Congratulations… Now Stop Being A Wuss.

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


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

… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

So, without further ado… here’s the third redux of that post:

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

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

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

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

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

I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…

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


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

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

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

You know what I say?

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the same thing, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

Do some critical thinking before you jump in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I did it over and over and over again.

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

Once you lose your fear of self-education…

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

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

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

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

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

And best of all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Okay, quick plug: Check out to start your own adventure as a high-end sales master, if you’re so inclined…)

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

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

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

Being an entrepreneur takes balls.

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

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

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

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

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

It really is that simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you still fail? Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you wracked with doubt?

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

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

And it can easily be sent packing.

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

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

And yet, all you have to do…

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

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

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

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

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

And, of course, no bad luck ever appeared.

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

Especially guilt and shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Put you to sleep, didn’t it.

Okay, my work is done here.

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

Stay frosty,

John “The Prof” Carlton

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

  • Louise says:

    Wish I had have had YOU as my Professor while I was working my way through 2 degrees (the useless pieces of toilet paper that they are).


    • John Carlton says:

      I would have been fired the first day, once word got back to the Dean about what I was doing in class.

      I loved my college days. Just not the part that required going to class and studying crap that had no relation to the Real World out there. (I did study like a madman, however, when I discovered the handful of subjects that rang true about life and the future…)

  • Sheree says:

    College was not in the cards for me. My parents didn’t encourage it in the same way they encouraged my brother. After all, I was a girl and was supposed to get married and have kids. It didn’t turn out that way for me and I didn’t marry until my early 40s. I did get a job and somehow shy little me ended up in sales. Maybe it was a means of survival but I managed to get the hang of it and became one of our teams top performers. I never went on to get a degree. The company I worked for began requiring a degree for new hires. I was amazed how many of these people couldn’t form a complete sentence, know the difference between their, there, & they’re, or solve simple math problems but were deemed more valuable than someone without the piece of paper. I did well enough to recently retire at the age of 57. Just in time before burn out got the best of me. Now I can focus on new adventures. The moral of my story is that if you want to work for someone else, a degree will get you in the door these days but thats not enough to keep you inside. I have no regrets but I do wonder what I could have done with someone like you to help me realize my full potential.

    • John Carlton says:

      Oh, stop. You’re killing me, Sheree. You have PLENTY of time to realize your potential, and you’re retired (so you’ve got even more free time to spend doing it). It’s complete and utter bullshit that the only time to realize your “true path” in life is when you’re young. A young artist or genius doomed to die of some gruesome disease or accident has no more time, nor energy, than you (and the rest of our wayward generation of Boomers). So, okay, scratch off some of the dreams that require suppleness and the ability to survive hangovers and rebound quickly from injury (or any that require caring about fashion, popularity or any of the other drama-Queen distractions that infect the young).

      Seriously — I’ve always found it absurd that American culture is so immersed in this ageism thing. Heck, I was 13 years younger than Gary Halbert, and 12 years older than Stan Dahl… and we ALL hung out together just fine. I’ve NEVER judged my friendships on age, nor the potential for adventure. Heck, I had friends in my teens who were already bored stiff with life, and zero fun to be around… and I’m meeting new Boomers all the time who share my passion for going deeper on all the fun and amazing stuff we discovered in our lives.

      What you “could have done” (minus the activities that require being in your twenties) is what you should be getting after NOW.

      We only get one ticket. One ride per customer. Remember that Steve Jobs’ primary motivation was always the thought that he would die young… so he needed to ignore the small shit, not care what others thought of him (more or less), and get busy.

      You sound like an amazing person who bucked The Man and sneaked by without being discovered as the Spy you really were. Buck up, and get after your dreams again. You really could have 40 more years ahead. (My Pop is still as sharp as he was at 30, and he’s 92. Sure, he can’t dance all night anymore, but he still dances several times every week…)

      Thanks for the note. Good luck.

      • Sheree says:

        Thank you for the kick in the ass! Retirement is my graduation. Becoming complacent in retirement could send me to an early grave.

    • wes says:

      For the record I just turned 68
      I have conquered a couple of careers
      And have now started yet another…
      Just finishing up my first novel and will make it a success through an intensive study of marketing ( now others are seeking me out as a consultant) So you see I’m ready to let it rip
      Wes aka. Youngwesley

  • Vineel Maharaj says:

    Thank you JC. You’ve gripped the essence of what I’ve been trying share with my circle of friends for a while now. I guess if they don’t learn I may need a new mastermind group.

    You might like this quote:

    “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” -Jim Rohn

  • Farhad says:

    At present I am working in Bank as a probitionary officer and badly want to be Entrepreneur.But its real hard here ( Bangladesh), a job is consider more secure and prestigious than a business. I tried to manage my family but they told me I do not have the capability to run and operate a business.After that i have joined a credit rating company than a bank.

    Thanks your post. Is “Simple Writing System ” will be benefited?

    • John Carlton says:

      You know, Farhad, I have almost no idea how well my SoCal vandal-childhood,anti-authoritarian, bad attitude dude approach to the American entrepreneurial model will play outside the Western World. I’ve heard from a few Japanese students who made a mint, but that has to be tempered with some Europeans who just struggle with the entire concept of taking responsibility for your own biz (though we also have screaming testimonials from Brits and Norweigans who have made it work spectacularly). The SWS is not some magical elixir that will absolve all sins, and clear your road of obstacles — it’s just a coaching system to help you understand how to apply old-school salesmanship to business. Here, it works like crazy. But there’s never a guarantee it works where entrepreneurism is not accepted or condoned.

      Anybody? Does anyone reading this have experience bringing American-style entrepreneurism to countries like Bangladesh?

      • Marcin says:

        I guess in some countries it might be a little different, but with the basic direct marketing skills any business should work much much better (I’m writing from Poland). You just have to tweak and adjust the basics a little… 🙂

        By the way, John, when will your SWS product be available online for purchase again?

      • James says:

        OUCH! Bangladesh is not in Africa. I know you were just trying to help the guy though. Killer article, I always block off 30 minutes to savor your writing.

        • John Carlton says:

          LOL, yeah, I know where Bangladesh is. (East of India.) I was just jamming too fast on the reply, multi-tasking, was reading about Africa in the New Yorker. What’s funny is that this is a post about education. Duh.

          Anyway, doesn’t matter — same question holds. I have some fans in India (and spoke to several Indian biz owners when I was in Dubai a few years ago)… but I do not know how entrepreneurs there navigate the social structures, gov’t, and ways of using media to get traffic and process sales.

  • Susan says:

    Absolutely love your realistic view on life! Thanks for being the contrarian that you are!

  • Joe says:

    I love a good wake up call… Epic stuff.

    “If you want to join the Feast of Life, you have to step up and earn your seat at the table. You will not be invited in. You will not stumble in by accident, or stroke of luck.” You sounded like a reincarnation of Jim Rohn for a second there.

    What amazes me is the dependency of intelligent people on getting information from traditional sources. I’m talking about adults here, not students. For many boomers, unless wisdom has been bestowed from an exalted institution, they don’t believe it has any merit.

  • Chris says:

    I like your style John. Nice speech.

    I absolutely agree the entrepreneurship should in some way be incorporated into the system so everyone gets a taste (bitter or sweet).

  • Just the kick in the pants I needed today after relearning the tireless lesson that “clients suck” again yesterday.

    It is true that once you’ve tasted independence it’s all but impossible to just be a drone again. Sometimes I wish I never bit from that apple because it’s irreversible. I know, I know…there is no way to live life more fully than through taking control of your freedom and your income. I’m just having a little pity party, okay?

    But what you’ve written here about manning up (or womanning up) is the literal truth. We have to bury that voice inside that wants us in that compliant, self-doubting place. We have to take responsibility for our own continuing education. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow just because you followed a path to get there.

    I DO believe in getting a university education if you can when you’re young though. It’s not a sure career path in any way. But it’s an incubator for the youth to share ideas and make mistakes. Not every student uses it that way though. And there is no reason why we shouldn’t be lifetime learners with so much information at our fingertips.

    Thanks for all your wisdom and willingness to be so open about the doubts and wonder we all have deep down.


    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, thanks for the note, Brat. Always good to hear your perspective (weird as it sometimes is)…

    • Aaron Hoos says:

      I frequently tell people that my undergrad degree was for me (and not for a career) to help me get my head screwed on straight after a bit of partying in high school.

      And, my graduate degree and the education for my financial advisor’s credentials gave me the credibility to work in the niche I now do.

      But it was a combination of on-the-street sales experience plus being mentored by Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero in John Carlton’s Simple Writing System course that gave me the most hands-on, practical, direct-to-my-bottom-line education that I still use daily.

      I wouldn’t give up any of my college experiences but the stuff that has made me the most successful was not learned in college.

  • Erim says:

    This is the second time I’ve read that, and it’s still awesome. I wish you’d given that speech at my graduation. Not college though…high school.

    Thanks for bringing it as usual, sir.

  • Graham says:

    Very insightful as usual.

    I spent over a year running a 3 day NLP based workshop for graduates about to leave our local university to educate them on the benefits of direct response marketing, entrepreneurship and taking responsibility.

    So revolutionary half of them left one of the workshops at the end of the first day vowing to tell their university professor how I had got it all wrong.

    I manned up and left the corporate world at age 37 and now i’m 51 with the battle scars to prove it – a big library of books and mind maps covered in different colours and a successful business. Always keep looking ahead though as you never know whats coming – still I’m unemployable and proud.

    I’m studying kick-ass copywriting secrets and just wrote the first sales letter that I am ok with – see how well it gets people to opt in on my site.

    Thanks John.

  • Bill Jeffels says:

    “Get a degree, it’s a ticket to the good life”

    Could you imagine if they used just a little of that money for a degree to get a Copywriting and Marketing education?


    Bill Jeffels

  • Madhwesh says:

    John, I have been reading your posts, right from the time I started my Masters education in Manchester, an year ago. Believe me or not, it was your real life ranting that kept me going, and filled in hope about my life and its possibilities, through all the crap that my school spewed at me throughout the course! Cheers for instilling that faith mate!

    btw, I am an Indian, and I see no reason why your marketing strategies shouldn’t work in our world, where people are only happy these days, to move from a fantasy type of business management (with all the empty promises, and corruption filled govt operations) to more pragmatic models (based on pure logic, and solely based on real business needs).

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Madhwesh. Yeah, I may have created more confusion rather than clearing things up with my question about marketing in other countries. Let’s be clear: Everywhere on the planet where I know that fundamental salesmanship has been used the “right” way, it has worked.

      What I was trying to get across (after maybe reading too deeply into the initial question) was the social aspects of becoming an entrepreneur in Asia. I got the impression the writer had never met nor dealt with entrepreneurs, and may be living in a culture with little experience with direct response advertising methods. (I know that Europe, for example, was a babe in the woods regarding direct response direct mail until just recently.) I know, from experience, that even here in America — where entrepreneurism thrives — the vast majority of people are NOT cut out to be an entrepreneur. There are no guarantees. A minority, however, has the bug, can’t shake it, and get busy starting businesses. There is no “test” I know of that can predict success or failure… and that lack of certainty is probably the first qualification for starting a biz. If you’re not comfy with that feeling, you’re not gonna do well.

      Anyway, always good to hear success stories. As we become a true global culture — at least online — this kind of “will it work for me, where I live?” question will become moot.

  • Bob Chambers says:

    I was just getting ready for a Toastmaster speech when I read your post. I’m in my third phase of life. I started with going to school (fortunately it was in engineering which did open doors). Then the years in the corporate world as an employee where all the Dilbert pointee headed managers called the shots. Now I’m in my third phase, the Entrepreneur. And you are right, once an entrepreneur you can never go back. It’s took much fun calling the shots and taking responsibility for the results. I’m going to forward your this to my grandson so he understand his choices and hopefully, with yours and my help, will make the right choices. And for the record, SWS (Simple Writing System), you and Tony Torres are incredible. Worth every penny and then some.

  • Orestes says:

    The best of best this post.I will read it again tomorrow.I drop out from the university in Cuba after my first year when I detected the BIG BS.Then I focused on my escape to FREEDOM which I did it(a very sweet feeling).Now I want to join the Feast of Life so I´m focusing to earn my seat at the table cuz that and only that is what I´m after.

    So what I would tell new grad is that if they
    want to join the Feast of Life too they
    better wake up from their sleep!

    Thanks John for always sharing your best with

    My blessings to you!

  • john says:

    You have hit the nail on the head! So much of education is bullshit. It not true then why are there thousands of jobs out there with no qualified people. I “earned” an MBA and took me at least 5 years to overcome the nonsense poured into my head.
    Proud to say that I have been fired from almost all of the jobs I have had in my lifetime. Have been independent for 35 years and could never go back. Would rather starve than be a drone. College is about fun, drinking, chasing girls not learning what it takes to thrive in the real world. Few college profs have ever een in business for themselves. What do they know about the “real world”. Keep up the rants

  • Oh boy. Good read, again.

    I got out of 9th grade with 315/320 points (straight As basically) without really trying at all, and sleeping through classes… and then I dropped out of (the swedish equivalent of) high school after 2 months when I realized that my design (majored in design) teacher had the entire semester’s course materials based ENTIRELY on a single website she found online. A bad one at that.

    She had printed out the whole site and made up useless pieces of homework to go with it, including an enormous project that took months for everybody who did it.

    The whole gig just wasn’t for me, and I had already caught the entrepreneurial bug at age 13 or 14.

    Turned 18 this april, rolling full steam ahead on the freelancer bandwagon. Closed a deal just yesterday that gets me 30% of the entire back end in a very lucrative biz…

    I pirated your Kickass book a few years ago, to which I attribute just about all of my copywriting prowess. I always did plan on paying it back, and now I did buy the full package when you re-released your freelance course. Having physical copies to reference doesn’t exactly hurt, either.

    Take care John, and keep up the sizzlin’ blog posts.


  • Scott says:

    OK, OK, I got the message. I’m joining my local toastmasters already. Sheesh!

    Sent out a bunch of emails to different clubs, awaiting response.

    Thanks JC.

  • Dave Bross says:

    Funny, I wrote something along similar lines a while back. I’ll definitely be putting a link to this post at the bottom…as the “advanced” course:


  • Peter Wright says:

    You ask the question does any one have experience with the American brand of entrepreneurism outside of the USA.

    I think you in the USA just took the attitude that the 17th & 18th century Brits had when they were creating the greatest trading empire the world had known and improved on it. Pity the Brits and most other European nations lost it after WW2

    In sanctions punished Rhodesia (I will defend our actions – now vindicated by the chaos in Zimbabwe- till my dying day but that is another debate) and later South Africa, that same spirit saw those 2 countries develop the most sophisticated and successful economies in Africa.

    South Africa became a world leader in deep level mining and oil from coal technology. Little Rhodesia produced everything from ammunition to toilet paper and lots else.

    Which tends to support your theory that we achieve great things when we are under pressure and with the benefit of real world learning.

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the perspective, Peter. I think many people reading here will appreciate it. There is no “perfect” country on the planet, of course, but the ones who allow entrepreneurs to thrive (or at least don’t strangle them too much) probably have a few things in common… including less censorship, a social structure that allows individuals to rise above whatever “station” they’re born into, investment capital that’s fairly easy to get, and an attitude problem (by which, I mean a healthy portion of the population is gonna think independently and outside the box no matter what the consequences).

      It’s probably worth studying more if you’re outside the “hot spots” of entrepreneurism. (I know books like “Outliers” and “Guns, Germs & Steel” tackle a lot of this stuff.)

      Attitude, resources and opportunity, perhaps.

      Anyway, thanks again for the note. Good stuff.

  • rob says:

    From: RJ
    Cooler morning than I’m used to…
    11:02am Tuesday 16th May 2012

    Dear JSC…

    Dude I have to say it was only last night (on facebook where electronic bullies prey on ppl)…

    I got into electronic fight with couple of guys one of which is doing a marketing course at college (we call it university-same thing)…

    Anyway we went at like to rabid pit bulls too and fro…in the end we both left agreeing to disagree on what works in the real world…

    Despite he was relying on his dated notes,someone lop sided view that ppl care bout image and brand (excuse me while I pewk for second…)

    Despite my attempt to try and save him by explaining its going to take him ten years of trial and error at the expense of some poor biz owner that branding or image advertising will tank any biz that does not have the same budget as coke-a-cola…

    I love this rant more so than other’s it’s almost your like your the samurai warroir of the biz world slaughtering the b.s. and making clear path for biz owners and like minded freelancers,web-reprenures…(is that even a word?)…

    To follow the clear path of success…without too many curve balls or wasting money on pretty pictures…

    I wish dudes like you could give a lapel rattling to all grad students world over…

    It’s like being socked in the head with luiville slugger to the left side of someones skull to knock out all the compressed b.s. that is packed densly…

    I bet if Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier, Clyde Bedell and the great man David Oglivy where alive today they would pitch a fit size of an atomic bomb with all the b.s. in marketing…

    In the words of famous Australian colonal outlaw Ned Kelly “such is life”….

    Nother killer post…I’ve re-posted the link to this on my facebook page in the hope someone in my social cicrle (online) could learn very import lesson…

    Cheers dude!


    P.S. Had the pleasure in a second skype call with Bond…in the true style of being a ‘Halbert’ I got heap of great marketing/life lessons in 30 minutes that would take life time to learn had sore writing hand as I was taking notes as fast as I could…feel greatful for the experience…got some LMS stuff he is gettin me to do…which is exciting for me….

    • rob says:

      P.P.S update, Ive had third skype call with Bond by the end of the call I was doing little ‘happy’ dance round my home/office as he has given me nother task…

      …anyway I was at a marketing seminar yesterday of a guy who has awareness in manipulating the media scoring tonne of free publicity…

      He has built 6 figure company in 7 weeks…can do this without breaking a sweat has few of these on the go…

      I sat front row and scribed so many notes its going to take couple of day to go back threw here is why…

      I’m sharing this…

      I accidently told one person I was copywriter because I had zero intention of looking for clients ( I already have apporached everyone I want to work with)

      …anyway, I got two girls asking me to help them with few things…the seminar presenter took me to one side at the end of the day and said “you have no idea how valuable ur skills are can we work together that was before he asked who I’ve ‘apprenticed’ under…

      ..than he offered to exchange his high end 18 month mastermind membership club approx $17k in value for me writing copy for him a clear swap…

      Second presenter who I met in the loby of the hotel was a wiz with video production knew how to get 1,500 clicks for youtube with click of one button…

      He caught wind of my secret skill and offen asked me to comment & also made compliments bout having the right type of copy for ads combined with video…

      …the thing is, I was there to learn skills I did not have they popped me with questions bout copy, I was blown away these two girls who said they wanted to work with me let alone getting this high end mastermind/info pack….

      …John, its my first time since completing the freelancer course I’ve attended marketing seminar wanted to know is this normal behaviour, for people whon want to to literally shove their biz card into my pocket? wierd but nice feeling….

      One thing that got my blood little warm was so called marketing expert who helps small biz I did not tell her zI was in the biz however…I asked what systems or trainin hse had she told me, I aksed her if she had herd of Jay, she did not in fact she looked at me like a stunned mullet…

      I told her to Google Jay or at least check him out on Youtube before doing anything else..

      When she asked why I said because the type of marketing you are doing is for coporations like coke-a-cola and that small to medium sized biz owners just dont have the budget to do all the things you want to..

      I dont she she got the story and left part way threw the seminar…

      later! RJ

  • Katherine says:

    Yeah, it was amazing how much I learned on the 3 copywriting Sales Letter gigs that fell into my lap between 2005 and 2006. I KNEW I was an expert in the subjects and knew more than many of the pros. Eh, who knows?

    I dropped out — started late at 39 years. But not on purpose. And now with the economy, and a $55,000 school loan, no great hopes of finishing.

    I’m an entrepreneur and have been since school 2005 or so. Need to get the SWS course to get a KICK in the butt too though. I’ve lived at poverty level. It takes awhile to get the hang of it.

    It’s getting to be clear sailing though. Just need to do more of what I’m doing — Amazon Sales during work hours — writing & speaking in “passion” area in the “off” hours. HEALTH. ALTERNATIVE HEALTH is my thing. And I just managed to put the Opt-In box up on my WordPress blog site

    I want to get 1000 first-time quality subscribers to my LIST in 99 days. And I’ll send an Ezine out about health and healing with food to subscribers.

    I have a mentor, health expert Steven Acuff, and he says, I can do health consulting in my own right.

    That’s what I’m going to write, email and blog about. SIGN up and help me get my 1000 subscribers in 99 days — if you will! Thanks.

    I have really great and incredible simple, but allusive HEALTH info to share. And many of the things, I’ve experienced personally. I’m now in mid-50s myself. The Body’s rejuvenating powers are amazing. SIGN UP!!

    I’m a BIG fan of yours John. Thank you for the fantastic posts.

  • Bernie says:

    You really piss me off how you always hit the nail straight on the head. I received a “Bull Shit” (BS) degree from a four year university through a military extension program. I sure glad the college made money off the deal…I never did. I learned the hard way that who you know is more important that what you know in the corporate world. The government also makes things interesting by telling your company which “winners” to pick. If you’re stuck in a job rut, or think you’re working way below your ability, start either an online or offline business. You’ll enjoy proving to yourself how good you really are.

  • Susan says:

    Go to the most exciting school you can get into without going into debt.

    Chase girls/boys, smoke weed, take the easiest most interesting major to you – the one where almost all the classes sound really interesting. Don’t worry about grades, just graduate.

    Travel during the summers (work if you have to – hell, go to night school and just start working or start a company anytime) and travel before and after college.

    Just travel your whole life.

    Then you get the best out of “the system.”

    Confession: I am a SWS devotee, a slack-jawed sycophant at the Font Du’Carlton, and I was a great saleswoman BEFORE I even cracked the covers of Simple Writing System (where the hell is my affiliate link?) so I know from good sales. SWS will teach you the selling process from a marketer’s/entrepreneur’s perspective. Simple steps.
    Wanna grease the skids so your prospects can buy your stuff? Follow the system.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yep. If I was gonna go through school again, I wouldn’t even attempt to score a “real” degree in any one major. I’d take a class in every area offered… including yucky biology, scary math, but especially theater and philosophy (and other classes where the girls are). Not take the tests, probably flunk out, but I’d absorb everything I could about the “culture” of learning… and really focus on networking, having a good time, and gorging on the opportunities (like school-connected foreign travel, as you mentioned). Work, stay disciplined, but treat life like a vast buffet table of gourmet and trashy treats, and feast on it. Universities are mini-worlds, with levels of intensity most students miss. Don’t just sample the surface stuff — go deep. Learn the game, meet the players, be a spy.

      You’ll love it, cuz the energy that occurs when vast groups of young people are together in one place is a trip. And, after a time, you’ll get bored with it and demand more stimulation outside the coddled bath of academia.

      Hold an ethical line, always. Know your boundaries, and never let others re-set them for you. This is YOUR ride, and you’re not just an attraction in someone else’s movie. And yet, it’s also not just about you — you’re learning the details of living large in a world fraught with excitement, adventure, pain, horror and uncertainty.

      Become a Renaissance Dude or Dudette — learn how to walk into any restaurant, private club or secret room and not be at a loss of how to act… learn a second language, plus street slang… learn enough of the major disciplines to be able to spot a phony (and be able to tell the assholes you still want to get to know, versus the assholes you just need to get away from)… learn how to defend yourself, and help others… learn basic survival skills… read voraciously (fiction, non-fiction, biographies, history, essays… but heavily lean on the GOOD STUFF, and only sample the garbage)… always challenge yourself, always acknowledge and respect your betters (and mentor under them if possible), always stay frosty.

      And have fun.

      Good post, Susan. Thanks.

  • Hi John

    It may be a a 3rd re-run but I should had a good ole’ lol at…

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

    The entrepreneur blood flows through my veins and I love it, sure it may have cost me a house or two along the way but working for the man, uh uh.


  • Stan says:

    I was in college for years getting several degrees which provide nice certificates on my wall.

    I would have been better off not going back after taking a year off as a door-to-door salesman my junior year. I learned more in that one year than in four years getting a degree in marketing.

    After college I worked for years in various companies in sales, marketing, and management positions. But I hated the politics and didn’t play well.

    In my 50s I finally took the plunge and had my own little electronics related business. I was happier and made more money than I ever did working for others. It spoiled me.

    After shutting the business down for health reasons, I went back to working for someone else. But that didn’t didn’t last long. I had to be my own boss again.

    Now, at 62, I am beginning as a freelance copywriter, something I should have started doing 40 years ago. Better late than never and I couldn’t be happier.

    Going to get my kids to read your post.

  • John says:

    Man, wow. I loved that.

    I left high school 9 months before I was due to finish. I had big plans, most of which were delayed… I got carried away partying and playing music (I’m a guitarist like you!). After a few years, I got bored and dissatisfied and decided it was time to “buck up” and start making something of myself.

    I’m now 22, living in the Philippines, helping a resort with their online marketing. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m on the path now and I know it. I’ve thrown myself into copywriting. I’ve always been into writing, but it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve been seriously interested.

    It started with one of the classic advertising books, then Gary Halbert’s newsletter, then some of your stuff, and now it’s getting ridiculous. I find myself actively making time to study marketing and learn more. When I turn the light off at night, I automatically think about marketing. Immersion works 😀

    Great post, and one I wholeheartedly agree with. I never wanted to go to college (or University, as we call it in Australia) so I didn’t go. The normal “life script” just didn’t excite me at all.

    I’ve now been in the Philippines for 8 months. I make my own schedule, do whatever I want, etc, so long as I get the results. I smile to myself every day, because I feel like it would be impossible to ever go back to the office and work for the man. Ughh.

    I signed up to the SWS course. Hope it launches soon!

    Thanks John!

  • Janice says:

    Hi John,
    Love your post…I’ve learned more threw my travels[in my younger days]and self taught than any “education” could have ever done.Let’s not forget the PRICE you pay just to get that education..I would tell all thoese young one’s, to keep their eyes & ears open..this is just the beginning, good LUCK and I wish them well. Life is a learning process..Learn as you go and learn well..

  • Jimmy Curley says:

    Really well done John.

    Being your own person — that is, not allowing others cram your square head into a round hole — is accomplished by overcoming a host of fears.

    Fear of rejection, fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of daunting responsiblity for your own life.

    (It would be sooo much easier to settle quietly into a corner, wouldn’t it.)

    But you got one go around.

    Andrew Carnegie once said: “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say and just watch what they do.”

    Yeah… it’s all about DOING.

    And personally I had (and still have) a dozen or so handy arguments to NOT to something. To settle into that corner.

    Thankfully I got guys like you John to snap me out of that friggin’ zombie state and get back on to the cutting edge of my life — where things are challenging and in constant flux.

    Great post John.


  • Sweeney says:

    1) Damn fine writing as usual.
    2) Speed reading.. any programs out there you suggest now?
    3) Self learning is great.. we are definitely in the information age.. but that rarely translates well to ACTION..

    I stumble with #3.. more than I like to admit.

    • John Carlton says:

      I did Evelyn Woods back in the early 80s. Can’t really recommend it, though — I never actually learned to “speed” read as they claimed I could. But I DID learn how to plow through piles of books and figure out which ones were good and which were losers, so I could focus on the few that deserved to be read. That was a game-changer for me. Instead of wasting time trying to “guess” or “divine” what books should be read, you just dive in and examine ALL of them… specifically looking at contents, chapter headings, the Foreward, the indexes, blurbs, and you rifle through each one, reading quick excerpts at random. You can get a good sense of a book that way. After doing this with three or four on one subject, you start seeing repeated words, phrases, maybe even chapter headings or blurb authors. The author may be mentioned in other tomes, photos and captions give great little stories for the material, etc.

      I used to plow through 20 books to find the 3 I would then read in depth… at my usual semi-slow pace. But it part speed-reading, because I was devouring the subject.

      Make sense?

      As to #3: Get over your bad self. Just drop the hesitation, and get busy. No excuses. Biz before pleasure, until you EARN some time to screw off. That also will change your life. That IS action.

      No excuses. None. Get busy, now.

  • Dave Egan says:


    I had the good fortune, at age 22, to meet an incredible man who taught piano. But that’s not all he taught. Lessons were two hours long: one hour at the piano, one hour at the kitchen table over coffee, being disabused of every preconception a snotty-nosed 22 year old has about life.

    What he taught me that mattered most of all was a desire to learn: not to go to school, but to learn–any way I could–from books, mentors, others’ experiences, trying something different, and reporting back what happened.

    The end result? At 52, I’m a lousy piano player, but I credit the maestro with teaching me how to become the master of any subject that interested me, a skill I still use every day as a freelance writer, specializing in live presentations for trade show exhibitors (and other B2B marketing). I have to learn about a new industry every week, and I do that by doing exactly what you suggest: immersing myself in books, the internet, interviewing experts, etc.

    One of the last presentations I wrote was so successful, the client has had it translated into seven languages, and is using it in marketing meetings all over the world.

    Not bad for a guy who only ended up with two years of college, huh?

    Thanks for sharing the real route to the road to riches: knowledge.

  • Thanks ‘Frosty’ JC for this. Can I pitch in with an ode to budding entrepreneurs who wanna connect with Fiji KAVA farmers from the Isle of Kava, for some business potential?

    Thanks.., just my way of hitting second gear for us all. Fiji Farmers Taro Root And Kava Kava – Source Direct.

  • Larry says:

    New WP blog, John? I think I like this lay out, click on comments to expand.

    Of course you are my hero in the world of copywriting, because not only do you have the balls to stake a position,
    you have the smarts to lay it out clearly.

    Regarding this months Rant. I like it. It is what I’ve been saying for years, though not as artticulated as you. More ideas I can crib…thanks as always. :~)

    It is clear that all these kids – my 20 yr old daughter, for whom we are paying the incredible bread of $160,000 for 4 useless years, included – come out of college pretty clueless.

    From 11th grade on, it is hysteria; the SAT tests, the scratching for perfect grades on material that has no relevance (which why so many kids are medicated now)the college visitations the neurotic competitive parents, the 4 years of boooooring classes. Just to get a degree, which is simply a tite of passage to Corporate-world, not a tool of growth.

    Even the gougingly over-priced books are useless; rented and returned.

    Of course the DEBT doesn’t go away so easily, and has become a national disgrace, (or bubble as media calls it) as millions of 21 yr old kids are burdenend with a MORTGAGE for an asset that has little value! Talk about being under water!

    Their life is TOAST. Like serfs, them must pay off a debt for years and years.

    How did this happen? As another of my marketing other idols, Gary Halbert would say, its about human engineering – social engineering by the “voice of conformity” – carefully molded by the 1%’s Academia, Govt policies, Media and Entertainment Oligarchies.

    Not easy to bust out. I actually wrote a ebook about it, coming out soon, will keep you apprised.

    Thanks for your attention to this topic. i think it is coming out of the shadows now, as Social media destroys so many sacred cows, Univeristy education is a cow that will crash down the hardest.

    It has been packaged and sold by the 1% as a panacea, a holy grail, a must to live a prosperous life. Instead, it is just the opposite: a generation of indebted students, paying a mortgae on a WORTHLESS asset.

    Academia is well paid – as are the insanely priced books, of which you need an updated version each year – so at least SOMEBODY is benefitting

    • John Carlton says:

      Naw, same WP format. Changed the format almost a year ago. Might be a few tweaks here and there that are new, but you’ve just been away too long, dude.

  • Kevin Deal says:

    What would I tell new grads?

    You’ve likely spent four years playing grab ass, now get out in the world and see if you can make a dent in it.

    Wonderful rant, but it reminded me of the 20k in student loans I’ve got to vaporize.

    Better go back to plotting…

  • Eacsoft says:

    Don’t tell my girlfriend (who is just finishing of her second degree) or my boss, but I tend to agree with you.

  • Artur Grant says:

    Hello, John!

    When i was reading your post, it was like looking through my own head. (Sorry if my english is not good, it’s foreighn language for me.)

    After my graduation from university i understood that high school didn’t give me any advantage in real life. Furthermore i hate my job in office. So i started so search some other ways to build my adult life. And i found copywriting. Then i started to study and practise it, while i was alone in office.
    And now i am freelance copywriter, and i’m very proud of it.

    (I’m a russian speaker copywriter, not english, as you can see )))

    So, i just wanted to say that you absolutely right.

    Thank you for good posts. I’m glad that started to read your blog, even with translator )))

    Good luck!

  • Will says:


    I have to apologise that I took so long getting from the “I’m interested” stage to the “Actually doing something about it” stage.

    I came to education rather later in life than most – 28, and always felt inferior to my Degree Educated peers in the Community Colleges where I worked as a Lecturer (I got a HND).

    Only in time did I realise, that my intelligence and self learning had taught me more and given me more insight into the world, and the subject, than almost all of them.

    I left the industry to pursue a career in I.T., and left that when the Y2K bug was but a relic of the past, to move into Sales and Marketing. Being dragged up on stage in front of 200+ sales staff to be embarrassed for my prowess came as a bit of a shocker, and leaving the corporate world last September having decided ten years ago, I no longer wanted to be a drone, but lacked a saleable skill that would give me the freedom and income I felt I deserved.

    However, having just almost completed (It was, but now needs updating) a book on Economic History, and running a blog ( I need to learn how to write sales copy, and so perhaps now the time is right for complete immersion…

    Loved your piece, and I’d recommend for the newly graduated a book I just read – by George Lois called “Damn Good Advice (for people with talent)” available from Phaidon – and no I don’t get a kick-back for mentioning it.

    I read it through twice and the second time, highlighted on every page some pearl of wisdom.

    I’ll be back, as Arnie famously said.


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