First Fork For Entrepreneurs

Saturday, 11:29am
Reno, NV
She’s so fine, there’s no telling where the money went…” (Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistible”)


I’ve been counseling entrepreneurs (both rookie and veteran) for, oh, about 30 years now. They come to me when their progress, or dreams, or plans have been hijacked by events or forces seemingly beyond their control…

… and they need a hard-core reality check, fast. Plus a detailed list of steps to fix things, and get back on track.

Even if you get an MBA somewhere (and while studying the history of biz and learning the methods behind success are important, I have yet to meet an entrepreneur who was helped by getting a fancy degree like that)… you can’t really understand the cycles, problems, surprises, horrors and pleasures of running your own biz until you dive in.

You can read every book ever printed (or watch every video) on what’s it like to run a biz… but you won’t truly understand how it all works until you’re actually running ads, setting up deals, shipping product, hiring and firing and moving and shaking.

When you catch yourself looking over your shoulder at the competition the first time (or waking up in the middle of the night with angst over a new campaign), THEN you know you’re a real entrepreneur.

I really enjoy consulting with entrepreneurs whose noses have already been bloodied. Life has already done the hardest part of my job for me… by kicking the idealism and dumb-ass belief systems to the curb. Your biz won’t succeed because you’re a sweet guy, or because dammit, your product is just the greatest thing ever.

No. Your biz will succeed because you learn the craft of making a biz work. You get into the head of your prospect, you package and price products with an eye on the competition, you use classic salesmanship in your advertising, and you run the joint like a professional.

And you’ll STILL encounter problems along the way. But if you have your Big Boy (or Big Girl) pants on, you’ll treat every problem as an opportunity to learn your lesson, fix your blunders, and keep after your goals regardless of obstacles until you hit paydirt.

My job, as a consultant and fixer, is to point out what you’re ignoring, knock you off your erroneous assumptions, give you a step-by-step plan to clean up messes and get back in a success-groove…

… and, in general, shortcut your path through the trials and tribulations of making a killing as an entrepreneur.

And because I’ve worked with so many biz owners in so many markets, and already solved so many problems, and helped generate so much wealth over the decades…

… I haven’t seen a situation I can’t quickly fix in a very, very long time.

Heck, there are only a handful of marketing problems out there. What might seem like a totally unique, horrifically awful, unsolvable disaster to you… always boils down to a basic problem that has a simple solution.

Once you realize that, you stop panicking. There are answers to your questions, and fixes to the mess you’re in. You may not know those answers or fixes yet… but the key word for any entrepreneur there is “yet”.

You can learn your own lesson as you slog through and gain experience… or you can shortcut things by bringing in experts and consultants. Either way, there is a solution out there, and if you find it you’ll thrive (and if you don’t find it, then bad things happen).

But what a lot of folks are desperate to know… is how do you BECOME an entrepreneur in the first place. Because all this talk about overcoming obstacles and making the Big Bucks is irrelevant if you can’t get started.

This is a topic I encounter almost every time I discuss biz with non-entrepreneurs. Taking that first step.

So, think about the entrepreneurial adventure waiting for you as a road. You start your journey by taking a step, and then another, and another and another. You get moving.

And on that road, there will be a shocking number of forks. You take one fork, your biz becomes totally different than if you had taken the other fork. You must decide which direction you’re going. And once you’ve decided, you will have more decisions to make very soon, as another and another fork arrives.

Often, there will be no “right” or “wrong” answers. Other times, there will be glaring consequences for choosing one direction over another.

For example: Do you want to go after a large market (like, say, the weight-loss market, or the dating market)… or do you want to go after a smaller niche (like, say, helping teenage diabetics understand nutrition, or helping  divorcees in Modesto with kids hook up with each other)?

Big markets have advantages and disadvantages. There’s a history of what’s worked and not worked in ads, shark-like competitors have tested every possible nuance in product design and pricing, there are few mysteries on how to find prospects, and you can pick through the obituaries to see why other biz failed while stalking the winners for hints on what they’ve done right. You’ll need legal advice (cuz the feds are all over the big markets) and expertise in the details of large-scale production. Etc.

Small markets also have advantages and disadvantages. They may be so underserved that your product is devoured regardless of price or quality. Or the prospects may be so hidden it’s ridiculously expensive to find them. Or they may be super-reluctant to buy, hard to convince, impossible to please. Or you may happily become King of the market, welcomed and sought-after and beloved, even as you continue to work from your kitchen table, solo.

It’s a myth that the world will beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap. The marketing graveyard is stuffed to bursting with superior products that died a gruesome death because no one figured out how to SELL them.

So that’s the first fork to negotiate on your road. It arrives before you take your first step, too. Your first action will be in a direction that determines how your adventure proceeds.

And that’s why most folks never become entrepreneurs. They can’t make that first decision.

And guess what?

Your first decisions really don’t matter all that much. You can always backtrack to any fork you’ve encountered, and take the OTHER road. You can adjust, even on the fly. You can change horses mid-stream, abandon failing efforts, even plow through the wilderness with no idea what you’re doing to search for another road entirely.

In fact, this is how MOST entrepreneur adventures proceed. There are periods of chaos, of pure joy, of multiple “Come To Jesus” moments where everything changes, of epiphanies that end one adventure and immediately kick-start another.

Take any successful entrepreneur, and map out the path they took to get to that successful place. It will never be a straight line, never be a clean trip without problems or disasters or even major failures along the way.

And this is why successful entrepreneurs run a little different from the rest of the population.

The Number One asset they have… is a set of cojones. Not the physical ones, you moron, but the ones that define your ATTITUDE. (Some of the toughest, most ‘onery and successful biz owners I know are women, who proudly agree they’ve got the required cojones.)

Most folks mistakenly believe that intelligence is the primary requirement for success in biz.

And it’s not true at all.

Out of a group of wannabe entrepreneurs… the ones with cojones will beat the ones with high IQs every time.

You mix cojones with smarts, and that’s good. Add experience, and you get what we call “savvy”. (If any consultant you want to work with isn’t savvy, run the other way.)

But even minus the “smarts”, the ballsy dudes and dudettes will find a way to win. (Often by hiring starving brainiacs when a little mental muscle is needed.) (You can hire your way through many problems, in fact. But you can’t hire an attitude.)

I know a lot of very smart people. IQs in the stratosphere, degrees on the wall, library shelves groaning with books. And nearly all of them are dead-broke, or stuck in dead-end jobs they despise. They’ve got ideas, oh yes they do. But they can’t pull the trigger on starting their own biz. They’re scared of the consequences of waltzing into the fray.

I also know a lot of dumb-as-bricks folks who dealt with their fear (we’re all scared when an adventure starts) and acknowledged their shortcomings… and just went out and created a successful biz out of nothing but their burning desire to do so.

Bet on the guy with cojones. Double that bet on the smart guy with cojones.

And that first fork in your road? Flip a coin, and keep moving. In the modern online world, there are ways to cheaply and quickly test every hare-brained product or scheme you come up with. Clickbank, Adwords, affiliate marketing, even buying ad space in newspapers can be done without breaking the bank. For a small amount of moolah, you can efficiently find out if your product has wings or is a bomb… and that’s all you want to do starting out. One step at a time.

Yeah, you gotta learn how the games are played. You don’t want Google to ban you for life, you don’t want federal agencies knocking on your door, you don’t want to stack the deck against you by trying to reinvent the wheel.

So get hip as you go. Go through the tutorials, search archives and join groups. Make a list of all the things you want to do, and another list of all the things you don’t want to do… and as much as possible, DO the things you want to do, and DON’T do the things you don’t want to do.

It’s a process. If you’ve never written up a list like that before, then you can’t possibly be clear on what your real goals are in life and biz. Knowing what you want (and what you don’t want), and having the cojones to get off your butt and start dealing with the consequences of movement… these things are NOT default settings inside you.

Most people stumble through life in a somnambulant daze, never choosing their own path. When that state of existence starts to rub you the wrong way, and you decide that maybe you really can create your own adventure in life and biz…

… that’s when the road appears. The fog lifts, and that first fork looms. It’s scary, and choosing which direction to take will make you sweat. But the WRONG thing to do is set up camp and refuse to choose at all.

You’re gonna make mistakes. Nothing will go as planned. And the surprises the universe has waiting for entrepreneurs are myriad and devious.

And so what.

The real question is: Are you gonna get moving, or are you gonna avoid the adventure?

Here’s to cojones.

Stay frosty,


P.S. This isn’t a pitch for my consulting services, because I only take a few clients at a time. Still, if you’re stuck on a problem, or just need a good kick in the pants from a veteran professional, a consulting session with me (or at least someone with my chops and experience) might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

As I said, there just aren’t any unique problems out there. But you may not be able to SEE the real situation (cuz you’re too close)… or you may be in a place where solving them without pro help requires painful, years-long experience and lesson-learning.

And that’s when consulting is a tool. You go to the right guy, you can shortcut the learning process quickly by getting specific, useable advice.

I prefer to solve problems using only the resources you already have available. Sometimes, you won’t want to hear the advice I offer. Sometimes, the reality check will take you far away from your comfort zone.

But all problems are solvable, as long as you’ve got the entrepreneur’s attitude. There may be a simple fix you just hadn’t thought of, or you may need to backtrack or abandon a path or even (gasp!) fire someone. (Sometimes, you may need to fire yourself.)

The important thing is to keep moving, and not let problems stop you.

If you want or need to talk to me, click here (or go to the “Consulting” tab above or in the right-hand column) to get started. No obligation or risk, of course, to just see what’s up.

And no, I can’t help you grow a set of cojones. That’s the one thing you just gotta do on your own. I can only point out that you’re stuck because of fear and inaction. This advice is free: Acknowledge your fear, then lock it away somewhere in your mind where it won’t bother you. It’s human to be scared. And it’s human to not want to get moving… so acknowledge that, too, and take a step forward. If you need to learn something or get advice before taking the next step, do so. Immediately. Then apply what you learn and take the next step.

Choose wisely when you can, but choose anyway when you’re confronted with no clear “right” choice. Keep moving.

Keep. Moving.

Hey, the comment section is open. Love to hear the story of your early entrepreneurial adventures…



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  • Eddys Velasquez says:

    Wow! Thank you John — for giving me a swift kick in the cojones lol – you really described exactly who I am. The guy with all the “ideas” but still working at a job I don’t like.

    Thanks for this.

    I’m flipping that coin now.


    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Eddys. Glad it hit home (though I didn’t mean to kick you there). Remember to move with full consciousness, and do your due diligence in preparing yourself for each new step, while learning your lessons and applying those lessons as you go. The key is to get moving. Good luck.

  • Steve Walther says:

    Thanks for writing this gem… Concisely states something I tell people all the time: don’t be a p*ssy. Better to make mistakes of ambition than mistakes of sloth (stole that one from Tim Ferriss), and that you can always (and will always need to) correct course along the way.

    • John Carlton says:

      Life never goes as planned, Steve, and there are risks for everyone daring to start an adventure in biz. But while you may yet die before your time from an accident or health problem… you mostly will NOT die from starting a biz. Bankruptcy, humiliation, estrangement from scared mates, failure and legal problems, sure. If you refuse to be ethical, and skip doing your due diligence, and court problems, being in biz can ruin your life. But then, you can remain a slacker, and still get hit by a bus, or taken out by cancer. Nothing in life is guaranteed.

      Entrepreneurs who make it often adopt a very Zen attitude about life: Shit happens, you deal with it, you always do the best you can, and you keep moving. It won’t “protect” you from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune… but hiding from life won’t protect you either. Might as well engage with life and the culture, and see what kind of damage you can do to the status quo.

      Slackery is cowardice in action. I know, cuz I was once one of the original slackers. Real bravery involves engaging with life, chewing up the scenery, and living with gusto.

      Thanks for the note, man.

  • My first business failed miserably. Second one did better and just died slowly. Third one is stable and growing and the fourth one is getting ready to launch.

    Scars are part of growing your business and learning how to make it work.

    Stay focused. stay moving and stay learning.

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Scott. I always tell people my best stories come from the disasters — it’s not exactly balm for failing, but it reminds us that laughter is an essential tool when you step into the game…

  • Well, damn, another brilliant rationing, you’ve given us. Thank you again for the simple, but stupefyingly powerful LIST IDEA. Anyone who glossed over that piece just missed one of your life-changing nuggets.

    At your urging, I made my list (again – you have to keep updating them, bro) just last week. It has made all the difference in my sanity. But much more than that, I started attracting the kind of opportunities I really wanted like crazy within one day of making the list. In fact, I pulled in more opportunities than I could possibly act on.

    Because of the list, I was able to pick the ones that would ultimately serve me and say ‘bye’ to the rest. It wasn’t without a little second-guessing to cut loose some dream projects, but I knew I couldn’t fully focus on the ones I wanted most if I said ‘yes’ to them all.

    Thanks, yet again, for your cool insights.


    • John Carlton says:

      Folks, Lorrie is one of the best ladies writing copy out there. (Her nickname is Brat, for good reason, but that’s beside the point.) Her short tale here is a reminder that even the best lose their mojo (there’s another comment in here on the same subject)… and that’s why we push these tactics like the Two Lists.

      Thanks for the note, Brat. I am pretty cool, ain’t I.

  • Sean says:


    Fear, inaction, inertia or whatever the hell you want to call it, is a scourge in our new normal. Been there myself after a very successful era ended badly. Biz failure, divorce and consulting tarot readers for biz advice held me in a cryo-state for some time. Then the incessant information gathering phase kicked in. Analysis paralysis is just a delay tactic tactic, keeps you from doing the inevitable. All that shit just caused brain freeze, so I rebooted and started asking for 12″ deep pan meat feasts at McD’s. It made feel alive again, comfort zone crumbled but I knew I was alive. I started cold calling random numbers selling fictitious products. I got my mojo back and I still read more than ever but this time application is pleasurable.

    • John Carlton says:

      Excellent short story on how the ride often goes, Sean. Getting your mojo back is an essential skill for entrepreneurs, cuz you WILL have periods where it leaves you. (Though, what’s up with selling fictitious product? Were you just practicing?)

  • Sharon A says:

    Hi John,
    I started my landscaping business on a dime back in 2005, the day after I left a paid job I was sick of. I’d run the place for 10 years, trained the help, and tripled the client base; and when I asked for a raise I was told the job wasn’t worth paying any more because it wasn’t a hard job and it didn’t take a lot of brains to do it. I gave my notice then and there and left.

    I didn’t know anything about advertising. My budget at that point was zero. I just threw all my tools into the back seat of my Geo Prizm and hit the pavement. I did some volunteer community projects as a way to advertise my services, and people started calling. Soon I had all the paying jobs I could handle.

    I built my client base up to 24 within the first two years through word of mouth alone. My work was my biggest advertisement. It also helped that I actually showed up when I said I would, called if I was running more than five minutes late, and generally treated my clients like they were valuable family members. I still do that, and I don’t intend to change the practice. It has repaid me many times over.

    When the recession hit in 2009, my client base was cut in half. I fretted for a bit; then I realized that most of the ones I’d lost were—let’s just say they weren’t in the top ten. I focused all my attention on my remaining clients, making sure their properties really stood out. I also started a client rewards program that said for every referral I got, the client that had recommended me would get a free hour of work. In six months I was back up to 19 clients, and I’ve held steady there ever since. (As an aside, even though I awarded a lot of free hours, my clients still insisted on paying me.)

    This year my 5-star treatment paid off in a huge way. I broke my leg and ankle (I shattered five bones) in mid April, just as I was filling my calender for the year. I was sure that this would be the end of the business I worked so hard to build. But EVERY SINGLE CLIENT (all 19 of them) said that they would work with my replacement and welcome me back next year. I didn’t lose a single one, which is beyond miraculous.

    I don’t know yet what next year will hold. I don’t know if I’ll be able to work. I am still re-learning to walk, and the nerve damage has been significant. A cane and a brace are my constant companions. But one thing I am clear on is my continuing responsibility for my clients. If I can’t do the work myself, it is up to me to find someone knowledgeable that they can trust. I owe them at least that much. 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Sometimes, the good guys do win a round. Hang in there. Here’s hoping the healing comes quickly… however, your mind and attitude seem absolutely right on already…

  • Isaac says:


    I LOVE your stuff. I bought a product from Eben Pagan that came with an interview with you that lead to me going through your entire simple copy program.

    I’m in the early stages of messing around online. We’ve done two product launches: and

    and have had some good traction. I am making SOOO many mistakes! LOL! But with your copy advice I’ve at least started some where and we’re starting to make a little residual which is great!

    Thanks for all that you do. You’re advice and education has been PRICELESS. I need much more experience and in the future, once we’ve tested more and built more of a following, get in touch with you for some advice.

    To Becoming Savvy!


  • Geoff says:

    Always, always, always look forward to reading your stuff. I’ve just recently completely walked away from my biz of 11 years. Just left. Told everyone I was done. It went from new, to great in the 2006 era, to shit in the last couple of years. So, the wife quit her job, and we moved. Mostly so the kid could go to a better public school and we could live in what we perceive to be a better place (everything is a perception, no?)
    Anywho, I’m starting over. Got 1 thing I’m looking at to make money right now. Like Monday morning. Got another thing to work on to make money long term, like starting in 30-45 days and building from there.
    Don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but by gawd it’s what I’m doing.
    Thanks for your writings…they talk to me where I need talking to, and nobody I know actually talks to me like that.

  • Pete says:

    “…been counseling entrepreneurs…” – Gotta say, that conjures an amusing image for me of John as ‘Biz-Shrink’…

    Except the guy comes in, lays down on the couch and John kick his ass off it, tells him to grow a pair and gets right down to explaining the cure.

    ; )

    Inspiring post as ever, man. I’m off to make those 2 lists now.

    • Pete.. that is one funny reply! I love that! I can totally see some dejected sad person, draggin’ their feet when they walk in, and flump themselves on the couch.. and like a rocket attached to their feet after the swift kick in the ass.. on their way out the door after they get a good smack and a good talkin too…
      Thanks for being frosty John!

    • John Carlton says:

      Ha! Biz-Shrink, I like it.

      I’ve actually made clients cry before, you know. Several of them wear that proudly, and happily talk about the time “John made me cry… and then I went out and actually started making money.” I’m not mean or anything, but I HATE idealism and dunder-headed belief systems that inhibit people from reaching their goals. Often, the more painful the intervention, the larger the reward…

      Thanks for the “biz shrink” idea, Pete. Made my day…

  • Brian McLeod says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a more concise and accurate cheat sheet for how to get hip to “how it works”.

    I love this roll you’re on right now… DON’T STOP!


  • ken c says:

    An intense action focus, and the cajones to go after it, is absolutely at the core of successful entrepreneuring.

    I like that which-markets-to-go-after explanation, it’s right on the money. For example I’m getting my wife started in a certain health related niche, hyper-competitive; goal is to start as an affiliate to learn the ropes, then develop new products for “holes” in the market where there’s unserved need, as well as going head to head against mainstream competition w/direct-competition products. It’ll quite probably outdo my main business within 5 years, and good for her.

    Being an entrepreneur is a lot like dating. You just have to get out there and do it. And not give up. I dated hundreds of women back when I was playing gigs in so cal. nightclubs (hey don’t hate the player, hate the game lol). And am on my 3rd wife. I didn’t give up after the first two, and this one’s been with me 14 years (knock on wood). So it’s like business, even any motion is better than selling from the heels, to learn the core skills like content development, lead gen, copywriting, production skills and the rest of it.

    I like your points about staying strong, and keeping at it. Got fired numerous times from dilbert-cubicle corporate jobs 20+ years ago (I’m told I wasn’t a team player. Ya think? Now who’s laughing haha I hope my old bosses who fired me see I’m making a multiple of their drone salaries; best revenge is living well, and famously, and that’s ultra-cool). And I even get to play guitar at 1pm in the afternoon whenever I want. nya nya lol. Being an entrepreneur is great.

    But yeah you’ve gotta work your ass off, and that’s one thing I like about your posts, John, is the “grab everyone by the scruff of their neck and shake ’em into action” approach, which is so effective. Ok now back to work.

    staying frosty,


  • Stephanie says:

    Love it, love it, love it.
    Trying on a new set of big-girl pants as I read this.

  • Bill Jeffels says:

    Perfectly Said!

    I remember in 2009 when i was sitting at my kitchen table stuffing my sales letter into envelopes.

    I applied the stamps myself. That feeling of actually “DOING IT”… changed my life!

    Bill Jeffels

    • John Carlton says:

      I did that too, many times. Watched the letters being printed at the print shop, hauled them back to the office to fold and stuff and lick stamps for, then went to the post office and went behind the scenes to see how they were processed for delivery. Hands-on work really can bring you closer to every element of life. Thanks for the note, Bill.

  • Andrew Stark says:

    Had to use google / wikipedia to find out what cojones were, and now that I know that they are a good dose of failure and a kick to that region is what separates out MBA corporate idiots from business owners.

    To me the reason the economy is bust is that big companies hire MBA executives and listen to all the McKinsey BS come up with so that if it goes wrong their cojones aren’t on the block.

    Keep up this straight talking and the world will become a better place.


    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Andrew. Sometimes I forget that American slang escapes many readers. Cojones is slang Spanish for testicles, actually — but most commonly used as a word for “courage” or an attitude of “get out of my way, I’m gonna do it anyway”.

      I grew up in Southern California, and many of my pals down there were Latino, so I had glimpses into that culture… where the slang was colorful and wonderful and much better than anything we had in the English language.

  • David Garfinkel, MAEd says:

    Carlton, you are right, and I hate what you wrote.

  • David Garfinkel, MAEd says:

    OK [grumble}

  • Indeed! My entreprenurial path has defintely been sideways a lot. I’ve gone in fits & spurts, and the biggest mistake I ever made was trying to go back to a normal, safe life. I sold Venezuelan artesania in art fairs in Colorado & California, that made for a good summer, and then I moved to Maui and ran out of money. I became a massage therapist a did OK. When I started DJing weddings on Maui is when I made great money and had a lot of fun. The recession deflated that, but it was still alright. Then, I left and got married to a Venezuelan. We moved to Miami to manufacture her hair care products & sell them between Miami & Latin America. Being in business together killed the marriage, though, unfortuantely. I tried to get a real job, but I’m too independent now, no one will give me one. I’ve been doing a year of service with AmeriCorps, which is nice, but the non-profit world isn’t for me. Now, I firmly know I will do my own thing and persevere through the fear & uncertainty. In a few weeks I’m moving to Costa Rica to manage my friends vacation rental on the beach in Santa Teresa. I’m really excited to get back on the solo path, and a little afraid. But, I finally learned what I want, I’m sure of it this time, and can learn from my past mistakes. These posts help me realize that I must learn from my future mistakes too, and to continue in spite of them.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Beach House. One of the tactics to use is to better define “fear”, for you specifically. Different people experience fear differently. For some, it’s energizing — they can redirect the adrenaline dump into motivation. Some sports stars and stage actors do this — they start out literally shaking and vomiting, and get control, and use that now-controlled energy to deliver high-end performances.

      Other people, of course, buckle and shut down and freeze at the slightest hint of fear. Most are in-between… but few folks truly understand what makes them afraid, why it does so, and what the physical manifestations of fear are, for them. Nervousness, short of breath, nausea, nightmares… figure it out. Many people are running “scripts” from childhood, or from a specific horrible incident or period of fear (say, from abuse as kids, or wartime trauma, or a long period of heartbreak as a loved one dies slowly). It’s a mixed bag, and the more you understand it all, the better you can control it. You are not guaranteed to have nightmares and be a basket case, just because you got dealt a raw deal along the line. Talk therapy with a pro therapist helps. So does self-awareness, and courageous exploration of what’s gone wrong in your autonomic nervous system (where the hormone dumps occur).

      There’s no simple fix, much of the time. But you start by confronting your fear, defining it, examining it, and no longer being afraid of the pure physical response you have. I know a LOT of people who speak in front of thousands on stages… who stutter, who get physically ill before going on, who dread the experience. But they do it anyway, and they thrive on stage. It’s strange, but it’s true.

      Moving, being excited and scared at the same time, starting a new adventure… it just wakes up your body and soul at the cellular level. It can be daunting. Still, you only get one shot at a good life, well-lived. Pursuing your dreams involves fear.

      • Joe says:

        One of the tactics to use is to better define “fear”, for you specifically.
        Thanks, John. That helps me focus my awareness so that I can seperate fear and worry from the positive effects of risk taking.

  • Patricia says:

    Holy Schomoze. (new word – don’t look it up). This is an over the top great article. And most amazing to me is the feedback and your answers to each one. The comments and replies were educational and encouraging. Sort of like a whole string of testimonials for free (though I was sold with the main text).

    I got your Freelance Copywriting course from my coach as a reward for finishing an AWAI program. I gobbled it up and my thoughts were ….. “Okay – so why didn’t I just start with this? ? ?”

    Anyway – I love reading this about fear. Cause it sort of resides there for me like the monster under the bed. Your thoughts were like putting the light on. Look under bed. Huh? No monster. Keep light on just to be safe and go to sleep. article handy for next time monster growls.

    Thanks for your sharing. It is simply life-lifting.

  • Max Miller says:

    Excellent blog! How true and to the point.
    I started a web business 18 years ago as a sideline. Through dumb luck it worked. Not big time but it made money. I didn’t care because I loved my real work. I trained commercial and military transport pilots and wrote flight manuals.
    Times changed, I retired and took a good look at the business. What a mess!! How did it survive this long?
    My present problem? I’m a pilot. I don’t have a clue how to bring a website up to date. I have asked a few supposed experts but no answers.
    If you are too busy, maybe you can point me in a direction.

    • John Carlton says:

      This is easy. Start by joining the Insider’s Club. It’s just one buck ($1) for a trial membership, and you get full privileges. I’m in there all the time answering questions and critiquing stuff, as well as the team. You can network, ask specific questions, get recommendations, find great resources like swipe files and free courses on writing email and increasing sales. There are geeks in there, too.

      Go here for your no-risk, no obligation, straight-on trial:

  • Tripp says:

    Hi John,

    Boy, did I finally find a blog post to cheer me up. I am a dating coach in Los Angeles, trying to teach men the proper and natural ways to meet women (no pickup artistry gimmicky bullshit here) Anyway, that’s my biz. It’s been a hell of a first year kick starting it all off the ground. As much as I believe in my products/services every day is a new battle an an entrepreneur. Some days you’re on top of the world and others you want to go home and cry to mommy. I’m getting over a slump right now, just overwhelmed and trying to make sense of all the marketing information out there. It’s a lot to handle, especially when you’re the only one running your business.

    Moving on, just wanted to say thank you for this post because it really is about cajones. And I also think it’s about persistence. The ones who succeed are the ones who haven’t given up. I am that guy. I will continue to be that guy. Writing this comment has been therapeutical.

    Thanks John,


  • Janice says:

    Well John,
    You said a mouth full and very well put..This is a journey and it is a long road ahead of us. I knew that from the get-go.. I keep moving forward (slowly)and one day I’ll reach the end of the road only to find another turn..
    Thanks for your input, always injoy your rants.

  • Carl Picot says:

    OK John…. Going out there …. with my gonads safely pushing me all the way … and getting ready so they don’t get jabbed by that first fork!!

    Maybe a quick forage in the undergrowth … where I seem to spend most of my time .. will set be back on track…. for a while at least .. till I hit the next fork and have to rely on the gonads again to pull me back if I take the wrong route 🙂

    Great post John … I love the simple solutions bit. Makes me feel more confident knowing someones been there before !!



  • Caroline says:

    Put me out of my misery and just shoot me now! Poverty does not become me and my high IQ is certainly starting to bore me. ARGH!

  • George says:

    Hey man

    I’m from Greece and last month decided to quit my job and start my own business.

    Many people think I’m crazy, but what the hell.

    We only live once.

    Just wish me luck.

    Great post, very inspiring

  • Grant K says:


    So how can you help me?
    I am on my 5 or 6th biz now, each one has died a slow pain full death, so now trying to make it online in the publishing biz of magazines and eBooks?
    Just starting out so need a kick in the right direction and not in the gonads hehe

    kind regards

  • Right now is the time for my early entrepreneurial adventures…I’m a newbie (again).

    Twenty years ago I started out fresh faced and full of vigor to achieve my dreams of culinary success.
    I began an apprenticeship of knife wielding and pan slinging. Today I have a new apprenticeship of pen wielding and laptop slinging.
    Sheer bloodied persistence and stainless-steel determination are two traits that still adventure with me, a little worn and frayed their covers but underneath they’re not.
    I may now carry the label of entrepreneur, a far cry from “kitchen bitch”, but it is the conceptualizing, creating and plating myself anew that is the sauce of life.
    A side order of cojones never goes amiss either.

    The key you pointed out is to take action, any sort of action, get moving, then don’t stop running. Tweak along the way.

  • Jimmy Curley says:

    Another fab post John.

    I remember my hand quivering when writing a fat $22,000 check to purchase some ad space for a “bright idea” I came up with. Okay… it was for a hunting product. I did the research and was convinced it’d work.

    It didn’t work. I lost my ass. A lot of time too.

    Okay, that kinda thing can really put you off your game. Or convince you to curl into the fetal position and NEVER take chances again. (Never, never, never.)

    But my buddy Bob Pierce, now my biz partner, (but not at the time of this debacle) just laughed and convinced me that this was the “fun stuff”. Like base-jumping with a hinky parachute you weren’t so sure about.

    Looking back, that moment STILL doesn’t feel fun. And there were (and still are) a LOT more ass-kicking experiences to come. But ultimately I discovered the key was to take educated chances (yeah, you gotta have “smarts”), and then to accept the consequences chin-up and moving forward.

    Grow cojones… and then keep them firmly attached.

    And when things DO work out your way, go ahead and enjoy a game of pocket billiards.


    • John Carlton says:

      LOL, Jimbo… It IS true that many biz-owners allow others to “own” their cojones (spouse, partner, competitor, bookie), and things will never go well after that happens.

      There’s probably a course hidden here somewhere: “Care And Feeding Of Your New Cojones”

  • Susan says:

    Three cheers for your brash, audacious, and uber-realistic wisdom!

  • Jerry says:

    Okay, here we go again, one more time…

    John, I’m a 61-year-old car salesman…that’s what I always return to after a biz faiure. I really don’t like the job all that much, but it pays the bills until I get “the itch”, go to the pantry and pull the cajones off the shelf. Which you’ve inspired me to do again.

    There’s a quote from Zig Ziglar that I love and want to share with your audience:

    “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

    I’m learning, slowly but surely, that effing up is a prerequisite of success. With that in mind, I am now frostiy heading to the pantry to remove my cajones and give it another shot…thanks for the inspiration.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Jerry. Now that I’m sixty, I see the biz world a bit differently than I did as a punk rookie. The young ‘uns want to categorize you, but fuck ’em. Find the groove you’re best suited for, stay rooted in reality, and tear it up. There are new challenges, and you need to not overstep your expertise (cuz too many veterans get it in their head they can do anything better, just cuz they’re veterans — and it’s not true)… but never forget the amazing advantages you carry in your tool kit just from experience and the insight of years. It’s stunningly valuable shit…

      Good luck, and have some fun with this.

  • Dan says:

    Thank You John for reminding us to “Keep Moving”. Always enjoy reading your no-nonsense encouragement. now i must go find my dictionary and look up somnambulant. thanks again

  • Your wisdom is so on point. I’m a CPA that opened my own practice over 25 yearrs ago, and have been fortunate to keep the lights on and the doors open since then. One of my first hurdles was borrowing five grand to purchase an IBM XT along with a dot matrix printer!!

    I recall distinctly that my drive kept me going until I reached that terrible point of feeling “I’ve arrived!” I wasn’t “hungry” anymore, I relaxed, and started missing opportunities because I wasn’t looking over my shoulder as you say, and almost got eaten alive by the competition.

    Fortunately, the wake-up call came and I’m back in the saddle. It’s as if I just need to stay a little hungry.

    Hope I get to meet you at the upcoming Dan Kennedy event. Love your stuff!

  • Ami says:

    I will not comment about the writing style, but it seems a bit childish. What is missing is the emphasis on “ACTION”. There is no doubt that the active manager / entrepreneur is better off than the passive one. One thing that you will see in successful start-ups is the action oriented style. There are ways to sit back and watch your company running, the people working and the market changing… and there are ways of acting, adjusting, correcting… doing all the things that makes a company move. At Microsoft in the early days, moving with the changes at IBM was compared to riding a bull. You move every which way, as long as you stay on the bull. It’s good to see successful start-ups and ones that are too complacent, and learn a lesson from life. Otherwise, the topic is important to learn.

    • John Carlton says:

      Wait, you’re calling my writing style “childish”? After saying you won’t comment on it?

      Isn’t that being a bit of a weasel, denying you’re saying what you’re actually saying? And so’s your old lady… nyah, nyah, nyah…

  • rob joy says:

    Hey JSC…..

    Nother ball bustin rant…..every ounce of wisdom reins as true as the day light outside…Ive bombed so many time ive forgotten number of websites Ive built and promoted but test small to begin with (reflective of my direct response background)…

    Only one two that broke even…..

    Like anything….you gotta dip your toe in the water or just dive in and work it out as you go with loose plan you adjust as you go…



    P.S. Your freelancer course put $$$ in my hand in the end I shut down my site and sacked my clients deciding to become my own client and follow my heart! best feeling in the world-my first project instructional dvd for females in how to end being attacked fast and safe-hired a production crew sight un-seen off facebook-hired a high end camera-shot it in one take based on workshops I ran from 2004-2009…it was not mickey mouse but got it done…have video guru editing it-got pro to do dvd cover and printing writing the pitch tommorow sitting on the beach now mild weather has come…..only decided to do this 16 days ago….

    P.P.S …..nothing to do with marketing-my housemate and I where talking bout blues, old timmer bitchin guitarist he showed me dvd of some old as dirt guitar player called “Johnny Winter” holy crap batman that dude can slam hard on the fretboard….just amazing!

    P.P.P.S Big howdy dooody to ‘Brat’ :O)

    • John Carlton says:

      Johnny’s still out there, and so is his brother Edgar. Pure adrenaline-fueled Texas blues, that was Johnny in his prime… Listen to his take on Dylan’s Highway 61 sometime…

  • Tom Parker says:

    Thanks for a very inspirational article John. I love the directness. I’ve had a few business ventures over the years, offline and online. Some failures, some not quite failures, having a mediocre income, but none ever ‘super’ successful.

    One of the biggest challenges that I have had, and that I think others do too, is a lack of support and belief by spouses, family members, friends, etc. It’s hard enough already without their pounding and criticism. Comments like ‘get a real job’, ‘that will never work’, or like ‘ok, you tried it 3 months, now just give up.’

    People without the entrepreneurial spirit, never really understand or relate to those that do. They don’t understand the “I’m going to do this even if i die trying! At least I tried!”

    I’d rather die in failure even, knowing I tried, than living my life in what to me would be ‘mediocrity’. There’s nothing wrong with those who choose careers working for others, and they love it, but I think the entrepreneur is cut from a different mold.

    • Good thought, Tom. In my practice, we work alot with folks that are new in business, and I would say even half of the oones that start a business don’t really have that “fire in the belly”, aka cojones. This is a conversation for another time, but I’m afraid our education system teaches kids to conform rather than stand out. I wonder if Carlton was a behavior problem in school!!

    • John Carlton says:

      The great divide in the culture is actually being IN biz, opposed to not being in biz but thinking you know everything about it. I tell all budding entrepreneurs not to expect their family/friends/former support groups to be nice or supportive. Unless they know others who are in biz — it’s like a secret society. Nobody else will understand your stories, jokes, fears or joys.

      Thanks for the note, Tom. You’re not a colonel, are you?

    • Mardy says:

      Im lucky to have friends and family who actually support my entrepreneurship. But I learned quickly not talk about about my endeavors and idea. Everyone I had encountered up until this point were nothing but supportive.. so I became naive and spilled my plans among everyone I associate with. Big mistake. Im in my 20s and my biggest haters are marketing undergrads/grads who resent me trying to start a career in digital marketing when I don’t have a degree. The veiled insults woke me up.

      I said to myself.. stop talking and do it.

      Thank you John. Linus Rylander turned me on to your blog.. glad he did.

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