Dude, Your Fly’s Open

Wednesday, 8:47pm
Reno, NV
Et tu, Brutus?” (Caesar, goin’ down)


Let’s have a nice chat about betrayal.

Not the big kind, like Shakespeare grooved on (with people dropping like flies, slain by their best pals)…

… but rather the small kind that happens way too often in business.

As in, between you and your colleagues.

Here’s what happened to spur this line of thought: I was just in Austin (Republic of Texas) to speak at an event packed with marketers.

Now, a lot of things happened while I was down there… including a few stories full of intrigue and dramatic plot twists…

… but one little thing happened that could easily harbor the most serious consequences for anyone trying to learn something about being a savvy, successful biz owner.

Let me set the story up for you: Often, when I speak to new audiences, I like to cajole and browbeat the crowd as I put them through some exercises.

It’s all in good fun, and it’s a rare marketer who doesn’t appreciate this kind of old-school learning tactic — essentially School O’ Hard Knocks training, where you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, which wakes up your brain and makes the exercises memorable.

It’s really the only way to learn and have it stick that ever worked with a stubborn, anti-authority kinda rebel like me.

So I return the favor when I teach.  (To mitigate the verbal thrashing and jive-talk, I also like to give out bottles of beer during the interaction.  It gets folks a little more motivated to speak up… especially since I often ask for the person with the suckiest exercise answer to stand up first and take their punishment.  I also sign the bottles.  This time around, we handed out longneck bottles of Lone Star when I liked the answers, and some other dismal local brew when I didn’t.  One of the signed bottles of Lone Star later got auctioned off, hauling down $200 for charity.)  (Much higher price than any of the other bottles I’ve seen being flogged on eBay…)

Okay.  Back to betrayal.

Now, what I find fascinating during these interactive sessions…

… is how often the people who are positive their answer is pure shite, completely contemptible and unworthy…

… are actually on the right path. And just need a little honest nudge to be totally righteous.  (I’ve lost count of the folks in this category who’ve gone on to great things — all they needed was a small morsel of encouragement, and maybe a good kick in the butt to get moving.)

However… even MORE fascinating for a student of human behavior… there are also those folks in the audience who are ever-so-slightly smug in their certitude of being correct…

… even looking forward to getting an enthusiastic thumbs-up…

… who are actually waaaaaaaaaaaaay off base, and about to wander down that dark, nasty alley where businesses go to die.

The smart folks in this second category quickly shake off the shock of being told “Nope, you done screwed that up big-time, cowboy”…

… and immediately set about correcting course.

The less-smart ones resist, squirm, and double-down on their original path.  What the hell do I know about it, anyway?  I’m just a 30-year veteran with a loose truth-telling gene in my brain.

Hang with me here.  This is important.

The exercises I like to use really put the audience through their paces in the fundamentals of creating great sales messages.

No fluff.  It’s fun, brisk work… but deadly serious if you’re looking to jack your biz up a notch or two on the profit scale.

Those of you who’ve been through the Simple Writing System would recognize one of these exercises as The Barroom Conversation:  How would you actually address a stranger, face to face, in a bar where you just overheard that he has a problem that what you offer… fixes?

Basically… when you have just a second or two before the other guy either edges away, or lashes out to smack you down…

… what do you say?

The answer you give may well determine how effective you are at selling stuff for the rest of your days.  You can either head toward World-Class Land (where all them rich folk live)… or remain wandering the barren wasteland of clueless sales naifs.

More advanced students will recognize the subject of this exercise — it’s your USP.  Or, how you position yourself uniquely in your market, in order to sell.  (In a strictly real-world situation, it would be how do you present yourself, in a public place where complete strangers don’t usually chat with each other without introductions…

… in order to not freak the prospect out, and create an environment where he might be eager to hear the rest of your persuasive message.)

Now… back in Austin, there was this very nice gentleman who fell into Category Two — certain he was on-the-money with his answer to the exercise…

… when he was actually miles away, and headed in the wrong direction.

He still got a signed beer.  And I helped him see why his thinking was fuzzy — I actually had zero clue what he did, or what he was offering, based on what he gave as the answer to the exercise.

His message was vague to the point of leaving many of us with the notion he was maybe in the business of introducing executives to hookers.

After a few sputtering moments of re-explaining, though, I realized he was, instead, a serious go-between who connected biz owners with each other for joint ventures.


Sorry about the hooker thing, there, buddy.

But here’s the kicker: Several other attendees piped up, saying that they also didn’t know what the guy had been talking about during the event…

… and they had shared meals with the guy, and spent long period of times with him talking about biz.

He was stunned.

And he turned around to face the room, a tad stricken, and said “But why didn’t any of you TELL me you didn’t understand what I was saying?  I thought we were communicating just fine!”

And that, right there, is a lesson for the ages, folks.

Basically:  Who’s watching your back?

I don’t remember a whole lot of anything else from my speech at that event…

… but I remembered this particular situation very clearly.  It took all of two minutes, but it was easily the most critical lesson to be learned all day.

It’s beyond the power of networking.  This guy WAS networking.  He was connecting with folks, staying very involved, working the room.

But he made one big mistake: He trusted his own view of reality.

He took the smiles, nods and friendly banter of fellow attendees literally… believing everyone was in rapport with him, and understanding him completely.

When, actually, he may as well have been speaking gibberish.

Now, once he realized what was up, he was fine.  It was good to know now that he needed to be clearer… before he risked more money, time and will to live with his project.

But that’s standard operating procedure for helping businesses get on track.  Not having a clear message is easily the MOST common blunder marketers make.

A much nastier problem… is that part where no one will tell you when there’s a booger hanging out of your nose.  Most of your not-yet-close-friends in your network simply are not inclined to shoulder any responsibility like that.

And even your buddies often won’t tell you when your gray roots are showing.

The lesson here is… there are levels to intimacy most folks don’t understand, even in business.

Hell, maybe especially in business.

In fact, it’s kinda like the circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. Let’s see if we can’t organize it, just a bit… going from the biggest outer circle, to the intimate tiny one nearest your heart:

First, Really Big Circle: Strangers, who vary from being oblivious to you, to not caring even a tiny bit whether you live or die.  Rubber-neckers, happy to view any wreck you’re part of, but not willing to do anything to help.  At all.

Second, Pretty Big Circle: Colleagues outside your inner group of confidants.  You likely represent a means to an end to them — they regard you as someone who might be vaguely connected to future profits or ventures, or you’re a distant blip on their radar.

Third Large Circle: Colleagues at the edge of your inner group.  Name and face recognition is higher, and if you get out much to events, you may start seeing them regularly, even breaking bread or quaffing brews in the bar occasionally.  (And the bar, at marketing events, is where all good professionals know the REAL networking action happens… just FYI.)

These colleagues are on the fence about becoming closer to you, or becoming competitors, or deciding you’re not someone worthy of further engagement.  You’re still both unknowns in each other’s world.

Fourth, Gettin’ Smaller Circle: Newly minted insiders.  Still predatory, still might screw you in a biz deal… but also still might become lifelong pals.  But not yet.

Fifth, Fairly Tight Circle: Pals with whom you’ve shared some kind of adventure with. A partnership or co-venture requiring deep knowledge of each other… or some version of the classic “you don’t really know someone…

… until you’ve been with them while you’re both lost, wet, tired, and hungry” (ancient pre-wedding advice from some uncle or other).  (Hey, think about it — that’s solid advice…)

Sixth, Tiny Circle: A longtime pal you’ve had occasion to trust, and who has come through for ya.  Someone who shares the Professional’s Code: They make a habit of showing up where they said they’d be, when they said they’d be there, having done what they said they’d do.

Read that a couple of times, if it sounds strange to you.  Never judge a man by what he says he’ll do… rather, judge him by what he does.

Someone makes it into this circle when they’ve expended energy to get you into a meeting you’d otherwise never gain entrance to, or have passed along fresh gossip (before it’s ancient history), or didn’t hesitate a nano-second before recommending you to others as a go-to-guy.  They’re watching out for ya.

Count yourself lucky if you have ONE of these Sixth Circle types in your life.  You know you’re feasting on life when you have a dozen.

Seventh, And Smallest Circle Of All: A trusted road dog who would take a bullet for you.  True friend, who has had opportunities to prove his friendship and come through shining.  He not only will tell you when you’ve got egg on your mustache… he’ll defend you when you’re not around.

You never borrow money from this road dog — he’s already pressed it into your hand, before a word was said.  You don’t pay him back because of a contract — you do it because it’s the right thing to do.

And when you’re completely comfortable riding in silence for an hour together, you know you’ve hit Friendship Paydirt.  You may argue, you may even not see each other for a few years as life intervenes…

… but when you re-engage, you just pick up the conversation where you left off.

Oh, hell, I could go on… but I’m getting kinda sentimental here.  Cuz I’ve been blessed with a few of these kinds of friendships, and I won’t get to pick some of them back up until I sidle up to that big Algonquin Table In The Sky myself, to rejoin ’em.

So let’s leave the circles as seven for now. It should at least be enough to make my point (and maybe get you thinking about who you’re hanging out with).

This isn’t a comprehensive list of friendship types, by any stretch. And there ARE strangers who will help you out, altruistically, on occasion.

But the lesson today is this: You can’t assume even the colleagues closest to you will tell you when your fly’s open.

When you find that person in life — the one who pulls you aside, not the one who tries to humiliate you in front of everyone — it may not mean you’re destined to be great friends.

But I’ll tell you what — anyone who won’t be honest with you (especially when it’s kinda important, like when you’re walking around with bird shit in your hair, or you’re about to tank your biz because you’ve screwed up your USP) isn’t yet in the running to move up the circles.

Just something to think about, as your entrepreneurial adventure brings you into contact with more and more people, and the lines between friendship and colleague blur.  (And it’s something to consider the next time you’re in a position to help someone… even though you may have to be uncomfortable for a moment.  Which the vast majority of folks will avoid like the plague.)

What’s your take on the subject?  The comment section is open.

Oh… and you’ve got an eye-booger on your lash…

Stay frosty,



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  • Dana Houser says:

    Nice post John.

    I think most people don’t want to feel that awkward feeling and/or are afraid if they help you(in business) it could harm them. They may also be too self centered to give a rats ass about anyone else. Unfortunately when they’re trapped in their b.s.(belief system) it’s hard for them to see otherwise and they’ll probably never realize their true potential.

    I’m just thankful for the handful of friends I have that shoot straight with me and tell it like it is because they know that’s what I need and want to hear to get better.


    P.S. Sorry Lawton, but you missed the first post again. Must be sleeping already.

    • John Carlton says:

      Damn good point, Dana. I didn’t address the fears people have about helping others (as in “No good deed goes unpunished”) because I’d already gone down a few too many rabbit holes in this post. But yeah, that’s part of the motivation for just “minding your own biz”, even when doing so harms others.

      Oh, it’s a long, twisted tale, being a human…

  • dava says:

    A problem that I encounter, much like the guy in your story, is that I ignore that outermost circle – the biggest one. I expect everyone to care at least a little. Thanks for the reminder that it is there.

    • John Carlton says:

      We all do that, more or less. It’s overwhelming to consider how freakin’ big our “villages” have become, so we kinda deny the situation. One day, after 10 years of living at the beach in Los Angeles, I suddenly had this alarming sensation that I was buffered by 18 million folks all living inland just within the valley there. That was one of the main reasons I skedaddled to Northern Nevada, where there are more lizards than people, at least…

  • John I LOVE this blog post !!!! …. While Reading Circle #7 I had to ask myself. How many of those types of friends do I truly have? And I can honestly say I have 3 (not including 1 of my Brothers)

    And really in this day in time having 3 is PRICELESS to me

  • marcia baran says:

    are not listening. when i know this, sometimes, i will say, are you listening? that can be very interesting. or, i might say, i know you are not listening. would you like to discontinue this conversation?

  • Bob Diamond says:

    Wow! Excellent post with lots of clear insights and hard-won wisdom. In my industry (real estate info marketer) we have an active JV Community and thankfully lots of people who support one another. The challenge of late is new lead flow and for me occasionally running into a new JV partner who does not know what he/she is doing (like the one who “tested” our offer on his opt-outs!) In looking at your list I have two friends in the inner circle which I consider a blessing from God and a few at the second circle. Thank you, John for taking the time to write this clear and informative post.

  • First of all your writing is kick-ass! I need to take a course from you. I think that’s what I need for what I’m doing.

    But it is so true. People won’t tell you you ish not even if you look at them dead in the eye and ask them. Because you know what?

    People like to play it safe. And that’s why they’re living in purgatory here on Earth.

    Thanks alot John!

    • John Carlton says:

      You ALL need to take the Simple Writing Course. We’ve run veteran, already in-demand, high paid copywriters through it… and they were stunned at how much better they got, immediately.

      We’ll be unleashing a new coaching program soon which should make your little heart flutter, Goddess…

  • Our penchant for political correctness (yes, even in my adopted home state of Texas) will drag us into a muddy pit every time. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t reach out to help somebody climb out, because like as not we’ll get pulled in. John, people love to hear you beat them up because you’re good at it, entertaining, famous and correct. Not all of us have those same attributes. The older I get the more I believe we have to wait until somebody ASKS US until we let fly the comments. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. Agreed?

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Mia. That great advice — “No good deed goes unpunished” — has proven true nearly my entire life. (The best example is loaning someone money when they’re desperate… and they are oh-so-thankful right up until they’re back on their feet… whereupon they regard you as gauche and nervy by asking for your dough back.

      HOWEVER… the fact that this advice is trued has NOT diminished my habit of helping folks out one little bit. You just don’t do good deeds expecting to be rewarded — you do them, instead, because it’s the right thing to do.

      You kinda turn the universe back on itself that way. You get to do good deeds, and you never get bitter…

  • gary says:

    Great post, I just had a encounter with a friend who always wanted me to tell him “straight to his face” when he was going to try something new. So…I told him that he is missing the whole idea of what he was trying to do and it was like I took the air right out of him. He even slumped and looked shorter in no time flat. We talked heart to heart and openly and in the end we had a narrowed down his idea to what it needed to be.
    Sometimes, being the straight up guy gets you surprised too. I mean you always tell each other “yea, just tell me I can take it!” and wham they fall apart right in front of you.

  • Joe Bulger says:

    I’m gettin all misty in a buddy-movie sort of way.

    Compassionate revelation is a generous gift, even when it’s about eye-boogers…

    Joe 😀

  • Marvin says:

    WOW! That’s another dead on post ya got there.

    Makes you really stop, think and evaluate the people you’ve been hanging out with.

    That part about people who you can spend comfortable silences with, argue fiercely with, talk about absolutely anything with and not see in years and when you do, you just pick up the conversation where you left off, really pulled at the heartstrings (I’ve been blest with a good circle of friends who would take bullets for me anytime without notice).

    I guess, when it all comes down to it, a lot of people in business haven’t really gotten over their “I’m the king of the sandbox” attitude. Thus they regard others either as competitors or potential ones.

    I believe one of the greatest challenges that face entrepreneurship nowadays is embracing the concept of an actual working synergystic interaction. Kinda like the utopian idea of “together we stand, divided we fall”. Just my 2 cents.

    Great post (as always) John. 🙂

  • Even more reason to read this blog.

    I find that you always circle back to the truth in things.

    These are lessons in how people relate, how they view relationships and how they treat people. One of the best quotes I heard from a fella was “Be nice to everyone, when you can because you never know what it is hurting their soul”.

    What I take from this blog post is -define your message, be clear and appreciate the peeps who will take a bullet for you.

  • John, you fall into the first category today!

    You didn’t message me letting me know that htis was in DFRAFT mode so I could comment before it went live!

    Joking aside, man, this is true. So many times, the best people, (my parents, good friends), give me advice and steer me clear of the huge ice-burgs of life and business that want to take me down.

    Last night i had a great conversation with a guy about the warrio forum special offers, and we were thinking, “This will be a cake-walk.” And he totally turned my viewpoint around.

    Now, he didn’t HAVE to tell me any of that…but he was looking out for me.

    COOL PART: “Seventh, And Smallest Circle Of All: A trusted road dog who would take a bullet for you. True friend, who has had opportunities to prove his friendship and come through shining. He not only will tell you when you’ve got egg on your mustache… he’ll defend you when you’re not around.

    “You never borrow money from this road dog — he’s already pressed it into your hand, before a word was said. You don’t pay him back because of a contract — you do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

    Good stuff.

    Lawton “I’m always right” Chiles

  • JC-

    Pleasure to road dog for you at the Austin event. Great seminar, jammed full of cool, switched on marketers.

    Note to self : next time you get picked as chief beer-passer-outer, snag one of the signed ones for yourself.

    Looking forward to the next one.


    • John Carlton says:

      You don’t get a signed beer, Flashman, until you stand up and bare your soul in a crowd. That will be a momentous occasion, worthy of many beers.

      Thanks for road dogging for me. You did great…

  • Mike Koenigs says:

    Damn good stuff as usual, old doggie. 😉
    I just returned from a trip with a level 7 buddy.
    You’re one of them too.
    Keep it up, Johnny!

    • John Carlton says:

      Mike, you’ve consistently been a rock star at friendship… going out of your way, maintaining constant generosity, and being ever-willing to do the crap required of good friends (even when you don’t wanna do it).

      Thanks for the note…

  • Wood Railing says:

    Reading the email for this post immediately brought to mind one of my high school teachers. He said, “Your real friends are the ones who tell you the things you DON’T want to hear.”

  • Colin Chung says:

    John, this is a beautiful post.

    I got teary-eyed reading this part:

    “He not only will tell you when you’ve got egg on your mustache… he’ll defend you when you’re not around.

    You never borrow money from this road dog — he’s already pressed it into your hand, before a word was said. You don’t pay him back because of a contract — you do it because it’s the right thing to do.

    And when you’re completely comfortable riding in silence for an hour together, you know you’ve hit Friendship Paydirt. You may argue, you may even not see each other for a few years as life intervenes…

    … but when you re-engage, you just pick up the conversation where you left off.”

  • udo says:

    John, as always you are succinct and insightful. Perhaps my ramblings will some day also inspire 🙂

  • Steve says:

    I had a coworker many years ago who passed on direct info to me, we were in the finance business at the time. He comment to me was, ya know your only real problem at times is that you are to direct, you always dive right in to the heart of the problem without beating around the bush.

    It is my nature, and honestly I never overcame that idea of being politically correct, but let’s get to the bottom of the problem and solve it, why go the long way around.

    People are so fearful of getting their feeling hurt. Or hurting ones feelings.

    There is another point also, you have to choose your words carefully when you take the direct approach, but be sure you don’t cloud the issue because then you become less clear on the importance of what you may have to say.

    • John Carlton says:

      A couple of posters have brought up the “politically correct” notion here today. I don’t see being The Adult In The Room as being politically correct or incorrect — it is, rather, being That Guy who shoulders the big and little responsibilities that others shirk… like letting people know when they’ve fucked up. Regardless of consequences (like getting yelled at, or lectured on manners, or whatever).

      Thanks for the story, Steve.

  • Mark Meador says:

    Hey John, it’s a lottery isn’t it?

    If we don’t keep mixing it up with others on a constant basis we’re never even in the running to develop the types of intimacy you describe.

    And the cost of that lottery ticket? Truth-telling.

    Great post–applicable to every type of relationship.

    • John Carlton says:

      Lottery — interesting notion. But that implies it’s luck, and I don’t buy it. I’ve found friends among the unlikeliest small, weirdo groups — an open mind is all it takes to enjoy life, mostly…

  • Janice says:

    Hi John,
    Great post,as always.Problem is,in the Wide World of Internet Marketing you never know who you’re friends are,or who to trust.

    You just don’t know whats around that corner. Watchful eye, when you find that friend… hang on tight, trust is the key word here.


    • John Carlton says:

      From where I sit — at the end of a 30-year career — the Web’s got nothing to do with it. It’s humans dealing with humans, and whether it’s done digitally or in person may differ in the details, but the deal ends up the same… and is dependent on the evilness/goodness of the folks you’re dealing with. Digital vibes aren’t different than analog vibes, in other words…

  • Rosemarie says:

    Excellent post, John. Sure makes one think about how many ‘real’ friends (or co-workers) one has.

    The ‘real’ ones are hard to find. We need to appreciate them and tell them when we realize they are the gems in our life.

    Thanks for good reading.

  • carlos says:

    It’s just so right on!!! I am positive there’s a load of folks here that will contest the same, I’ve gotten a great deal of no-shit, real-life, to-the-bone business advice thanks to your posts!!!

    Thank you for sharing John


  • Paul says:

    Yeah, nice post John.

    I’ve lost my intimate circle the past few years, but I still have my Coyote chasing Dog. She still enjoys hearing my copy before posting. 🙂


  • Brundige says:

    Greetings John;

    A virtual business associate circle hierarchy in place of your rebel rant!? I view this mental illustration as a serious perspective that you’ve so graciously and skillfully passed on as a word to the wise parable, most appreciated.Who’s watching my back,this analogy has an awakening impact.
    Allow me to ponder on my true friend confirmation,’til after I’ve advanced from
    no where…to…now here,successfully. Thanks for asking,who’s your buddy, who’s your pal.=>Stay Frosty!

  • Krisztian says:

    Your post made my head spinning for a while John. A double punch I would call it. I was still thinking about not having a ‘clear message’ and then you went on the circles… Makes me think on a few levels. I guess sometimes we are in a bubble of our own reality and there is nobody around us to point out that we have to communicate a clearer more concise message to the people around us.
    Awesome post indeed.

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    As always – great post with more actionable steps than trying to learn how to dance the tango.

    Took me a while to find my USP – in fact after our call, it stuck better due to finding out about the real secret to your elevator pitch 😀 haha.

    Cheers dude,


  • James Klobasa says:


    I think I’ll print that off and stick it to the fridge!


  • StockCoach says:

    John, you and your writing a priceless.

    As I read, faces close and faces from the past popped up from here and that Sky place, as well mixed emotions, as you guessed would happen.

    Rare for one to get to circle 7 and stay there. Like one of you friends mentioned, trust, or a breach of trust can get you kicked from one circle to another, or bounced from circles of possibiity altogether.

    And, at my age, I notice more circles shrink than expand.

    Nice work, John

  • rob says:


    Dude, that was again another kick ass post…

    I’ve been guilty of my fair share of talking ‘gibbersih’….

    I was so stoked reading about the different levels (circles) there are and you know what…

    It’s so friggin true…it took me good 20 minutes to think bout…all the dudes I’ve knocked round with…

    I can honestly say the fourth or fith level is bout as far as anyone has got…

    I’m not sure if that is combindation of the times…or me and what was happin at the time of those friendships…

    Man I would L-O-V-E…nothing more to have two seventh level peeps…that to me would be best…

    Having said that…

    My three children (from previous marraige) and I are pretty close…sometimes we dont need to say much…cause we are all on the same page…

    One thing…

    I’d like to ask if I can (with upmost respect)…how many peeps have made it…into you’re level 7, John?

    Warmest regard…



    P.S. Dude…aside from the post will you be selling the ‘freelancer course’ anytime in the future…

    Here is why

    …it’s time ‘I’ bit the bullet and take my final ‘real’ lesson in how to be paid writer instead of un-paid one…

    …after trying to nut this out on my own…amount of times…I’ve tried and than regreted trying (not being paid…yahda-yahda-yahda)…

    I have to admit NOT being taught by you is costin me time & money…

    I printed out the pitch…few weeks ago…read it every night before turnin in…would like to know if you’ll accept anymore peeps?

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Rob. Freelance course is probably a month from being updated. Try to hold on til it’s been edited and tidied up. Should have a new SWS coaching program coming around soon, too.

      I’ve been lucky with friends — real lucky. But, then again, I worked hard at it, too. I count my nephews and my twin cousins (Dave and Don, who I grew up with) among them — so your kids count. I have older friends, younger friends, friends I rarely see, other friends who will drop everything and get on the road to meet up anytime we can, despite living far away.

      But you start with one good one. And just keep on keeping on, doing your best and being sensitive to new opportunities…

      • rob says:

        Thank you for sharing that with us all John I really appreicate time you take for all of us…

        I’ll for sure wait for the freelancer course…

        …it’s doing my head in not knowing how to get paid, get connected,get good…if there is any way you could email me when that is ready I’d like to be first to order!

        Thanks again for another killer post! later man…:O)

  • Scott says:

    When I moved to the Gold Coast back in 1993, a friend of my newly acquired bit of skirt offered me two weeks gardening work.

    We got on well and that turned into two and half years of working together and many a trip into the forest to collect seed of rare and threatened plants for bush regeneration projects.

    This is a man I trust implicitly when he’s holding a very sharp and very long machete in his hand swinging it wildly.

    What clinched the deal for us was when one night he was holding a party at his house. We’d only known each other a few weeks at this point.

    I was feeling endeared to the man and – having thrown back several of Australias cheapest and nastiest brews – a bit cheeky too. For some unknown to me reason I kicked out at him and copped him in the cods.

    The look on his face, the record scratching to silence, and the looming shoulders of every one of his long term friends told me I was dead man. His nick name by the way was Damage.

    I apologized. But instead of pleading for mercy I told him he had a free punch. Anywhere he liked. And I’d just take it. I really didn’t mean to hurt him.

    There were a few puzzled looks darting about the room. The silence was deafening.

    He faked a turn to walk away and then socked me one right in the left cheek which knocked me but I just took the impact and remained standing.

    I thanked him for the punch. Asked him if he felt better about things and extended my hand in friendship. The silence and confusion in the room grew to an all consuming monster. And then he relaxed. Shook my hand and shook his head in disbelief.

    Not only did we become and remain solid friends till the reaper comes to take us away, but I also earned the trust and friendship of all his mates. Who later all had my back in a couple of bar brawls we got into in the following couple of years.

    What’s more I had many very beautiful women vying for my attention that night.

    Fun times. Solid friends.

    Thanks for the memory lane trip John


    P.S. That bit of skirt didn’t stand the test of time.

  • Clarke says:

    About 8 years ago, my phone rang. An old friend needed to talk to me. He came by and explained he was living in a homeless shelter and they weren’t being nice to him because he wouldn’t kow-tow to their “religious preferences”.

    I told him to go get his stuff — he wasn’t homeless any more. When he got back I took him to an unused bedroom, opened the door, and said, “Here. This is your room.”

    I took care of him for 3 years. Cost a bunch of money I really didn’t have. He was a veteran, but the VA dropped the ball. He had a mental disorder and needed medication to manage it. Couldn’t keep a job because of it.

    Finally he got onto disability and was back on his own in his own one-room rented place.

    But one day about 2 years after this started, he told me if I hadn’t taken him in that day, he’d have been dead within a month. He also told me it’s the first time he ever felt safe in his life. He was 43 years old.

    (His mother was mentally ill and couldn’t tend her kids so he grew up in a group foster home run by a pedophile.)

    Most who knew him considered him a loser. Drinking problem. Can’t hold a job. Lost his family. But…

    Last year we were talking and he opened up. Told me some stuff he wasn’t supposed to. Totally changed my view of him. I always knew he was a special guy — just didn’t know why.

    4 years in the US Army. Came out as a private. But when he was on a mission he was a staff sargeant. Special Ops. Highly decorated for valor. But not allowed to tell anyone because what he did “didn’t happen”.

    Shortly after he was on his own, I was asked to check on another man living in a 5th-wheel camper. Severely bad shape. Took care of him for 18 months or so. Again cost a bunch of money and time.

    He’d come here to die from a city 1000 miles away. Would have been gone in 60 days or less. Had no medical care. I got him on medical care and disability. He was a very successful professional photographer until a very bad car wreck. 2 yrs in hospital. Employees took everything he had and sold it, pocketing the money.

    I met him over 4 years ago. He’s still alive.

    I found someone else has my back. I had a serious problem I couldn’t solve. I went to that Great Friend in the Sky and told him he told me to take care of these men, and I had a difficulty I couldn’t fix, so I was turning it over to Him, and I wasn’t going to worry about it any more.

    Two days later, the problem evaporated.;

    When all others fail, He’s still there and will help — provided you have done everything you know how to do and still can’t solve the problem.

    It would be inappropriate to divulge more than I already have, but my opinion of the first friend dramatically changed when he told me of some of the things he did to protect us from some very bad, very evil people. What he did would make James Bond look like a rank amateur.

    I was put there to cover his back, so I tried to do what I could. A few days ago, he said I’m like the father he never had, and the best friend he has had in his entire life.

    That’s good enough for me.


  • Emma says:

    Hi John,

    Ah, I do love when someone just says it as it is!

    It was very interesting to categorize people in to circles and realize where the people in my life fit. My google+ circles show this well!

    I can count the people in circle 7 on my fingers but they are the people that really push me to become better!

    Sometimes the truth is hard but I can’t see how there is another option?!! Be the change.

    Emma 🙂

  • Jeff Moreau says:

    Hi John, Great post as usual.
    I do think that like your classifications, stages in people.
    Meaning the types of.
    Your best pal or buddy and so on.
    The farther that you get out of any closeness. The less likely I think that they would be of coming out and telling you how you have this story titled.
    Unless of course you are the outgoing type and just don’t care who you talk to and about what.

  • Aviva says:

    There is just so many minds and hearts one can feed. I like to take care of what I love and try to love whatever I have to take care of. Otherwise for further information they will have to consult GOD. I am not Mother Theresa. So if my peeps are not in the first few rows of my life auditorium I use the Socratic method and ask them to zoom out and notice themselves and use their own introspection. Sometimes I will use humor. But just because someone asks doesn’t mean they get. They have to earn it as in any relationship. Bridges between perspectives are hard work but worth it in a long term relationship. Hit and run relationships like the kind at mixers don’t deserve the depth. They deserve honesty, respect and attention but not gold.By the same token, being snarky, playing devils advocate or aspiring to be Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino has become chi chi. It shifts the attention to the method of the communication rather than the content, and the person who needs direction gets lost in the shuffle.Treating everyone with the Golden Rule, does not necessarily mean giving them the Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka.

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Thanks for a great post, John — it’s a good idea to think of “how close” you really are to colleagues and friends, like you’ve done. Sort of how we categorize customers by relative value/engagement level (and customers who become friends, which are always nice, and valued).

    Some of us are at heart, loners and misfits in corporate world/soccer mom/dad arenas, with few if any friends (other than immediate family), by choice, which lends itself well to the internet life. Books, and rare, valued colleagues can take up ones’ circle of friends.

    You’ve touched on that in your earlier writings, about how many of us, internet entrepreneurs (and writer-types), are a lot different (with both good and bad sides to that) than typical average 9-to-5ers. Which makes the few level 6/7 colleagues & friends especially important, moreso later in life.

    That’s interesting, to think about the role of friends for us isolated marketers, establishing trust at a distance (networking at industry events or during jv launches works a bit, but it’s not the same as having a friend down the street you can go hang out with, as in early life). Another thought-provoking post – thanks as always.


  • I guess I’m hanging with the wrong people. My friends wouldn’t tell me about my fly being open. They would take vids with their cell phones and post them up on youtube in about 15 seconds and then tell me “my fly was open”.

    Great post John!

    Mad Guy

  • John, you nailed it in this post. I wrote one back in January on the subject. I call it “The Spinach Test,” though the ol’ unzipped fly illustrates the point just as well. Back in high school, I decided to leave my fly down just to see who I could count on to shoot straight with me. Thankfully, my naivete didn’t get the best of me, and I wasn’t cited for exposing myself in public. But the true test, as you mentioned, is riding in silence—and not even being able to remember when you stopped talking because the silence is so comfortable. Most people who say “Be honest,” really don’t want your honesty. You don’t have to say that to a true friend and trusted advisor because he would respect you enough to be honest where you wanted honesty or not. He would have that kind of character. There’s a word that isn’t used as often these days. Surround yourself with people of character, and you’ll protect your business.

  • Sue Portman says:

    Very timely to read this today John!

    Partly as a result of going through your Simple Writing System course I do find myself spotting and commenting on the weaknesses in people’s business marketing strategies.

    Often the biggest criticism is that they don’t have one….

    And right now I’m at a point where I could fall out with a long-standing friend if she doesn’t like the fact I’m telling her that there is, as you say, a booger on the nose of her business.

    But I have to tell her or she’s going to end up in deeper trouble than she already is. I could walk away, stay pals and offer comfort and solace when it all goes pop, or I can front up, tell her the truth and help her get it back on track.

    Frankly, I don’t know how she’s going to react, and I might get chucked out of circle 7, all the way back to beyond Circle 1! But if that happens it tells me something about the true state of our friendship, and I’ll just have to swallow it.

    It is a scary place to be – about to deliver a difficult message – not just that your fly is undone, but actually, you forgot to put pants on this morning…. but I’m gonna do it with love and best intentions, so hopefully the message will be received in the spirit it’s intended.

    That’s me unburdened for the day!

    Sue 🙂

  • mark says:

    most people who listen to people who are cash flush forever and who can help their biz, and say they’ll do what’s needed to succeed.won’t do shit.

  • Len Bailey says:

    Outstanding post, John. This one goes up on the wall.



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