Gratitude, Schmatitude


Friday, 2:22pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)


Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.

Like it’s magic or something.

It ain’t.

Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).

Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me. I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work. Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.

So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.

But a little perspective, please.

For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude. They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.

So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.

Which is, of course, pure bullshit.

The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit. I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.

So why do they even say it?

Sometimes it’s just habit, from the old scripts they used to read. The job requirements included big smiles, friendly demeanor even in the face of rudeness, and a steady stream of patter to calm folks down while the jet screamed through the heavens eight miles up.

So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT. And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.

And AT&T robots love to drone while you’re on hold, about how grateful they are to have you as a customer. It’s all please and thank you and yes, sir. The gratitude practically drips from the phone…

… but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint. I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned. By evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.

Yeah, get real. Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases. Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.

The worst are businesses that hire some PR firm to write up a “mission statement”. This is all the rage every so often, as the MBA schools recycle old tropes on doing biz. Not understanding what a USP is, and possessing no clue on how to actually deal with a prospect or customer, dazed biz owners will spend a lot of time and money positioning a statement out that is supposed to “define” the “culture” of the joint.

So we get lots of vague “the customer is king” and “you’re the boss” crap… which sounds great, but is just blabbering babble if not put into action.

Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back. Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.

If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT. Don’t talk about it. Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises. Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

Yes, you’re VERY thankful to the grubby dude from the garage who drove out to fix your car in the rain. At the time he’s getting things done, and you’re sensing you’re gonna get out of this ordeal after all, you want to hug him. And you say, over and over again, how grateful you are that he exists.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re not grateful enough to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner, are you? You gonna help him move to a new apartment next weekend? Go watch the big game with him at the garage?

No, you’re not. Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over. But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.

A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake. He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.

On the other hand, he may demure and not come at all, if he’s all creeped out over your slobbering hugs of impotent gratitude.

Lying is lying. The small lies in life set up the big ones. Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time. You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.

In fact, one of the old street maxims is: Take whatever the guy says, and figure the opposite is true.

In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem. The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse. The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling. The joint is filled with liars.

This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there. Just be honest. Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.

Your audience will let you know what your reputation is, soon enough.

Don’t be like that pilot blabbing about choices when there aren’t any. He is announcing to everyone that he is, at best, a mindless corporate shill. And if he wanders into the cabin during the flight and tells you something about not worrying, everything’s just dandy…

… you will be excused if your next act is to look for a parachute.

Consequences matter. Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business. Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.

Don’t turn it into a lying shit heel, just because you want to sound all corporate-like.

It matters. Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.


No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,



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  • Deb says:

    Hey Carlton, it’s not the 14th yet, even in Reno. Well, you said to be honest. Nice meeting you in Delray. Enjoyed your presentation!!

    • John Carlton says:

      Not sure what you’re referring to, Deb. The WordPress date on the post? I have no control over that…

      • You actually do. If you go to “edit post”, on the right hand side (by “update post”) you can choose the date and time the article was posted.

        If you ever have WordPress questions you can send them my way. Big fan.

        • John Carlton says:

          Thanks. Yes, it will change the date during updates. But on the original posting, no control. I can’t date it a day ahead, which is what Deb was commenting on.

          I’d enjoy making up posting dates, though. Like December 11, 1976. But the Man frowns on that kind of fun…

  • Bob says:

    Very good.
    I would add, meet your deadlines and pay your obligations on or before the due date.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yep, that too. Movement gets so much more done than non-movement (including too much talking, instead of action).

      The surprise is, once you get into the habit of figuring out what needs to be done, or could be done, and then immediately planning on doing it… and then DOING it… you just slip into becoming a more effective person, barely noticing it until your reputation starts preceding you. It’s the only way for a true pro to live…

  • Larry E says:

    Looking forward to Novembers RANT and you certainly didn’t disappoint John!
    A lot of really valud points!
    That’s why you have to love a Company like Disney that controls your expectations!
    I haven’t been there in awhile (Florida Disney) but they used to have signs up in front of the rides with anticipated wait time.If they believed it to be a half hour the sign would say something to the effect “Estimated wait time is one hour” Then, when you got on in 45 minutes you were pleasantly surprised!
    You had a high line car dealer , I think Caddy, who was in Texas but their good Customer was in New York and called them because she needed a car for the week but couldn’t find one ( rental) that was non smoking and she was deathly allergic to ciggerette smoke. The Owner of the Dealership had one of his guys drive one of their cars from the Dealership in Texas to New York so she’d have a car to use. He flew back and then a week later flew back to New York to get their car and drive it back. When asked he replied that woman was 60 years old and every 4 years her and her husband each bought a New Car and had been for years and probably will continue for more years. For the lousy 500 bucks or so ( this book Customers for Life was written about Carl Sewille and Sewille Village many years ago) it was a small price to retain a great customer and word of mouth advertising from her you couldn’t buy!
    Yup… Too many false promises by major companies and Mom and Pops alike!
    As a suggestion a nice tip to the person that is going to pour you a few beers, change your tires or mow your lawn in advance BEFORE they perform the task at hand not only makes them happy and feel appreciated, but may just get you a faster brew, your lugs on tightly and a nicely mowed lawn!
    Take care!!!!

  • Brandon Whited says:

    I’d often say. “Thank you, I appreciate it” And I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ve said many times.

    Thanks for making me think about that.

    And I god damn hate that phone operator repeat line, Wells Fargo customer service sucks!(never again)



    P.s- I while ago I posted on one of articles and you gave me advice for my career. Recently I bought into a Affiliate marketing mentorship thing. Now I can put into action your teachings for myselfand more! When I graduate in May I will be self-employed and then some!

    Thanks again

  • “a foot massage would be nice, too” – so hilarious, flying will never be the same again…

    “don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.” – I almost died once keeping one. (I stopped making dumb promises since).

    “the customer is king” – I believed the same trash until I got to Jay Abraham’s “Strategy of Preeminence”. (He floored me with idea of respectfully urging clients to buy more – in their best interest).

    “The word will get out, trust me.” – I never believed that until one day I found myself singing praises about someone else’s services. Same with gratitude – the more I received it (knowing how nice it feels), the happier I was sharing it with others.

    “Just be honest.” – Easier said than done. I gotta first murder the terrified little corporate voice asking “but how will people react? You have to be politically correct? You can’t say that!”.

    I appreciate the reminder about gratitude. All the gurus teach it, works great as a cure for the internal whining and complaining. I just wish I remembered about it more often…

    Thanks for the blog, the 2 recent books – and for still spending so much time generously sharing!

  • Max Latimer says:

    It’s a race to the bottom.

    I heard a radio spot the other day state, as their point of difference, “we offer safe, reliable, service”.

    The worst bit is, they actually think this is a point of difference.

    If they didn’t offer that to everyone, would you think they were reckless yahoo’s who may or may not show up? (Benchmark service is now consider exceptional or outstanding…even noteworthy. Whilst poor, shitty, almost non existent service is the norm.)

    It’s not hard to stand out in a sea of low achievers.

    Great post, JC.

  • Ricky says:

    Hey John Can you talk about what sincerity means to you? I would gladly Appreciate non intended I been having issues with this

  • Carl Ocab says:

    “Hi John,

    I totally agree.

    Good customer service is not about bragging what you can do to customers. That’s like saying “”I’m a good lover”” to someone you’re hitting on. Ha!

    Sometimes, it should be action without words. As you said, “DO IT” without promises. The problem is, it is very seldom that we see sincere customer service online. “

    • John Carlton says:

      I hope you get to experience our customer service sometime. We consistently get kudos on how we treat and handle people… cuz, you know, we actually care. The main person handling CU, Anne, has been at it for us for over a decade. Loyalty might have something to do with it…

  • John, I’d love to see you teach one class for one day at Mizzou University but I’m afraid the students afterwards would implode into a fetal position from which they would never emerge.

    • John Carlton says:

      I’ve actually taught single classes (through Skype, to a live classroom) for Xavier and the Mizz School of Journalism. The students were horrified that I demanded things from them, but if I reached even one kid, I’m happy…

  • Thanks for the good, “classic Carlton” read on the day before Thanksgiving, John. A timely reminder, as most Americans head for the turkey dinner. My thoughts on the “PC” Crowd? They’re neither correct, nor truly political, as they don’t seem to BELIEVE in anything! Gratitude’s not overrated, but often overdone. Enjoy the turkey!

  • GaryD says:


    Mr Carlton…..You fuckin rock!!

    thank you for that

    may you wear oversized pants that are comfy on Thanksgiving

    Rock On Motherfucker!


  • dANNY8bALL says:

    Nice one Johnny! Right to the point, went straight for the throat. Just before your email I got one from Will Marre. I read yours first because I knew it would lack any “namby pamby” do-gooder sentiment.

    Every time I hear someone say, “ACTUALLY…” I go on high alert, and listen for the lie to come. Bet you do too…

    Keep it comin’! Most writers today are afraid to go contrary, but not you. Or maybe I should just drop all that and PayPal you a twenty????

    But I do hope your thanksgiving day is enjoyable…

  • Cheryl Williams says:

    Hi John,

    Your post made me tear up, and I don’t do that often. I realize that reflection on the problem of ingratitude is not action, but it’s the beginning of awareness… and hopefully the start of forward movement.

    I’m grateful for conscientious free thinkers like you who speak honestly from a good heart.

    Thanks for being exactly who you are.

    No, really, thanks.

    • John Carlton says:

      I see what you did there, but your post is still appreciated. And you’re right about awareness. Dead on observation, Cheryl. Thanks.

      • Cheryl Williams says:

        Hi John,

        There was no sarcasm or anything of that nature intended. I really do have an appreciation for your work, values and truthfulness. Thank you. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Sharjeel Sohaib says:

    But a little perspective, please. True.

    The more I read you, Halbert, Claude and other great doers in copywriting, the more I realize that you all set-up your readers for lifetime success rather than marginal success.

    Like, you don’t talk about tactics but the perspective, the bigger things that help make tactics work.

  • Jean Wolfe says:

    Loved the post.

    The best /worst corporate nonsense I saw was when I was behind a van here in Britain.

    It was for the Royal Mail and the message said “delivering value ” when of course they are delivering letters and parcels.

    I was so angry it quite cheered me up for the whole of my journey! A good rant being a great pleasure to express and of course, to read.. So thanks!

  • Art says:


    So true… it’s painful. There so much sugar-coated PC crap out there now it borders on coprophilia. Drives me nuts. Truth is that sometimes truth hurts, wonder if that’s what people have a hard time digesting?

    Happy THANKSgiving to all.

  • Larry E says:

    Have a very happy Turkey Day John!!!

  • Dennis Morris says:

    Lol, great post John! You never, ever disappoint.
    Reminds me of something I read awhile back on “Company Branding”.

    Branding of your business is not created in your marketing cubicles, nor is it the banners in your lobby or the wallet cards that nobody looks at. Your brand or more simply, your reputation, is built from every single thing you do…every day.
    The emphasis is on “doing” not yakking.

    Thanks again, John

    Best Regards,

    Dennis M.

  • Dan says:

    Growing up around catholic families, I was always amazed at how often everyone thanked God for the meal we were about to eat – instead of the two short, weathered, hard working El Salvadorian women who had been prepping salads, brewing a pink ‘pearled barley’ drink and picking veggies since last Saturday.

    The first time I ever felt real gratitude for the things and people around me was after my introduction to the old neighbour Mary Jane – who proceeded to crack through a bunch of the ‘ego-eggshell’ layers that had been holding it all in all these years.

    I’m imagining thanksgiving in Colorado this year will be very different to thanksgiving in Melbourne…

  • Eddie P says:

    Hi John:

    Great article and I understand what you are saying. I would recommend reading Dan Sullivan’s book “The Gratitude Principle”.

    Happy Thanksgiving,


  • Irene says:

    Gratitude, when actually practiced and not reduced to a marketing slogan, is very powerful. When people realize this, they gain.

  • Larry E says:

    Hey John!
    I loved this issue of RANT but anxiously awaiting to find DECEMBER RANT under my tree!
    Thanks and HAPPY HO HO!
    Larry E

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