The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life, Re-Redux

Tuesday, 1:31pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)


First off… do not be alarmed if the design of the blog seems to be morphing — the programmer is fussing with the new design in real-time. We’ll get it all sorted out very soon.

Second… I’m re-publishing — for what has become a tradition on this blog — a portion of one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…

… but that tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

So, even if you’ve read this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2012, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…

… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits. I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis.  It’s timeless, classic stuff that will never let you down.

So let’s dive in. Here’s the relevant part of the post (slightly edited):

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

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

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

Or should be.

It’s all in the telling.

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

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

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

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

The depths of winter and discontent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That shit can wear you down.

Now, I have two things to say about this:

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

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

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

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

And what you’re going through is not abnormal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you’re one of ‘em.

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

The guys in lab coats who study this stuff say that heart disease rates are HALF for optimists over pessimists. So, even if you doubt the ability to measure “happiness” — and it is a rather rocky science — you still can’t deny the stats on dropping dead from a gloomy ticker.

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

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

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

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

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

How does that work? Easy.

We expected horrible atrocities at every turn… and rejoiced when we defied Fate and unreasonable success rained down on our undeserving heads.

We grooved on the good stuff in life… and just nodded sagely at the bad stuff and moved past it as quickly as possible. Maybe cop a lesson or two as we scurried by.

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

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

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

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

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

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

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

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

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

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

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

Or “get rich”.

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

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

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

And my question to them is: What reputation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a huge deal-killer.

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

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

Money, as they say, talks.

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

You can’t bank criticism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need a plan.

You need goals.

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

It was a wake-up call for me.

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

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

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

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

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

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

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

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

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

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

Half of that would suffice just fine.

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

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

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

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

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

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

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

Tough choice?

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

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

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

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

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

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2011, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2012.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, I still had my best year ever.

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

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

Now, it’s on power-glide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have enormous control over your future.

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

Stay frosty,


P.S. For those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to re-release my transformational classic course on how to become a successful freelance copywriter (“The Freelance Course”)…

… I can happily report that all updates have been completed, and the little beast is off to the fulfillment house to be printed and packaged up.

The bonuses I’ve wedged into this new edition will absolutely blow your mind. Ten of the most respected, notoriously-successful, and sought-after freelance copywriters on the planet contributed to a bulging bonus report on how the good writers are scoring big jobs and moving ahead with their careers at lightning speed. Right now, in this economy.

It’s like having the top writers in the game sit down with you, and share their tested, proven and still-working best secrets on becoming successful, and growing more successful each year.

Plus, I’ve slashed the price of the course. I’m just in that kind of a mood.

You’ll get the whole story in just a short time from today, when I lay out the deal.

Meanwhile, get busy with your January 15th letter.

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

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

  • Sweeney says:

    And you took your time off from relaxing to cook something up.. much appreciated.

    Very excited for the 15th..

    I used to do something similar in the past.. by writing future emails to myself..

    For example:

  • David says:

    Amazing read my friend.. I am a HUGE advocate of “mastering the mind” and controlling everything from pain to emotion. Yet it will take lifetimes to master the mind.. You’ve got to work on it daily.

    Being in the martial arts helped me a lot… and I’ve noticed that successful people “get it” in general although it may be expressed in different ways.

    This resonates with me… Thanks John, Will share

  • Shawn Lebrun says:

    Jesus Christ John, just when I find myself in one of my slumps… where it seems it’s all for naught and I’m just going through the motions, I get one of your emails that brings me over to your blog.

    And what I read literally feels like you’re writing it FOR ME, right at that moment when I need it most.

    It’s like you’re sitting across from me, grabbing me by the shoulders, and shaking out all the shit that’s clogging my thoughts.

    John, just realize that your writings help me more than most PEOPLE in my life. The fact you share this stuff with us is a gift in itself and I want to say Thank you for doing so.


  • Bernie says:

    I agree with you 100%. I am moving ahead with my internet marketing goals. One thing I learned early in life is that most people do not want you to do better than them. Why? because when you take an honest and objective look at them…they are not capable of jack s**t. Misery loves company.

    My favorite 2 quotes:

    All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

    An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.

    Anatole France

    • John Carlton says:

      Anatole… that’s the guy they named the country France after, right?

      Kidding, I’m kidding. I love rediscovering great quotes like this. Thanks — they’re right on.

  • butch says:

    Thanks John,

    Great information, we all need that year end reminder.

  • John,

    Thanks for this post. I am going to write down my goals for this year, print them out, and put them in with the cash in my wallet because this advice is money in the bank!


  • Ann says:

    Ditto Shawn’s comment.
    Eyes wide open.
    Pen in hand.
    “Gonna sit right down and write myself a letter.”
    Kudos & Bravo.

  • alan little says:

    One of my older (and wiser) friends says about making decisions, “Go towards the roar”. Another who’s orbited the block more than most has the credo “If it doesn’t scare the s__t out of me I won’t even consider it”.

    I love those guys. Thanks for the reminder.

    Here’s to a really scary (in a good way) 2012!

    • John Carlton says:

      I love that: “Go towards the roar.” As stupid young bodysurfers, we loved arriving at the beach when the red Warning flags were up. That meant the riptides were bad, the waves big and punishing, and the day’s fun magnified by a factor of ten. The rarified air of accomplishment is heady stuff, and requires a very solid relationship with your fears.

  • Tanya Smith says:

    Good one John. Someone asked me what my New Year’s Resolutions were, and I told them I don’t make them – they looked shocked!! I said that I DO however make a commitment to myself to consistently take certain actions toward a hairy audacious goal, and to make sure I enjoy the journey on the way to that goal 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Resolutions are like a social game, with no consequences, no support, no seriousness about them at all. If you’re gonna quit smoking, stub out that last one, toss the pack, and stop. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, your body will get all pissed off (for about a week). (I successfully quit this way — your “jonesing” period, physically, is around 7 days. After that, your “need” for nicotine is gone… and you’re left dealing with your HABIT, not any chemical addiction.) You deal with habit the same way you deal with fear: You acknowledge it, lock it away (as many times as it sneaks out) in an inner closet, and move forward.

      It’s the same with every important goal you have. Really, really, really wanting it won’t do shit for getting it accomplished. You need a plan, both to attain the goal and to stay upright on the rocky path you gotta take to get there. Plans give you tools. Affirmations are, at best, like warming up on the treadmill before the “real” workout.

      Thanks for the post, Tanya.

  • mikethethaiguy says:

    Hey John,
    how is it that you write this good stuff exactly at the time I need to read it?

    Thanks for your excellent timing.


  • Janice says:

    Goals are very important and can be life changing for your bisness. I write mine down, hang it on the wall in my office so I can see it every day.

  • Ken Steven says:

    You hit a home run with this one John. It makes a lot of sense that “pulling” yourself toward your goals should be easier than trying to “push” yourself there. I’m definitely going to give this a try on January 15.

    I’m also thinking, after writing that letter on January 15, it would make good sense to do a little “reverse engineering” on it … to look backwards and write down all the things that would need to be in place for that January 15 outcome to occur … then what would need to be in place before that could happen, and so on right back to the present. The result would be the most direct path to your desired outcome, without the risk of detours which are sure to occur using the traditional “push” method.

    Thanks for sharing this John. I wish you all the best for 2012.

    • John Carlton says:

      That is some seriously good advice, Ken. I left it implied (and not specific) that putting your goals into action would include the tactics I write about (a lot) elsewhere in this blog on goals and goal-setting. (Specifically, our first Action Seminar had a sizzling section on crafting your goals in ways that ensure they get acted on and accomplished.) Thanks for the note.

  • Roger says:

    I will send my first assignment to AWAI,
    5th of January,2012.

  • Andrew Foss says:

    Just started my January 15th 2013 letter and I am jacked with all the stuff I have done this year. Now back to dreamscaping. Thanks John!

    Andrew Foss
    Wyomissing, PA

  • John, I didn’t think you could out-do yourself in the service of others – you’ve done it big time with this article.

    The value of this writing is priceless.

    The impact potential is, and i’m guessing has been, about getting your arms around the one issue that incapacitates most, draining energy, all levels of energy – and the one problem that is usually kept secret in a mood of dreadful suffering and shame.

    Great work, guy – I love ya, man.


    • John Carlton says:

      This blog has always been my “pay back” to the entrepreneurial world that saved my life. Back in the dark, scary days when I couldn’t even say I had a “career” yet, I vowed that if I made it… I would devote mucho time to sharing what I’ve learned with others. Cuz it was a drag not having any guidance, no peers to share discoveries with, no help at all in any way, shape or form. It’s different now, of course — the joint is loaded with books and courses and coaches, all bristling with advice for newbies. Some good, some not so good. So I need to hang around to make sure the lessons that actually worked in my career keep getting shared.

  • Lesley says:

    I always enjoy reading your posts John, thank you.

    I learned a lot and earned a little in 2011. I can feel it all coming together in 2012.

    I’ll sit down and write that letter to myself on January 15th. I just scheduled it on my calendar.

    Here’s to a wonderful New Year!

  • Ryan says:

    Tulsa, Ok (76th and Yale Ave.)
    Wednesday 2:51 pm

    I’m going to try your method and let my goals “pull me along” throughout the year. Very very nice article, John. I recently quit smoking (after 20 years)…using Chantix…and I felt like Gary did in his “Go Ask Alice!” letter….It was a bitch and imo, it takes a real commitment to actually quit. When I realized I’d finally made cigarettes my bitch…I was wore out mentally, physically, emotionally….and yet it felt sooo damn good because it was right then that I realized I had nothing but recovery and upside in front of me.

    No more being in an airport and getting pissed off hearing that stupid recording that comes on every 15 minutes saying that “this is a non smoking airport, blah, blah, blah”….

  • Paul says:

    All I can say is you have no idea how helpful this is in my life right now. Not the goal setting stuff, but a few points early in the piece.

    I’m going through some stuff and I just wanted to say thanks. Funny how just at the right time the right thing shows up in your inbox.


  • Auckland, New Zealand.

    Yes, your heartbeat can be heard that far away John.

    Maybe it was the late night last night, but the devil of negativity had slipped into my house this morning as I looked at my internet work.

    I’m building a blog about writing bestseller novels. I’ve had a huge bestseller myself, so I know what I’m doing, but somehow the task felt distinctly like stepping onto the lower slopes of Mount Everest, without any motivation to start climbing.

    But, back on track now thanks to your extraordinary post. It’s all about confidence and having faith in oneself. The mountain is now looking like a slight rise in the highway.

    Heck, I might even write a Jan 15th letter. Jeeez, why wait until the 15th. I’m doing it today.

    John you’re a tonic. Thank you.


    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Jonathan. Do you have any insight to the publishing side for novels now? The publishing world is in chaos, and all the digital options just scream out for self-publication. I’m talking to the top wizards in marketing about all this, and everything is happening so fast, it’s baffling.

      Lemme know if you’re sharing good, current info on publishing stateside anywhere… I know a lot of marketers who are interested (both for non-fiction and for fiction)…

      • Hi John

        OK mon brave. I’ll let you know when my author blog goes live. It’s specifically designed to help aspiring fiction authors succeed. I’ve had a #1 international bestseller a while back. Been there, done that, bought the T Shirt.

        But what would probably be more useful to you right now is to know that the publishing world is not as chaotic as it seems – even if your marketing buds say it is. The ebook tsunami is here trampling everything is sight, but even so this is not necessarily the time to trash the big 6 in New York either. (There are compelling reasons for this.) Maybe we can Skype and I’ll give you the low down – as far as I know it if that would help. I’ll check back here in a day or so.

        All the best


  • “Goals need to be specific… and they need to involve profound change in order to take hold.”

    Bingo! This is the part that has escaped me for so many years. It has always been about “What I want” rather than “Who I must become”. Thanks for digging this out, and “re-purposing” it. Yes indeed, I am off to send myself a letter!

    Michael Brown
    (Soon to be Oak Creek CO.)

  • Len says:

    Read every word…great stuff, John. Thanks for taking the time (and angst!) to put it to paper and now to share it again. Awesome!

  • Very timely, as always, John.

    Completely reinventing my business in 2012. This certainly was a nudge in the right direction. Thanks.

  • Aviva says:

    I love the push/pull, yin/yang description of goal accomplishment. I, myself, would like to add to my own post dated letter the idea of what I am going to let go of to make room for that action, movement and experience I so desire. Void is needed for miracles to drop into the space.
    For example, I wanted that piece of pumpkin pie this holiday, and I wanted it badly. But I was just so full from the big Thanksgiving feast, there was just no possible way to digest it. I just couldn’t eat it. Had I let something else go to make space for the pie, I would be smiling. So often we just want to acquire, accumulate and experience big, better and best. Making a place of void allows something to happen that never even was a thought or idea, but ends up being a delight.As long as you are adding, make sure you include what you are letting go.
    Life is just a game of tug o’ war. You gotta know when to let go of the rope.

  • David M. O'Neill says:


    Thanks for reminding me that, although I know there’s a pony in here somewhere, choosing the type of pony I want and planning a way to attack this pile should improve the outcome. Now where’s that shovel…

    I also like your scheme for goal setting, writing my “future perfect” as if “pluperfect”. I have always thought that writing one’s own obituary gives life Zen like clarity.



  • Ivan Zitek says:

    Hey,John,I love your post some years ago I have meet Frank Tibolt a great friend ,and author of my favorite book “A Touch of Greatness” and he have shared this idea for over 50 years,thousands of lives were changed with this simple but proven idea.
    His book is basiacally 12 lesson self-improvment course and in book first lesson titled $25,000 Lesson he is talking about this amazingly simple,proven,powerful stuff writing things down.My friend Jordan A. used it,and become a millionaire,another friend former cop,Sunil T.used it and become millionaire,I know many more who used this $25,000 Lesson and have changed their lives.You are right this stuff works,if you JUST DO IT!

  • David Sharp says:

    Classic post John, I was a bit short of time when I started reading but you pulled me in at the top and kept pulling me all the way to the end.

    Thank you for a great blog post and lesson.

  • John,

    Great insight like always. I do think it’s important to have the awareness that change in your life isn’t specifically bad or good… but it’s necessary to continue to grow.

    Remember… be a servant,

    Cory Boatright

  • great idea John but in my opinon you could have written this in one, max two sentences.
    Personally I never read long sales letters. They are like vomit on a page. As Twain once said, I’m writing a long letter because I don’t have time to write a short one.” Why not respect your reader’s time more and trim things down to one or two gold nuggets without 3 tons of digging to get them?

    • John Carlton says:

      Don’t let the door hit you in the butt as you leave, Jenna. I never claimed to be everybody’s cup of tea, and if you need your revelations conveniently bundled in bite-sized packages, you’ll need to search elsewhere. And good luck to ya…

  • Stephen Bray says:

    I think ‘living life as a realist’. is the most exciting, and invigorating way to live.

    Thank’s for going an extra mile on this one.

    It will pay off, of course. But that’s not why you wrote it.

    So many get that bit wrong. You consistently show us the way.

  • john lloyd says:

    Inspiring to say the least John. My letter will be written on the 15th. Thanks.

  • Josh says:

    John, you were right, you are a great story teller! This has been crafted amazingly well to fit my life. I can see a more clearer future now because, I am more focused on the journey towards a goal now, and the realization of it.

    Also I would like to add, breaking your goal down into things you can do daily is a very important goal-setting technique that people often miss, but can reap great rewards if done correctly.

    I wish all of you (including you John…) A Happy New Year!


    – Josh

  • Sean says:

    Thanks John
    I got a hold of Joe Karbo’s book a few months ago (on your recommendation from your freelance course) and have been “stating my goals” at least twice daily since. I’ll write the January 15th letter, sounds like a great idea.
    A few months in and the ideas of how to hit these goals are starting to appear. The main thing now is to put them into action, but also vital is to continue to believe that this works. When the results seem slow the doubt starts tapping on door, like the prancing pale face child catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. That when it gets tough, and thats when a post like yours makes pulls me out of the danger zone. Keepin on, keepin on. Thanks John

  • Wally says:

    Quite an inspiration post to say the least.I have been wall to wall with with every void head guru on the Internet trying to start a income generating idea for the past two years.Needless to say it is easier to lick Jello from my forehead. Lots of worthless ideas worth a lot of money to these sleazey bastards.Your words are like magic on paper would love to learn more of your craft that you have perfected. from a small stick of wood in a huge pile. Wally

  • Charles says:

    I will write mine on the 29th of January 2012.

    Simply great.

    Most articles one reads simply rehash what we’ve read already and what we mostly already know.

    This stuff is like a major version update to the stuff I knew to be progressive and leading edge.

    I think most people in this business IM, blogging, etc are open to the importance of mind conditioning etc.

    But it is rare to get such a new perspective.

    You have successfully ruined my plans for the day.

    Thank you.

  • Vern J. Herr says:

    Right message to the right person on the right day. Carlton, thanks for the insight, the kick in the pants and the recognition I’ve been giving myself way too many excuses.

    Very helpful thinking for dealing with the next chapters of my life. Know how much it was appreciated.

    Lotta synchronicity going on. You seem to be part of it.

    Merci beaucoups

  • Orestes says:

    Thanks John for another terrific post and like I always very proud say this is simply the best blog in the world.There´s not other place where you find the wisdom and knowledge that you so heartily share with us..thanks also for being faithful to your vow on that and thanks for inspiring and changing many lives for good.

    Wish you a great and blessed deserve it!

    Stay frosty

  • So I’m reading J.C.’s newest (old) post and I get to the graph that mentions making the coming year “your bitch.” Just then the GF appears over my shoulder and happens to read that very sentence. With zero warning I get whacked upside the head … hard.

    She proceeds to make the argument that taking control of someone or something should be called “making them/it your bastard,” since it’s usually men who try to control things and people.

    As my eyes uncrossed and the ringing in my ear subsided, I had to admit she had a point.

    She then regaled me of her opinion on why women don’t need resolutions or similar artifice to get stuff done. The idea being that women naturally possess the ability to identify, prioritize, and then execute plans or projects. They have to – otherwise nothing in this world would ever get done.

    She used the analogy of war, saying men avoid and procrastinate doing anything about anything until it’s almost too late. Then they get pissed. Then they start fighting.

    Or they start drinking first. And then they get to the fighting.

    Got to admit, she had a point. I mean I’d only the other day used the rationale that shoveling the snow out front was a waste of time since it would be June before we knew it.

    So, are women better at time management and goal setting? Do they really accomplish more than the dudes?

    Not to hijack the thread, John … but she made me ask this. And I really don’t want to get hit again.

    Oh … and great post, you old hippie.

    • John Carlton says:

      She sounds like a piece of work. As is the beautiful, smarter-than-me woman I’ve lived with for the past decade. Mounting an argument with them is futile, because even if you “win”, you lose. (Men understand this.) (And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I need “feisty” in my life.)

      I’m fine with making the year your bastard, not bitch. I considered editing out that word, in the first place. It wasn’t in the original post. But the word just works so well doing that little job in that little paragraph. Like the first time I used “fuck” in a post (oh, the firestorm of comment on that), I didn’t tie myself in knots… I considered the consequences, liked the idea of pushing just a little too hard with readers (to keep them, and me, on our toes)… and went for it.

      Tell your GF I’m a feminist. I really am — back in college, I entered as a Neanderthal old-school chauvinist pig… and by the middle of the second semester, realized the smart, sexually voracious girls (excuse, me, I mean women) were all blowing their own minds along with Gloria Steinem — it was a Brave New World unleashing the full mojo of women (who’d been padlocked down for generations, and who were itching to take on the Power Structure), and once I cleared my brain of all that male-centered bullshit, I was all for the revolution. (Great HBO documentary on Gloria, btw, is playing this month.)

      I’ve gone out of my way for decades to help women entrepreneurs and copywriters battle their special demons and grab what’s theirs. I don’t claim to “understand” women any more than I understand myself (and I’m a murky bastard, deep inside, roiling with complexity and bafflement)… but I know from long experience that the world remains a hostile place for everyone. And I understand THAT battle very, very well.

      So, them’s my credentials. Now, my answer: She’s full of shit. Women actually are bigger suckers for the con games played by self-esteem experts (including diet products). (Men are bigger suckers for other markets — this isn’t a sexist realization.) Women fueled the rise of The Secret bullshit, which lacks the one essential of good goal achievement: Action. Both sexes shy away from change and action, of course… but women latch onto ethereal answers (like, being rewarded for really, really, really wanting some outcome) more quickly.

      This post isn’t aimed at women. It comes from my own discoveries in goal setting — if what I share fits, fine, then use it. If it doesn’t fit… well, fine, too. But don’t think the advice doesn’t fit because you’re “different”. It probably doesn’t “fit” because your head is still too full of psycho-babble and fear of either change or success. (Fear of success ruins just as many people’s lives as fear of change does.)

      I’m not saying your GF is a bad person, of course. I applaud her smacking you upside the head and having this discussion.

      But her points are bullshit. Women are LOSING hard-won rights and privileges today — there are less females in Congress than 10 years ago, for example. This sucks. Times are tough right now, and that means every belief system is coming under intense fire… and people who know that achievement is possible with a goal and a plan are increasingly seen as outsiders. Too many folks believe tough times are an excuse to slack off and “accept” your position in life. To which I say: Fine. Slack off, and be happy with your lot in life.

      I’ll keep chugging away at growth and change, and we’ll match up lives later on to see who’s right. (Hint: Losers lose.)

      Achievement isn’t a gender issue. MOST people of both sexes recoil at change and growth (REAL growth, not the phony shit that comes from following spiritually-shallow fads).

      We NEED to continue having this kind of discussion, over and over again. Younger women seem to be conflicted over what the early feminists achieved (or didn’t achieve), and — as you have experienced here with your GF — fallen back into bullshit stereotypical behavior (“Girls Rule, Boys Drool”) that helps no one, and continues the kind of gender warfare that The Man loves (because it keeps people off his back).

      Your GF’s argument falls apart immediately, because she lumps all men together with the Neanderthals she despises. That’s dumb. Easy to win arguments in the bedroom doing that, but it doesn’t stand up to rigorous debate.

      Still, she sounds feisty and wonderful. Try to keep up your end of the relationship, will ya? You may be boring her already…

      • Cezary says:

        John, that was incredible.

        I was absolutely blown away by that reply. So true, so inspiring. Opened up a new world, even if I agreed completely.

        Freakin’ amazing… still rereading it…

      • You bring up some great ideas and thoughts here, buddy boy. I’m just not sure I want to show my nearly 54-year-old GF your response quite yet. Only a full-tilt-bozo idiot gets hit in the head twice in one day.

        Oh … and they hate it when you round their age out to their next birthday. Ask me how I know.

        She certainly thinks she’s pushing the feminist agenda forward by shoving us penis owners down the ladder. I recently pointed out that if we men get knocked down the ladder a few rungs, we get to look up their skirts.

        I suspect retorts like that fuel her rush to violence.

        Your comments will undoubtedly spark intense discussion between us. Intense as in: Mikey Tyson and Evander Holyfield’s ear intense.

        Just not now … my gourd can only absorb the damage from the Gilbey’s today.

        And yes, she’s feisty. Churlish as they come. And most often right about most things.

        I suspect the main reason our union works is because I perform the Neanderthalian tasks required of me to her seeming satisfaction. It’s certainly not because we agree on how “things” work in this world.

        But I’ll tell you what, I’m sure as Hades going to show this to my twenty and thirty-something nieces … both the original post and your reader’s responses.

        Maybe save them young women folk the pain of swollen hands from whacking their own boyfriends and husbands upside their squashes.

        • Ouch. (Truth hurts)

          “… She used the analogy of war, saying men avoid and procrastinate doing anything about anything until it’s almost too late. Then they get pissed. Then they start fighting.

  • Cezary says:

    You flawlessly pulled together the juicy bits from a myriad of “life improvement” disciplines.

    Happiness as a choice, attitude, focus, reframing, “true” spirituality, fear of criticism, being “fair” by enjoying the good things, “seek and you shall find”. I could go on for ages.

    Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich” becomes even more monumental with every reference.

    The year I turned 30 (…) I lost my job, my girlfriend and my place to live all within a 45-day stretch.

    Had the “gun to my head” since I was 16. The last few years – at my own choice. I’d keep my get-savy-to-survive “warzone” to a but-ugly “normal” life, any day. Personal growth is an addiction, once the resilience finally kicks in.

    Being the “wisdom junkie” I am, I still got massive value today.

    Not from the cool “pull” retrospection from the future, dated on January “in-your-face” new-year-resolution-cut-off-day, the 15th. Not from the stories, goal setting, great reminders or any of the gold nuggets you left up for grabs.

    But from the assurance of being on the right track.

    Omnipresent knowledge (including that which you generously share yourself) has only raised the bar for today’s achievers. Trying to learn more is like attempting to breathe water before evolving gills.

    I’m well armed already. Except for one fundamental piece I was missing up to now:

    “believe and succeed”

    Thanks, John.

  • Ed Matechuk says:

    Hey John, great post, It reminds me of some of the New Years resolutions that sort of fell through the cracks in the weeks that followed.

    But now, here is another opportunity – to right the ship -with more wisdom.

    Have a great Year and all the best.

  • NEVER in my life have I been more clear as to exactly what I need to do to achieve my goals for next year.

    Thanks John!

  • Planning ahead is really a good idea but in my case not like a year. But I had to plan like 2-4 months ahead. Because there might be some unexpected events which I can just adjust right away depending on the schedule.

  • Jon Mills says:

    Love it John, Keep it frosty bro

  • John,

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this – it is EXACTLY what I needed to read.

    I’ve been feeling pretty resigned in recent days – far too often.

    Then came your blog post – on my Facebook newsfeed. I sent it to myself so I wouldn’t forget to read it.

    And tonight, as I lay awake feeling crap about my professional future, I decided to get up and read it.

    It’s now 4:46am as I type this message, and I feel a renewed sense of hope.

    In days gone by I set goals this way, but I stopped in recent years while I was just trying to survive getting kicked in the teeth repeatedly by my main “income-earning” business. Needless to say, the fact that I’ve been just trying to survive is connected to the fact that I stopped setting goals this way.

    In the past 2 years I launched two large, expensive, and mega time-consuming marketing initiatives to try to change the game in my business. Both failed. In fact, 2011 was my worst year on record financially. I cut my salary in half, sold my house and moved my family into a rental house for now, and STILL my business lost money. Discouraging, for sure. Bit it won’t kill me.

    What’s funny is I’ve been thinking more and more about writing that kind of a letter/goal-setting document in recent days, but because I’ve been feeling so shitty about the future lately, I was not at all in the frame of mind to write it.

    Now, I am.

    I used to write these by Dec 31 and date them for Dec 31 the following year, but I like the Jan 15 thing. It gives a bit of buffer time and leaves year-end free for just chilling after a busy year.

    I will write that letter – and ask my wife to write one for herself too.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


  • […] P.S. If you’d like to read the original post from John, you can check it out HERE […]

  • Rob says:

    From; RJ
    250 meters from sunny
    Glenelg beach 5045

    Dear JC

    I want to express my heart felt appreciation
    For all pearls of wisdom and insight you leave
    In every post

    For me personally I’m beginning to see things
    In life with much greater clarity since reading your rant.

    For me it’s chance to purge all the bullshit that
    Has been forced into me by the education system and lovable looser family members…

    Which reminds me of Garys speech about where he talks about carbonated bullshit…I won’t want to ruin his speech about that here.

    That speech rings in my head each time I finish
    Reading your rant…my head to degree feels
    Lighter for the experience…

    So much appreciated dude.

    This new rant retuned my head and found the
    Reset button for few things that had been
    Curdling inside my skull.

    On behalf of all of us who stalk this site for every ounce of wisdom and life advice it would
    Be remiss of me not to say…

    A big fat THANK YOU.

    Most of us would not be as clear minded or as
    Focused as we all are from reading the rant…

    For me it’s what I need and something I crave
    For in the sense for the priceless lessons
    Left here for us to soak up.

    And sure!

    Your dead right bout all of what you do say…being 36 it’s like I’m peering forward into
    Mindset of a martial arts grand master.

    Than being able to step back into my mindset and make adjustments as I go which is priceless

    Sorry if me hounding you about freelancer has given you the shits as all…

    Your information is that valuable to me I would have walked across the cheewawa desert barefoot…

    I know from other info products I’ve got of yours that content is rich and solid…so I hope there is no I’ll feeling bout me invading your electronic real estate…

    All the best for 2012…

    I eagerly look forward to reading many more rants…and gettin a copy of freelancer course all the best mate

    Later big dog!


  • […] P.S. If you’d like to read the original post from John, you can check it out HERE […]

  • John, these are not just awesome points about life but also business. Thanks for sharing a fantastic way to work with goals.

  • Dana Houser says:

    I think you’ve hacked my brain too. Because as I sit here at home drinking a Bushmill/Bailey’s with a little Coke for fizz on this New Year’s Eve, I’m wondering when/if the shit storm is ever going to stop.

    As I realize it may never stop, I decided to read your latest post and you arm me with an arsenal to learn how to weather it and keep busting through it. To top it off, you announce that your re-releasing your Freelance Course. Then it dawns on me this may be EXACTLY what I need to get my copywriting career launched because it’s been a bi-otch so far.

    Now with a little more optimism about 2012, I’m going to pour another Bushmill/Bailey’s with a little Coke for fizz and dream about how I am going to make 2012 my best year ever. Then I’m going to craft my Jan. 15 letter.


  • Gary Bloomer says:

    Dear John, January 1, 2012

    I’m a Brit, living here in these United States now for nearly 13 years. I’ve read a lot of stuff over the last two decades but this was a doozey. A big one. Perhaps THE biggest. As such, it’s taken a few days to absorb.

    Time’s been required to cogitate. Rumination too. You know the drill. I printed this puppy out—I felt it needed that kind of reverence.

    As supper cooked, and as my beloved drove back from Manhattan, I sat at the kitchen table under the stark, white light (for clarity and all), I did a LOT of thinking and I made some serious notes: mental and written.

    With this one post you helped bang a lot of nails solidly into the coffin lid of my past. You then helped me lower the box into the ground, handed me the shovel, and pointed at the dirt pile while nodding sagely, then you helped me thud dirt down unto the hole that’s been my 2011.

    There’s quite a mound now, in my head, now that that hole’s been filled in. And there’s also a neatly written marker with today’s date on it, tamped down, just so, resting there in the soft brown till, as if to proclaim enough—as if to say the king is dead—long live the king.

    And lo, having never met me, indeed, without knowing anything about me, you did more than just help me do something I’ve longed to do for some time; you did more than just help me lay to rest my dear, departed past. How you knew, I’ve no clue: let’s just call it a deal from the cards of fate. What I DO know is that you didn’t just help. You set me free.

    Up until I saw a video by some surfer dude called Frank Kern playing a lap steel guitar, I had no idea who this guy John Carlton was. But you’ve taught me a lot. Specifically: Tell people what you’ve got, tell them what it’ll do for them, and tell them what to do next. HUGE.

    This post struck such a mighty chord that’s STILL reverberating and probably will be for the rest of 2012. When we want the fruit to fall we’ve GOT to shake the tree. Sound’s pretty obvious, right? To get goat’s cheese, go milk the goat.

    Ever done that? Milk a goat? I have: damn hard work until you get the knack of it—much like copywriting. But MAN ALIVE!, Fresh milk, directly from the goat, strained only through muslin and then chilled? There’s nothing like it, John, NOTHING—much like writing a kick ass ad. Much like envisioning a big fat goal and then carving its ass out of the mountain side of possibility and hauling its nuts down the hill of action into the steely light of day.

    I’m now jotting down scratchings for my January 15 letter and plan to go beyond just one year and get into monthly specifics with additional letters that I’m going to hand write and then mail from somewhere a ways away.

    That way, when these things arrive, the thoughts inside them have BEEN places and, with luck, picked up some other worldly good karma and positive vibes along their route.

    Right now, we’re all—ALL—writers, painters, and directors and right now, we are all—ALL writing, and painting, and directing the books, and paintings, and movies of our own lives—AND thus, of our collective futures.

    We were put on this Earth to do great things. Solid, tangible, valuable things. And we are meant for grander, bolder, nobler things. So while we’re HERE, let’s do it PROPERLY. Let’s not fart around, accepting second best, agreeing with assholes who’s idea of excellence is mediocre crap. Let’s aim higher, let’s reach farther, let’s stretch just that little bit more, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll come up with something that’s just that LITTLE bit better than average, or something that will do. When we say that something “will do” how often are we selling ourselves short? More often than many of us care to admit.

    So, let’s ask ourselves the key question posed by Brian Tracy: What’s it going to take to …?”(insert your desired outcome here). Let’s cut those chains and hear the thunder as the freshly bolted hull roars down the skids, and then, let’s trim those sails, let’s chart our course, and let’s let the voyage begin. “Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. —Christopher Columbus. Amen.

    Thank you, John, thank you indeed.

    Stay sharp.

    Kind regards, —Gary B.

  • ken ca|houn says:

    I like the year-ahead letter, “pull” tips like that usually work better compared to “push” action anchors.

    Action items:

    a) print out the letter, or at least highlight/bold main steps, make outcomes as specific as possible, and keep it posted on a wall where it’ll be a reminder, not tucked into a drawer

    b) use whiteboards (cheap, great tools at local office supply store) for projects, deadlines, to manage action steps.

    Have a great New Year!


  • Cezary says:

    My rumination has been “unranting” your recent … “rants”.

    Conclusions? My moronity is beyond anticipation.

    So, no self-serving commenting or reading new posts for me, ever again, …

    … until I die-gest your blog archive since 2004. And no, my speed-reading is both a hopelessly lame joke and nonexistent.

    Thanks for raising the bar so high, John.

    P.S. Instead of self-deceiving resolutions spoken during some superstitious points during the Earth’s dance around the sun, I make life-threatening promises in the moment. Difference? Things freakin’ happen.

    With wishes of continuous fun that isn’t “time-boxed”,

  • aly says:

    wow,as an ex elite athlete, watching “non athletes” gotta say, how refreshing you are with your no BS talk:) ….and thanks for making me laugh right from the start with: “trying to wrap your brain around a plan to MAKE THE YEAR YOUR BITCH!!!!”…AND “you need to set some goals, DUDE.” …” “resolutions”. Those are bogus pseudo-goals that have the staying power of pudding in a microwave.” :):):):)

    loved your whole “rest of your freakin life” article… it’s closer to my world of “hard core” gymnastics and pole vaulting… “if you fall on your ass or on your face, there’s no “going around it” …your body, your bad move, your fault, you fix it! i miss that!!! lol
    will definitely follow your stuff from now on:)

  • Brian says:

    Hey John – maybe this is a stupid question but I’ve never been afraid to ask stupid questions…

    How would you write this letter to yourself? You give an example of the ‘push’ letter, but I guess I don’t get the difference between stating what you want as if it were real NOW, and stating what you WILL have? Is it just a change in the verb tense? I’d love to know because setting clear goals has always been a challenge for me and if this works for you I gotta know cus you’re the man.

    • John Carlton says:

      Work this one out for yourself, Brian. Write like you are reviewing the past year — actually put yourself into the future, sitting there reflecting on what you’ve accomplished. And yes, it’s something of a verb thing, but don’t get hung up on the details. How about this: Answer yourself (your “today” self) as your “year from today” self… just tell yourself how the year went.

      Any way you want to tweak this is fine, as long as it (a) doesn’t distract you from dealing, deeply, with your goals and desires and (b) doesn’t complicate it so much that you don’t get it done.

      Make sense? Even if you have to go through this exercise for a few years running before it “clicks”, you’re still way ahead of the game.

  • Farhad says:

    Hey John, when I read the post on 2nd December, planned to make a letter to me and took three days off from office. But till now ,did not able to write the letter.

    When I sit for writing different things come in mind. When look in my goal, I can not believe,is it possible?

    will i post the letter to my address?

  • Ana says:


    As a new reader and fan of your blog I earn eager to learn more about your freelancing course v.2. Any more hints as to when that will become available?

    Excited newbie!

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Ana. It’s actually ready, and at the printers now. I’ll be releasing the news — and the opportunity to grab this breakthrough course — this month. And welcome to the blog…

  • Hi John! Some say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but this is not true. Just imagine if turntablism is just invented today 2012, surely young people will have an interest in that art form and will try to learn it and here I am a 55 year old chap who is amazed at turntablism. If I will decide to buy a turntable, a mixer and records and try it then I wil meet friends regularly who is also into mixing and scratching. I think that in a years time I will gain mad skillz. It is just the same in writing, if you really put your heart into it, you will learn an be good at it.

  • Roxy says:

    I just joined your blog. I agree wholeheartedly with all your common sense ideas and remarks, except one: “Mushy liberals seem astonished that anyone would ever not love us, or want to destroy our culture. Repressed conservatives seem intent on crushing everyone who pisses them off (and that’s a lot of people).”
    I am a freelance copy editor and fact checker, and have edited for all kinds of people, and have found just the opposite of your observation. I guess it all depends on who you attract.

  • Dynatec says:

    Many of us were not satisfied with life because you don’t constantly travel or you own more that X number of things. The vocal majority doesn’t seem to be very happy. Thank you for empowering us to live an ideal life!

  • Joey Lowe says:

    No matter where ya go, there you are. Thanks for the interesting ramble.

  • rob joy says:

    From:Rob Joy
    16 Bagshaw Street
    Glenelg, 5045

    Dear JC

    Hey man, there was news story down here in oz that things are pretty hot in reno at the moment hope ur safe man? does not look good from the report on late night news and what I’ve also seen on the web…

    Stay safe….that’s stuff you can’t afford to screw around with, we had massive wild fire storm in the 1980’s right near where I live.

    In Adelaide it was called “ash wednesday” even though I was a kid at the time I remeber seeing all the smoke and smelling it thick and fast at night…

    Can still recall the news story’s that broke with one reporter here reporting on his own house going down in ashes…

    I’m not sure if you are aware of this Australia has had pretty nasty fire storms in last 20 years so certianly my thoughts are with thos peeps in reno for god sake dont get caught up if you have to bail….

    Dont forget the accelerator needs to be pushed firlmy in the down position until you are safe!

    That shit is too close to home for me! hope ur safe later man.


  • I loved it that you don’t waste time mincing your words John, it’s simply rad! Your ideas and insight are all spot on. No matter the place or time, it all depends on your willingness to make something out of nothing. Age shouldn’t be a hindrance and neither should failure. As the old adage goes “there’s no other way but up when you’ve hit rock bottom!”.

  • Mark V says:

    New reader here John, but boy i’ll be back for more.

    There I was sat looking at my non existent goals for 2012, bumbling around on my laptop, close to making some limp, belated new years resolutions.

    I was wishing there was a different way to go about this goal setting business, one that maybe wouldn’t condemn me to “End of January already broken dreams brigade”.

    And then, BAM I come across your post, just the medicine.

    So I just finished reading your post, fired up word on the spot and wrote out a letter to myself, it’s 8 days late 😉 but hell, i’m not waiting for a year to give this a shot…January 23rd 2013 letter here I come.

    I think this is so powerful because I felt good typing that letter out to myself, it made me actually visualize and “feel” the satisfaction I would feel if I can look back on that letter a year from now and say, “yep, that’s how it went down, good job.”

    Certainly stirred me up more than some more one liner to do list style resolutions.

    So yeah, thanks for sharing that!

  • Swarup says:

    Hey John,

    I unexpectedly stumbled into this story couple of months ago, while sifting through your older archives. Phew… The education on this site is mega-valuable.

    I’ve learned more from you and The Gary Halbert Letter than all my years at school, working in a job and purchasing countless marketing courses. Thank you!

    By the way, you mention: “Finding a voice for narration” for your third novel. Do you recommend some techniques (or coaches) to help improve voice quality, delivery, modulation, etc…

    (I recorded my voice while creating a sales video and felt that it lacked oratory power.)

    One of my favorite speakers is Napolean Hill. I get goosebumps every time I hear him narrate the story of how Mr.Carnegie hired him.

    Any suggestions?


  • Its really frustrating to want changing old habits yet fail on doing so, John. I understand you ranting about it, actually. Some goals just remain as is after quite some time and well, its up to us on how we are to achieve them. But hey, each morning is a new beginning. 🙂

  • John Breese says:

    @Sweeny – That’s awesome…I mean seriously, some of us keep journals or diaries, but as simple as this is, I think it’s trumps those two mediums.

    Funniest part is, you could easily use this thing to freak our friends and family by setting up emails that’ll be sent long after you know you’ll be dead.

  • Tony says:

    Hey John,
    I’m a new student of yours and its been a very enlightening experience reading what valuable things you have to say. I bought your Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel course and I cant wait to get started putting what I have learned to good use. I am curious as to when your updated Freelance Course will be coming out. How much longer do you think it will be until it will be released to the public? As you can imagine, I’m eagerly anticipating your response. Thank you very much for putting out such great valuable marketing advice and life lessons. I have already learned a lot from you so far and I can’t wait to learn more.


    Tony C

  • […] a recent post John Carlton wrote a blog post The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life, Re-Redux on his blog The Rant about setting his goals. In his post he talked about a trick that he uses […]

  • I recently wrote a post on my blog – Diversity In Setting New Year Goals & Achievements By Bloggers of Different Levels!

    In that post I mentioned your Trick of Setting New Year Goals and the outcome that you experienced from it.

    It’s the rare kind of post that influenced me a lot in setting my goals and I think it will influence my blog readers too.

    Regards –
    Debabrata Dhar

  • Doug Francis says:

    About five years ago I stumbled upon an old file which included my “10- year plan”. I remembered writing it more than a decade before and laughing at my future income goals.

    “Impossible” I thought at the time.

    But there I was, staring at the number which was actually lower than what I had earned.

    It’s got to be the voodoo… thanks for helping me remember that lesson.

  • My favorite part of this post is where you said:

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

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

    Every great Goal Getting course teaches this principle. I do the same thing when I sit and dream about my future. In order for me to pulled forward off my lazy ass, I have to be really motivated and inspired about what I see in my future. At the same time, it can’t be too insanely awesome as to set off my “Not gonna happen kid” unconscious response and get shot down.

    I love these kinds of posts. Thanks John

  • Aaron Hoos says:

    Great post, John, as usual. Got me thinking about my goals for this year. Ugh. They’re bland. With the halfway-through-the-year point nearly here, I still have time to kick ass with goals that are truly inspiring.

  • Jon says:

    Awesome post man. I remember years back sitting in a Brian Tracy talk and he made us write out a page on where we wanted to be in a year. Basically EVERYTHING I wrote on that paper came true. I’m making my own products on how to get girls and run an awesome and very popular dating advice forum at . Even the random PR type stuff like media attention has come true. It’s incredibly important to list out your goals in a way that they can be visualized.

  • Mitch Tarr says:

    I have to circle around and say I read this post in 2011 when it was first published. I wrote the letter and set 4 things as important for the year. Funny thing… I nailed 3 of them and came up short on the 4th but not by much!

    Sitting down now to look into 2013. Thanks again for this!

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