Congratulations… Now, Stop Being A Wuss

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


It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…

… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting last year’s rant on the subject.  It was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

So, without further ado… here’s the post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

You know what I say?

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the same thing, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

Do some critical thinking before you jump in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I did it over and over and over again.

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

Once you lose your fear of self-education…

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

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

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

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

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

And best of all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being an entrepreneur takes balls.

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

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

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

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

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

It really is that simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you still fail?  Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you wracked with doubt?

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

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

And it can easily be sent packing.

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

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

And yet, all you have to do…

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

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

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

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

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

And, of course, no bad luck ever appeared.

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

Especially guilt and shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Put you to sleep, didn’t it.

Okay, my work is done here.

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

Stay frosty,



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  • John, you have my full support here. After trying my hand at the U.S college system, I was told that I had a visual learning impairment–and therefore, could not pass math/science classes.

    So, i went before the Board of Regents (basically the guys who make all the rules at colleges), at Univ of Ga, and told them what the certified doctors said.

    The Board said my grades were not LOW ENOUGH, and therefore, they couldn’t waive these few courses, even though, legally, they were required to.

    So I dropped out and low-and-behold, now get to write copy for a living.

    I agree with this part too :

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

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

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

    It’s not the same thing, folks.

    Good call man, good call.

    Thanks for justifying my slight attitude toward our education system.

  • As for what I would tell new grads, the sad fact is, the workplace always wants the ONE thing these guys and gals don’t get in college-experience in their chosen field.

    Not just experience, but EXPERTISE.

    If there was a way to mix theory with actual, bona-fide experience that they could use right out of the gate, now that would make sense.

    • John Carlton says:

      Good point, Lawton. Some joints attempt to mix in actual experience in the biz world, but they screwed that up, too… by creating a culture of “work for free” internships, which is abused by employers who use the interns as slaves, and don’t actually give them insight to the biz.

      That said, I did an internship in college that gave me hands-on experience with Ward Six of the Sacramento mental hospital and with group homes that housed functional schizophrenics. That experience sobered me up as far as going into psych as a career — I saw the warehousing of people, the frustrations of the state bureaucracy, the arrogance (unearned) of doctors, and the way all this bullshit affected the patients. Which was very, very bad. 3 guys I got to know in the system went from functional to off-the-charts acting out craziness (the TV told one to hitchhike to NY to collect treasure, another’s voices told him to go attack cars in traffic, and the third descended into a catatonic state)… and while it may have happened anyway, the system did NOTHING to stop or anticipate it, and even exacerbated the problems by pretending to attend to them while actually just pushing paper and expanding the drug cocktails given out.

      The systems aren’t evil… they’re just mindless systems that need people who give a shit to make them work. Lots of weak links, including basing everything on the erroneous notion that the guys creating the system actually understand and can “fix” the problems. Often, that’s just not the case…

  • Dana Houser says:

    Great post John. And I agree 100% with your view on school. Like you stated, education is entirely different. Especially in todays school(not education) system.

    My wife and I disagree. She thinks a college education is a must, but I say only if you’re going into a specialized field like a doctor, engineer, etc.

    I’d tell the grads to dig deep within themselves. Figure out what truly makes them happy, and money isn’t it. Follow YOUR heart. Everyone and their cousin will tell you what you ought to do. There are plenty of doctors out there that hate the daily grind, but they THINK they have to do it to maintain their lifestyle and status. Some would rather be woodworkers. And there are plenty of mechanics out there that are truly happy with a Ford pick-em-up truck, a six pack, two dogs and a fishing pole. They have their basic necessities and that’s all they need.

    It really boils down to what YOU want, what fulfills you, and what you’re willing to do to create that life for yourself.

    Only you can truly make yourself happy.

    • John Carlton says:

      The stats back up your wife’s argument, to a degree. Overall, college grads tend to earn more over a lifetime than non-college grads. But the percentage of entrepreneurs is a tiny blip on the screen. When you get away from the bulge of “average” results, you’re dealing with the outliers of the population. Which includes the too-smart-for-school types who really need to know there’s an OPTION for people who are frustrated with academic nonsense, and yet crave learning.

      Thus, it’s CRITICAL that everyone realize there are choices outside the “average” path that work really well.

      I was a square peg trying to fit into round holes during my entire education. I wasn’t too smart for anything… I just thought in different ways, and when the leash was taken off I soared.

      Nearly all of my colleagues in freelancing and online marketing share this experience.

      I don’t think it should be a big damn secret, is all. There are options outside of what The Man pushes.

  • Mike says:


    It’s funny… I just ordered SWS last night and can’t wait to get started.

    This post simply reminds me that I’m on the right track and I’ve made the right choice.

    Thank you. For summing it ALL up… just like that.

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

    It really is that simple.

    – AND, another:

    “… because if you DO succeed, that kills their main excuse for not succeeding themselves. Most folks believe success is all about luck and magic. When you dig in and actually do the work necessary to succeed, you piss all over their world view that The Little Guy Can’t Win.”

    Take care, my friend.

    See you on the flip side.



  • Sharon A says:

    “As scary as being independent is, once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be hooked”.

    This is the bone truth. I would never go back to earning a paycheck because I can no longer trade my time and my life to make someone else rich. Once that time is gone, it’s gone.

    I put myself through four years of college. My home at the time was a two-door Subaru hatchback with the passenger seat removed (I needed a place for my stuff). I supported myself by doing field work in the summer and picking up bottles and cans in the winter. Sometimes I would walk five miles a day looking for cans in between classes.

    I survived four winters, two assaults, “security” that came with a price, the occasional illness, frostbite, and hunger. Sometimes my only meal for the day was a can of Spaghetti-Os and a bottle of water.

    My one trip home during this period resulted in several broken bones (someone was drunk and refused to take no for an answer). After that I never went back. I did all my recuperating in the car—this included six weeks on crutches. I remember one day I was crutching myself down the hall with all my books in my backpack, and my pants fell down (broken zipper—the safety pin let go). I could tell some stories!

    I had my share of getting laughed at by the spoiled rich kids. Some people took bets that I wouldn’t make it to graduation. However, there were several people that believed in me, and they kept me going. I graduated Magna Cum Laude in ’95 with a 3.8 GPA.

    I say this not to brag, but to point out that if you want something badly enough, you can’t let anything stop you. Having a dream will keep you going no matter what life throws at you. I had my share of low times, and even contemplated suicide after the episode at home; but then I realized if I died, I would never get the chance to see if I’d make it or not. The fact that I’m still here speaks for itself.

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Sharon. The only people I know who’ve accomplished anything in life, btw, all experienced serious oppression, nay-sayers, deprivation and buckets of self-doubt along the way. (A just-released interview with John Lennon — just before he was killed — reveals that he never thought ANY of the songs he wrote were any good when he recorded them, and he was often crippled with doubt. That’s sobering.)

      The trick, of course, is never to get bitter, and to keep your eye on the prize. The only life worth living is the one crammed with stories that keep the kids riveted…

  • Kent says:

    Even worse, they college actually charges you thousands of dollars to teach you absolutely nothing.

    I kid you not, when I was in college, the only thing the teachers did was basically read from the book.

    What the hell?! I go to the library and read the book to myself for free. I dropped out after a year of that non-sense.

    College makes sense if you’re going to become a doctor…or something really crucial. But its still not worth the school debt you’ll get into.

    • John Carlton says:

      I did come away from college loaded with new info… but none of it came to me by way of classes or studying. I learned how to party, how to get laid, how to work the academic system (B average with almost zero studying) (and zero retention later), and how to appreciate a life of leisure (which was actually pretty damaging, wasting some seriously potentially-productive years avoiding “work”).

      I learned a lot about life. Met some bright, amazing people (who I’m still friends with). Gathered a novel’s worth of adventures.

      And, back then, the bottom line cost was almost embarrassing low. California still valued education, and supported the UC system… so I paid $211 per semester tuition. Lived in communal houses for $50/month, and being hippies, never needed fancy clothes or haircuts (or cars). And my first two years were at a community college, for chump change. (And my teachers there were the best I ever had — much, much better than the research-obsessed profs at the UC level.)

      No loans. A rusty bike got me everywhere, or we hitchhiked. (This was before slasher films killed hitchhiking forever.) It seems almost unfair, but it was the opportunity we had. Nowadays, with costs skyrocketing, I think college needs a serious critical-think examination. Just like every other opportunity out there.

  • John, good call. Systems break because well, humans created them.

    As far as interns go, it seems that people are just pushing back the time when guys and gals can GET experience or some level of skill.

    Nothing’s free though, including an education.

    Rock on,


  • Reluctantly I pushed myself through high school. Once I was done I had neighter the grades or the desire to go to college. I wasn’t lazy, I just hated everything to do with school, exams, studying, learning worthless shit and cramming all year round just to barely pass. I lacked passion for any of the subjects BIG TIME. Put short, I had other ambitions.

    Once I moved out and starting working for more money I felt as if I was finally in the real world. This was my playground. I could compensate for being a acedemic looser.

    Being an entrepreneur excites me because it’s not about security or sucking up to The Man. It’s about getting out there and “creating” a life for yourself, being in control and having freedom.


  • Carlos says:


    I have to admit, I actually believed in college the entire time I was there… I didn’t graduate of course, but I do have a four year education, in combination with several other tech courses I’ve taken.

    But heres the real reason I’m saying this, I was usually the leader of class groups that proff’s usually put together to solve a problem in my Biz-MNGMT Classes…the students that I noticed were good, I’d give them an opportunity to talk in front of class when needed, all the while everyone knew I WAS the leader of the team…and the lazy, unmotivated, useless students in revolt, were my clients!!

    Yes. I spent hours in the library researching topics upon topics. I wrote papers for a living, you see… I’m not sure how this adds value to the topic of education but I had my share of it…I’m self-employed..and currently IMMERSED in self-education..

  • Karen says:

    Well I’m all posted out now, but I did and do agree with You, but not in all areas, and that’s alright, too. I know this much, If your child, were out there, in the world, and going to school for her Master’s, Would you not be proud, Yes of course you would, but it’s really not for me, to say it’s her life, but I do know this, I’m a Writer, and I love to write, so I’m going to stick to what I know, and forget the other stuff, I seem to be much better at this!
    Have a Good One!!
    Thanks for the Invite, I’ve been wanting to “read”, what you write, Haven’t really thought of looking, duh…
    I have a Publisher, waiting patiently on me, for my Book and I cannot wait, to add this to my many accomplishments. You know, Just because I suck at online Marketing, doesn’t mean I suck at all things, NOPE, I love writing and I encourage it, to my Grand daughter who’s a lot like me, God help her, and I’m also glad to know, I can fall back on this, anytime I need or want…
    Thanks for this post, and for this Invite to read it, I liked it, a lot!

  • Scott Whaley says:

    You know what your problem is? You are too freakin wishy washy! Go ahead, tell us what you really think!
    Keep ranting and Keep Talking….HARD!
    (can you name that movie? I bet you can!)

  • Sheridan says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. It is also exactly what I needed to hear before, during and after college.

  • Bioniclily says:

    I agree with you John. I have always “tried to do it my way”, usually because the cost of something that is out of my price range. I just find another way to get the job done. I don’t think I would of handled becoming disabled without a serious case of poor me. ALOT of people have it worse than I do.

    Your post reminds me of my son. He attempted going to college and just could not stick with it, not because of grades he Aced out of every class he took.
    When he got sick of it he went to Europe. He loves being outdoors, this time he got sick of the college crap he’s up north working for the trail people as a supervisor, because he had done the job before.
    Life Sucks Do something about it look in the mirror

    • John Carlton says:

      For anyone freaked out because they’re in their mid-twenties and haven’t figured out what to do with their life yet… I say “Chill out”. I was 33 before I got my shit together enough to even begin settling down and concentrating on a career. Before then, I was all over the map, lost and unsure of myself. It was a growing period… and while you DO want to constantly keep an idea of good life-long goals in mind, it’s FINE to go fuck off for months or years while you’re young, and go see the world (as well as your Inner World).

      Americans are obsessed with “success”, and it’s a dumb goal to have unless you clearly understand what success means to YOU. Not anyone else.

      It’s a process. I wish your kid excellent luck, and tip my hat to him.

  • Tim Wilson says:

    This mind-blowing video documentary makes the case that the college “conspiracy” is even worse than John said.

    Click on my name for the video website that a friend of mine sent to me earlier in the week.

    It’s nice some people have the guts to expose myths too commonly believed by people living in lockstep with untested assumptions.

  • David Simon says:

    John – I usually agree with you about everything, but one issue: I am the same age as you, I also have a BA in Psychology! While most of it is bullshit, it has surely helped my career as a copywriter and marketing strategist. Understanding psychology really helps in copywriting and marketing, especially understanding what motivates people and what creates an emotional connection. That, and studying Dan Kennedy, you, and Gary Halbert, have made me very successful and in demand. Keep it up!

    • John Carlton says:

      My BA is in psych, too… but I learned almost NOTHING from that academic BA. I have obsessed on psychology my entire adult life, however, and my own studies on the subject have yielded massive resources for my career as a salesman.

      I did, however, get a lot out of the side stuff I did in college in psych — the small night classes for extra credit, the reading of books on the suggested list (not required to pass the tests), and getting to know the profs (who were whacked-out, but offered good insight to why the academic teaching of psych was so out of synch with reality…)

      I never said “don’t go to college”. I just said there are other options out there… including “sorta” going to college, but making sure your “real” education is in the real world.

      The Man isn’t looking after you. He’s looking after Himself. Up to you to fill in the blanks in your education, throughout your entire life…

  • Pam says:

    There used to be a saying; those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.

    Now with the internet, often it’s the case that people who can, do,and teach as well, and the world is much better off for it. They are teaching what people need to know in the world we live in now.

    Many schools are even lacking in being able to teach kids how to get along with one another, which to me is one of the few valid reasons left for schools as they are today.

    Once a child can read and manipulate numbers all the rest of the intellectual stuff is available at need. The world is changing so dramatically that nobody even has a clue what kids will need to know in terms of “facts” even 10 years down the road.

    We should be raising the kids to be self educators, to THINK creatively and critically, to be innovative and interactive and ..perhaps..try to develop a sense of world citizenship. The earth has become too small for factions with nuclear and other weapons caring only about their square foot of turf, or companies pursuing their profits regardless of the harm caused by their practices.

    None of this is developed at all at many schools. Thinking “outside the box” is often actively discouraged. This has to change if the kids growing up now are to be able to deal with the issues of their day.

    Good on you, John,for saying it like it is.

  • Neil says:

    Thank you, Well said!

  • ElaineH says:

    Most important thing in this rant is “Too many people get all confused and bewildered about ‘education’ as opposed to ‘going to college’.” You do get an education at college – usually in how to party, how to meet the “right” people, and how to look for & work the “system”. So college isn’t a total waste but don’t expect what is taught in class to make you ready for work. Think of college as a bubble – pretty, fun, floating in the world, looking at the world, but not prepared for the real world.

  • Stewart says:

    Absolutely LOVE this post! My daughter just graduated from college with a dual major. The Keynote Speaker was an entrepreneur and owner of a $25 million company that began her speech by describing her Grad ceremony and immediately moving back into her parents house with a “useless” degree. She described what she did to get where she was and that where she was had nothing to do with her major. I was pleasantly surprised that she was allowed to give this inspiring speech.

  • Frank Daley says:

    Huge Topic! I’m a recently retired college and univ. professor. There are several sides to this. I agree with youalamost entirely. Many college experiences are terrible, but certainly not all.
    However, should everyone go to college? Absolutely not.
    Some brief related points (which would benefit from further discussion).
    1. Education and learning is not the same as colleges. True. It can be but often is not remotely.
    2. The North American education system is weak and getting weaker and it is a more fundamental problem than the economy in general or health or wars. We are to compete with all the other countries in the world and with the Ed. system the way it is, we simply can’t do it.
    3. Many college students drop-out or fail(not the same thing) because of two main flaws combined with a third when they reach college. First, they have few academic or even communication skills (reading, writing, concentration, focus, drive, or stick-to-it-iveness, study skills). Second, they have no self-knowledge: no idea of who they are and what they want out of life and no idea of what it will take to get them there. Third, in college they hit the crucible of time: “Get this stuff done in 12 weeks or your gone!” They can’t do it and they are gone.
    4. They don’t know why they’re in college or even their program; they can’t read and write “too good”; they have no passion for their subjects; and they have a serious case of unanchored entitlement (and that’s a big subject!) All this means they miss classes, don’t hand in assignments (and when they do the work is often illiterate), get dispirited, discouraged, depressed and drop out. They also spend a lot of time on the Internet, drinking, taking drugs, gambling, walking around in malls, texting each other over nothing and whining. And astonishingly, one out of every five college students in the US is a self-abuser—that means they cut or burn or otherwise harm themselves.(Again, a whole other subject!)
    5. A college education (read university too) can be great if you know who you are and what you want, and enroll in a good program that compresses a lot of what you need fast. This is a credentialist society so if you want /need a credential for what you want to do then select well, and get it. If you want to work for someone else, then you’d better get it. (It could get you in a door. After that, like everything else in life, it’s up to you.
    6. A liberal arts education can also be great (sorry John!) for several things: one for a good basic education in the fundamentals of our society (hell, for our world!) in language, literature, psychology, economics, history, philosophy, art etc. People don’t just need a job they need a great LIFE.(Longer discussion.) It’s also good for people who haven’t got a clue what to do with their lives. If they take a good general B.A. they can investigate the humanities and sciences, business, etc and see patterns and associations in the material that can lead them to a field they can be passionate about.

    Can you do this outside college? Damn right you can. But, see my note above about credentialism and employment. And, not everyone is cut out to be entrepreneurial. My God, if they can’t even figure out what they like, how the hell are they going to figure out how to be an entrepreneur?
    7. As you can see I feel as strongly about this as you do John; basically we agree. I feel so strong about it I’m starting a new business called Self-Knowledge College where I’ll help people get to know themselves so they don’t screw up their college program, their career or job choice and, yes, their choice of a marriageable mate (because they screw that up too when they lack self-knowledge. They don’t know who they are and why they choose anything they choose in life). (Check the divorce rates!)
    8. Not at all sorry for the rant. You provoked it!

    • John Carlton says:

      Again, I never said “don’t go to college”. Just don’t go blindly.

      Re: #6 above: My advice to anyone who DOES go to college is to get the most BROAD education possible. Take a class in every single department, from theater to physics to PE. Sample what’s out there. It’s stupid for a 20 year old to announce they want to be a philosopher, or a politician, or a shrink, or anything else. Get a wide education, and don’t nail yourself down before you’re ready.

      That said, even if you don’t go to college, you should read like crazy — all the classic literature, all the pop literature (like sci-fi), lots and lots of biographies and history.

      It’s impossible to become a true Renaissance Man or Woman today… but you can come close to at least sampling everything. And that’s my advice…

  • Antonio says:

    I can see it’s an older post, since you use “critical thinking” instead of “critical think”.

    Excellent as usual, John.

  • Rob says:


    Recent changes in the UK where I live mean that the average graduate is now leaving college with at $75k debt, that gets repaid from an earnings deduction (like tax) once they start earning.

    Add this to the fact that most academics I come across see teaching as an inconvenience that interrupts their valuable research time it becomes less attractive.

    Then, the UK economy being so weak leaves us with the highest number of unemployed graduates for years.

    Your arguments about the lack of real educational value from college are entirely accurate.

    So frankly, why bother.

    I say, if you want to go, go for the experience, not for the outcome. Enjoy the journey because the destination might not look quite like it did in the brochure.

  • Al Kusy says:

    I am 66 now , semi retired, and as I look back upon my progression through the prescribed rote educational system, it was an experience that I would wish on any one. I had a sleep disorder from early on which manifested every day in a way that made me aware that life for me was not the same as my peers. I could pick up a book and within 10-15 minutes I would be asleep. I made it through high school with good grades and a reputation for being a class clown. College was no different with respect to the sleep problem but I had set my sights on getting a pre-med education. Within 15 minutes of the start of class I would be comatose with my eyes wide open but brain totally shut down. To make a long story less cumbersome I ended up with a B.S in Zoology which does translate into bull shit considering that on paper I was qualified to apply to med school but there was nothing resident in my brain that qualified me sufficient to clean a surgical room after the work was done. I did what I thought was my patriotic duty and enlisted in the USARMY and matriculated through the Boise Induction center. I was informed after I took the battery of tests that I had the highest scores they had ever had being a 218 total, a perfect score of 60 for leadership and the balance of 158 for IQ;another raft of BS. They put me into a program to get me into OCS which in due time I completed coming out as an officer in the USARMY. All was going well until I reached my first duty assignment in Fort Carson Colo. During a time that I was assigned to a desk for a period it was discovered that I needed to be tested for why I was always falling asleep when assigned to s sitting task. My sleep disorder was justification for the dissolution of my dreams of becoming a GENERAL and I was given an exit from service. (I now look upon that series of events as being divine happenings to keep me from going to Viet Nam.) Well it was now time to put my pre-med education to work and I drove as far as my money would take me from Colorado Springs and that was Denver where I secured a position at the Univ. of Colo. Medical Center in the Dept. of Microbiology at 600 bucks per month and this is the best my BS could do for me. (Just a note. Up till now I was operating under the false supposition that I was an introvert, a self limiting mind set.) During the two years I was working in research at the medical school I found that I needed more income to survive so I got my RE license and went to work with a company that was selling property at a new city south of Colo. Springs. My training instructor was a painted blond lady that claimed she had a “photogenic memory”. I knew then that I would have to rely on my own wits to succeed in this business. I do have to give her credit for convincing me that I was an extrovert as opposed to my life-long personal belief that I was an introvert. With that knowledge and an internal knowing that I could do more than what I was doing in research I started selling vacant lots in Colorado City. Within three months of part time SALES I became the youngest person to ever by a new Mercedes at the Denver dealership. After soooo many years of falsely believing that it was my formal education that was going to drive my economic life I discovered that it was me and what was inside my mind and heart that would provide me with a fulfilling life centered around SALES!!! I have sold property, investment packages for condo projects, started my own construction company and sold many building projects that amounted to $1M in annual sales for six years. After I had to retire my company because of the high interest rate Carter years I went to work for a competitor in Boise where I took his sales from $1-2 M/yr. to $10M by the time I left when he sold the company 7 years later. The accountant told me at that time that I had been responsible for 72% of the sales with there being four salesmen during that time. Yes, SALES is where it is at and it is what makes this world turn around. John, thank you for your continuos focus and ranting on SALES!!! I am ready to start on a new SALES adventure since I know that I have at least another 40 years.

  • Stacey Morgenstern says:

    My good friend Michael just wrote a book about millionaires and billionaires who didn’t go to college. I went to college and probably the best thing I learned how to do was a kegstand (drinking as much as you can upside down without it coming out your nose)

    People that are most successful are resilient (they pick themselves up off the pavement when rejected), they take consistent action, they make friends with influential people, and they hire mentors that STRETCH them.

    John – you have been one of my most important teachers. (Warning, sappy affection about to unfold)

    One of the things you said to me last year when I was tinkering in fear about knowing enough to take on a big job, was “Put on the big girl panties and go for it.”

    That stuck real good and since then I’ve gotten offers from best-selling authors, multi-million dollar campaigns and launched several monster launches of my own.

    None of this inner game or outer game came from my overpriced college degree.

    What I’d say to someone newly getting out in the world is to apply the success principles I mentioned above. And you if you haven’t worked with John Carlton or the Simple Writing System then you’re probably missing out on the best education there is to make more money, increase your confidence and develop outstanding human relationship skills.

    You’re the man!

    Alright, hope you shed a tear.


  • I agree with Frank Daley. I attended Cornell University (not your typical Ivy-League College–they made you work) and got a degree in materials engineering and I am so glad I did. Get an engineering degree from almost anywhere and it will guarantee that you can pretty much figure things out, whatever it is… One of my Materials Science profs said to the class, “When you graduate from this university you won’t know everything, but you will know where to find it.” This statement guided my life, even when I wasn’t aware of it.

    I am no longer employed as an engineer and have moved to another business area, but I use what I have learned in engineering almost every day. It allows me to evaluate info on medicine, the recent radiation scares due to the Japan earthquake nuclear reactor meltdowns, “science” and technology claims made by pseudo-scientists of all types, including new agers, etc. I teach myself how to do new things all the time. I know what it takes to create a process and optimize it. I am extremely grateful for my Cornell University education.

    Christine Hoeflich

  • Janice Hernandez says:

    The only thing we need to do in life is ‘be ourselves’. I congratulate you on that. You have always struck a cord with me and I want to say thank you, for being true to yourself. And thanks for this re-post, it has strengthened the fire under my butt. I have been entrepreneurial most of my life and have had many ups and downs. The last down blindsided me and I’d been having trouble stopping the ‘voice’ and getting the hell out of my own way. Needless to say, the middle-age crazy sh** didn’t help much either.
    I’m on track now and feeling good……thank you for helping with that.

  • Steve says:


    Rave reviews. I understand the Wuss part way to well.

    I would ask a piece of advise, but you get paid for advise, so I won’t ask.

    Many times we ask for advise that we already know the answere to. We are just looking for confirmation.

    So in this case I wll confrim for myself.

    Thank you

    • John Carlton says:

      That’s actually legendary advice, Steve — go figure it out as best you can, on your own, first.

      You’ll get most of your answers that way. And you’ll understand the process of getting those answers, too.

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    As someone who’s also a two-degreed UCLA alum and former college instructor (MBA courses for UoP), I also have to chime in to say how valuable my degrees were, not just for opening corporate doors back when I did that, but also for:

    a) developing the ability to get things produced fast, within 12-week quarters
    b) research skills from UCLA that continue to serve me exceptionally well to this day.. I can find answers quickly, and produce based on what I learn
    c) communications skills, particularly written communications, which translates well into copywriting success, website design, writing great emails and producing dozens of high-selling sites
    d) personal pride: I’m 47 now, and despite achieving industry fame and fortune, it all started with graduating UCLA, which is still to this day the one thing I’m personally most proud of, as an achievement, which has helped me go on to leverage and grow businesses and help others. Graduating college with a degree is something to be genuinely stand-up-and-cheer proud of, and I would not deny anyone that accomplishment, nor deter them from it.


    Having said all that, things have changed, as John points out.. nowadays one can easily get a degree+ full of information online in a fraction of the time a college degree takes. And online, one can develop the entrepreneurial spirit that no academic halls can ever teach alone, with tomes of books, term papers and sitting through lectures ever could.

    Despite the academia, and majoring in “how to take tests” (said tongue-in-cheek, my degrees are both in psychology)…. would I have done it differently? Hmm. Nope. Had a blast at college and it’s served me exceptionally well. People are different though, in fact some of my top people I’ve learned from have no degrees, and so it’s not necessary for success.

    But it sure does help. At least that’s my candid .02.

    • John Carlton says:

      If you go to college, pour yourself into it as Ken did, and devour the opportunities presented (including making network connections for down the road).

      That’s hard for a young kid to wrap his mind around, since he usually has zero reference points from the real world (having sat in classes since he was 5)… and I urge everyone to get some real-world experience first, so you value the education you then devour.

      Thanks for the note, Ken.

  • Wow! That was incredible! You nailed it. I want to learn to write like that.

  • JohnB says:

    Great blog, John.
    Having experienced both forms of education, I must say that I have gained a great deal more from my attendance at the University of Life – where I was enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks – than I ever did while studying for a B.Bus in the formal academic system.
    I certainly must agree with the point raised about having experienced the role of an entrepreneur, you are ruined as an employee. I have recently walked away from a nine year period as a senior management role in an industry with a 19th century operational culture while attempting to bring it at least into the twentieth century. It payed well but, in the end, I had to admit that I was banging my head against a brick wall and walk away.
    As with all entrepreneurs, I love a challenge but there comes a time when one must acknowledge defeat and make the necessary directional changes. I am now back in my entrepreneurial role and loving it.
    This is the same decision I had to make when attending university. I had enrolled as a mature-age student (26). Not only was I already older than a number of the lecturers, I already had more life experience that some of them were ever like to get. The crunch came when I was being lectured on the fact that the accepted economic theories dictated that we would never see a period of high inflation and high unemployment at the same time (this was back in the mid-70’s, when we were experiencing high inflation and high unemployment). I packed up my gear at the end of that lecture, left the campus, and never returned.
    I have been fortunate that I have been able to get through life without formal credentials. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said, today. As one writer has said, we live in a credentialed society, where it is expected not so much that you can do the job, but that you have the piece of paper to say you can do the job. And you must hang you testimonial on your office wall as a public statement that you have achieved your right of passage.
    These days, I work with people in rural and remote parts of Australia who don’t give a rat’s about a academic qualifications. they are more interested about whether or not you have the experience, knowledge and expertise to help them turn their businesses around and provide them with the way and means to help them survive the next extended drought.
    Once again, thanks, John. And I have enjoyed reading the comments of the other contributors.

  • You’re right of course about that ‘little whiny bastard’. Man, can he whinge! :)) Still, when we hear what he is saying he can inspire us to prove him wrong with gusto!

    You must have read my mind when you were writing this, but I have to take issue with one point you made. I’ve been a midwife, and a mother, for over 25 years, and I have to say that I have not met one single ‘new’ person yet that wasn’t ballsy! Some just had that ‘whiny bastard’ meeting them a bit earlier than others. My greatest joy is watching people around me putting that @$# voice to rest…and getting on with living great lives. I reckon it won’t be too long before the awake ones will be having such a great time that the sleepers will have to wake up! Woo-hoo – now that will be a sight for sore eyes!!!

  • Holly says:

    We homeschool, my thirteen-year-old starts high school in September, and he’s going to be going through my copy of Simple Writing System as his Business I course this year.

    Next year, he’ll be doing my copy of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula for Business II.

    He already has his own little review website, but he knows he wants to design and sell his own line of toys and figurines. So his dad and I have made sure he knows profit is the bottom line of business, we’re making sure he has access to the best minds around to teach him how to communicate so he can make his future business run.

    Thanks for the excellent courses.

  • Don Faast says:

    God I LOVE the way you nail it!
    I, like you, and all ballsy entrepreneurs…am scared, but who gives a damn!
    I THRILL at the crap thrown my way by the world.

    I just go do it anyway.

    I dare anything to stop me.

    But I have been doing this a long time.
    I too had to “forcefully” wake myself up to the truth about
    personal responsibility and frightening action, with cold sweat running down my back—but after I succeeded several times beyond my wildest dreams, I WAS ADDICTED!

    In order to get my own attention, and get myself out of the “job” mentality, I used to get myself by the collar and
    slam myself against the garage door, saying “Don, you damn well WILL grow up…to hell with your feelings!”

    I actually broke the garage door off its track, and had to
    buy a new complete door system.
    I took myself from 4K month to 40K month income…and am now headed for $1.2M per year…still scared, but
    you couldnt tear me away from this thrilling life!

    John, I love the stuff you write!

  • Harold Ward says:

    I agree with your viewpoints. Education in
    school that is, suks. They are herded into
    the same direction as everyone else unless
    they decide to break out on their on. I’ve
    got to run right now. I’ll try to get back
    to it later. Have a great day.

  • Rob Joy says:

    Dear JC

    Duuude…you nailed it big time…

    I locked into every word and totally agree with what you have kindly shared with us…

    No greater words have been written about the subject of life in general than yours…

    It would be a speech that every university student needs to read…what everone needs to know before they leave school…

    I agree.

    The education system just plain sucks dogs balls…

    Here in Australia it’s even worse…

    My own kids (from previous marraige) are been taught all sorts of bullshit…they ask me why is it…they feel like they are not as smart as their friends…

    To which I keep saying to them…

    “All I want you guys to do is go to school make as many friends as you can-do your best-enjoy being young…dont worry about being smart at school because the people who are smart at school often dont become so smart when they leave school…”

    I also tell them…when they are sick of school come tell me…we’ll sit chat little while…just do as I tell you now…

    We’ll worry about…things when your ready too…they are 12, 10, 6, so I need for them to enjoy their inocent youth now…

    Let their deadbeat brainwashed mother (who is full blown christain fundamentalist-no disrespect intended stating a fact) try to lead them down the marry path of so called bliss…(what a load of shit)

    Anyway JC.

    I also wanted to say I read your blog and all back issues like a crack addict licking the inside of meth pipe…

    Same way I followed your mentor / best friend one of greatest marketers ever lived the late Gary Halbert.

    Between the both of you…

    I have learnt more about life and business than from any other source on the planet…

    My Dad spilt not long after I was born because of his connection to the underworld…

    I feel as though I’m gifted with best education in the world from you both…

    JC keep going mate!

    You inspire the quiet few who are trying to punch threw and push up threw all the b.s in this world…

    You lead us not to become toss pots but lead us to develop and grow for greater good…you do this out of deeper heart felt reason…

    To see your fellow man not be held down…or chained to ‘system’ I will be forever more greatful for having the courage to step outside of my…

    Deluded-mis guided life (from deadbeat loosers who make up my mums family) and live the way I know is better for me.

    I will never be able to truly show my sincere appreciation to you or to the late Gary C Halbert.

    Both of you have inspired me to become better man, more centred and focused man, who….

    Is striving for life…

    Which is all I have ever wanted…ever since I was little boy growing up in the slums of low income neighbourhood-in boondocks of suburbia…

    It was not until I discovered Halbert by pure accident few years ago with some random interview he done…that was posted on the web…

    From the time I clicked the ‘play’ button I knew I found the person who I was prepared to lsiten & learn from…

    I never met or direclty communicated with you or Halbert-

    I feel as though I do know you both-threw your learning materials…

    Everytime I go over the audio’s, seminars,

    I have of you both…I totally get what you guys say…right away…

    You have no idea how powerful your information is or how much you have inspired me to pull my finger outta my rear end…

    I never got the chance to express my sincere heart felt appreciation to Halbert-

    I thought he would live forever…

    Now you carry on…lead us…as he had done…those of us who where touched by Gary…now look to you for greater strength…and wisdom…


    I want to publically thank you for how you have helped me see life…see there is better way to live…

    I never got the chance to see Halbert…was guttered to hear he had be taken from us all…when a associate I know from business told me.

    I intend to pass on all the lessons I have learned from you both & Halbert…to my three kids…they are to me…all the sparkle and nurishment in my life…I need

    (not to mention selceted members of the opposite sex)

    I will part with them all I have learned all that I will go onto learn from you & Halbert…in short time I have been exposed to the world of direct response community

    I have never felt so enriched-for the experience…12 years of bullshit public school education here in australia did nothing for me at all…

    It did not teach me how to handle myself in business situation, leagal situation, or how to make money on the web…it failed to teach me how to handle my personal life…which I have learned the from the school of ‘hard-knocks’

    I learnt most of what I know now from guys like you and Halbert to name but a few…in last 5 years I have been doing this…

    I practice writing copy daily have hand full of CDR disks because my clapped out P3 desktop could not function correctly…

    I feel as though in comparasion to the 12 years inside the public education system…

    last 5 years have been worth every second…

    JC keep going, keep pushing forward, although I pretty sure no one has said it so far…

    You have led more people to better life than anyone else has…for anyone to do that means you have clearly greater & deeper sense of compassion for people.

    All I want to say is:

    A big fat ‘thank-you’

    & I owe fat juicy steak next time your down-under and frosty cold beer!

    All my very best mate!


    Rob Joy

  • Irini says:

    I accept and divide your point of view into this point in question, the given problem.
    And if you only knew that is now created at Russian schools and in all Russian education system-!! Is a full nightmare and degradation (((

  • Robert Gibson says:

    Hi John,

    Great post! One of my favorites.
    You’re never afraid to cross the line to save someone from themselves.
    That’s what makes you stand out as a great teacher.

    “The prize will not be sent to you.
    You have to win it.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson


  • Ed says:

    Whoa.. Hey John, great article. Ran into it from Perry’s tweets. Think I met you at McCarthy System Seminar. Anyway… Did you go to UC Davis? Berkeley? I may have missed that. I will pay more attention to your info. Thanks. 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Davis. Had a fabulous time, still visit old friends there once in a while and marvel at the warm bath of comfort a college-town like that can offer. You’re largely clueless about the rest of the world while happily biking on well-manicured paths through Leave It To Beaver neighborhoods, seemingly safe from all worldly dangers.

      To be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed college. I just didn’t learn anything in class. It was like a long-ass vacation, full of parties, sexual adventure and strange intellectual stimulation. I learned tons about life, my fellow humans, and got to sample all sorts of offbeat “underground” experiences… but all this took place outside of class.

      The main advantage to college is that you’re surrounded by reasonably intelligent people. When I tried to go home again, I had the typical frustration of realizing my friends who had taken the other path — of not only not going to college, but also refusing to grow intellectually — presented a really boring model of life.

      The stark choices seemed to be: Go back to grad school, and pray that you can stretch out living in the cocoon of college for as long as possible (so you can put off “growing up”)…

      … or climb into a walking Zombie state, get a J-O-B, settle into a brain-numbing routine, maybe marry someone who won’t challenge you too much, and just give up.

      Took me a few years to realize there were other choices. Sure wish there’d be someone — anyone — around to give me a hint there was an alternative (besides starting a rock band and rolling the dice on not starving that way).

      Life’s an adventure. Most folks freak out, and try to insulate themselves from that adventure as much as possible… which is dangerous in a democracy that requires people pay attention.

      I’m only talking to folks who want to wake up, be hyper-aware, and grab a seat at The Feast. There is no one path that will suit everyone…

      • Ed says:

        Thanks for the reply John. Coffee House beatniks, drumming in the Quad, hitch hiking to Berkeley for People’s Park, Country Joe, Vietnam… those were the days. Jose Arguelles. One of my advisers. Just passed, March of this year.

        I think in college, like life, you either go after it, or it comes at you with its own designs. Like anything else, you are either a spectator, or adventuring in this game of life.

        Still adventuring…
        Thanks again.

        • John Carlton says:

          Nice allegory of life as either a predator or a friend, Ed. True. Barry, Country Joe’s guitar player, became a very famous lawyer in California, you know… some of my old pals from UCD worked with him. Great guy, tells the stories you wanna hear about those times… (he’s the guy on stage as it begins to rain offering the cameraman a joint in the Woodstock movie…)…

          How the HELL did we survive the 70s?

  • Bob Berman says:

    Hey John- very timely-just talking to my 19 year old university twins about this. I also have a 25 year old who has always struggled academically yet thrived in the real world. I’m university educated. If anything, its given me a profession. It also put limits on my world view by prescribing a belief system filled with rules and limited expectations that were not my own. In recent years, (and I too am a product of the music that we now call “Classic Rock”), I have come to learn that the Entrepreneurial Mindset is much more important than a formal education if you want to learn how to and live a life without limits. And, I’m not just talking about money here. That’s what I want for what’s left of my life. That’s the mindset I want for my kids. I have no problem with them going to university if that’s what they want(although it may be a waste of time for the 25 year old). What I do have a problem with is the Education System’s failure to teach and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset from Grade 1 right through University. The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz opens with a Bruce Barton quote: “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance”. We need an Education System that advocates and teaches this kind of belief system. Until then, I agree that it needs to be sought after in the real world from people like you. Thanks for the blog. I sent it to my kids. Let’s see what they DO with it.


    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Bob. Good to hear from ya.

      Yeah, it’s all got to come from inside yourself. If your kids are anything like I was at that age, the confusion is too dense and too stubborn to be breached quickly. It can take years for an idea to squirm its way to the part of your brain that can appreciate it. Took me nearly a decade — then, in that classic “a-HA!” tradition, I had multiple realizations about my culpability and my responsibility for my ennui.

      Your kids have a great father, Bob. Give ’em some slack, but keep irritating them by showing them shit like this. It may sink in down the road…

  • Don says:

    Your postings are always informative and entertaining. They are right down main street which means a lot of people today can’t subscribe to them since they would no longer be able to blame or point fingers at someone else for their shortcomings. It’s one thing to say it…quite another to walk it. I’m no soothsayer but I’ve told kids for years (yes, in the educational field)there will be more people out there try to tell you what you can’t do than what you can. Don’t know why that is but it is and I despise those individuals who fill youngsters with such BS. I admit from time to time of being one of those not having the “balls” to actually make it as an online entrepreneur. It all seems wonderful and I’m sure it is. I’m sloooowww at this but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying. Thanks for the insights and I look forward to the next ones.

  • mark grove says:

    i better get off my friggin’ ass and stop making excuses for why i’m not wealthy
    and just do it.

    if i don’t, i better not blame anyone.


  • John,

    I agree that a college degree is not a must have to be successful after graduation. I am a small business coach and have worked with many people who had all the formal business qualifications but who were still on the brink of failing because they never learned how to put the theory into practice. So my advice to a graduation class would be: “Remember what you’ve learned and put as much of it as possible into practice but above all, never forget how to learn and keeping on learning as you go through life”.

    I would however like to add that I always encourage all youngsters to get as much education as they possibly can and make it as broad as possible. Some subjects may not seem to be too relevant immediately but a day may come when even a partially remembered subject may be just what’s needed to make a highly successful sea change. This approach I believe is particularly important for those youngsters who have no idea what they want to do when they do leave school and there are many in that situation.

  • leon Noone says:

    G’Day John,
    Back in the 1980s a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the Universuty of Sydney wrote A marvellous book called “Schooling More Or Less.” Her name was Shirley Smith.

    Shirley’s point was that education systems and institutions weren’t in the education business. They were in the “schooling” business. Provided students do what teachers tell them for 15-16 years,they’ll gain a degree. They’ll
    be schooled. They’re unlikely to be educated.

    Schooling is the responsibiloty of the State. Education is a personal responsibility.

    Please don’t tell the teachers!

    And make sure you have fun



  • Luca "The Loco Spaniard" says:

    Hi John,

    Before I say nothing, sorry about my spanglish grammar.

    I want to tell you the story of how, after I left college really scared and frustrated, YOU became my university.

    It was my 2 year at college. Studying Interior Design… the teachers were so boring, I almost hated drawing… The only thing I enjoyed a little was the 60 girls on a 70 people classroom, 5 gays…

    I was scared, frustrated and my future looked so boring… One day I decided that, no matter what, I was going to discover my true passion.

    So I drop-out, tell my parents… my father stops talking to me.

    I saved some money and went that summer to Mumbai to visit a good friend.

    There, we went on a trip to the south of India. My friend had his laptop with wifi and one day I checked my email. Opened the inbox and read an email from David Deutsch with his Copy Quickstart Interviews… I read the sales letter and immediately took out my debit card. I did all on a bungaloo in the middle of the mountain, really!I had only 400€ left for 10 days more there… I think the product was $197. David used his vodoo powers to activate my inner chimp and it was worth it.

    Your interview and David Garfinkels one were my favourite. After hearing them all, something magical happened. I felt a mix of security, purpose and clarity about my future because I now knew that “The ability to write your OWN copy is possibly the best business skill I could ever develop” as Ken McCarthy mentioned on his interview.

    So I went back to Spain…

    I decided that I was going to find the best DR teachers. While watching free marketing videos and trying to find THE ONE, I started hearing all the Internet Gurus crediting you all the time. I checked again your SWS and started thinking how I was going to pay that… The money I made working as a waiter wasn’t enough.

    I needed support from my parents for my education. They were REALLY sceptical about this type of education… The only thing they wanted was a stupid degree so I could get a good job. So I immersed myself on their clueless mob oriented brain and really tried to understand their fears and desires about my future. (I don’t know if that makes sense)

    I made a screen capture video using DR principles I learned from the itnerviews and explained my parents what your SWS was and why it was probably the best education I could have… When the video finished, my father said “After this, I will pay you anything you want for education purposes” My new powers were working!

    So I bought SWS and started studying your material… enjoyed it a lot (I even studied on Sundays or while ALL my friends were watching the match or playing poker online). Finally! studying was fun…

    SWS done. 24 years old. You didn’t gave me a degree, I obviously didn’t went through exams so I had to apply everything in the real world.

    I started my first website without testing the niche. Huge fail, huge learning. Now I understood by experience what you constantly said:

    “It’s a MESS to GUESS”

    I wish I listened to you before. I had a new idea weeks after and I tested it on adwords. The numbers where pretty good. So I created an info product and started selling it online…

    Now my dream is to make a lot of money and work with you personally.

    Thank you teacher!

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Speaking of education – John’s tips on how to become an instant expert (or at least extremely knowledgeable) on a given topic are outstanding. His process for immersing oneself in a topic via multiple books and other resources has been a big factor in my own success over these past 7 years I’ve learned from him.

    It’s really important to work with John, learn from all his training, because he’s one of the few genuine experts out there who, if listened to, learned from and implemented from, can make a big difference in your success. I’ve made a lot of (six-figure) money I wouldn’t have otherwise made, thanks to what I’ve learned from him. Very useful training. Thanks man.


  • John Adams says:

    I’m getting to this thread late but just had to get in on it. My stepdaughter just graduated college this month and I tried to give her this same type of commencement speech. She has been looking for ANY job for 3 years while in school and has not succeeded (don’t think she wanted to anyway). So I suggested to her to take one small portion of what you have studied (interior design and graphics) and make a business of it. Perhaps charge people $100 or even $50 to give them advice on their homes. Create a checklist and do a walk-thru and explain to them improvements and the costs involved. She did it to my house while I was selling it and it helped tremendously. The sales funnel this opens is huge! Put an ad on Google, I’d help her learn marketing herself and she in turn gets clients that will likely become life-long income for her. Wow you would have thought I was asking her to go to prison for the rest of her life. Actually go get your own business? Are you crazy? She would rather hand out 100 resumes, get no jobs and sponge-off her parents for the rest of her life and I quote, “Like all the other students are doing”. When I tell her the one job I wish I would have taken while younger was sales, she says, “what does that have to do with designing a house?” I’ve also told her I have worked for top designers (marketing) and they work their buts off getting new clients and still make meager pay. Sheesh! I wish I had the opportunities she has when I was young…a mentor that knows marketing!

    • John Carlton says:

      John, she’s still young. She still thinks you (and everyone else over 30) is a dingbat dinosaur, trying to complicate her life. Your advice will need to settle into, and mellow, her brain… and it make take a very long time to bear fruit. But she’s lucky to have you there at least delivering some challenging info. What may happen is, later on, she’ll meet someone she respects who says the same thing you’re trying to say here… but, coming from someone else, it will suddenly be BRILLIANT advice. Which is fine, of course — the purpose is to get her thinking, and considering outside-the-box solutions. She’s just not ready, yet. But she can never claim to have never heard this advice now…

  • leon says:

    This is amazing stuff. This type of information is what I mentor, and train students on daily. I’m not a teacher,
    and boy I’m glad to say that. I’m a mechanical contractor, but I took out about 12 years of my life to teach studentshow to defend themselves against the educational process. The problem is that too many administrator believe the crap that is coming out of their mouth. The school system bought into that mind-set that generalized knowledge is all you need to make it. I haven’t ever been hired to read, or write anything. They hired me because of my specialized knowledge,
    and they expected me to be able to read and write.
    We spend millions of dollars on these schools a year, now we must re-tool the high schools and the people who want to operate them.

  • Yevgeni says:

    John, thank you for such an inspiring post – it speaks to our hearts (at least to the hearts of those who’re choosing to grow up the real way).

    I have a question for you: Do you know of anyone with English as their second language who managed to write good copy for English-speaking market?

    I just want to know if that’s an achievable goal or should the likes of me just focus on hiring good freelancers or digging our local markets, which are considerably less fruitful.


    • John Carlton says:

      Yes, I know several writers for whom English was a distant second language… and who had trouble expressing themselves well in it… nevertheless succeed at selling with copy. However, they mostly worked for themselves — and what they did (and what I advised them to do, if they weren’t already) was to just “own” their not-great English… and become The Crazy Hungarian, or the Ninja Marketer, or the Russian Fool… whatever handle they felt comfortable with. Most English-speaking consumers go easy on folks who don’t speak English so well… especially if there is some humor added to the attempt, or some mild self-deprecation. The main thing: It’s just an obstacle… and obstacles are just impediments to fast progress that you must overcome. You figure out how to position yourself either with the obstacle in tow, or find a way around it… and keep moving.

      Make sense?

      • Yevgeni says:

        Make sense, make sense, make sense! Next 15 tests – creating value for English-speaking crowds. Thanks a million! Very inspiring.

  • RStevens says:

    Hey John,

    Agree with you on all points. I spent many years working in Asia where, sadly, very smart people whose families couldn’t afford university or they didn’t make the cut into the limited spots available; just could not get ahead. It seems like US companies are moving in that direction as well. No degree no consideration. If you are not entrepreneurial and don’t have a degree, and want to get ahead try the fast food industry. Work hard, show up on-time, look good (clean and tidy)have a bit of smarts and the sky is the limit. I know. I’ve been there.

  • Jana Quinn says:

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

    It’s not the same thing, folks.

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

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

    I wish this could be printed on every single high school diploma. I understand the need to encourage students that going to college is a POSSIBILITY for almost anyone; “I’m not smart enough” should never be an excuse.

    However, the pendulum seems to have swung in the opposite direction with guidance counselors fast-tracking kids into college applications without considering career goals or personal values.

    Want to be a doctor? Yeah, as a potential patient, I’d really appreciate it if you went to medical school. But there are many professions for which self-teaching (which is not only less expensive but scientifically supported as more effective) is the ideal path.

    Does the absence of a degree on your resume make getting an entry-level position in your job more difficult? Absolutely. Maybe that’s a good reason to go into business for yourself.

    And yes, the Voice is largely full of shit, but he’s good to bring out once you get a bit too big for your britches. But 99% of the time, he does belong in that cellar.

    Thanks for the no bullshit approach. Coming from someone in an industry filled with empty buzzwords, it’s refreshing.


  • Michelle says:

    “Take what you have learnt and get ready to continue learning…”.

    Always being curious and ready to learn from others will stand every graduate in good steed.

  • Chris Hughes says:

    John, I went to college for 5 years and graduated with an Associates degree as well as the Bachelors degree in Business Administration with a Management concentration. I also started a business during my junior year of college. I found that the lessons I was learning by attending networking events and reading books outside of the classroom actually taught me more than my academic classes.

    However, I can understand why people would go to school and appreciate the fact that universities are pretty much brainwashing people to “work for the man”. This provides a huge opportunity for us to create businesses that allow these college graduates to “do work”.

    About 90% of my friends didn’t get the jobs they were promised after graduating. I was lucky and built my own business, although it hasn’t been easy, it has allowed me to make money without having to go back to minimum wage jobs after getting a diploma.

    I just wish more people would read more of what you share here for free on your blog. Keep it up, I LOVE learning from you.


  • Sue says:

    Bravo! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this speech and it wasn’t boring at all. In fact, it was quite a pick-me-up and highlighted many excellent points which are absolutely true to life. You just summed them up very nicely in this rather short speech which I was happy to read and learn from as well.

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