Archive Monthly Archives: March 2018

When Getting Your Teeth Kicked In Is A Good Thing

Sunday, 8:15pm
Reno, NV
Kick me like you did before, I can’t even feel the pain no more…” (Stones, “Rocks Off”)


Here’s some hard advice I’ll bet you haven’t heard before: Mentors who are active and successful in the real world…

… are essential for anyone serious about leading in any part of life or business.

And it’s very difficult to find good mentors in academia. At least, that’s my experience.

Too many dumb rules.

You must venture into the “real world” to find the good ones.

Especially now.

I mean, it was bad enough back when I was trudging through the halls of UCDavis in the 70s (and gosh, I sure wish it was 1974 again, height of the sexual revolution with what you now call “Classic Rock” as the soundtrack to our relentless partying).

Some of the profs I had were going down hard with mid-life and mid-career tragedies. Hard to get your mentoring on when “What’s it all mean?” is the operative phrase.

Still, younger folks today have it even tougher.

I recently taught a single evening’s class each at both Exeter and the Missouri school of journalism, via Skype. It was a great little adventure, really glad I did it…

… but the students were not happy at all about being challenged. And I was lobbing softballs.

It was pearls before swine, I suspect. I honestly thought at least a few of them would appreciate a grizzled veteran drilling them on the truths of life after college.


I may as well have been telling them they actually didn’t invent fun, and yes, other folks have felt a love as strong as what you’re feeling with Susie Q back in the dorm.

Nonsense, in other words. Heresy, really.

The poor darlings had been brainwashed in their educations, deluded into thinking life’s lessons would be delivered on a silver platter, with manners.

Back in the Real World, though, I do my best to give the students in the SWS a taste of what worked for me, back in the days when I was desperate (with zero alternative plans if I failed at this copywriting gig) to learn the tricks of the trade.

So, you know, I’d survive. And not starve.

In my first days with every real mentor I’ve ever had (notably Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert) I had my teeth metaphorically kicked in.

It was humiliating, humbling, and almost cruel. None of those guys had any time to waste with someone who couldn’t take the pressure of working in the entrepreneurial war zone.

That was both the price of admission, being crushed daily until I learned the game…

… and the most invigorating learning experience I’d ever had. I pushed my ego aside, took everything they dished out, and keep asking for more.

I’ve never learned truly difficult stuff so fast, and became so expert at it with such speed.

In my long experience, tough love is the best way to learn, with no second-best method in the running.

Academia has its place, and I learned a lot getting my BA (though very little in actual class — most of what I retained was all from the interactions with the wide array of people I encountered).

But for entrepreneurs, it’s real world all the way.

And I don’t mess around with sharing what I know with people who come to me for help.

Here’s just two small pieces of advice that raises eyebrows with some students:

First: Read copiously, and put what you learn to the test immediately. 

This requires shutting off the TV and gaming consoles, putting business before pleasure (argh!)…

… and pushing your stuff out onto the world stage, where it will live or die depending on how well you’ve learned from what you’ve read.

And Second: Here’s my best advice for copywriters:

Writers write…

… and great writers write with consequences.

That means you never back away from the chance to compete for real results…

… and you never let up for a moment on making your copy the best it can be, word by word, sentence by sentence, ad by ad.

That’s advice most do not want to hear.

But for those for whom a writing career is possible, it’s the ONLY advice worth hearing.

Get busy.

Stay frosty,


P.S. It’s damn hard to find mentors who will put up with you in person, these days.

That’s why the mastermind I run is so important for anyone needing to rub elbows with guys like me and the hard-core marketing crowd I hang with.

I host these mastermind 4 times a year, all over the country. They’re small, so you get to know the folks you’re sharing the meeting with…

… which include a Murderer’s Row of top players in the game. (A-List copywriters, filthy rich business moguls, other guru’s, and lots of entrepreneurs like you, just getting their groove on and looking for the kind of mentoring and advice that will launch them to the next stage as quickly as possible.)

I’m not gonna try to convince you, here, of how critical these meetings are.

Find out for yourself right here.

It Ain’t Complicated


Thursday, 4:15pm
Reno, NV
“I know what I want, and I know how to get it…” (The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy In The UK”)


I’ve been thinking about how Carlton’s First Inconvenient Rule of Entrepreneurship (“Step one is to implement a simple idea that succeeds; step two is to complicate the shit out of that simple idea so it eventually fails”) also applies to the civilization around us.

My father was perhaps one of the last men to actually experience a period where he completely understood — and could recreate and fix — almost everything around him.

Born in the Industrial Age in 1920, he’d dug wells for water, tore apart and reassembled car engines, fixed his own plumbing, grew food in the back yard. He built things, including large government buildings, from blueprints. He knew how clocks and toasters and and asphalt and support beams worked.

Most of my colleagues, today, can’t even start a fire from scratch (let alone rewire the electricity in the house).

And I clearly remember the day (in the early nineties) I was standing in a lot staring at the car I was about to buy, the hood open, wondering where the carburetor was…

… when the salesman casually informed me that engines were sealed now, and even if there had been a carburetor (which there wasn’t, since cars are all fuel-injected now), I wouldn’t be able to access it. Let alone fuss with it. Owners were no longer allowed to see, let alone touch, the working parts of the internal combustion engine anymore. If anything needed attention, I’d be alerted by a flashing light on the dashboard, and certified mechanics with bizarre tools not available at Home Depot would take care of it.

You? You keep your filthy civilian hands off the merchandise. Even when you own it.

As kids, we used to take telephones and radios and even TVs apart, and some of us could put ’em back together in working order. Not too long ago, an old and very savvy pal (who was handy building ham radios from scratch) admitted that he’d taken a laptop computer apart to see how it worked, and realized he had officially become a completely-clueless tech dinosaur…

… because there was zero way human eyes could even begin to see the tiny transistors inside.

Analog dudes living in a digital age. Not good. I can hear the Millennials laughing at us.

However, another Carlton Rule is: “There is always a way.” No matter what problem or situation you face, there is a solution. Saul Goodman (the lawyer from “Breaking Bad”) is the primary practitioner of this philosophy, of course (“I know a guy, who knows a guy… who knows a guy who does this”).

But it’s also the basis of all my high-end consulting.

In 30+ years, I’ve never met a biz problem (or a personal problem) I couldn’t find a solution to. Or knew a guy who had the answer, one phone call away.

You may not like the solution, but it exists. You may have to change direction (or your attitude or bank account) radically, or entertain options that are distasteful to you…

… but there is always a way around a problem. My example of this, in “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, is the drug war. Who are you gonna bet on — the multi-gazillion-dollar-funded US border security complex, with the most advanced helicopters, drones, submarines, scanners, weapons and computers…

… or the little Guatemalan farmer with his stash of weed he wants to sneak into the country?

Hint: Take the farmer. He’ll find a way.

And these two rules go hand-in-glove with each other. Yes, the culture (and everything around you) is getting more and more complex, spiraling away from your ability to understand any of it…

and, at the same time, yes, there are ways around being a slave to complexity.

Getting hip to this can save your butt, in biz and in private life.

Let’s take rock and roll as another example. In the early seventies, bands had gotten better and better in musicianship, stagecraft, and working in the studio. Just a few years earlier, garage bands without knowledge of electronics or soundscape management could still weasel their way into a studio and record a record live…

… and have it sell. “Louie, Louie”, by the Kingsmen, was recorded live in a garage. One take (cuz the lead singer was too drunk to do another). Mono, one mike hanging from the ceiling, a “good at the time” tape machine, no sound check. It was a different time, back when do-it-yourselfer’s could win.

But then things kept getting more complicated. By the early seventies, rock was taken over by bloated musician-heavy bands like Yes and stagecraft-oriented groups like Genesis. The garage bands were hopelessly outmatched in skill, technical ability, and resources.

Then, punk arrived. As a reaction to the bloated sound and restrictive nature of “professional”, expensively attired bands. Suddenly, it was a free-for-all again, and details be damned. Garage bands thrived for a second time.

The music had found a way around the problem.

Today, folks consider moving from an iPhone (phone, computer, web access, personal robot all-in-one) back to a now-ancient flip phone as a brave act of moving away from dependence on the Grid. Of course, they still can’t fix the flip phone if it breaks. It’s an illusionary and futile mission.

And I’ve met my share of pure geeks — guys who make the cast of The Big Bang Theory look like slacker hippies. They DO understand, and can manipulate (or hack) the digital world around them.

However, they also tend to be weak on interpersonal skills with their fellow humans. Even freshly armed with state-of-the-art “pick-up artist” tactics, they can’t easily find love or intimacy or any of the interpersonal stuff they crave. And plumbing, growing your own food, and understanding how the infrastructure around us works isn’t on their radar.

In marketing, a few years back, you could build your own website on a laptop, find online traffic for cheap, and create an information product to sell in a weekend. With PayPal, you didn’t even need a merchant account. People were literally starting hot new businesses on their kitchen table, overnight.

Eventually, things got more complex. The rules changed, Google started slapping site owners who didn’t follow the fast-changing rules, Facebook started punishing folks who used their page for biz (after urging them to do so), affiliate mailers started demanding more sophisticated sales funnels with high-production video and pro-level design, federal regulations took aim at online biz…

… and things just got more complicated. Rookie entrepreneurs looking to break into online marketing can be excused for fainting at the sheer volume of stuff they have to learn to just get started. The heady no-holds-barred Wild West days of the Internet have drifted away into memory.

And yet…

… and yet, just like corporate bands forgot that the real magic was in the music, and not in the outfits or stage show or pompously produced records…

… a lot of today’s online biz owners forget that the raw fundamentals of salesmanship are still more important than the gaudy glitz of flashy tech.

It’s still simply about having a good product or service that someone wants…

… put in front of an audience of hungry prospects…

… and sold with a persuasive message that covers all the basics of a standard face-to-face deal. A good hook, some believable credibility, a real solution to a problem that is interrupting your prospect’s life (whether it’s something major like needing money, or something nagging like needing special tools to finish your daughter’s swing set out back).

Plus a simple delivery system for the product or service that makes everyone happy. So you can sell more stuff on the back end (where all the real profit is). (You DO have a back-end, don’t you?)

It can all be very low tech, too.


Sure, you want to eventually test all the ways other marketers are successfully closing their deals — with video, launches, elaborate cross-marketing campaigns, affiliates, the works. All of which require a bit more know-how, probably some hired help, and lots of math.

But you get into that AFTER you establish you’ve got a winner. Make a few initial sales, get good feedback, make sure the value is there, and the profit. THEN move onto more complicated methods… when you have money coming in to pay for it.

A good rule (not mine — it goes way back): Find out as quickly and cheaply as possible if you have a winner or a loser. Ignore hunches and gut feelings — just create a prototype that is “good enough”, and see if people buy it in the Real World. Your house list is fine to go to first. Or do a low-cost Adwords campaign — you can run a few hundred bucks worth of ads, based on the insight to what’s working now from Google searches (which you can access for free via your free Adwords account).

Just get moving with the resources available to you now. (And “free” or “cheap” is always a good thing.)

I talk all the time to wannabe entrepreneurs who get it in their head they need $50,000, or $100,000 (or more) just to get started.

And you don’t.

There is a way around every problem in biz and life. Including being broke. Save up enough for a “war chest” to test your ideas. A few hundred bucks can do it…

IF you have the basics handled. That would be understanding salesmanship, having a good grasp of how to write your own sales messages (including ads, emails, pitches, etc)…

… and having access to a network of folks who can help you fill in the blanks in your skill set and information.

You CAN make a garage-band-style of entrepreneurship work. And you can still do it from your kitchen table, if you want, despite what all the “experts” are now trying to tell you.

The Web isn’t magic.

It’s just another vehicle for helping marketers bring their product and services to prospects. It does this VERY WELL, and because it’s reach is global the number of prospects you can reach with an online message far, far exceeds what was possible in the old days where you only had newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.

What’s more, the costs involved, online, are a fraction of what it takes to run a print or broadcast ad campaign.

But the one thing that never changes, no matter where you present your product or service…

… is salesmanship. The fundamentals of crafting a damn good sales message that persuades people to buy your stuff.

That’s what this blog has been about since 2004. Smart entrepreneurs of every level (from rookie to veteran rockstar) have been browsing the archives as a daily ritual…

… because the joint is crammed to bursting with articles on every aspect of being a successful entrepreneur.

So, while it’s still early in the year, why not get into the habit of reading a handful of the posts in the archives here each week, starting today.

The education you’ll get — for free — exceeds anything you’d get from a single seminar or book on biz. Even more, in some cases, than you’d get from a couple of years in certain biz schools (cuz the idiot running those classes have never actually been successful in the real world).

The thing is, get started. And know that no matter WHAT your problems are, or what your sticking points are, or what your biggest fears are…

there is ALWAYS a way around them. Solutions exist. And many of them can be found here, in the blog.

Happy reading.

Stay frosty,


P.S. Okay, while we’re discussing problem solving…

… it needs to be pointed out that the four-times-a-year mastermind we’ve hosted for the past ten years remains your best possible resource for having a small-but-viciously-effective group of  fellow entrepreneurs watch your back as you go to battle in the fast-changing business landscape out there.

Every single top entrepreneur I know (and I know them all) belong to at least one high-powered mastermind group…

… for a good reason.

It’s where you solve problems with the help of guys like me…

… and where you get the most valuable input on ideas and plans you want to put into action fast.

We’re hosting another meeting in April, and it’s time you checked it out. (The guest experts I’ve invited to be in the room with us, focusing their experience and skills on you and your fellow masterminds, include the head of the highest-producing division of billion-dollar direct response giant Agora Publishing, plus A-List copywriters like David Deutsch, Kevin Rogers of Copy Chief, and David Garfinkel… among other heavy hitters.)

To learn more, go here.

Just do it now, while it’s on your mind.

We keep the meetings VERY small — under 16 members, because of all the intense personal attention everyone gets — and the spots tend to fill up quickly.

So don’t dick around and miss out. Let me help you get your shit together in the fastest and most simple manner possible.