Category Archives for Critical Think (TM)

Gratitude, Schmatitude

Friday, 1:08pm
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.

The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit.

I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.

So why do they even say it?

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

So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT.

And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.

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

but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint.

I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned…

… to cull the mob down.

Just part of the biz strategy created by evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.

Yeah, get real.

Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases.

Get Real Truth #1: Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.

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

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

Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it…

… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back.

Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.

Get Real Truth #2: If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT.

Don’t talk about it.

Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises.

Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

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

Yeah, yeah, whatever.

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

No, you’re not.

Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over.

But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.

A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake.

He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.

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

Get Real Truth #3: Lying is lying.

The small lies in life set up the big ones.

Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time.

You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.

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

In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem.

The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse.

The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling.

The joint is filled with liars.

This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there.

Just be honest, without making a big damn deal about it.

In fact, don’t even bring it up.

Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.

Your audience will let you know what your “real world” reputation is, soon enough.

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

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

Get Real Truth #4: Consequences matter.

Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business.

Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.

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

It matters.

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

Thanks.

No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Make sure you check out all the goodies available on this page. My books and courses make excellent Christmas gifts, you know…

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

Tribute To The Ink Stained Wretch

Flag

Tuesday, 11:22pm
Reno, NV
I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)

Howdy…

For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.

Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…

… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.

For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.

Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…

particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.

For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…

… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.

We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.

Yet, the opposite is true.

Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet.

Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries.

I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.

It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.

Much deeper than that.

The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship.

All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.

It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges.

The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it.

Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions.

And I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art.

But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all have been banned or censored at some point in our history).

And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.

We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades…

… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.

So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today.

This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.

The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box.

Dangerous stuff.

I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine…

… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.

For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about…

… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks.

Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.

Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm).

But the restrictions should remain rare.

Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it.

Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology.

And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.

I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life.

It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.

For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence…

… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory.

Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being.

Free.

Fuckin’ A.

Play ball.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Hey — make sure you’ve got my books with you when you go off on holiday.

You can order them right now, in the right-hand column here. The digital versions will be in your digital hands immediately, too… no waiting…

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…

The Foibles Of Being Human (Part 12)

Friday, 10:25am
Reno, NV
I can’t sleep, cuz my bed’s on fire…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)

Howdy…

I’ve been studying happiness just as long as I’ve obsessed on becoming successful in biz…

… and you know what?

The two barely intersect at all.

I wouldn’t want to spend two seconds inside the skin of most of the richest people I know. They’re miserable. They never have enough to fill the bottomless need that fuels their quest for “more”.

But I’m not smug about it.

We all share the same basic malfunctioning default system bug — when we’re sad, we crave happiness…

… and when we’re happy, we’re either unconsciously looking for ways to fuck it up, so we’ll be sad again…

… or we’re terrified that we’re missing something that will take it all away.

Silly humans.

Pure happiness is unsustainable. It’s an outlier emotional state, requiring some fairly substantial hormone dumps from glands that simply can’t supply vast amounts.

Zen thinking tries to get us into a more reasonable contented mode.

Moderation is sustainable pretty much forever, with the right mental tools and a little breath training.

But the human brain loathes moderation, and craves excess.

It’s a bug in the system.

I’m leery of anyone who promises too much joy, especially if they’re selling it.

And yet, the suckers line up to quaff the nasty brew in endless lines.

Being human is hard, in this concrete jungle.

But given the choice between wealth and contentment, I’d choose the latter every time.

Now, that is. As a young man, busy chewing up scenery and consumed with lust, I danced near the edges of bliss and despair as much as possible, and sneered at those who would harsh my wild swings.

Life blows by in a blink, folks.

You’ll never quite figure out the meaning.

But it for sure ain’t unbridled wealth.

Beyond accumulating what you can spend in a hot-blooded lifetime, you’re mostly wasting your time.

You disagree, of course…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. That blurry photo up top is me, in my arrogant twenties, mocking death. It was Halloween, somewhere in the murky depths of the seventies.

Fun times. We thought they’d last forever, as life continued to lavish energy, fun and health upon our undeserving heads.

Now, the photo is just a reminder to watch my diet, exercise more, and avoid dying as best I can.

Take care of yourself, you.

The Rest Of Your Life (redux)

IMG_0853

Saturday, 2:05 pm
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 2018, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

Read more…

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…

Seriously, WTF Were You Thinking, Skipping That Nap?

Monday, 2:01pm
Reno, NV
Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoooooooon…” (The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon”)

Howdy.

File this little piece of consulting advice under the “WTF Were You Thinking?” Department: I frequently encounter entrepreneurs (usually the struggling kind) who confuse “working” with activity.

When they finish a project, for example, the sudden evidence of fresh free time startles them — somehow, inside their head, they feel they “should” be devoting every waking moment to the gig.

So they dive immediately into the next job.

This is so wrong.

You’re not a machine.

You need downtime, and lots of it — that’s where the creative process flourishes, and your overall energy levels recuperate.

The top performers in all niches jealously guard their free time, and greedily devour it with gusto.

Here’s what they know that you keep forgetting: The harder you work, the more down time you require regeneration and recovery from the stress.

However, (and here’s the real trick), the more PRODUCTIVE you yearn to become…

Read more…

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