Staying Out Of “The Lonely Hearts” Club


Monday, 5:55pm
Reno, NV
“Train whistle blows, lost on its own track…” (Dwight Yoakum, “Long White Cadillac”)


I thought you’d want to see this.

I first posted it on Facebook, and it generated an avalanche of “likes” and comments… which always means I’ve hit a nerve. And since many of the nice folks on my main list are curmudgeons who refuse to participate in social media (“Facebook, bah, humbug!”)…

… I’m reprinting it here. So you don’t have to sully yourself by dropping by Facebook. (Bonus: The post below actually trashes large swaths of the Web.)

The cold, dark days of December are, traditionally, a breeding ground for both regret over mistakes in the past year…

… and (more happily) for bold new plans in the coming year.

So, in the spirit of helping you end the year on a positive note… while also teeing up 2014 as possibly your best new year ever…

… let’s see if this advice (which has transformed so many entrepreneurial adventures into something amazing) will have any effect on you. Maybe get a head-start on wading through the mounting piles of nonsense out there, and snuggling up closer to the reality-checks and truths that can help you attain your wildest goals and dreams.

Here’s the post:

Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive. And because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world…

… which included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abbey), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).

So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades. I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.

The discussions are critical… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture. It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns…

… and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.

My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary. We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.

So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…

… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.

Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials. The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…

… all of it. And when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.

I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh. They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.

And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.

As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.

That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.

Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this. I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…

… and host my own very elite mastermind four times a year. (If you think you’d enjoy being locked in a room with me and a small group of focused entrepreneurs just like you, then go here to see how you might join: Get the skinny on John’s mastermind here.)

The arrival of the Web, and all the vast access to data and info it’s brought, has NOT delivered “truth” to your door.

Just the opposite — it’s piled up the BS so high that you need, more than ever, some serious resources to help you navigate the nonsense.

Humans like to believe we’re able to conquer worlds and markets all on our lonesome, like Hollywood insists.

However, I know of ZERO top marketers (and I know a ton) who operate alone. They seek out, and USE, the advice and brainstorming of colleagues whenever possible. Their decisions (especially the really important ones) are laced with facts, intuition, gut feelings, facts, input from peers, facts…

… and more facts.

Not “common wisdom” derived from the cultural wasteland out there.

You wanna swim in the wealthy ponds, you best get hip to this.

Find colleagues you trust, from all age groups and as far from your usual intellectual echo chamber as possible, and never stop challenging every thought that enters your brain.

Alone, entrepreneurs are vulnerable to idiotic decisions. Together, you may still go with the idiocy, but at least you’ll go into it knowing all the alternative data and opinion and advice.

Just sayin’…

Is 2014 YOUR year to break free of the restraints that squelch the dreams of so many other entrepreneurs?

Now’s the time to think about it. And take action, when you believe you’re finally ready to get moving.

Stay frosty,


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  • Wayne says:

    Thanks John for taking the time to give back to us all of you knowledge and wisdom. Ir is really appreciated.

    • John Carlton says:

      You’re welcome, Wayne. I don’t consider myself “wise”, though — just bruised enough by life (after making every freakin’ mistake possible in my career as I went) to be offered some really good lessons. Which I’m sharing here, in the hopes of sparing some of you guys the same bruises…

  • mark grove says:

    Yeah John,

    I better stop being a one man band here. The only person I know who has any acumen business wise to be a sort of mastermind, is the first client I got. He’s a real estate investor and serial business guy offline.

    But he barely has time for me other than to pay me for services rendered in my cleaning biz. Guess I’ll keep looking. I’m thinking my local chamber of commerce and guys like yourself and some others who you know. Thank you sir.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, if this was an easy process, everybody would be doing it. But it takes effort, focus and movement — you may have to kiss some frogs, go down some dark alleys, and even get entangled with the wrong folks while you figure out the best way to take advantage of the resources of a good group (or even just a good colleague to talk to).

      The main thing, though, is to realize how valuable such a resource is, and then go after it.

      Thanks for the note, Mark…

  • This is probably the most golden of gold nuggets on this blog. Yet most people won’t pay heed to the message, and will forever keep trudging along in the mud that is “The Lonely Hearts Club.”

    And while I don’t claim to have all the answers, one answer that keeps popping up, one that answers the following question:

    “Why DON’T people just ‘get it,’ and stop trying to do this business alone?”

    (could apply to any business)

    The answer I’ve found that keeps popping up? They are afraid, or worse, ashamed that they “have to get help.”

    Once they cross this bridge, and drop their egos and low self-esteem at the door, and collaborate with their colleagues… I can personally attest to the riches that wait on the other side.

    No, not overnight riches, and NO ONE is going to do your work or run your business for you… but your mind changes when you follow the advice John has laid out here. Your attitude changes when you start to mastermind with others, and here’s the biggest part from my perspective…

    … the synergy you have with other writers, business people, whatever… is irreplaceable.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, some folks will actually have conscious “reasons” why they aren’t using this resource… but most just haven’t allowed the notion to burble up into their brains as an important item on their To Do List. There are probably a few stages to go through: first, realizing the idea even exists (it can be a revelation when you initially realize the mastermind model is out there)… then admitting you could really use it… then getting your butt in gear researching what’s available, and being proactive about joining one, or forming one, or getting into and then out of a bad one… all movement forward, being proactive and evaluating your results.

      It’s a major step just to realize you could use some help. Then, it’s a major lifestyle adjustment to get out of your comfort zone to meet others, and talk, and share, and critique ideas and plans. And like all major steps in life, from getting married to going through rehab to buying a new car, the devil is in the details.

      But when it’s worth it — and this kind of biz resource is VERY worth it — then the trouble of doing it right pays off almost instantly.

      Thanks for chiming in, Joseph. Good to hear from you.

      • Good to see you’re still writing gold, and haven’t retired to a golf resort for “one-legged golfers” or something (kidding).

        As a side note, your print book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together” is very good. Reminds me of the old Rant newsletter… and I will highly recommend it to every budding copywriter I come in contact with.

  • Dave Egan says:


    Years ago, I was fortunate enough to take a comedy writing workshop where Carl Reiner was one of the guest lecturers. He said something that’s stuck with me for the ensuing 20 years, and always helps my work end up being the best it can be.

    He was talking about writing with a partner (which he did for most of his illustrious career) and he explained it thusly: “When you bounce a ball off a wall, you get back a ball. But bounce a ball off an INTELLIGENT wall, and you get back a ball with an opinion!”

    You may not like——or listen to——that opinion, but it can keep you from making rookie, uninformed or unintelligent decisions.

    I’ve found that someone I can bounce ideas off of, and we’ve been doing it that way for years. He also turned me on to you, so it’s obvious he’s intelligent!

    • John Carlton says:

      Love it — I’ve picked up stuff from Reiner over the years, too. Just listening to his stories (he’s one of the greats) reveals a world of intelligent writing and stunning humor most folks never learn about. Super valuable tips for all writers…

  • ken ca|houn says:

    Good points as always; your blog doubles as a reminder for what to focus on next year ahead as well — I found that the key is ‘going deep’ with a few well-trusted colleagues to mastermind/jv with. There’s a lot of ‘noise’ out there from potential working relationships as well, so cutting through it and finding the best matches, then working closely with those few trusted folks, is a key to success.

    Here’s to happy holidays (I’m playing electric guitar and jazz sax a lot lately to make it fun, in a sea of work), and an outstanding year ahead.

    Thanks as always for keeping it real,


    • John Carlton says:

      Yes, it can take a while to find good partners and mastermind pals, but lots of worthwhile stuff in life takes extra effort. Kissin’ frogs and takin’ names, that’s the model…

      Thanks for the note, Ken…

  • dANNY8bALL says:

    Hey there John,

    Merry Christmas and thanks for the nugget you put in our stockings here. I’m finding that almost all the money I made this year was because of the variety of partners I’m now doing projects with. The plan for ’14 is to widen my base of co-conspirators by offering them a free service.

  • Kip Lytle says:

    Hi John,

    Want an eye-opener about having partner’s to help you through whatever project you’re on … and, if you’re writing for the heath market, about walking a mile in the prospect’s shoes? PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

    On August 12th, I had a cancerous gliosarcoma tumor removed from my brain … and got to use a bad joke for several months: “Hey Kip, how you doing after your surgery?” “Well John, they took out a big chunk of my brain … and I’m STILL smarter than you! 🙂 haha!”

    Seriously, the past 4 months I’ve been eye-brows deep in the cancer market … digging through an unbelievable pile of contradicting information (that’s why I’ll never look at a health care prospect the same way again) – and relying on my loving wife to do the majority of the research (because I didn’t want to focus on cancer 8 hours a day for what might have been the last few months of my life.) I had to trust her insights into my situation like no other partner I’ve ever had.

    The good news is that a 12/12 MRI showed no new growth and possibly even a regression of a tiny amount of new growth that showed up on a 11/4 MRI … so I’m planning on being around soaking up your wisdom for years to come.

    Another nugget for your readers – NOT MUCH OF WHAT YOU THINK MATTERS DOES MATTER. As I’ve worked through these past 4 months (implementing – sometimes simultaneously [thanks Dan Kennedy!] – 18 different alternative treatment protocols [no “burn and poison” for me] – including closing my QLaser business [healthcare product marketing expert currently available!]

    So, after receiving the most wonderful Christmas present of my life (the clean 12/12 MRI results), I want to leave you and your readers with what, in my humble but correct opinion [thanks Doberman Dan!], IS important:

    Health, Happiness, Love and Gratitude.

    Have a Merry Christmas! Kip

  • Bill Jeffels says:

    Great post,John. I think surrounding yourself with like minded individuals is critical and benefits both people.

    If you are lucky enough to be around the Alpha types,as you were, I believe it gives each person a kick in the ass to keep going and possibly one upping each other till you get it right.


    Bill Jeffels

    (yes it’s cold) 🙂

  • Shaun says:

    thanks John will do something about that. It reminds me of my days as an employed programmer and the cool thing at the time was to do what was called Pair Programming where two of you would sit at one screen and take turns coding and the other would be checking and commenting and suggesting. Most people I knew hated it because it picked away at your self confidence if you sat with someone better than you but the results were very often good.

    Of course this is why MOST smart technical people don’t get rich because they are too busy being clever on their own.

    All the best,

  • Ruben says:

    I didn’t realize you were on Facebook too! You’re the 3rd entrepreneur in 30 days that I know of that seems to have been forced onto Facebook! And done fighting tooth and nail.

  • Kevin Long says:

    Hi John

    Just started reading ‘Kickass Copywriting’, had a half decent year being full time ‘internet dude’, realized I better get my shit together and start taking life seriously, well maybe a little lol.
    I don’t know squat about social marketing, so have invested in some ‘Guru’ books, we’ll see how that goes.
    Ive just got myself a real Mentor, Alex Jeffries, seems like a kick ass guy like yourself, with lots of successful students.
    So count me in for massive success for 2014.

    Have a fantastic holiday season John, one day I may even meet you and buy you a beer.

    Kevin Long

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