Category Archives for Brainstorming

Playing In The Big Kids’ Sandbox

Friday, 11:35pm
Reno, NV
Tell your mama and your papa, I’m a little schoolboy, too…” (“Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”, Sonny Boy Williamson)

Howdy…

Eventually, the main concerns of an entrepreneur become:

Concern #1. How does all the hard work fit into a lifestyle you enjoy having?

Nobody minds slaving away in the early stages of a biz adventure, cuz it’s fun.

And nobody wants to get locked into forced labor indefinitely, with no end in sight.

That old “work-life balance” thing can be a pesky bugger.

So this lifestyle stuff quickly becomes something you need to pay serious attention to. It’s interesting that so many “get rich quick” schemes feature (as bait) someone supposedly living a great life, on a beach somewhere, drenched in wealth and sex and fun…

but the folks who fall for the pitch never quite seem to attain the same action. 

That’s because, while it looks easy enough to do, it’s actually a royal bitch to put together a great lifestyle.

You gotta sample lots of things (like, for example: Do you even LIKE the beach?), test out different kinds of fulfillment (a huge mansion isn’t so much fun if you can’t afford to maintain it, or it’s far from your friends and you slowly waste away from loneliness), and figure out what you actually want (pretty Ms Suzy Q, the beauty queen, might turn out to be a nightmare to live with).

The trick to knowing how to set and achieve goals involves much guesswork at first…

… because almost no one really knows what will make them happy, at first.

In fact, I’ve discovered that MOST folks don’t actually want what they achieve, in their first efforts at implementing goal-attaining behavior.

They underestimate income, what makes them happy, and how fulfilled they will be with the first batch of stuff they go after. (I’m certainly in that camp. I was so broke and lost when I discovered the magic of goal-setting-and-attainment, that I was way too modest about moolah, love, and lifestyle. Took me years of attaining and discarding to figure it out.)

It’s a process.

Just like business.

The trick is to start right now, no matter where you’re at in life.

And use critical thinking to examine what you’re after, and what it means to you after you’ve attained it.

And adjust accordingly for the next round of goals.

Concern #2. Are you maximizing the easier ways to bring in money through multiple streams (so your cash register is pounding away even when you’re asleep, on vacation, or missing in action)?

Most entrepreneurs and freelancers leave massive piles of moolah on the table, never realizing the potential windfall just itching to fall into their laps.

You’d be shocked to know how many veteran business owners come to me for consulting…

… with a main problem of “not enough sales”…

who actually just need to implement simple things like a good back-end.

A good back-end is just creating a product or service (or a menu of such) that you immediately offer customers…

… right after they’ve bought whatever you sell that took so much marketing and effort to close.

You spend 90% of your time and marketing money on making that first sale.

Then, you got nothing else to offer?

After earning all that trust, and getting them to open their wallet?

Right when the first sale is made, that wallet is still open, you know.

And the customer is still glowing with his new-found trust in you and your business.

So, you ignore that opportunity?

Stop. Offer him something else. Right away.

It will cost you ZERO in marketing. You simply make the offer, while you’ve still got his attention.

Such a deal.

And then offer him something else, again, throughout your future communications with him.

Of course…

… most marketers forget to continue communications at all.

Or they’re ridiculously stingy about it (as in, sending out one or two emails a month).

No, no, no. Simple way to double your income next year: Email your happy customers, and your still-doubtful prospects, OFTEN. At least a couple of times a week.

The most successful marketers I know email their list every freaking day.

And no, it doesn’t alienate their list…

… because they take pains to keep those daily emails interesting and valuable.

Simple ways to keep interested customers buying, over and over, after the initial sale: That’s the key to kicking your bottom line into the stratosphere.

(And that’s just ONE way to maximize profit. For freelance copywriters, for another example, royalties can produce income for years after the work is done. I’m still receiving checks for ads I wrote TWENTY YEARS AGO. And the tactics just go on and on. Not exploring the simple ways of boosting your income is just asking for a lifestyle of relentless hard work and burnout.)

3. When do you decide to chuck the original model, and grow?

To complicate the hell out of everything, bringing in new staff or putting yourself in debt to investors, just because you think that’s how “growth” happens…

… is silly.

When you’re ready to play in the Big Kids’ Sandbox, you often just need a better game plan, higher quality skills, more powerful network connections, and a much, much deeper bag of tricks if you intend to thrive.

Becoming, and remaining, successful is an ongoing process that requires constant vigilance…

… and a commitment to doing what needs to be done to sustain your enthusiasm, your motivation, your ability to “read” your market, and the resources needed to stay relevant and vital.

Think of all this as your “toolkit”.

In there are the tools, tactics, strategies, techniques, skills…

… and the human side of your resources: Your networks, colleagues and mentors you trust to keep you focused on the right goals.

We all need someone to confide in, share ideas with, and confess our fears and troubles to. (I’ll be on the phone today with multiple colleagues, talking shop. And I’ll come away from every single call more energized, bursting with fresh ideas, and full of new tactics to put things into motion.) (After 30+ years in this biz, I’m one phone call away from the best possible answer to EVERY SINGLE QUESTION in business today. That’s a luxury you need to aim for, too.)

For some, that confidant is a spouse. For others, a biz partner.

For most, though, it often comes down to bringing in outside consultants who can give your situation a cold appraisal…

… and deliver the truth in ways your close friends and lovers may not be able to muster.

The top entrepreneurs all have a bulging toolkit, along with a vast network of human resources they rely on to grow, to recover from failure, and to help keep their eyes on the prize.

Just sayin’… all this is the key to a happy, wealthy life as an entrepreneur.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. You don’t get into the Big Kids’ Sandbox with stuff you learn from a book.

No. You get there by tapping into the experience and savvy of mentors and experts and colleagues willing to share (while you’re building your own foundation of experience).

That’s where knowing where to turn comes in.

It’s good to have a one-stop resource for all the idea vetting, implementation strategies, skill-set expansion, and high-end reality checks you need to goose your mojo (and bring in the Major Bucks).

Here’s an excellent one-stop resource like that, sitting right under your nose…

The Big Damn “Lost” Trick To Solving Biz Problems Fast…

Sunday, 7:38pm
Reno, NV
My social life’s a dud, my name is really Mud…” (“Talk Talk”, Music Machine)

Howdy…

Quick story: If you’re in business, you’ve got problems.

Problems are just front-loaded into the game.

Sales surge, then disappear.

Results vary, seemingly at random.

Once-reliable resources flake out, easy gigs turns into time-sucking nightmares, and things can just go south without warning.

Shit has a tendency to hit the fan.

Entrepreneurs love the freedom of owning our own biz, but when problems hold us back and relentlessly harsh our mood…

… it ain’t fun no more.

Well, guess what?

Savvy biz owners and professional copywriters
have a secret weapon.

It’s called “getting some freaking help when needed.

Or, in more polite terms, “tapping into the solutions, resources and brilliance of a trusted network”.

You know. The almost voodoo-like magic of being in a high-end mastermind.

I’ve been hosting (along with my biz partner Stan Dahl) an intense, “get things done and in motion” mastermind for around 10 years now.

It’s exclusive to entrepreneurs and the folks who support them (like copywriters)… and it’s VERY INTIMATE.

We only allow a maximum of 16 members to attend any meeting… because of the personal attention paid to everyone.

It’s not your usual casual gathering, either.

Nope. The whole operation is run “hot seat” style…

… which means the entire group digs into everyone’s (including yours) situation and gets busy with real solutions, breakthrough plans, and the kind of resource help that only happens when you’re playing with the Big Kids (who have the experience, reach and success history to know something about biz).

We actually get things done. As in outlining specific steps to take the next day to get moving on your goals. With accountability to the group.

And results ensue.

This is serious masterminding, for folks serious about putting their life and biz on the fast track to happiness and wealth.

The group I host has heavy hitters in it, and also folks just now emerging from their “rookie” period as a pro or entrepreneur.

They all get answers to questions that have held them up, solutions to problems that plague their bottom line, fresh alternatives to living the best life with the best business practices possible, and more.

Just to drop names, some of the guests who’ve visited during past meetings include Joe Sugarman, Jay Abraham, Dean Jackson, Joe Polish, Bond and Kevin Halbert, Jon Benson, Brian Kurtz and a hall-of-fame lineup of “A List” copywriters like David Deutsch, Kevin Rogers, Harlan Kilstein and David Garfinkel.

Plus, of course, I personally moderate each and every single session. You’re in the hands of some of the best (and most successful) marketing minds alive.

We’ve got a meeting coming up soon. (We host one every four months, like clockwork, and have for the past decade.)

It’s easy (and painless) to find out if you’re a candidate for joining.

Just go here to get the details. (Click on “Platinum Mastermind Group”.)

Then, simply click on the single link there, and we’ll guide you through the no-obligation process of helping you decide if the group’s right for you.

It’s fast.

And yes, you’re in charge.

No pressure, no BS…

… and if you choose to come along, you’ll get a personal call with me before your first meeting…

… just to make sure you’re comfy and hitting the ground running the minute you enter the room.

There are other masterminds out there.

Some are pretty darned good.

This one, however, is unique, with a years-long track record of transforming people’s lives and businesses…

… because we don’t dabble in theory or casual networking or elaborate presentations or any of that time-wasting stuff.

We just get down to the business of making your biz work.

Using all the experience, knowledge, skills and resources we have to share.

Again, no pressure.

You’ll enjoy the process of discovering whether you’re a good candidate or not.

And you get our full attention the moment you join.

Go get started, already.

Maybe I’ll see you at the next meeting.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The above photo was taken after one of our meetings in Las Vegas, just a couple of years ago. That’s Brian Kurtz (the guy who turned Boardroom, Inc into the powerhouse it is today) across from my old pal and marketing legend Joe Sugarman… with Big Jason Henderson (the email expert we go to when we run into problems) across from my dear, late buddy and A-List copywriter Scott Haines (who we all miss terribly). Stan and I are at the end of the table.

Just an example of the over-the-top talent you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with at the meetings.

See if you’re ready for a spot at the table with us… by going here to fill out the quick survey. 

We’ll get right back to you.

How Not To Make Dumb-Ass Decisions Ever Again

Friday, 4:49pm
Reno, NV
See if you can guess what I am now?” (Bluto, “Animal House”)

Howdy.

Public service announcement here:

Do you have mostly-level-headed friends who always seem to make dumb-ass decisions?

Are — ahem — YOU one of these miscreants yourself? (Confession: I sure am. More often than I care to admit.)

Well, gather ’round.

I believe I’ve stumbled upon a solution.

Here it is: When you have an important decision to make…

… just ask yourself this simple question: “What would a smart person do?”

Then, go do that.

Do NOT (as so many of us somehow seem to do) ask “What would a blithering idiot do?”…

… and then go do that.

No, no, no.

This is your self-intervention moment.

Don’t be the blithering idiot.

Do be the smart person.

Sounds too simple and obvious to work, doesn’t it?

Stunningly, it works.

Pass it around.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One of the keys to good decision-making has always been knowing how things actually work in the real world of biz…

… and not trying to get by on the wimpy, delusion-filled nonsense most civilians think is how things get done.

Good place to find out which is which is right here

How To Win An Argument In 3 Easy Steps

Sunday, 3:45pm
Reno, NV
Mongo just pawn in game of life.” (Blazing Saddles.)

Howdy…

A while back, I published a series of posts on Facebook under the theme “How To Win An Argument”.

I started to repost them on FB…

… but then thought: Why not just bundle them up into one blog post?

Plus, include the updated insights (and comments) I’ve had since then.

What a great idea!

Below is a mildly-edited collection of that series on winning an argument. I didn’t save the dozens and dozens of comments from the first time I ran the series on Facebook…

… and that’s a shame, because it was a great thread, full of other lessons.

For example: The easiest way to get a whole bunch of folks frothing is to talk about (a) sex, or (b) their belief systems.

They go nuts when you challenge their crusted-over, nailed-down-tight beliefs on how things ought to be.

As you’ll see below, I just laid out my views on how to handle people who want to argue and how to define “winning” for yourself…

… and that just pissed off some folks.

Even discussing arguing inflamed their knee-jerk need to argue.

They argued about arguing. 

They just refused to accept my premise that most folks see arguing as a form of fisticuffs, with only winners and losers.

It’s humorous, ironic, and illustrative of how whacko (and vindictive) human beings can be.

Also, as a marketer, it’s informative — especially if you want or need to introduce some form of argument or alternative view into your advertising.

And, yes, this entire series is very much aimed at marketers.

Great ads seldom argue, though they may be pushing buttons right and left. The psychology is subtle, but awesome.

Just remember: For most folks, arguing isn’t about persuading. And that’s just a waste of time.

So, without further ado, here’s that series. Love to hear your comments… even if you wanna argue:

How To Win An Argument, Step 1: The primary rule is simple — never argue back, when your goal is persuasion.

No one, in the history of humankind, has ever changed their mind because of an argument.

When cornered (logically or physically), humans dig in and will sacrifice wealth, health and dignity before admitting they’re wrong.

They WILL occasionally change their minds, if they’re just plain wrong…

… but not because you demolished their belief system with crap like logic and debate moves.

They change because of an internal epiphany that is akin to death/rebirth.

As in, waking up in the middle of the night realizing what a doofus they’ve been, defending the undefendable. The cognitive dissonance just catches up with you, and you no longer want to expend energy

So, Rule #1: If you want to “win”, never engage in an argument.

[My comment, mid-way through the fray in the Facebook comment section, after being lectured by some rage-a-holics on how to properly (and sometimes physically) demolish a debate opponent: “Interesting that several comments here reveal a complete misunderstanding of how to WIN an argument — not just humiliate your opponent (and create a new enemy).”

“It’s a big difference. I guess this little tutorial is needed, badly. Negotiation and persuasion are NOT part of our default equipment, folks.”]

How To Win An Argument, Step 2: Now you need to DEFINE what “win” means to you.

Is it to persuade the person you’re up against? That’s gonna require some deft moves (which we’ll discuss later).

Often, however, there may be an audience you want to persuade — so you’re actually playing to the crowd. (Give your opponent enough rope to hang himself, in that situation, to win the meta-discussion.)

Or, you may be genuinely interested in other points of view (or acquiring intel on how the opposition operates).

Traditional, undisciplined arguing is just a shouting match with childish rules (first one to cry or leave flustered loses). The goal isn’t to persuade, but to spill blood either emotionally, intellectually or physically.

And no one’s mind is changed.

Not engaging the argument doesn’t necessarily mean splitting, though.

You just need to clearly understand WHY you’re in this situation, and WHAT you want out of it.

This simple moment of defining your goal will help you with every single subsequent decision. (“Art Of War” aficionados — and chess players — will happily lose every single battle up to the last one, for the victory. But you need to know what “victory” means for you. Being stubborn — the first clue you’re dealing with a rookie — may win the immediate round, but ruin all future moves.)

[My comments in the fray for Step 2, after being mocked for bringing up the book “Art Of War” (an ancient Chinese treatise on conducting warfare to win): “Once you get your Zen game on, coming up against someone who uses stubbornness as their main tactic will become a moment of joy (and easy, quick victory).”

“BTW: If just shutting him up is your goal, mockery works best. I don’t recommend this, cuz it can lead to fisticuffs. You ‘win’ by shutting him down, but ‘lose’ by having your teeth knocked out.”

“Mockery works as a reframing tool — you discern the ape-brain fear behind his anger, and turn the conversation on that. The focus instantly becomes his fear and his reaction to being mocked over it. Few humans can avoid sputtering and regressing to infantile states when their deepest shame is publicly ridiculed. Very, very dirty trick, and probably you deserve whatever happens next if you use it.”

Important: Being ‘armed’ with tactics that win without persuading is a huge responsibility. It’s like becoming skilled at martial arts, and you ARE responsible for the consequences of superior firepower. This is why knowing your goal is so critical.”

“Don’t get distracted by recent situations you’ve been in, guys. This is all pretty simple — for an easier life, and better marketing tactics, don’t argue

… and get clear on what you consider a ‘win’. It can be win-win, win-lose, or no-play (or any of many other results). The keys are (a) to be conscious, not get sucked into mindless time/energy-wasting exercises in futility, and (b) to further your own goals.”]

How To Win An Argument, Final Step: Okay, you realize that arguing isn’t persuasion, and you’ve defined what you want out of the situation. This is equal to (a) a reality check (so you stop doing what doesn’t work)…

… and (b) goal setting — the fundamentals of growth.

Next, you use the tools that DO work — which just happen to be the same tools great salesmen use to persuade skeptics to buy.

You disarm anger, reframe the context (so you’re not wallowing in the stuck-in-one-place psychological wastelands that stubborn people like to fight in)…

… and “come in through a side door” (as old school salesmen like to say).

You don’t engage head-on, you ignore irrationality, and because you’re so clear on your goal, you take your ego out of it.

Use the old improvisational theater tactic of never being negative yourself: Say “Yes, AND…” while relentlessly moving things toward the discussion you actually want to have.

(That improv trick keeps live, unrehearsed comedy sessions from ending in a sputtering mess. If your partner says, “Oh, look — a UFO just landed”, you don’t say “I don’t see anything. What the fuck are you talking about?”… because by responding that way, the improv ship has crashed. You’ve killed the session, leaving both of you with no place to go. The correct response is “Yes, and look who’s getting out — it’s your grandma and dog Manfred!” or something that keeps the flow going, allowing both of you to remain engaged.)

If you’ve ever been in the presence of a master negotiator, break down what happened.

Probably: Resistance was soothed, bonding occurred, and you likely found yourself moving off your position and agreeing with him…

even if you began on opposite sides.

In short… you “win” an argument by reframing what “win” means, so that you exit the nobody-wins context of belligerence (keeping your ego out of it), using your salesmanship chops to find common ground, bond, navigate the mostly-unconscious landscape of your opponent (to avoid hot buttons while simultaneously teasing his positive emotional needs)…

while relentlessly and patiently move toward your goal (whatever that is).

This is why great salesmen live better lives. They understand human behavior, so they always know what’s “really” going on, and they have skills to consciously persuade or redirect even irrational, emotionally-discordant folks to a better place. Where good things can occur.

At the very worst, you will never feel the angst of having gone through a useless shouting match (cuz you have self-permission to disengage at any time, since a “win” for you should include not feeling your blood pressure go up a single notch).

And by realizing that a classic argument is almost never about what it looks like it’s about on the surface, you can control where the situation ends up.

So, take your ego out of it, define your desired results in terms of reality, and be a good salesman.

Make sense?

You can disagree with me on any or all of these points.

Just know that this is insider tips from a veteran sales pro who learned it all the hard way, and honed the skill of persuasion in the front trenches of the real world. My client list has included some of the most stubborn and argumentative bastards to ever walk the earth.

Learning to wrangle them to where I needed conversations to go was essential, and these lessons saved my butt many times.

Love to hear your take on the matter, of course, in the comments section below.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be personally mentored by me?

I take on a few folks every so often for mentoring through private phone calls (or Skype). It’s pretty stunning how quickly you can move up a few notches in your field by having all your questions answered and your biggest problems solved. It happens fast.

Best place to find out if one the 3 simple mentoring opportunities I offer might be right for you…

… is right here: www.carltoncoaching.com.

Go check it out.

And while you’re readying…

imagine what your life might be like with a guy like me on your side…

Here’s Your Damn Free Book

Monday, 7:01pm
Reno, NV
There is nothing that cannot be achieved by a man who refuses to listen to reason” (Gary Halbert)

Howdy…

I was going to slap a quickie book on Amazon for you…

… stuffed with all the advice, shared wisdom, tactics and strange asides I’ve been assaulting folks with lately on my Facebook page.

But then I thought, “screw that”.

Why not just give the book to you here?

For free?

And that’s what I’m gonna do.

Hey, it saves me a ton of editing and detail work (which I loathe).

Title:

Brain Farts, Psych Insights, Strange Tales
Goddamn Good Advice 

The “bad Uncle” rantings of the most ripped-off and respected copywriter alive.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: The Big Damn Jenga Game That Is Your Future

Chapter 2: The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You Your Entire Life

Chapter 3: Respect Brilliance, And Brilliance Will Respect You

Chapter 4: Wait — Does Carlton Still Consult With Regular People?

Chapter 5: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Chapter 6: The Genius Of Operation Money$uck

Chapter 7: The Best Way To Learn From Mentors

Chapter 8: What’s Your Excuse?

Chapter 9: The Small Stories That Do The Most Work

Chapter 10: Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

Chapter 11: Where To Find The Eternal Truths Of Great Copywriting

Chapter 12: The Simple Tactic That Opens Doors For You Every Time

Bonus Chapter 13: When Logic Sucks

Introduction

Folks complain to me all the time about the length of many of my posts (especially here in the blog).

Well, fine.

Here’s a nice quickie book full of very short chapters...

… all of which nevertheless pack a vicious punch of insight and savvy.

You can read it in 11 minutes, unless you’re a plodding reader (like me). (I like to dawdle along, savoring the writing.)

Anyway, it’s free, so you don’t get a big, deep introduction.

Just enjoy…

 

Chapter 1

The Big Damn Jenga Game
That Is Your Future

Today’s Brain Fart Lesson: We all get lost sometimes. 

The longer you live, the more it happens.

Even after you’ve succeeded, and nailed down your spot in the hierarchy (whatever it is, biz, family, team), you will never stay in one place.

The universe likes to screw with us, treating our plans and lives like a big Jenga game.

The occasional collapse is inevitable.

So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to wake up one day and realize you’re all lost again. It happens.

The only constant will be yourself, smack in the middle of all the melodrama, tragedy and chaos of a normal life. (You can ramp up the intensity of everything once you become an entrepreneur, too, so be prepared for a more jolting ride.)

Lost, found, lost, found.

Lost.

Found.

For me, a nice Zen approach to the ebbs and flows of life works.

It’s only when you freak out and panic that you get REALLY lost.

Remember who you are, and what you’ve survived… and why you’re here in the first place.

You have a purpose. It will sometimes shimmer just out of easy reach…

… and it will sometimes be in your face, like a flash bulb.

When you’re lost, it’s barely a dot on the horizon, and you’re not sure you even know what it is anymore.

Stay frosty. Keep calm.

No one gets out of here alive, but during the ride (however long or short it is) you’ve got control of the script.

This is what your network is for.

When you’re feeling lost, reach out. Don’t curl up and suck your thumb.

You’re normal. This shit happens. There is a way out (there’s ALWAYS a way around a bad spot…

… even if it’s not the solution you’ve hoped for). If you have medicine to take, take it. If you have to limp back to the beginning and start over, limp back and get going.

The universe, as capricious as it can be at times, respects movement.

Good luck, and carry on.

When you find love, cherish it.

When you stumble into chaos, fight.

Above all, keep moving

Chapter 2

The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You
For Your Entire Life

Dept. of Adventure Junkies United, memo #38: I’ve lived long enough to realize there are basically 3 distinct types of people:

  1. Those who crave living through adventures, like crack addicts seeking peak thrills.
  2. Those who love adventure, but get as much enjoyment out of reliving them as they do going through them.
  3. And those who avoid adventure at all costs.

We call that last group “Safes”, meaning they play life safe, seldom straying anywhere near The Edge (and never, if they can help it, peeking over into the abyss).

I don’t have many acquaintances who are Safes. They don’t do well in my world.

I’ve spent most of my youth in the first camp. As kids, we dared Life to actually kill us as we fell out of trees, explored dangerous caves, jumped across roofs and rode bikes at speeds that drove our eyeballs back into our brains.

As a teen, it just got ridiculous. I have yet to see a “kids go crazy” movie that comes close to the wild-ass stunts and death-defying idiocy we performed on a regular basis (and that includes Animal House, Porky’s, Dazed And Confused, and any other one you can name).

And once I reached legal age…

… well, I’m not gonna discuss it here. Let your imagination run wild. It won’t come close to what we pulled off.

However, as I’ve mellowed a bit, I’ve backed off of experiencing adventure first hand. I just don’t heal like I used to.

Plus, it’s now as much fun to kick back and relive those memories with old pals as it was to generate the memories in the first place.

The top writers of the world all fuel their existence with raw adventure while young…

and then write about it as they totter away from The Edge, glad for the experiences, ecstatic to have survived, and happy to have some pals around to share the tale with.

I feel sorry for the adrenaline junkies I’ve known — those poor souls who live fast, but never seem to have a story to tell. It’s all about the hormone dump, the internal chemical rush.

I get it. I know that flush of excitement over physical feats of insane boundary-testing very well…

… but it was just a side perk of the experience.

Mostly, I was after the STORY — the essence of doing something outrageous, living to tell the tale…

… and then TELLING the tale. And telling it with skill.

It’s important to understand these starkly different categories of people. You shouldn’t trick Safes into crawling up the side of a tall building downtown after a night of boozing. That’s not nice, and they won’t appreciate it.

The story they’ll tell is what a total asshole sociopath you are for making them do that shit.

And be wary of wandering off with the adrenaline junkies, if you’re not part of that tribe. They tend to die young.

And if you’re a writer…

… well, cherish the adventures you’ve had, make your bucket lists of adventures not yet realized and go after it…

and keep honing your story-telling chops.

There’s nothing worse than sitting through a poorly-told tale, no matter how rousing the story COULD have been if shared with some pizzazz and skill.

One of the first things I reveal in the Simple Writing System is how to tell a story. It’s critical for anyone wanting to reach the next level up in biz (where all the Big Bucks and true happiness lives).

And — big treat — I’m going to personally teach a very special SWS class that begins the first of May, this year.

There won’t be very many spots available, cuz I like to keep my classes small (so I can really get to know you and offer personalized coaching customized to your particular needs).

I’ve only handled one class like this a year, and this may be the last one I personally teach.

So stay tuned if you’re at all interested.

Chapter 3

Respect Brilliance, And
Brilliance Will Respect You

Dept. Of Shiny Objects: I’ve been thinking about all the brilliant people I get to hang out with.

My biz partner, brilliant. The staggeringly long line of mentors throughout my career, all brilliant. The folks I share stages with at events…

… brilliant. (Well, okay, not all of them. Some duds in there. But mostly, by the time you reach a major stage, you’ve honed your brilliance to a sparkly sheen.)

My colleagues, especially the writers: Brilliant. My old college pals (who I still hang with regularly, and dangerously): Brilliant.

A good subset of the neighbors in this somewhat exclusive enclave I call home: Brilliant.

The lovely lady I share the hovel with: Brilliant.

I’m fucking surrounded by brilliance.

You’d think it’d get boring, after a while.

Naw. Just gotta remember to be patient with the less-than-brilliant people who populate most of the rest of the joint.

And, gotta remember not to take anything for granted.

You cannot imagine what it’s actually like to sit at a bar telling war stories with my writer friends. Or going on long road-dog adventures with my long-gone pal Gary Halbert (or his kid Bond). Or going deep in one of our mastermind meetings…

…surrounded by the likes of David L. DeutschKevin RogersDavid Garfinkel, the various guest experts I invite in, and most of the members.

The people around you are your braintrust.

It can take half a lifetime to gather a good group — especially if (like me) you’re a little weird and introverted.

But when you find the right folks, you hold on tight.

The world is filled with aggressive stupidity. It can be annoying hanging out with brilliant people (who ALL have bizarre behavior disorders, usually undiagnosed)…

but it’s always worth it.

Always.

This is how stuff gets done in the world.

Brilliance will out.

Chapter 4

Wait — Does Carlton Still Consult 
With Regular People?

Just had a colleague (a colleague!) ask me if I do personal consultations.

Uh… yeah.

How in the world does a guy who’s known me, and flogged my stuff, for years…

… not know I’m still a hot commodity in the consultation game?

I figure it’s my fault.

I don’t flaunt it, cuz I can only take on a couple of clients each month. (Yes, I restrict my personal calls to just a couple a week. I love you guys, but only up to a point.)

So, flaunting: Yes, you can get me on the phone (or on Skype, or Zoom, or whatever new freakin’ app you’re now using)…

… to personally discuss your biz or situation, dissect and solve problems, critique copy, and generally access the decades of deep front-line experience I offer as The Dude Who Knows A Fuck-Ton About Making The Big Bucks.

In fact, there’s a blog post up about this very subject, right now, here.

It’s so easy to grab a spot in the line-up. Especially now, while so many folks are still in the dark on whether I even offer private consulting anymore.

Chapter 5

No Good Deed
Goes Unpunished

Today’s Hard Knock: One of the first rules I learned, while climbing the career ladder, is “No good deed goes unpunished.”

It only makes sense after you’ve seen it in action, and you’ve taken the time to reflect on the way it plays out in real life.

But many folks take the wrong lesson from this sad realization of human frailty.

The thing is, just because you will be punished for your good deeds, you don’t stop doing them.

You just stop expecting to be rewarded.

This is why it can get lonely at the top. If you harshly judge people by their as-yet-unenlightened actions, you are soon left as a solo act.

So learn your Hard Knock lessons, but don’t feel superior about it.

Be an agent of change and practice massive forgiveness.

Perhaps, by tending your own garden well, you will influence the world.

Or, hell, just go ahead and blow the joint up. It’s what humans do when frustrated and impatient.

A few will continue doing the right thing, against the tide…

Chapter 6

The Genius Of 
Operation Money$uck

Operation Money$uck Rule #1: If money can fix a problem, don’t waste time trying to fix it yourself.

Instead, use your time to make enough money to pay your way out of the problem.

If a problem requires time, measure the cost vs benefit of YOU handling it (cuz your time is very valuable), vs delegating it to someone else.

If you’re the dude or dudette responsible for bringing in the moolah, then that’s your primary job.

I’m always astonished at busy entrepreneurs who do their own laundry, shopping and chores when it takes them away from the biz.

Then, I’m absolutely floored when I discover they also handle every detail in the biz. Right down to fixing the printer when it goes wonky.

First thing I did when I started my biz was hire an assistant. She’s still with me, 15 years later, and her worth cannot be calculated. She multiplied the amount of time I had available for doing the Op$uck stuff.

Your time is your most important resource. Every second you rob your biz of your cash-generating efforts is a loss on the bottom line.

Chapter 7

The Best Way To Learn
From Mentors

Some hard advice: Mentors 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.

I 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 about being challenged. And I was lobbing softballs.

It was pearls before swine, I suspect.

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

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).

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

Read copiously, but put what you learn to the test immediately.

Best advice for copywriters: Writers write

… and great writers write with consequences.

Get busy. (And for crying out loud, go read my freaking blog.)

Chapter 8

What’s Your Excuse?

One of the very bright dividing lines separating happy, successful folks from the unhappy wannabe’s…

are the role of excuses in moving through life.

Dudes and dudettes who get stuff done stare down obstacles and find ways through or around them…

… no matter how long it takes, or how many times they fail at it.

They’re the minority.

Much more common is the notion that having a good excuse lets you off the hook for getting something done.

Our bollocked-up school system encourages this — oh, your dog ate your homework? Okay, you can have an extra day.

And it just gets worse in adult life — oh, sorry I T-boned your car there, but I just broke up with my girlfriend and was re-reading her last text to me…

At some point, most civilians will be on their death-bed, looking back on their failures and crushed dreams, and have to find cold comfort in the idea that at least they had good excuses. They tried, sort of, and had their feelings hurt or their efforts rebuffed, and what can you do?

Life’s hard, right?

Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.

You might garner a bit of sympathy from some folks, but you’ll just continue to be disregarded by anyone feasting on life and getting shit done.

Start with being late. If you think it’s okay, as long as you have a plausible excuse (the traffic lights were absolutely conspiring against you, or gosh, clocks are just hard to understand, you know?)…

… then move to the back of the line right now.

You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…

… but if being late is “who you are” (and yes, you are judged harshly and continually in the biz world on this stuff)…

… then consider WHY it’s a habit.

Look deep. It may be passive-aggressive behavior you picked up as a kid. It may be a symptom of happiness-corrupting disorganization (which no potential client wants any part of). It may be undiagnosed ADD, or even the first ripples of real cognitive disorder.

But usually, it’s just a habit. You keep getting away with it — or you THINK you’re getting away with it (and really, the people around you just stop relying on you, and consider you a liability).

The consequences seem mild — maybe somebody gets pissed off once in a while, or you miss a flight. Whatever. Life is hard, right? Get off my case.

The problem, of course, is that if you want to play in the level above you — in biz, romance, sports or just generally effective living — you are going to pay dearly for your bad habits.

Top clients won’t put up with sloppy non-professional behavior. Self-respecting potential romantic partners will avoid committing to you. And a whole bunch of cool life experiences will vanish…

… all because you think having a good excuse absolves you from the responsibility to be where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there… prepared to do what you said you’d do.

Getting away with something is NOT the same as “succeeding”.

Highly effective people, who get shit done and succeed at life, rarely allow excuse-artists into their lives in any meaningful way.

Buy a fucking watch. Add twenty minutes to your estimation of how long you’ll need to get somewhere (or more)…

… and if you’re early, find a spot to kick back and check email or Facebook or just relax. Or read a book. There’s no such thing as “wasting time by being early”. Be prepared for it.

And it’s worth repeating: Yes, the people operating in the level above you ARE judging you by these small behaviors.

Maybe other folks in your world are just character actors, whose time isn’t worth much. (That’s the way stone-cold sociopaths think, you know.)

However, the successful crowd you want to be dealing with will not put up with that bullshit.

Okay, you better get moving. You’re gonna be late…

Chapter 9

The Small Stories 
That Do The Most Work

Rumor Control, memo 34b: Here’s a fun exercise — for the next few days, pay attention to the stories people near you toss around as settled truth.

Ignore the politically-charged stuff. Too obvious.

Instead, note the smaller tales.

It’s easy, within an extended family, to spot foundational “facts” that are actually just shared assumptions with little or no evidence behind them.

Auntie Flo is just an eccentric, innocent old lady (not a dangerous self-medicating bipolar nutbar who keeps loaded guns in the silverware drawer).

Cousin Farquar’s sexual offender status is just a simple misunderstanding with the cops (and his 3 exes).

And your neighbors have concocted scripts about each and every household in the area (including yours).

Often, they won’t use names to identify a house, but plot lines. “Did you see the cop car parked over at the drug den yesterday?” says Mr. Perfect Lawn, while talking with That Hippie Couple across the street.

Noticing these smaller stories is how top ad writers become legendary.

It’s this kind of detail, plucked from real experience, that breathes life into a sales message.

I’ve been peppering my copy with snatches of observed reality since I first realized the potency of bringing the “truth” of human interaction to the selling game.

We are a whacky species, fueled by assumption, rumor, believable bullshit and tall tales invented out of thin air.

We all routinely just make stuff up to fill in the blanks.

We loathe blanks.

Understanding the mechanics of social interaction — with all its nonsense, silliness and fluff — is key to communicating effectively.

God help us.

Chapter 10

Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

The Spectacular Failure of Human Rationality, Part 5: I’ve been gleefully collecting stories of bizarre decision-making by my fellow humans for decades.

As a marketer, these tales are sobering revelations about what I’m up against trying to persuade prospects to do something.

As a caring friend, they’re a reminder not to beat my head against the wall when stubborn resistance makes efforts to help futile.

Top example: A medical doctor friend refuses to entertain even the idea that I solved my migraine problems through diet, massage and chiropractic.

She’s old-school medicine, educated in the days when the AMA taught that masseuses were hookers, vitamins were bullshit, and chiro’s were quacks (and she just ignores the fact the AMA long ago apologized, and now many modern docs work closely with chiro’s cuz, you know, the shit works).

No, somehow HER migraines (which are interferring with her life big-time) require drastic brain surgery. No amount of empirical evidence from pals can dent her resistance to an alternative.

This is cognitive dissonance on a major-league scale — she doesn’t think I’m evil or lying, yet she just cannot allow my story to be “real” in her mind.

So she simply refuses to acknowledge it.

The downside of trying non-surgical alternatives?

Zero.

No matter, she’s headed for the scalpel, to treat something other folks routinely beat with simple measures that don’t involve blood and removal of brain tissue.

You realize that this kind of stubbornness exists up and down the human decision-making process (from choosing what shoes to wear today, to who to marry and what car to buy) and you’re on the way to becoming Mr Persuasion Expert, for whom no objection is too weird or difficult to deal with.

Chapter 11

Where To Find The Eternal Truths
Of Great Copywriting

Just posted this in a damn good thread about finding the best copywriters to follow for advice and tactics (crowd’s ultimate decision: look for the gray-hairs)… thought you’d dig it:

“In truth, any copywriter who’s had sustained success for several years can help you with the basics.

IF they’ve written for multiple markets, weathered massive economic disasters, and gone up against other seasoned pros in hyper-competitive niches and won.

Too many writers luck out by exploiting rare conditions and early adoption of hot tech changes. Which is great for making money, but doesn’t mean they can thrive outside of those rare conditions.

Google slaps and Zuckerberg tantrums tend to frustrate writers who lack deep knowledge of advertising history.

To learn the eternal truths, yes, find the grizzled pros. But only those who aren’t bitter about how shit keeps changing.

There will always be massive and unfair upheaval in biz. The true grownups have learned how to adjust.

Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters…”

Chapter 12

The Simple Tactic That
Opens Doors For You Every Time

You want a simple tactic that will open doors for you?

Can’t believe I have to keep reminding folks of this…

… but just be very, very polite.

Say “please” and mean it.

Say “thanks” and mean it.

Call men “sir” (even if they’re younger than you), call women “m’am” (even when they’re younger than you), and listen intently when anyone is speaking to you.

Meet their eyes.

Do not argue, unless that is the dark alley you want to go down (and say goodbye to any doors that may have opened for you).

You know who the most polite people on the planet are?

Sociopaths, and folks who can kick your ass. They don’t give a ratfuck about the social “score” of who feels dominant in any given situation…

… and they want to get to their goals (which never, ever include arguing) as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Stop posturing.

If you’re good…

… or successful…

… or smart, experienced, talented, or can kick ass…

… folks will either find out soon enough, or they won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

Use the simple tools available to us socially to get people in rapport with you quickly, use charm to be non-threatening (when you can), and give others your total focus during conversations.

And remain committed to your goals.

I mean, Jeez Louise — you’re a nice person, who deserves more…

yet the sociopaths and ass-kickers are waltzing through doors into opportunities that should have been YOURS.

Because they’re charming and polite and know how to move through social situations without an attitude.

Caring about the small shit is a sucker’s game.

Breathe deeper. Reach higher. Live bigger.

And please get my books. All of them, immediately. Devour them with gusto, and start moving up a couple of levels in life and biz.

You can find everything on the blog, right there in plain sight: john-carlton dot com.

Thanks.

Just sayin’…

Chapter 13

When Logic Sucks

Psych Insight #233: The idea that “logic” enters into buying decisions is ludicrous.

A super-rational Vulcan like Mr Spock may accidentally hit on the right way to sell something to a market, but it would only be coincidence if it was actually logical.

He was not a persuader.

The Voice Of Reason seldom is.

Humans operate in this roiling soup of emotion, confusion, delusion, excuses, denial, and wishful thinking…

… it’s what makes us so charming and fun.

The universe may work under gorgeously-precise rules of physics, but our brains are big clumps of chaos.

Great salesmen know this, and proceed accordingly.

That’s it, Bucko.

Nice, short book, crammed with wisdom, advice and insight to moving your slacker butt up another level in life and biz.

My gift to you.

Now go rummage through the books and courses for sale in the right-hand column, and buy something to fill in the blanks of your skill set and biz mojo…

Stay frosty,

John

Photo courtesy of Ms Significant Other

 

How To Force Me To Personally Advise You On Your Business… For Cheap…

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Friday 8:09pm
Reno, NV
“Just move on up now…” (Curtis Mayfield)

Howdy.

Quick post here to help you figure out when you should probably consider consulting with a respected, proven veteran marketing expert…

… and what your perfect consulting option is, once you’ve decided it’s time to kick your biz or career into high gear.

Step One: As a small business owner or entrepreneur (especially if you’ve been going at it alone, or mostly alone)…

… if you have any kind of success at all…

there will come a time when you’re simply overwhelmed and need a little help. Or a lot of help.

For example:

[] It may be time for you to move up a level in your marketing… and you know that having a veteran marketing expert comb over your new plans can shortcut your path to increased wealth, while jumping over the unseen pitfalls that ruin so many other biz owners trying to expand.

[] Or, you may have a problem that needs serious attention… like sales going into the toilet, or new competitors chewing you up, or sudden changes in the marketplace that crush your bottom line (like a Google slap, or adverse rule changes at Clickbank, or the obsolescence of your product, or technological left-turns that disrupt your sales process). Even worse, what was working before suddenly isn’t working anymore, and you don’t see a clear reason why.

[] Or, you’re just working harder and harder, but sales are stagnant. Time, perhaps, to bring in an objective, experienced marketing whiz who can help you restructure your biz plan… so you maximize results, and get your life back (by working less, not more.)

[] Or, you may want high-end professional advice on your current sales funnel… just to make sure you’re not hemorrhaging money somewhere, or murdering potential sales through marketing blunders you can’t even see.

[] Or, you may be ready to start a new business adventure, and just want to be positive you’ve got your ducks lined up and you aren’t forgetting something critical.

[] Or, you have copy that may or may not be working, which you know could jack up your bottom line if a professional copywriter helped you with a total make-over.

Step Two: The best reasons to seek professional help from a veteran dude like me always have one main goal:

To fix problems, and goose your bottom line

into obscene levels of newfound wealth.

When your situation is urgent, the cost of hiring a consultant who can provide solutions is almost always “cheap”, because you’re extracting yourself out of a dangerous reality that threatens your business and peace-of-mind.

And it’s a screaming bargain when that consultant can offer you simple fixes inside of a plan you can put into action immediately…

without radically changing who you are or what you offer.

The more experienced and successful the consultant, the greater the shift you can expect from following their advice.

And the bigger the bargain for the small investment you make by tapping into that experience and success.

The world of business is roiling with ways your product or service can be ambushed, sucker-punched and even crushed…

… by market forces, shoddy previous advice from questionable sources, and your own gaps in skills or tools to deal with it all.

No matter how brilliant you are, and no matter how much success you were enjoying at one time…

… if the game has changed on you, and you’re struggling, your best first move will be to get help.

Serious, experienced, proven professional-level help.

Step Three: Not only is there no “shame” in bringing in hired guns…

… it’s exactly what the best and most successful marketers do all the time.

In fact, it’s often the most important resource they have, and they never make a move without consulting with the experts they trust.

I’ve been the “expert of choice” for a great number of successful entrepreneurs and small biz owners for three decades now. From my vast experience in the front trenches of the marketing world…

… I know where the most common problems are hiding, and how to fix them fast and simply.

I have yet to meet a business problem I can’t solve, using the deep toolkit of tactics and techniques for creating killer sales funnels I’ve developed while working successfully in nearly every situation a modern business can encounter.

In an hour on the phone, I can go over your current marketing in astonishingly deep detail – including copy, websites, and sales funnels.

You can easily come away from this single hour with hot new headlines and sales angles you hadn’t thought of… fresh ways to make your website more user-friendly, so it brings in more sales… and fixes to your overall process that is killing sales.

We can go as specific as you want to go… or we can look at the “big picture”, helping you deal with growing your biz, encountering new markets and competition, and adapting to changing conditions.

We get a TREMENDOUS amount done in these hours. For example, we can dedicate the time to finding solutions to specific problems you have…

… or we can explore, in great detail, your entire sales funnel (looking for leaks, sales-murdering problems, and other things you’re too close to the situation to see yourself) and come up with workable solutions…

… or we can critique and fix copy (for your webpage, emails, ads, VSLs, whatever marketing you’ve got copy for)…

… or just dive into your business and help you get clear on the Big Picture (how you fit in your niche, against competition, the changing market, and advancing technology)… so you can get moving more quickly, with more confidence and more proven info on your side.

It’s your hour, to use as you please. I am at your service, completely committed to solving every problem you bring up with all the tools and experience I have.

Step Four: So, whatever your burning need is…

… from getting immediate help with a specific set of problems, or getting long-term advice on grand new ventures…

… I can help you. And if you’ve read this far, you are very likely in a position to profit from allowing me to do that.

It’s time for you to move up a level.

How much?

A single hour session with me, personally, is just $2,500.

Here’s what to do now:

Just email Anne at annem@marketingrebel.com, write “Consult with John” in the subject line…

… and answer these four quick questions:

1. What general market are you in… how long have you been in business… and what products or services do you offer?

2. What website URLs are you currently hosting for your business… and approximately how much are you grossing now, and how much have you grossed at the highest point in your marketing efforts? (This information is completely confidential… and if you’re squeamish about stating specific figures, you can just say whether you’re grossing more-than or less-than a certain figure. Whatever makes you feel more confident in sharing.)

3. Have you ever worked with a professional copywriter before? Have you ever consulted with a professional before?

4. Finally, what do you feel are your biggest advertising problems right now?

That’s it.

Either Anne or I will get back to you quickly. And we’ll schedule the call, if I feel I can help you.

I book up fast, because I only take a couple of clients on each month.

So, if you’re at all interested in getting direct, personalized advice and insight from me on your biz, career, and specific situation…

… please jump on this right now. This time of year always clogs up quickly.

It’s the best next step you could ever take in your quest for wealth and happiness.

Stay frosty,

John

Gratitude, Schmatitude

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

Howdy…

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.

Read more…

The Big Damn “Lost” Trick To Solving Biz Problems Fast…

Sunday, 7:38pm
Reno, NV
My social life’s a dud, my name is really Mud…” (“Talk Talk”, Music Machine)

Howdy…

Quick story: If you’re in business, you’ve got problems.

Problems are just front-loaded into the game.

Sales surge, then disappear.

Results vary, seemingly at random.

Once-reliable resources flake out, easy gigs turns into time-sucking nightmares, and things can just go south without warning.

Shit has a tendency to hit the fan.

Entrepreneurs love the freedom of owning our own biz, but when problems hold us back and relentlessly harsh our mood…

… it ain’t fun no more.

Well, guess what?

Savvy biz owners and professional copywriters
have a secret weapon.

It’s called “getting some freaking help when needed.

Or, in more polite terms, “tapping into the solutions, resources and brilliance of a trusted network”.

You know. The almost voodoo-like magic of being in a high-end mastermind.

Read more…

The Most Awesome Lesson I Learned From Gary Halbert

Wednesday, 1:50pm
Reno, NV
Nothing is impossible for a man who refuses to listen to reason.” (Gary Halbert)

Howdy…

I learned a lot from Gary Halbert, but the lesson that most affected my life had nothing to do with copywriting.

Rather, it was about living well.

I began my freelance copywriting career back in the “dark ages” of the mid-eighties, when direct response advertising had gone out of fashion and there were just a handful of us “true believers” in the game, devouring the ancient (and often out-of-print) books on advertising while doing the hard work of becoming masters at old school salesmanship…

… so we could relentlessly obliterate our clueless competition in every market we went after.

I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles at the time… because multiple large agencies had just opened up branches there and were starved for competent copywriters. I quickly became the guy the creative directors snuck in the back door to do the work their house staff couldn’t pull off (because none of them studied the craft).

Then the large mailers back east caught wind of my work, and I found myself moving in the “A List” crowd of now-legendary copywriters like Gary Bencivenga and Jim Rutz (who I ghost-wrote for).

However, the corporate world bored me to tears. It was primarily financial and health newsletters with the large mailers, and insurance and equipment sales with the agencies. Yawn.

That’s when I met Gary, at Jay Abraham’s house. He was the most arrogant, vain and outrageous person I’d ever met in the business world…

… and I liked him immediately.

Read more…

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (Redux)

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Wednesday, 6:50pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)

Howdy…

I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular annual tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

It’s a good one, worth rereading even if you’ve read it before.

What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…

… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

So, even if you’ve seen this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2016, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…

… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits. I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis. It’s timeless, classic stuff that will never let you down.

So let’s dive in. Here’s the relevant part of the post (slightly edited):

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

Yeah, yeah, I know a chat about goals can quickly turn into a boring, pedantic lecture. But then, so can a chat about space flight.

And, in reality, both space flight and your goals are VERY exciting things.

Or should be.

It’s all in the telling.

What I’m not going to discuss are “resolutions”. Those are bogus pseudo-goals that have the staying power of pudding in a microwave.

No. It’s merely a coincidence that I’m suggesting a review of your goals in January, just after the New Year’s supposed fresh start.

I mean…there’s not much else to do, so why not sit down and plan out the rest of your life.

This is, of course, a very damp, cold, and bleak time of year. The depths of winter and discontent.

A good percentage of the population suffers fleeting depression because of lack of sunlight… thanks to the geniuses behind Daylight Savings Time, who arrange for dusk to arrive around 2:30 in the afternoon in these parts.

We also just got slammed with back-to-back-to-back world-class storms, each one dumping a massive load of snow on us. I sent photos to friends, and many emailed back wondering when I’d gone to Antarctica to live.

We had a little cabin fever brewing. Didn’t help when the local PBS channel ran a special on the Donner Party, either. Three feet of snow drifting down, the lights flickering, enough ice on the road to make the SUV sidle like a Red Wing goon slamming someone into the boards.

The safest place was home… but man, the walls start to close in after a few days.

I’m telling you, I had excuses up the yin-yang for allowing my senses to get a little dulled. The natural response is to turn your mind off, and hibernate until March. And I succumbed. Started moping around, binge-watching The Wire on HBO GO instead of reading a book, surfing the Net for stuff I didn’t care about… you know the drill.

I’m sure you’ve done your own version of it now and again.

And I’m also sure you already know that no amount of “buck up” happy talk will mitigate the gloom.

In fact, there are a few enlightened health pro’s who say we should let our bodies wind down every year or so. Get a full system-flush type of cold, crawl under the covers for a few days and let the demons and other bad stuff bubble to the surface. So you can purge the crud. Evacuate the used-up bacteria and tube-clogs out of your pipes, physically. And shoo the whispering monsters out of your head.

We’re not perfect creatures. We need to sleep, we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to stop and get our bearings. At least once a year. So don’t beat yourself up for the occasional down period. We all have them, and the healthiest folks just roll with it. It’s not good to repress this stuff.

It only becomes a problem when you sink into clinical depression. That’s the cold, empty state where nothing looks good, and hope is an absurd memory.

I’ve been there. Several times. The year I turned 30 (for example) I lost my job, my girlfriend and my place to live all within a 45-day stretch.

That shit can wear you down.

Now, I have two things to say about this:

Thing Numero Uno: If you think you’re losing a grip on your mental state, seek professional help. Don’t head straight for pharmaceutical land, though — give “talk therapy” a try with a real, qualified psychotherapist.

Choose this therapist carefully. You’re going to dump every secret you have on them. You may need to plow through a couple to find one that clicks with you (just as you might have to try out several dentists or plumbers to get a good match). (And yes, you should regard this therapist just as you would your dentist — they’re not gonna become your new best friend, but they will bring a professional expertise to the table during the time you need them. And you only need to see them until you get your head straight… which might be a short time or long time. Again — just like you may need serious dental work, or just a cleaning once a year. Figure it out.)

Keep in mind the fact that everyone goes through bumpy emotional states. And that the percentage of people who actually do lose it every year is rather small.

That’s why talking about your problems with someone who has perspective can be so beneficial — the first thing you learn is that you aren’t alone. And what you’re going through is not abnormal.

Most of the time, you’re probably going to be fine. Even when your problems seem overwhelming. There are tools available to help your brain cope. You don’t often come across these tools on your own.

This kind of talk-therapy is one of the few times the “science” of psychology earns its keep — because finding out how others successfully dealt with the same nonsense you’re suffering through can change everything. Seriously — often, just discovering that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, that others have successfully navigated similar troubles, and that the folks who study human behavior and thinking patterns now have really simple (and super-effective) ways to obliterate feeling overwhelmed can solve much of what’s currently holding you back.

A good book to read (while you’re waiting for the spring thaw) is “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. I’ve recommended it before, and it deserves another nod. (The blurb on the back cover, from the New York Times Book Review, starts with “Vaulted me out of my funk…”)

I haven’t read the book in a few years, but I remember the main lesson well. A study, explained up front, stands out: Someone tested the “happiness” quotient of a vast sample of people, including Holocaust survivors.

And it turns out that, at some point in your life, Abraham Lincoln was right — you are as happy as you decide to be.

This is startling news to anyone lost in despair. Because it seems like you’ve been forced to feel that way. With no choice.

But it’s not the case. The happiness study revealed that you can NOT tell from a person’s current attitude what sort of trauma they had gone through earlier in life. People who had suffered horribly could be happy as larks, while silver-spoon never-stubbed-a-toe folks were miserable.

The difference? Attitude. Optimistic people work through setbacks and trauma… while pessimists settle into a funk that can’t be budged.

And it’s a CHOICE. At some point in your life, you choose to either live in gloom or sunlight.

This realization rocks many folk’s boat. Especially the pessimists. They dominate society, politics, business, everything. And they are very protective of their gloom and doom outlook. Invested, heavily, in proving themselves right about the inherent nastiness of life.

Maybe you’re one of ‘em.

If you are, you’re killing yourself, dude.

The guys in lab coats who study this stuff say that heart disease rates are HALF for optimists over pessimists. So, even if you doubt the ability to measure “happiness” — and it is a rather rocky science — you still can’t deny the stats on dropping dead from a gloomy ticker.

Now, I am most assuredly NOT a clear-eyed optimist. I get creepy feelings around people who are too happy all the time.

But I do prefer having a good time, and appreciating the finer things in life (like a deep breath of cold alpine air, or the salty whip of an ocean wave around my ankles, or a secret smile from the wonderful woman I live with).

I’m just good at balancing out the bad with the good.

Being in direct response helps. Lord knows, there’s a LOT of bad with every piece of good news in this wacky biz.

Gary Halbert and I had a term we used for years: We’re “pessimistic optimists”. (Or maybe we’re optimistic pessimists. I forget.)

How does that work? Easy.

We expected horrible atrocities at every turn… and rejoiced when we defied Fate and unreasonable success rained down on our undeserving heads. We grooved on the good stuff in life… and just nodded sagely at the bad stuff and moved past it as quickly as possible. Maybe cop a lesson or two as we scurried by the wreckage.

If you focus on the bad things that can go wrong, you’ll never crawl out of bed in the morning.

When you finally realize that — not counting health problems — pretty much everything bad that business, or relationships, or politics can throw at you will not kill you… then you can begin to relax.

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

Have you ever had your heart broken? Hurts like hell, doesn’t it. Feels like your life is over.

Well, from my perspective, sitting here at “way past 50” and pretty darned happy, all those romances-gone-wrong that broke my heart long ago look just plain silly now. And my resulting deep depressions — where I was sure my life was over — are just tiresome lessons I had to get through.

Not a one of those ladies was worth a burp of angst. They were fine people, I’ll agree to that. A few were exceptional (and very skilled at certain man-pleasing arts).

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m now a certified realist. My youthful idealism has drained away, and my brushes with hate-everything-cuz-it’s-not-perfect dogma never took.

And guess what? Contrary to what an embarrassingly huge number of self-righteous folks would have you believe… being a realist has not dented my passion for life one little bit. In fact, it has opened up a whole new world of unexplainable spirituality (which cannot be contained within any formal religion).

I’m not against religion. Let’s have no “save my soul” emails here. One of my favorite friends to argue with has a doctorate in theology. And I have many other friends committed to various belief systems ranging from fundamentalist to Buddhist to humanist. We get along because, on a deep level, we understand that true spirituality transcends whatever way you choose to express it or appreciate it.

I loathe black-and-white views of the world. It’s a shame that our great country has descended to this “you’re nuts if you don’t agree with me” mentality… but it’s part of the pendulum that’s been swinging back and forth ever since we left the jungle.

The far edges of our institutions — political, religious, cultural, all of it — are in spiritual and emotional “lock down”. They’re sure they’re right, they’re positive you’re wrong, and neither facts nor logic will sway their position.

Mushy liberals seem astonished that anyone would ever not love them, or want to destroy their culture. Repressed conservatives seem intent on crushing everyone who pisses them off (and that’s a lot of people).

It’s “whatever” versus “blind obedience”. And neither works so hot in the real world. I have no use for dogma, or idealism, or punishingly-harsh rules that have been cooked up by hypocrites.

Hey — I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live their life. I’ve screwed up plenty, and if I have any wisdom at all, it’s only because I’ve survived some truly hairy situations.

But I don’t believe anyone else is in a position to tell you how to live, either. That’s gotta be your decision.

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

Fortunately, while I can’t tell you how to live, I can move some smooth (and proven) advice in your direction. Take it or leave it… but give it a listen anyway, cuz my track record on successful advice-giving is fairly impressive.

And I’m telling you that having a hateful, brooding attitude will stunt your growth. It will make you a smaller person, a less-wise person, an older and feebler person. And you won’t grow. Not spiritually, not physically, not emotionally. Not in your business life, either.

Most people don’t want to grow, anyway. Growth only comes from movement and change… and the vast majority of the folks walking the earth with us today are terrified of change.

You can’t blame them, really. Change is a form of death. Whatever was before, dies. And whatever comes next must be nurtured with devotion and sacrifice.

That’s hard. That’s a hard way to live, always dying and being reborn.

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

I suspect, if you’re reading this, you are not afraid of change. But you may not yet understand the power that REALLY giving yourself to change offers.

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

That’s a subtle point many people gloss over. Rookie goal-setters often get stuck on stuff like quitting smoking, or vague concepts like “become a better person”.

Or “get rich”.

That seldom works. Goals need to be specific… and they need to involve profound change in order to take hold.

Halbert often talked about “image suicide” — the necessity of killing and burying the “self” you are so heavily invested in, before you can move to a new level of success.

I see this all the time in my consultations. Biz owners refuse to do even slightly risky marketing, for fear of damaging their “reputations.”

And my question to them is: What reputation?

Unless you’re the top dog in your niche, no one gives a rat’s ass about what you think or do. No one is looking at your marketing for inspiration or condemnation, because you aren’t the guy to look at.

No. What these scaredy-cats are talking about when they say “reputation” is what their family and friends think of them. And that’s a sure sign of a losing attitude. That ain’t Operation MoneySuck.

My colleague Ron LeGrand, the real estate guru, is one of the best natural salesmen I’ve ever met. The guy understands the fundamental motivating psychology of a prospect at a master’s level. And he knows that one of the major obstacles he faces in every sale… is what the prospect’s spouse (usually the wife) will say.

She can nix the sale with a sneer. Or she can nix it in the prospect’s head, as he imagines that sneer.

Ron counters both sides of the objection expertly. He encourages the prospect to get his spouse involved in the decision, so she becomes invested in it. Or, he suggests waiting until the first big check comes in… and letting the money explain to her about what you’re up to.

This is the reality of most people’s lives. As much as they want what you offer… they are terrified of making a mistake. Cuz they’ll pay dearly for it at home.

It’s a huge deal-killer.

That’s why you include lots of “reason why” copy in your pitch — to give your buyer ammunition for explaining his decision to the doubters in his life. However, as Ron knows, the best (and simplest) “reason why” is results.

Money, as they say, talks.

The top marketers seldom give a moment’s thought to what a risky tactic might do to their “reputation”. They don’t really care what people think about them. You can’t bank criticism.

I know many marketers who are involved in projects they are passionate about… but which bore their spouses to tears. Some (like Howard Stern’s former wife) are even deeply embarrassed. But they don’t complain too much. Because the money’s so good.

Aw, heck. I could go on and on about this. The story of Rodale’s shock and dismay at the brutally-honest ad I wrote for their timid “sex book” is a great example. They refused to mail it, because of their “reputation”. Yet, after it accidentally did mail, and became a wildly-successful control for 5 years, they suddenly decided their reputation could handle it after all.

The people who get the most done in life are all extreme risk-takers. They embrace change, because growth is impossible without it.

But you don’t go out and start changing things willy-nilly.

You need goals.

And you need a plan.

Now, there are lots of books out there that tell you how to set goals. I recently found, in a moldy banker’s box, the ad for Joe Karbo’s book “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” that I’d responded to back in 1982. The exact ad! With the order form torn out… it was the first direct mail pitch I’d ever encountered, and it changed my life forever. Joe’s book was essentially a treatise on setting goals. And it’s good.

It was a wake-up call for me. I’m having that crinkly old ad framed. Can’t imagine why I kept it, but I did. Pack-rat riches.

If you can’t find that particular book, there are dozens of newer goal-setting guides on the shelves. But they’re all based on the same formula:

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

3. Read the list often, imaging as you read that you have already achieved each goal.

What this does is alter the underpinnings of your unconscious. When one of your goals is to earn a million bucks this year, and that goal burns bright in the back of your mind, each decision you make will be influenced.

So, for example, you won’t accept a permanent job somewhere that pays $50,000 a year. Cuz that isn’t going to help you attain your goal.

The problem is this: To earn a mil in a year, you need to average around $50,000 every two weeks. This is why it can take a while to get your goal-setting chops honed. As I’ve said many times, most folks don’t know what they want.

And they aren’t prepared for the changes necessary to get what they want, once they do decide on a goal.

What kind of guy earns $50,000 every two weeks, like clockwork? It takes a certain level of business savvy to create that kind of steady wealth. It doesn’t fall into your lap.

What kind of guy makes a windfall of a million bucks in one chunk? That’s another kind of savvy altogether.

In that same moldy banker’s box, I also found a bunch of my early goal lists. And I’m shocked at how modest my aims were. At the time — I was in the first months of going out on my own, a totally pathetic and clueless rookie — I couldn’t even imagine earning fifty K a year. My first goal was $24,000 as a freelancer. And to score a better rental to live in. Find a date for New Year’s. Maybe buy a new used car.

Listen carefully: I met those goals. As modest as they were, it would have been hard not to. I needed them to be modest, because I was just getting my goal-setting chops together. And I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time even bothering to set goals.

Let me assure you, it was NOT a waste of time.

The lists I found covered several later years, too. And what’s fascinating is that many of the more specific goals I set down were crossed out — I wanted those goals, but didn’t feel confident about obtaining them.

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

A couple of decades later, I realize that I’ve attained every single one of those “forgotten” goals. The big damn house, the love of my life, the professional success, even the hobbies and the guitars and the sports car.

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and you don’t have to belong to a religion to realize this. The whole concept of “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened” was well-known by successful people long before Luke and Matthew wrote it down.

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

Back to making a million in a year: Some guys know what they need to do to make this goal real. They’ve done it before, or they’ve come close.

Setting the goal is serious business for them… because they are well aware of the tasks they’ve assigned themselves. Take on partners, put on seminars, create ad campaigns, build new products. Get moving on that familiar path.

I’ve known many people who started the year with such a goal… who quickly modified it downward as the reality of the task became a burden. Turns out they didn’t really want the whole million after all. Half of that would suffice just fine. To hell with the work required for the full bag of swag.

Other guys don’t know what they need to do to earn a mil. So their goal really is: Find out what I need to do to earn a million bucks.

Their initial tasks are to ask, seek, and knock like crazy. And change the way they move and act in the world. Because they must transform themselves into the kind of guy who earns a million bucks in one year.

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

So, for example, reading “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” suddenly becomes an “A” task, while remodeling the kitchen gets moved to the back of the burner. Sharpening your ability to craft a killer sales pitch becomes more important than test-driving the new Porsche.

More important, even, than dating Little Miss Perfect. And test-driving her new accessories.

Tough choice?

Nope. When you get hip to the glory of focused change, you never lament leaving the “old” you behind.

It will be hard, sometimes, no doubt about it. Especially when you discover your old gang no longer understands you, or mocks your ambition. They liked the old, non-threatening you. They want him to come back.

But you’ve changed. And hot new adventures are going to take up a lot more of your time now.

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

Every January 15th, I sit down and write myself a letter, dated exactly one year ahead.

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2016, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2017.)

It’s a subtle difference to the way other people set goals. Took me a long time to figure it out, too.

For many years, I wrote out goals like “I live in a house on the ocean”, and “I earn $24,000 a year”. And that worked. But it was like pushing my goals.

Writing this letter to myself is more like pulling my goals. For me, this works even better. Every decision I make throughout the year is unconsciously influenced, as I am pulled toward becoming the person I’ve described.

But here’s where I do it very differently: My goals are deliberately in the “whew” to “no friggin’ way” range. Mega-ambitious, to downright greedy.

There’s a sweet spot in there — doable, if I commit myself, but not so outrageous that I lose interest because the required change is too radical.

I’m pretty happy with myself these days. Took me a long, hard slog to get here, and I earned every step. And I want to continue changing, because I enjoy change. But I don’t need to reinvent myself entirely anymore.

So here’s what makes this ambitious goal-setting so effective: I don’t expect to REACH most of them.

In fact, I’m happy to get half of what I wanted.

There’s a ton of psychology at work there. The person I describe a year away often resembles James Bond more than the real me. Suave, debonair, flush, famous, well-traveled… and in peak health. I hit all the big ones.

However, long ago I realized that trying to be perfect was a sure way to sabotage any goal I set. Perfectionists rarely attain anything, because they get hung up on the first detail that doesn’t go right.

Being a good goal-setter is more like successful boxing — you learn to roll with the punches, cuz you’re gonna get hit.

You just stay focused on the Big Goal. And you get there however you can.

I’m looking at last year’s letter. I was a greedy bastard when I wrote it, and I didn’t come close to earning the income figure I set down.

Yet, I still had my best year ever.

And — here’s the kicker — I would NOT have had such a great year, if I wasn’t being pulled ahead by that letter. There were numerous small and grand decisions I made that would have gone another way without the influence of what I had set down.

I didn’t travel to the places I had listed. But I did travel to other, equally-fun places. I didn’t finish writing that third biz book. But I did position it in my head, and found the voice I want for narration. That’s a biggie. That was a sticking point that would have kept the novel from ever getting finished.

Now, it’s on power-glide.

There’s another “hidden” benefit to doing this year-ahead letter: It forces you to look into the future.

A lot of people make their living peering ahead and telling everyone else what to expect. Most do a piss-poor job of it — weathermen are notorious for getting it wrong, as are stock market analysts, wannabe trend-setters, and political prognosticators.

Yet, they stay in business. Why? Because the rest of the population is terrified of looking into the future. That would require some sincere honesty about their current actions… since what the future holds is often the consequence of what you’re doing right now.

If you’re chain-smoking, chasing street hookers, and living on doughnuts, your future isn’t pretty. For example.

Or if you’ve maxed out all your credit cards, and haven’t done your due diligence to start bringing in moolah, your future isn’t nice, either.

No one can “see” into the future for real. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, it’s easy, when you have a little experience in life.

Things you do today will have consequences tomorrow. If you put up a website today for a product, and you do everything you can to bring traffic to it and capture orders… your consequence can be pretty and nice.

Sure, you may get hit by a bus while fetching the morning paper… but letting that possibility scare you off of trying for something better is for pessimists (who are scheduled for early checkout).

You have enormous control over your future.

And once you realize that, you can set out to start shaping it.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’re one of those people who’ve been skimming blogs like this… never reading anything carefully and slowly, and digesting what’s on the page… then I have one more suggestion for you: Stop doing that.

Most of the uber-successful folks I know (and I know a lot) have both skimming skills AND “deep reading” skills. And they know when to use them. You skim to get overviews, which may turn out to be flawed (because you missed something crucial in your skimming). You deep-read when you want to absorb something important, and you need to make the impression of what you read stick in your brain.

Right now, there are readers here who should be seriously considering the courses and opportunities I offer in the right-hand column of this blog. This is the stuff that has launched freelance careers, transformed biz owners into ad-writing monsters, and armed both rookie and veteran entrepreneurs with the fundamentally awesome skills of success. Quickly, and with the surety of proven-in-the-real-world tactics and advice.

So stop screwing around. If you need further help in getting your career going, or in crafting the kind of marketing that will boost profits through the roof… then consider the offerings on this page an essential task in your new list of goals. This is the real deal. No fluff, no nonsense — just honest, solid, proven stuff from a respected veteran of biz success.

Meanwhile, get busy with your January 15th letter.

P.P.S. One of your main goals, if you’re a serious entrepreneur and you haven’t mastered slamming out world-class copy yet for your bad self… is to GET bad-ass at it as soon as humanly possible. I don’t care how you do it — find a mentor, start experimenting with one of the many courses or coaching programs out there…

… or, as I recommend, just join our mastermind. We’re going into our ninth year of it, so we’re doing something right. To get the details, go here.

Give yourself at least the OPTION of deciding yes-or-no, with some background, by going to this page now and seeing what’s up. At the very least, read some of the testimonials, to get a taste of how powerful the transformation in your life and career can be when you finally get hip to the stuff no one told you about before.

I’ll be checking into the comments here, if you have questions about any of this…

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