Category Archives for Con men

The Envy Cure

Tuesday, 3:23pm
Reno, NV
Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)

Howdy.

I’m republishing this off-beat rant, cuz it’s been one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written over the years.

And it’s a totally counter-intuitive take on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss.

Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.

So, enjoy another nugget from the archives:

Friend…

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?

Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?

Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?

Well, then step right up…

Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing. The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches“…

… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.

And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty. I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.

Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great.  We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko. Rooted for ya. Got yer back.

I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility. And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.

But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast. Whoa, there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?

And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.

Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.

This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.

The lucky creep.

I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…

And so on.

I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it. Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.

Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself.  Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before. Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)

I like that tactic.

However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.

It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.

Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept. And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.

Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.

Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category. Fame, skill, wealth…

… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.

Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail.

I mean, why them and not me yet?

The bastards were too big for their britches…

But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.

Because the better way to look at things…

… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.

There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game…

… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.

In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out.

It was win-win, all the way.

Still, though…

… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…

And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.

I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere…

… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else.  Maybe I really did invent it.

At any rate… it works.

Wanna know what it is?

Okay. Here is my…

Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…

… just imagine being inside their skin — really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes. 

Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.

And then see if their life still looks so good.

Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real. When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner. When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel. When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.

This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in. (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 13 years here in the blog.)

Great salesmen lead better lives. Not because they sell lots of stuff…

… but because they live in the real world. 

You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.

Naw. You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.

So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.

This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more…

… while also helping you understand why they do what they do.

You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.

And while you love your fellow beasts…

… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…

you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.

Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.

I love to read autobiographies and biographies. (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)

It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.

Wow, does it ever change your outlook. Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.

The novelists loathed themselves. The movie stars craved adulation like junkies. The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths. The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.

Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention. Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity. Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.

Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.

They’re also boring as hell. And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin. (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires. In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons. See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)

You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?

I do, too. But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.

In fact, I embrace it. I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.

It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.

You’re alive. You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later). You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…

… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.

It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there. But it’s worth it.

You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”.

Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…

… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.

I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business). I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see underneath the mask.

And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever. 

I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity. I fit well inside my own skin.

And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world. Really earned it.

Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.

Naw. I blundered my way into the Feast of Life. Utterly fucked things up along the ride…

… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.

That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.

We’re all pathetically flawed. All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).

Nobody gets out of here unscathed. You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.

And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto. When it happens, buy new ones.

Stay frosty (and true to yourself),

John

P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens.  Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself. Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.

The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better. Screw that nonsense.

The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly. Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses.

And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail. You lived it, dude. I wasn’t there.

What happened?

P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?

And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life.  Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…

VERY Special P.P.P.S. While not exactly an autobiography, my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” reveals a ton of behind-the-scenes adventures and insider advice aimed straight at the tender beating heart of the struggling entrepreneur.

Get your copy now, either as an ebook or in paperback. For a few measly bucks, you’ll be ushered into a front-row seat to see how I stumbled upon the amazing result-getting lessons of great marketing…

… and I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off along the way.

Get it here: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“.

When “Trust Me” Is A Red Flag…

Sunday, 9:30pm
Reno, NV
Have I got a deal for you…” (said no one, ever, truthfully)

Howdy.

You having a good week?

Nobody tried to cheat you out of anything, or make you look like a maroon?

That’s good. You’re walking the straight and true, and that’s the real key to a life of wealth and happiness.

Still, sometimes it pays to see what’s going down over in the darker side of town.

So let’s share more of the “survival rules for entrepreneurs” I have in my consulting stash — the insights (from brutal experience) that helped me build a solid biz and reputation…

… but this time, let’s wander into the really weird stuff for a spell. Be cautious, and don’t make any sudden moves, okay?

Here’s Rule #8: Convincing prospects to trust your bad self.

I first heard about “the trust game” from a wizened, street-savvy con man, early in my career.

I knew I needed to learn more about solid salesmanship tactics, and there were no books around explaining the good stuff. (There still aren’t very many.) You had to search out the old-school guys who’d made their name working face-to-face with people…

… in situations where, if they didn’t make the sale, they might not eat that night.

So they tended to get a little ruthless. Murdered their ethics, buried ‘em in the back yard, and went out to work the “game”.

I had no intention of conning people. These guys did not lead nice lives, and one of the reasons they got so good at working the con is that they often had to disappear quickly to avoid being busted. Sometimes they just split for a short time. Sometimes they left town altogether. Yes, there is another world, parallel to ours, where con men drift in and out of sight, following a sort of circuit across the country.

And with the dangerous games they play, they usually only have one shot to get it right, and losing wasn’t an acceptable option.

So they learned the hard-core persuasion tactics.

The learned the confidence game.

I realized something, though: The same tactics they used for their crooked products…

… could also be used for high-quality, completely ethical products.

They were just too lazy to create good stuff.

Plus, it was obvious they also liked the thrill of being bad. Evil bastards, most of them.

But they were also kinda lonely.

And once you got them telling stories, you couldn’t shut ‘em up. When they sensed an appreciative audience, they just spilled everything, happily. Proud of their life’s work.

So whenever I ran across one of these street-wise confidence men, I became their new best friend for an afternoon, grilling them for insight, tactics, warnings and horror stories.

And I never bored them by asking “Why don’t you just go legit, and sell good stuff? You’d make an honest killing.” They weren’t interested in becoming legit.

A good life lesson right there, but we’ll get into that another time.

Today, we’re going deep in the confidence game.

So, here’s the story…

Bob had grown up on the streets of Berkley, being a lookout as a kid, then a shill and later the dealer as a teen. By the time I met him, he had married a lawyer and was enjoying the good life as a kept man in the suburbs. But he loved to talk about the old days.

His “product”, in this instance, was a classic 3-Card Monte street game. You set up a table on a corner, and had three playing cards placed in a row: Two red aces, and the black Queen of spades.

With the lookout watching for cops, the dealer would use slight of hand to move the cards around, inviting the marks (say, you, passing by and thinking “Hey, that looks easy”) to guess where the Queen was now.

The shill was pretending to be a mark, actively engaged in the game. And winning money. He’d bet $20 that he could spot the Queen, lay down a bill, watch the dealer move the cards around…

… and then point to the card he insisted was the Queen. The dealer turned it over… and voila! The Queen.

“Yeah!” the mark would yell. “This is like taking candy from a baby,” as he pocketed another twenty.

“You’re gonna break me, man,” whined the dealer, looking all sad and embarrassed.

Now, you, of course, would never indulge in illegal street games like this. No, no, no.

But it seemed so…

easy. You followed the Queen without missing, just like the shill.

Why, all that money could have been yours. If you’d been betting.

“Hey, buddy,” says the dealer, looking at you with imploring eyes. “You want to give it a try?”

What the hell. You throw a twenty down, watch the Queen get shuffled around… and you pick her out. The dealer turns the card over, and hey, you won! You followed the Queen, without trouble.

Easiest money you ever made.

You know where this goes, right?

You win the next time, too. And the next.

Then, the dealer — looking more frustrated than before — asks if you want to double down, maybe triple down. If the lookout has signaled a cop nearby, maybe the bet gets even higher. Big money, you’re talking about now.

A pile of cash, just sitting there.

What a schmuck, you tell yourself. If this guy wants to give me more money, great.

And all of a sudden, it ain’t so easy following where the Queen went.

You’re pretty sure it’s there, yeah, it’s gotta be there on the left. Pretty sure.

And it ain’t. Not this time. Or the next. Or the next.

And you just lost a little bundle.

The cop turns the corner, the dealer folds up the table and scurries off (with your lost dough) in one direction, the shill in the other… and you’re wondering what the heck just happened.

“The con,” my new BFF told me, “is all in building up confidence. Allowing the mark to trust that the dealer is who he presents himself as — a bungling maroon who can’t hide a Queen amongst three cards to save his life.”

He sat back. “I loved that game. You gotta really work to gain someone’s trust.”

My question (which I kept to myself) was: Why do all that work to gain trust…

… and then squander it on one transaction?

Why not actually have something of real value to offer? Something worth the money, that turns the mark into an actual customer…

… who comes back for more. The lifetime value of a customer who buys again and again — delighted with the quality of the product and service — is surely worth more than a quick rip-off (and the risk of spending the night in the pokey).

For marketers and biz owners like you — who strive to do the right thing, who have a great product valued fairly — the stark elements of this game should give you a hint how to create that lifetime customer.

It’s all about trust.

Real trust, though. Not that smarmy fake stuff the street hustlers practice.

This is what’s behind the free reports, the bonuses, the unconditional guarantees, and even the “double your money back” promises of classic marketing campaigns.

Every sale begins with a relationship. Sometimes, it’s a brief one — you have something your prospect wants, he’s done some shopping around and likes your prices (and guarantee), and the deal is done.

Other times, it’s a more drawn-out affair. There has to be some wooing, some proof of your reputation and the quality of what you offer.

And the first steps may have to involve no risk at all.

Something for nothing, essentially. A “taste” of the goods. A chance to experience what it’s like to own one.

In the con game, all this is rushed. And, in truth, you can’t con an honest man. The hustler relies on teasing the greed of the average mark…

… who falls in love with the thrill of making an easy killing by putting one over on some street dude who is obviously an idiot.

Until he isn’t.

In a rational marketing campaign, you have better things to use to engender trust.

You’ve been around for a while, with a track record you can verify, testimonials from real people who can vouch for you, and clear evidence that you are a square shooter with a high-quality product, priced fairly.

Yet, it’s the same “game”, essentially. You establish trust, you let the prospect drive the transaction (no pressure), and you deliver the product.

The big difference: You’re doing it ethically.

While the con man cannot stand the thought of actually providing real value.

For him to “win”, the mark has to “lose”.

Just saying. The art of salesmanship goes back to the dawn of history, and can be used for good or evil.

Choose the right path, and I’ll help you become successful, by continuing to share these insights.

More “survival rules for entrepreneurs” to come.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. You know what else works in your favor, when you crave the Big Bucks and successful lifestyle of a damn good entrepreneur?

Knowing the “deep” secrets of awesome salesmanship.

Now, it took me DECADES of chasing down mentors and teachers (including all those old-school street-wise dudes)…

… along with the hard work of putting what I learned to work in the real world as a freelancer, and then as a consultant.

I have been around the block, my friend. And when you add the life experience of my biz partner, Stan Dahl (who was a ridiculously high-paid consultant for such companies as Starbucks and Wells Fargo before joining up with me to help entrepreneurs)…

… that’s a lot of solid, real-world experience on display. Tons of advice, tactics, strategies, problem-solving tricks, and solutions to whatever might be holding you back.

And how do you take advantage of all this experience and savvy?

The most fun (and immediate, results-wise) way is to simply join our Platinum Group… which is a hybrid mastermind/brainstorm/workshop for solutions to the problems holding you back from the Big Bucks and the Good Life. Where we share everything we know about wealth and happiness and fixing what’s wrong…

… no matter how bad you believe your problems are, or how unique you think your worries are.

There are answers to every problem, sticking point and disaster you encounter. We’ve been proving it in this globally-respected group for over 8 years now.

You’ll be among colleagues who are just like you, who’ve encountered the same decision moments and crises, and seen the best and worst of life in the marketing fast-lane.

Just see why so many entrepreneurs have relied on this group over the years. You might just discover something about yourself…

… and you might realize why these kinds of groups have been the main go-to resource for the most successful business owners throughout history.

Just go check it out here.

No pressure. No obligation. Only a peek behind the scenes at the most talked-about and unique mastermind/brainstorm/workshop around…