The Dirtiest Word For Most Adults

Thursday, 12:26pm
Reno, NV
Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…” (David Bowie)


Let’s have an uncomfortable discussion, what d’ya say?

Let’s talk about the dirtiest word most adults know: Change.

Here’s the thing about change: Learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess.

And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, make a fortune, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…

and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.

And then the world changes around you.


In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.

You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.

But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…

… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).

I marvel at my Pop’s life (he was vivacious and awesome until finally checking out at 95). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and we spoke via Skype every week for years. On his PC.

He was impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), read every page of  the newspaper every day (but fact-checked the editorials on Google, the lying bastards)…

… and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he would have been the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knew how make stuff and fix machines).

Mostly, though, I now sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tried to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He was never bitter, and revealed a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.

And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.

There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well…

… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit.

You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop music, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).

The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.

You are not required, however, to change your “core” self…

… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.

Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.

It doesn’t.

The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways.

Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.

Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.

Hope you’re enjoying this bitchin’ autumn weather.

Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?

Stay frosty,


P.S. If you haven’t devoured my two books on Amazon, you’re just cheating your bad self of a stone-cold advantage in life and biz that your competitors are probably using to beat you over the head with.

They’re both fast yet exhilarating reads…

… and if you bother to read the reviews about them, you’ll see that the benefits pile up fast.

Stop missing out already.

Go here and here to scoop them up. And enjoy!

P.P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo…

… just after I’d taken over the Big Desk at Gary Halbert’s office on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. Like 30 years ago.

For me, looking at that smiling nutball with the out-of-control hair reminds me of the radical changes that have happened since. Both glorious and heartbreaking.

But I embraced change, and even sought it out, even back then.

What a great ride so far…

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  • Jesus Miguel says:

    Even now, the rate of change is changing faster… According to Ray Kurzweil (a Google Artificial Intelligence Boss)

    I see it coming…

    That when virtual reality, is in the mainstream.

    People will come and say again…That the rules of selling in this new environment, have changed completely…. So they will flock, to the slogan type of selling again… rather than adapting the sales fundamentals of the masters, to this new medium.

    Thank you for being, that old (and cool) master yourself John!

    I know from your blog… That you are always in the crest of the wave in technology. You are very savvy at adapting to each medium, 800 numbers, infomercials, web, blogging… I hope you live a long life, so that you keep adapting to all the wackyness that will come ahead.

    And keep reminding everyone, to:

    Calm Down And Stick To The Fundamentals

    Thank you John.
    Love to hear your advice.

  • When I get overwhelmed with all the changes going on I remember that there’s an underlying spirit that is the root of that change, and we just need to do our best, and I am okay again. Thanks for sharing your perceptive view on change John!

  • Brian Keith Voiles says:

    I love the hair John! I’m currently reading “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together” and will pick up the new kids on the block as soon as I’m done. You have taught me so damn much (via osmosis) over the years — and I owe you. I don’t think It’ll ever catch up to you… but hopefully you won’t fault me for giving it a shot. You’re the best… man. I find myself RE-reading “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” along with the “Gary Halbert Letter” — and I keep learning more with every go-round. Thanks for all you do, and have done for this POS writer… I wouldn’t be who I am if not for you and Halbert. See you soon, I hope. Warmly, Brian Keith Voiles

  • Holly Lisle says:

    Change is one of my favorite words in the English language. My parents moved us every year, and I learned that every stupid thing I did in the previous place vanished, and I got a do-over in which I got another chance to reinvent myself as someone I actually liked. I know a much dirtier word.

    I had one word that I did not permit my kids to say when they were little, (back in the late 80s and early 90s)… and I fined them their entire ($4) week’s work allowance if they used it.

    I only had to fine either of them twice. And I’ve never heard either of them say it except with scorn or derision since.

    The word wasn’t “change.” It was “FAIR.”

    As in, “That’s not FAIR!”

    Change may be a dirty word to the fearful, but “fair” is a culture-crippling, initiative-destroying, mind fuck of a word. It demands that playing fields be leveled, outcomes be equalized, and inputs be made irrelevant.

    FAIR murders JUST, destroys initiative, and makes that obscenity ENTITLED into a chain that everyone must drag.

    If we were playing poker and the cards were “worst words in the English language,” I’d bet my a hand of “FAIR” against a hand of “CHANGE” any day.

    • John Carlton says:

      LOL. Great story, Holly. I had a physics teacher in high school who had the same obsession with the word “fair”. He’d been a marine in WWII, and knew the world wasn’t far. Great thing was, after he humiliated you with a bombast, he took any subsequent teasing himself with grace and laughter. I miss that guy… Mr Kimmick, an early mentor who never actually had a personal conversation with me, but influenced me in so many ways…

  • Jimbo Curley says:

    This is so well-written. Love the insight. Thanks John.

  • Bugsy Bunny says:

    Hey John!

    First and foremost, I’m a Bencivenga fan. Nothing personal against you…I just really enjoy his writing style. And to be honest, I haven’t had the chance to read one of your ads yet. But don’t worry, I’ll be writing out (by hand) one of yours tomorrow.

    It’s really odd that I prefer Gary over you since…you and I share several things in common.

    – I am at the same age as you were when you started your career.
    – I’m crushing books non-stop (and taking notes on each).
    – I’m putting in 40-50 hours/week learning this stuff (I can’t afford more because of my 7-3)
    – Although not as broke, I have the ‘Gun-to-Head’ mentality (I just heard you mention it for the first time in an interview).
    – I started off as a graphic designer (you mentioned that you weren’t any good…I tried Googling your stuff but found nothing) but am obsessing about copy.
    – I was/am good at design…but unfortunately color blind (for fuck sakes).

    I only realized how coincidentally similar we are, after listening to the first 9-minutes of your interview.

    Your book, “The Entrepreneurs Guide To Getting Your Poop Together” will forever be etched into my memory…along with your name, John Carlton. Not because of how interesting your book was to read (because it was), but because of where I was at the time I read it.

    P.S. I just realized, you’re the first copywriter-celeb I ever reached out to (no joke).

    P.P.S I planned on watching a show today (first bit of television in 2 months) but copywriting sucked me in again…it is 2:15AM as I write this to you and I should probably get to bed considering I’ve been up since 5AM…but I heard this show is AMAZING – and I haven’t watched anything in 8+ weeks).

    [I just realize how unrelated this is to the topic you wrote about ahaha…sorry man, it’s been a long day]

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