic to it and capture orders… your consequence can be pretty and nice.

Sure, you may get hit by a bus while fetching the morning paper… but letting that possibility scare you off of trying for something better is for pessimists (who are scheduled for early checkout).

You have enormous control over your future.

And once you realize that, you can set out to start shaping it.

Stay frosty,


P.S. I know I’ve been hammering you about coming to the big damn Action Seminar on February 25-26 in San Diego.  It’s a work of love on our part… the exact interactive, get-your-game-on, actually GET MOVING event I wish other seminars would try to be.

I don’t think we’ll offer this again.  It’s a huge endeavor to pull off… especially corralling all the notoriously-successful copywriting superstars, the world-renowned Big Dog marketers, and the behind-the-scenes wizards that we (and many of the best in the game) rely on for the insight, skill set, and result-boosting tactics we’ve crammed into this seminar.

Even better: We’re focusing entirely on attendees, and your needs regarding planning for success and moving past the sticking points holding you back.

We’re doing Hot Seat consultations, right there on stage with audience members.  We’re looking at attendee’s copy (with the faculty of pro writers from the Simple Writing System tearing into these critiques like their lives depended on making the copy work).

And we’re surveying the audience, and answering every single question in detail, with specifics on stuff like what to do (exactly) to attain the breakthrough that can change your life.

This is a serious opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs… to finally learn how the best plan for success… to get what might be the most important Reality Check of your life (from hard-core success-junkies that can give you the insight for dramatically growing your biz or career)…

… and it’s a great way to find out what the next step is for YOU, in YOUR specific quest to break out of the pack and start cooking on all cylinders.

Time is short, and there are a limited number of spots available.

To get the details (and see what the fuss is all about), click here.

And I’ll see you in San Diego…

Just enter your name and primary email address below and we'll send you the new report right away.

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

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Graham, WatchUsFlip. WatchUsFlip said: The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life, Redux: Thursday, 2:39pm Reno, NV “Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQ… […]

  • Kevin Rogers says:

    Earth rattling stuff, John. Thanks for this.

    Off to write myself a letter.


    • John Carlton says:

      Here’s a question for ya, K-Man: Do you try to make yourself laugh when you write letters to yourself? I know you and I can crack each other up, but when I’m writing to myself, I seldom use humor. I guess I know myself too well, and without the element of surprise, I have to stick with a more somber tone…

      • Kevin Rogers says:

        Yeah… you know us clowns are all somber inside. But, there are times when I use satire as therapy.

        In fact, it’s great way to get started on a sales letter when I’m “just not feeling” it.

        I’ll write the most sarcastic, over-the-top letter I can come up with (the kind of stuff I’d be publicly stoned for it was ever seen) and after just a few paragraphs of mocking myself I’m off to the races.

        It’s a good check on my sensibilities, too because often I realize I was WAY over-thinking the approach and the satire ends up being closer to the truth (and what ultimately makes the sale) than what I had in my head.

        Twisted lot, we are.

        • John Carlton says:

          The gallows humor (M*A*S*H style) that Halbert and I shared — especially when we were up against adversary or deadlines or we had really bitten off more than we could easily chew — would send less prepared men running from the room screaming in horror. But it delivered the belly-laughs we needed to release tension — like popping the cap off a shaken bottle of coke. Whoosh.

          Humor heals, soothes and makes life worth living. And, in the hands of writers, is truly twisted and strange…

          You really can’t even pretend to be a writer without a great sense of humor…

  • Michael Hospelt says:

    You just helped me tremendously! Thanks John

  • Ron Barrett says:

    Some good stuff John… but only recharging the batteries once a year?? I feel as if it needs to be done at least twice, maybe more.

    Great point on attitude. It IS a choice and that choice is your to make and not let someone else make it for you…

    Another on growing… if you’re not pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone on a regular basis, you’re not growing. That’s something I definitely need to work on.

    Keep up the great work!


    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, for decades I lived the lazy-writer’s life crammed with battery-charging adventures… and, since shouldering the Marketing Rebel biz mini-empire, I’ve had to cut back in order to stay on top of the responsibilities. All of which I knew would happen, and which I took on happily.

      Always good to remind ourselves, though, Ron, that the more battery-charging you can do, the better… Thanks for the nudge…

  • Niyi Charles says:

    Oh my God. You held my breathe for how long? I don’t know. For how long it took me to read this cool rant.

    I started reading one man and finished another man.

    I am going to read everything you ever wrote.

    You are a genius!

  • Awesome post John, Above my desk I have framed my old goals from 1989, which i lost and was amazed to find them again 7 years ago and had achieved 3 out of 4 but I have to admit my path was weird and wonderful as I rolled with the world !

    • John Carlton says:

      It’s just freaky how goal-setting works, isn’t it. It begs the warning of being careful what you wish for, because it just might come true.

      Therefore, it pays huge dividends to get your goal-setting chops honed as soon as you start believing you can be the director of your own movie. Stock your unconscious with quality stuff, so to speak…

      Thanks for the note, Don…

  • Abey John says:

    I am going to do the future me write up. It wont be pretty but I am going to nail down what I want this year and go after it. Like a dog to the bone.

    • John Carlton says:

      Forget “pretty”. The truth is what it is… and there is beauty in it no matter what form it takes. Being honest with yourself is the first step to being able to see where your ship is headed, so looking ahead isn’t all that tough. Still, always be ready for the unpredictable surprises, as well as the more predictable sharp turns you can initiate yourself by instigating change in a planned way…

      Good luck, Abey.

  • Colin says:

    A great friend just checked out…

    He lived , worked,loved and departed doing exactly what he wanted with whom he wanted.

    Plan like you will live forever…

    • John Carlton says:

      No matter what age you are… it’s time to start realizing your ticket is only good for a stunningly short time here on earth. Getting a glimpse of how others have done the trip right is a solid advantage…

      Sorry to hear you lost your friend, Colin, but he seems to have been a great role model…

  • Amed Hazel says:

    I got several writer downer’s and even reposted on FB. This is some “freggin” excellent stuff!

  • andrew says:

    Great letter and well said.

    I hope everyone that reads it gets into action.

    Doing seems to get more results from Life than by being or by having alone.

  • Don Jones says:

    Thanks John for the wake up call. I’m off to write my letter as well.

  • Tim Hillwood says:

    There’s a lot of elbow room left here for one’s humanity, while laying out ways to pull ourselves into lives worth living. Thanks.

    I’ve written this quote from you today as a positive prod and reminder to chase myself away from the ole’ comfort zone. . .

    “The people who get the most done in life are all extreme risk-takers. They embrace change because growth is impossible without it.”

    I’m saying to myself- bring it on baby!

  • Jan Robberts says:

    Brilliant article John!

    …and written in a way that certainly kept my interest.

    As a positive person myself I am already happy in the morning,because I DID wake up.
    Most days are therefor great and some even better…and I expect improvement on that 🙂

    I also have’character building challenges’which are more in the’possimist’range…having a positive outlook on some negative influences which,as you so greatly put it,are important lessons in life,but I also choose daily to take those onboard and not let them affect me and those around me.

    ….a bit of the ‘Nil Desperandum Carborandum Ili giti gorem'(my spelling possibly wrong but…)

    I so agree with Helen Keller:
    “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all”

    Thanks again for this refresher and I am now going to write me a letter 🙂

    Warmest regards,

    Jan 🙂

  • Graham says:

    Great post. I wrote a letter to myself on an island in the Stockholm archipelago at a management course way back in the late 80’s and created much more than I wrote down in the years that followed. I am off to do this again !
    Thank you.

  • Mel says:

    Ok, now THAT was just what I needed to hear today! Thank you so much!

  • Margaret says:

    Carlton, thank you for a different way to set goals. I never learned how to do it the other way. I tend to write them down but sooner or later I have to clean out clutter and throw thm away. Maybe this letter way will be better.
    And yes,to be happy/positive is a choice. It is one that a lot of people don’t know how to make, or don’t know how to be happy.
    Great post.

  • Colleen says:

    Thanks for the truth – like a splash of cool water!

  • Jon Sollie says:

    Hot stuff here John, thanks!

    Having hung around for nearly 70 years, I am especially intrigued by the whole notion of “attitude” and how it affects everything we do, or don’t do.

    Here’s another Abeism (Abraham Lincoln) if I may: “My great concern is not that you have failed, but that you are content with failure.”

    We’re human (most of us) and we’re going to screw things up. Get over it and press forward. Now! 🙂

    All the best,


  • Harold Ward says:

    Hi John, Nice to hear from you again. I see you are encouraging, proding, pushing, etc.
    Thank you, I need all of them. All is not lost, I have several projects I’m trying to get my head around that can lead to more moolah. I’m waiting on a free 30 minute interview for instructions on where to start. I’ve plenty of other notes & re-broadcasts to entertain myself with.
    Enjoy your day.

  • Great sage advice written with new words.

    I liked reading Halbert’s advice about image suicide. A really simple few words upon which entire books have been written. So true.

    But I especially loved reading another great example of how you were able to apply “nobody gives a rat’s ass.” You are so spot on with that. A great two by four across the head again. I hope many read that and take a step towards their personal freedom with that reality. It’s a confining box.

    Thanks again for providing new perspectives. Ask. Seek. Knock. Yes sir!


    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, Cheryl, there’s huge fun and movement in just getting real about what’s actually going on. Let the rest of the world slumber — if you’re gonna grab a seat at the Feast, you gotta get moving on your own…

  • aj says:

    I seriously enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for sending it to me. I posted it to my blog for my readers to benefit from it at
    I hope some day I can make the impact you are making on people. Have a great weekend.

  • John says:

    Hi John,
    I really do love your style of presentation. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 50 years and have experienced many of the points you mention. They really do work.
    I look forward to meeting you personally in San Diego.

  • Jean Paul says:

    Funny thing, I went through a similar transformation just recently… I realised I was NEVER going to reach my goals. Ever.

    I had to become a completely different person.

    And the New Me is doing quite well, ( for a reborn at least 😉 )

    • John Carlton says:

      I “think” I understand what you’re saying, Jean Paul… if you’re saying that your prior goals weren’t really what you wanted, and you changed them to better dove-tail with what you DO want. If so, rock on…

  • Danny 8 Ball says:

    Fantastic, timely post John.
    It’s important to understand we are all “Captains of our ship” and are in control of our own destiny.

    Fate’s a load of dookie!

    I just spent the last 10 years building and selling musclecars. I did this to find a way to work around the need for a flexible schedule to care for my special needs daughter. This career move reached it’s peak just last week at the Barrett Jackson car auctions in Scotsdale. Was a featured auction with my “8 Ball Mustang” including 12 minutes on the Speed Channel. That’s been a goal for 3 years. Did this by stepping out of my usual small world and becoming this”Danny 8 Ball” personna ( I hate it when they call me Danny ever since I turned 10), and promoted the crap out of myself and the car. Even got a kiss from the lead singer of the party band when I gave her a pink 8 ball onstage.
    Outside my comfort zone? Yeah, for three days straight, but the growth was phenominal! No more fear of putting myself “out there” and talking to strangers, making contact, asking for what I want them to do.

    WOW! It’s like a Super Power! (and likely more valuable then the X-Ray Vision I longed for as a lad…)

    So now, the car chapter in my life is closed for now, after a peak experience I will always remember. Hence, the “Turning Point” for me, (again).

    Your post’s timing was incredible- you reminded me of the power of putting goals in writing. It’s not enough just to think about them, they have to be solidified. That’s my next step, time to go do it, and I will. I also rediscovered the power of daily meditation, which I seem to recall from a past post of yours.

    Thanks for the reminder, big J! Your words have helped me so many times over the years.

  • Alecs says:

    Howdy…Jon big brother, great advice,i should write yourself a letter or several letter v 2012 Year thank

  • Hey John,

    As always, great no B.S. stuff with no punches pulled. Love it!

    My favorite line is yours near the end of your “rant”

    “You have enormous control over your future.”

    7 words more powerful, thought provoking & motivational than most teleseminars being put out these days.

    Rock on~

    Michael D Walker

    P.S. 1st time I tried replying I had a typo. DOH!

  • Jason says:

    Awesome as usual John. I’m guessing your letter stated: “Continue to inspire those thirsty for self improvement from those of us who have been there.”

    Well done…January 29th and you’ve already achieved one goal.

    I can’t thank you enough for this post. I consider you a mentor and with each blog post you cement yourself as a legend.

    Much thanks, amigo.


  • Tanya says:

    Fabulous John, and the timing is perfect. Thank you

  • Helena says:

    Great stuff!

    You’re absolutely right on when you say that most people forget or “gloss over” the fact that goals are all about change. How can we expect something different if we never DO anything differently?

    I know what I’ll be writing tonight. And yeah, it will be something very different for me.


  • Alan says:

    Good stuff John! OK there are days when getting off my keister seems like a major undertaking, but if I do or don’t there’s no one to blame but the guy in the mirror. I see so many people waiting to be rescued, waiting for the second coming of [insert your savior here], waiting for something they have no control over what-so-fricken-ever. Thanks for reminding me that the only second coming I can do anything about is my own!

  • Nahyan says:

    Great article, very timely and insightful.

    My favorite portion was this:

    “When you get hip to the glory of focused change, you never lament leaving the “old” you behind.”

  • You hit the nail on the head: About looking to the future.

    97 to 98% of the population exist in the present and the past The other 2 to 3 % are looking to the future. And guess where the success will be. The same people who are successful today.

  • Jay Ortega says:

    EPIC!!! You Keep on rocking the house John.. Great stuff brother..

  • Jedda Kelly says:

    Dear John

    Thank you so much for the post. I totally understand about the sense of futility with traditional goal setting models. So I’m interested to see if your method works for me. I’ve written my letter and, just with that alone, I’ve clarified some important points and now have some timelines for myself. I think this method may just sing to me!

    And thank you for leading me to Lorrie in the recent SWS course. One of my strategies is totally reliant on my sales letter developed through the course and I have no fear about that letter any longer.

    Jedda (from Australia where it is 32 degrees so no winter blues here)

  • Geoff Dodd says:

    I am so very glad that I sat down and took the time to read this post thoroughly. I even took notes and repeated some of the future-facing ideas to myself. John, you’re indeed the Prof.

  • alan says:

    A strong & well written piece on goal setting that really outlines to achieve them.

    Welcome to the club of Pessimistic – Optimist’s. It is the 1st first time that i have seen the word used in a featured print. It has been a favourite description of myself for over 30 yrs at least.

    You really do know how to write it home.

  • Hansel says:

    Thank you. I have sent this to my 11yr old daughterti read This will be very important to future growth and coping with life as it come so she can make it her own.
    What great advice for me to pass on.

  • Carlos says:

    I’m about to specifically detail my future in paper that will quickly unfold as quickly as the year goes by….

    Thank$ A Million!!! jejeje

  • >