“Everything changes once you have John Carlton roaming around inside your head…” (Perry Marshall, from the forward)
If you loved the first volume of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Sh*t Together”…
… you’re gonna swoon over the just-now released Volume 2.
You can grab it now on Amazon, here.
I’ve filled this book with timeless advice, insight and tales from the front trenches of the marketing and advertising world…
… dipping heavily into the same well as the first book.
That would be the super-exclusive monthly newsletter I physically mailed out to a “hot list” of now-famous marketers and copywriters and entrepreneurs. (For a pretty penny, too — each year of receiving this newsletter, dubbed “The Marketing Rebel Rant”, set you back a thousand bucks. And still, the mailing list was a “who’s who” of the best and the brightest in the game.)
I mean, the forward is by my good friend Perry Marshall, for starters.
Inside, you’ll find tons of rollicking stories starring my longtime mentor and best pal Gary Halbert…
… as well as “behind the scenes” revelations from my 30-year career as the guy top marketers snuck in the back door to do the direct response magic required to earn the Big Bucks.
It’s not simply a “tell all”, though.
Not by a long shot.
The newsletter I wrote was being devoured by the Top Dogs in our industry…
… so I had to deliver on my promise to wow them with every issue.
That meant pulling out the big guns in every chapter, and going deep into the details of earning a seat at The Feast (my term for living the best life possible for a happy, rich, and super-productive biz owner).
You can grab a digital version for your Kindle, or a printed book. (I know most of the entrepreneurs I hear from keep a printed copy of Volume One close to their desk, dogeared and messy with notes.)
It’s riveting reading, and right up your alley (if becoming the most successful biz owner or copywriter possible is your goal).
Again: Here’s the Amazon page.
Go get your copy now.
Tuesday, 7:59 pm
“What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” (Nick Lowe)
One of the first things you hear, when you’re learning about fundamental copywriting and ad creation…
… is to avoid humor like the plague. The great David Ogilvy said “People do not buy from clowns.” This pre-dated Jack-In-The-Box’s latest commercial model (where they’re so obviously going after the stoner market with late-night “Munchie Meal” take-out boxes that it’s funny on multiple levels)…
… yet, overall, most high-end marketers still agree with it.
Even the funniest copywriters I know (and let me assure you that many of the best bust-your-gut-laughing humans alive are, indeed, copywriters) (weirdo bunch, totally) almost never insert humor into their sales copy. Almost. Occasionally, when it’s absolutely safe (like writing to your own house list, full of folks proven to have the EXACT same sense of humor you have, right down to the Animal House reruns and Adult Swim shows you all watch)… they may go off the reservation and aim for making readers spit up their morning coffee over an email.
But it’s rare. More likely, the funny-guy guru’s you follow have a “meta-text personality” that includes some risky guffaw moments here and there, just to position them in their market as too-cool-for-school (and thus intellectually superior to their competition)…
… which they’ll jettison at the point of closing any sale.
Cuz money is serious biz. And most buyers (not looky-loo’s, but buyers) aren’t keen on being the butt of a joke, and tend to distrust salesmen who seem a bit too… funny. (Even the word “funny” means both being humorous, and also being weird, brain-damaged and untrustworthy.)
Now, I’m a fairly humorous fella. (And any brain damage I’ve sustained is all better now.) I’ve made a colleague snort coffee through their nose as recently as… well, yesterday, on the phone. Other writers collect my private emails, and read them to family and friends. (Part of that may be a self-defense strategy against their spouse’s assessment of a life in advertising as being “boring”.) I’ve also caused entire ballrooms to laugh so hard, some attendees almost wet themselves. And I’ve even used “okay, you got me” sarcasm to get my point across to a reluctant client during consulting.
Of all the things I value the most in life… laughter and humor rank in the top five. (Just below sex, In ‘N Out hamburgers, craft IPA beer, and the NBA.) (Oh, and my Jack Russell terrorist dog. Sorry, girl. Almost forgot you…) (And my ’64 Stratocaster. And Turner Classic Movies. And…)
Okay, whatever. It ranks high, anyway. It’s a big part of who I am, and what I bring to the table as a friend, colleague, writer and consultant.
And yet, when a sales process gets down to the shorthairs…
… I’m as serious as a mortician.
Losing a sale because you screwed around is NOT funny. It is, rather, a fucking tragedy.
So all the top writers I know have a strict rule against tickling the funny bone of a prospect… at least, when things get to “that point”.
However, we also really, really, really want to find exceptions to this rule. We figure there’s GOT to be an exception, somewhere.
Which means we’ve all become minor experts on the topic of humor. Because, it turns out, while everyone believes they own a “great” sense of humor… the truth is, few (if any) civilians understand humor at all.
So, I thought I’d share some of the research I (and some of my colleagues) (including writers like Kevin Rogers, who spent a decade as a stand-up comic before getting into advertising) have dug up…
… in no particular order…
… just as a starter guide to why we mostly don’t (but sometimes do) use humor in our marketing:
The Joke’s On Us #1: In the last few decades, Ivy League universities have started studying humor, trying to get a baseline understanding of what’s funny to most people, and why.
And their first biggest discovery was that many people have no sense of humor at all. None.
However, while these funny-challenged folks have no idea why you’re bent over laughing at a certain joke or situation…
… they are often very astute to the social cues of humor, and will be holding their bellies right along with you, laughing out loud.
They’re faking it. Or, more precisely, they wait a beat after observing other people laughing, and join in as a social “bonding” routine. They’re supporting the good vibes that mass laughter brings to any social setting… kinda like nodding in agreement, or applauding.
Researchers figured this out by tricking people in studies — seeding a small crowd with actors who laughed on cue at non-funny things, and recording the actions of study participants. Folks with actual senses of humor would smile in a bewildered way, wondering why they weren’t getting the joke. But the fakers had no such objective judgments — the crowd laughed, so they laughed, too.
Reading about these findings blew my mind. I’d suspected something like this was going on, because I had friends who laughed a bit too hard, or who seemed to mainly use loud guffaws as a way to show dominance in a conversation. So I did some of my own testing, watching closely when fakers actually began laughing (a beat behind everyone else).
If you ask, most people will say they have a great sense of humor. Insider their world, they do. Whatever they find funny (or socially acceptable to laugh at, as a bonding process) is what’s funny. This is how humans operate. All measurements of behavior begin with what you’re doing as the universal standard for normal, or moral, or just “the right way”… and if others don’t agree, then they’re just wrong.
Marketer’s Insight: While no one is sure what percentage of the population is actually humor-challenged, it IS a large chunk of your fellow citizens. So when you’re creating marketing aimed at a large group of prospects, you cannot assume that ANY of them will grok your sense of humor.
Just like half or more will reject your politics (and yes, I know you have a superior understanding of politics to everyone else on the planet). And your religious views.
The rule in bars is “no talking about politics or religion”… because it leads to fights.
For marketers, you can add “no funny stuff” to that list. You simply cannot predict what any list will find funny, or not find funny, or be offended or baffled.
The Joke’s On Us #2: One of the first challenges the researchers found was agreeing on how to “measure” what’s funny.
Turns out it’s not a simple thing at all. In fact, the commercial uses of humor is relatively recent — the stand-up comic was invented during vaudeville, which required between-act ring-leaders to keep the audience happy. Shakespeare and Mozart and other post-Enlightenment entertainers made liberal use of what we now call slap-stick (the term literally refers to Medieval clowns using a paddle on each other) and “low brow” humor to delight certain audiences… and more intellectual mockery and sarcasm to make the sophisticated elites titter.
So the people creating entertainment, or trying to influence public opinion or sway a vote, might know how to get a response… but it was an inexact science. Making one part of the audience laugh might offend another part.
The researchers have gotten lost in the weeds trying to define humor. (Some studies have claimed to be able to determine your socio-economic status by what you laugh at, in fact. Fart jokes and pratfalls for the working class, existential stories based on willful misinterpretations of esoteric knowledge for the elites.) (The flaw in this kind of study, of course, is that semi-illiterate yahoo entrepreneur’s can make buckets of moolah with a good biz, and over-educated snobs may be dead-broke slackers.)
It’s gonna take a while for researchers to get it all straight (if they ever do).
The thing is, humor is complicated.
But it’s also a major element of business and social life, so thinking critically about it gives you an edge.
Here’s how I’ve broken it down (through a long life of observing):
- There are two basic “professional” uses of humor (in biz settings) — as a weapon to establish a better status position… or as a bonding tool (which can be an innocent way of forming friendships, which may later become alliances). All of my close longtime friends have wicked senses of humor, for example. Others who I consider good people, but whose funny-bone isn’t so funny to me, never penetrate the Inner Circle. This has not been done consciously — it’s just the way things sift out. But it’s very interesting to note, isn’t it?
- The weaponized use of humor employs mockery, sarcasm, and crude jokes that seek to identify “winners” and “losers” (or “The Other”). It’s very risky when you don’t know your audience (and that political or racist joke falls flat), but it can be nastily effective when dealing with the home crowd (so your insinuation that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals goes over big in Boston every time). (It’s true, by the way, that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals, but that’s another issue.)
- There are a few broad divisions in the way humor is used that matter to marketers. The first is shock vs. bonding — you get a laugh by purposely violating some social norm (which can delight or offend, depending on your audience)… or you cozy up to everyone’s comfort zone, and we all laugh while agreeing on what’s being discussed. Do not try to use shock humor unless you are very, very experienced with it. Backfires are common. On the other hand, mild bonding humor can go a long way to establishing relationships… or bore the bejesus out of everyone.
- The second main division is wit vs. jokes. Have you ever been with a group of folks who just toss zingers at each other, piling up the wit like stacking wood? It’s a joy to behold, if you’re witty. There is no preparation beforehand — you’ve got to live by your ability to quickly counter, support or twist whatever is said. It’s freeform funny conversation… which is the opposite of telling memorized jokes. Someone with an arsenal of jokes can quickly take over a conversation (often with the support of the less witty folks who prefer a more stable environment). I’ve seen many high-flying conversations completely gutted by a series of jokes (which require, by design, that everyone remain quiet and respectful while the joke is told).
- Don’t get me wrong — I like jokes. But I have none memorized, because I prefer free-form wit. I used to know a lot of jokes, though — so many that a couple of friends and I can simply smile at each other and mention a portion of the punch line (not even the whole line), say “Joke number 37”, and get the SAME laugh that telling the entire joke would have generated. (Example: “Well, maybe it’s not like a river…”. Funny, right?)
Marketer’s Insight: Just understanding the fundamentals of how humor is delivered and consumed can help you immensely. If you’re not a witty dude, don’t try to fake it. You can’t. If you like jokes, go ahead and memorize some… and use them when you’re in a situation where everyone is yukking it up over memorized jokes.
But consider the audience, always. Don’t shock when it will offend. Never assume your audience shares your religious or political views (and triple-check your perception of this before wandering down the very dark alley of potentially-offensive jokes). And it’s fine to just be part of the audience, to laugh and enjoy the wit or the prepared humor — you’re actually bonding with your supporting laughter.
Quick Story: A well-known colleague of mine — a really nice guy, liked by everyone, and a killer marketer — once took me aside and asked how he could develop a more interesting personality. He was lost in witty conversations, had no jokes memorized, and didn’t understand why some folks found some stuff so fucking funny.
I took the challenge, and with my pal Kevin Rogers (the former stand-up-turned-copywriter), we gave him a list of things that might help (which included watching George Carlin routines critically — figuring out how each story unwound, and when the laugh points popped up… memorizing a handful of jokes from the Playboy jokes page and also from Reader’s Digest — so he had something a tad ribald, and something very middle-of-the-road… and critically reading witty authors like P.J. O’Rourke or Molly Ivins — one conservative, one liberal.)
It didn’t work. I know you can develop real wit, because I’ve progressed myself from a joke-telling kid (sharing stuff from Mad magazine or jokes my drunk uncles used to shock the aunts), to a rookie good conversationalist, to a high-end witty dude who can hold his own in any crowd. On any subject.
But I think you need to start with a basis sense of humor… which we’ve discovered is not default equipment with all humans.
Still, by all means, learn how to tell a joke properly. Find them written out, and memorize them, right down to the exact words used. It’s like memorizing scripted lines for a play. Some advanced actors may wing it occasionally… but if you can’t do that, don’t wreck the scene by trying. Study the process, if it interests you, but otherwise just follow the path already laid out.
Another Quick Story: Gary Halbert and I loved to mess with each other’s minds on stage at seminars. The ultimate prize was getting the other guy to lose his cool by laughing too hard to speak (or come back with a wittier line). Spitting coffee through your nose was a bonus point.
We’d get vicious, too… using insults, practical jokes, rumors, everything was fair play. It kept us loose and happy during long weekends of Hot Seats.
But it also taught us a good lesson in the limits of humor. During one break, Gary and I were chatting at the side of the stage… and an attendee walked up and leveled a gross, tasteless insult my way. Then he laughed heartily. In his mind, he was inserting himself in the Inner Circle — he’d thought, “Hey, I’m a funny guy, too”, and figured insulting me was an easy way to get special attention.
Cuz, you know, Gary and I were so vicious with each other.
It doesn’t work that way, of course. Neither Gary nor I laughed. We just stared at the guy until he slinked away, humiliated.
Hey — I can call my friend a fuckhead and get away with it. Because that’s how we roll.
But YOU call him a fuckhead, and I’m in your face in a heartbeat. You’re not allowed that privilege.
If you have to ask whether you’re in the Inner Circle or not… you’re not in it. This is pretty much universal in human experience. You can loudly berate your bowling buddies and get a laugh back… but that goofy yahoo on the other team says the same thing, and them’s fighting words.
It’s stunning how often people don’t grok how this simple social paradigm works. And it can ruin business situations for you, handled poorly.
Just a word to the wise…
The Joke’s On Us #3: Finally, for this primer on the subject, never underestimate how much some people value humor…
… while an equal number are threatened by it.
Look critically at long Facebook threads for evidence. You’ll find in-jokes that you cannot possibly understand, because you’re aren’t privy to the back story. You’ll find other people gleefully trying to keep up with the witty back-and-forth’s, who miss the point entirely. (You can get real-world examples of how different people find different stuff funny… and keep in mind the research claiming to predict status by what you laugh at.)
And you’ll find many examples of people trying desperately to disrupt funny threads. Every time someone inserts comments like “First-world problems”, they’re trying to kill the conversation. Ask yourself why they’d want to do that. Often, it’s simply being uncomfortable with the discussion, and yet feeling desperate to comment. Just as often, though, it’s a crude attempt to establish dominance. (It’s the same with comments like “Bang! for the win”, which attempts to control through judgment.)
I consider these kinds of disruption offensive, because they can murder a good thread. Hard to continue laughing about some modern situation when reminded that kids are starving in India. It’s Debbie Downer on steroids.
It’s the same with sarcasm. Shielding cynical comments by claiming “you’re just joking” is a blatant cop-out, and a failure to take responsibility for the consequences of your statements. It works, unfortunately, in politics and personal grievance. “Can’t you take a joke” is the icing on the insult.
Humor evolves on a society-wide level. What was hilarious a decade ago in a movie is now a cringe-inducing example of obliviousness. Outside the US and Britain, stand-up tends to be joke-oriented… whereas our comics and cartoons careen toward the absurd, employing more long-form stories than standard punch-lines.
Humor is very important to some people. It’s my main defense against a heartless universe obviously out to get me.
And at the same time, humor is a very foreign and scary thing to others.
This is why it doesn’t mix well (usually) with serious sales pitches, where money is on the line.
I may do another post on this, if folks are still wanting more.
Meanwhile, love to hear your take and experience with humor in biz situations, in the comments section below…
P.S. One last tactic: If you’re going to use humor in biz settings… it’s a good idea to make yourself the butt of any joke. It’s called “self-deprecating” humor, and it allows you to use every shred of your wit, sarcasm and sharp humor to make a point… you simply make yourself the target, rather than risk offending or insulting anyone else.
I make sure my audiences at events understand that I know the answers to so many problems… because I personally failed or got waylaid by nearly every problem possible in life and biz myself. It’s absolutely true… but a less forthright speaker might avoid spoiling his reputation with confessions like that.
If I nail an attendee with some shocking assessments (like calling him an idiot)… I make sure he understands, first, that I’ve been the biggest idiot in the universe myself. Many times. And making mistakes, learning my lessons, and then using those lessons the next time is how I became successful.
In fact, I don’t know of any other way to progress in life and biz.
P.P.S. By the way…
… if you’re a victim of what my colleague David Garfinkel calls “intellectual loneliness” (where you’re withering away because you lack witty, funny, smart-as-whips pals… who also happen to share your passion for business, copywriting, marketing and the entrepreneurial lifestyle)…
… then it might be time for you to seriously explore my Platinum Mastermind group.
It’s a small (under 20 members) group that meets four times a year… where we do Hot Seat-style consults on each member’s situation (problems, biz plans, ad copy, anything at all that’s bugging them)… with a focus on GETTING SHIT DONE. No vague philosophy. Just hard-core, detailed, specific brainstorming and sharing of experience that leads to actual things you can do to unclog the moolah spigot, and get your biz and life back on the fast track.
We also have guest experts who come by just because they like the way I operate. And they share, and help brainstorm, and just pour themselves into the weekend. Recent guests: Joe Sugarman… Gary Halbert’s sons (Bond and Kevin)… Jay Abraham… Brian Kurtz (former CEO of Boardroom, Inc)… Dean Jackson (marketing superstar)… Joe Polish… and many more.
Just see what’s up, for cryin’ out loud. The site won’t bite you: Carlton’s Platinum Mastermind.
Oh, yes. This could be the day you remember forever, where everything changed for you…
“George, George, George of the jungle, friend to you and me…” (Best cartoon theme ever)
Regular civilians can get through life with all sorts of goofy notions about how things get done in the business world.
However, entrepreneurs have no such luxury.
For example: Nearly every biz transaction is an inherently hostile situation.
Behind the smiles and back-slapping and promises of “working for the common good” between, say, a freelancer and a client…
… the writer actually wants to do as little work as possible for the maximum possible money, while the client wants to bleed every ounce of productivity from the writer for the least outlay of cash.
I’ve had clients who became close personal friends.
Still, when it came time to set deadlines and write checks, we had completely opposite agendas, and never pretended otherwise.
It’s the same throughout life.
Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it blooms into full-on fisticuffs (or divorce, strategic bankruptcy, strikes, war, lawsuits, name-calling, etc).
You can’t ignore it, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur.
There’s no reason to be afraid of it, either — I’ve even had fun with it during negotiations with clients, exposing our veiled teeth-baring for what it was: A couple of wannabe alpha’s pissing on our established territory, jostling for position.
At the highest levels, this “primal snarling dance” only works when deadlines are put in place and it’s crystal clear what is promised versus what is expected.
I wanted my client’s hand to shake while writing out the check to me…
… but I also knew the rest of my month was now locked up, as I went into full creative mode.
When the check cleared the bank, and I delivered the best work I could muster… while the market responded with jaw-dropping results… all was well.
But there are never any guarantees.
When you start playing in the upper atmosphere of the biz world, everything gets hairier — the money, the risks, the game-playing, the stakes, all of it.
But it’s still just a gathering of shaved apes, with one foot still in the jungle, angling for dominance.
Learn how to happily navigate the inherently hostile parts of doing biz, without taking it personally or botching it up with dumb-ass notions of playing “nice” or expecting your good deeds to magically bring rewards…
… and flavor it all with a professional’s attitude of doing your part to the best of your ability every time (while negotiating deals that allow for the other guy to screw up without taking you down with him)…
… and you’re on your way to bigger and better deals.
And enjoy the ride. That’s the real secret to a good life.
The machinations of the biz world only seem complex and mysterious until you’ve bloodied your nose a few times learning the rules.
You’ve poked your head around the corner of life, to peek at the entrepreneurial world hidden from most folks.
It’s different from regular life.
But you’ll figure it out, as long as you’re willing to take a few bruises along the way.
Just my two cents. Now go tear your niche a new azzhole…
P.S. Volume Two of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is going through final revisions before publishing.
If you still don’t understand why this is such a big damn deal, perhaps you should grab a copy of Volume One now… and devour it immediately.
There’s a reason it’s one of the few biz books folks consistently describe as “the most important book” on their shelf…
St. Petersburg, FL
“Now the zombie is on your tail…” (“Lover Of The Bayou”, the Byrds)
I’ve been a high-paid, much-respected consultant for something like 30 years.
High paid, cuz my advice will rock your world (no matter where you’re at in your lifelong adventure in biz and life).
Much respected, cuz the results I squeeze out of entrepreneurs (including the most stubborn, irascible and bent-on-self-destruction types in the game) will make your jaw drop.
… the “secret” behind my consulting success is very, very simple.
For example, easily half the advice I give out regards living a better life…
… cuz by the time a biz owner realizes he needs a guy like me to intervene, he’s in some really deep shyte.
And after we deal with his bottom line, we quickly pivot to his private life. The burn-out, the lack of coherent long-term goals, the inability to answer simple questions like “what do you want from life now?”
Thus, we enter into classic “self-help” territory.
And most self-help stuff can be mulched into some version of “Calm the fuck down, keep moving, and have good goals“. (Though, of course, I explain that in fancier terms, so folks think they’re getting high-end psychologically sound advice. There’s a small bit of theater in any good consulting session.)
That’s not “band aid” advice, either.
Nope. Don’t let the folksiness fool you — this is deep stuff.
Whether you meditate, pray or just stare at the wall and veg out, if it calms you down, it’s a good tactic. (I like sitting in the old swing out back with the dog, staring at the mountains.)
But you gotta make it a habit.
Movement can be physical or mental or emotional…
… because whatever you require to progress from the bummer state you’re in to someplace nicer is exactly what you need to be doing. (When younger, I actually moved around a lot. Nowadays, I expand intellectually, because the bad grooves are in my head, not around me.) Exercise everything every day — your body, your brain, your tear ducts.
And you should get comfy with the rigors of goal setting and attainment asap in life — instilling it in kids is not too soon, if you’re a parent.
It’s as simple as it’s always been (no matter how much the rest of the culture ignores or distorts the process): Figure out what you want, make a plan to go get it… and then implement that plan.
The hard part (which you cannot begin to grok until you get deep into the process) is setting your sights.
Most of what you think you want, you really don’t. (But you gotta go through the process to realize it. Most common example: After covering your basic needs and having some to spare… more money will NOT make you happier. It’s been true since the dawn of civilization, but most folks need to experience this to believe it. So, I help people become successful… but with plenty of awareness that their happiness will come from other sources.)
True happiness can also be so much simpler to attain than most of us believe, at first.
Happiness is not a place you “arrive” at, and remain forever in joy.
Rather, it’s a process of engaging with life, navigating the good with the bad, and murdering your ego. And enjoying the occasional moments of true happiness that accompany a well-lived existence.
Most of the stuff that actually makes you blissed-out happy, you’re taking for granted…
… and it’s only when you lose it that you realize the truth of it all.
Loss is built into life, but learning lessons from it isn’t standard operating equipment in your head.
You gotta work at recognizing the lessons when they appear, and learning from them.
The happiest folks I’ve known in my long ride keep things simple.
Sometimes, the rich man and the not-so-rich man share the same blissed out moments — sitting in a comfy chair, stomach full, petting the dog and feeling alive.
Different parts of town, same sky.
Different bank accounts, same volume of love flowing through their hearts.
Hope you’re having some fun this fine autumn weekend…
P.S. Now is a great time to grab “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel”, if you’ve never allowed yourself the pure, undiluted ecstasy of diving into that tome.
Go here and just marvel at the famous names who name it as the starting point for their grand adventure in biz and life…
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” (Stealer’s Wheel)
Thought I’d share Heads Up Alert #13 with you today:
Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…
… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.
Not everyone likes you, remember.
You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.)
There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you…
… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.
And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.
Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world.
Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with.
(My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)
When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever…
Your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin.
Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.
Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked…
… and it can escalate fast if you engage.
Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of.
When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…
… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose.
Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight.
They just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.
Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:
Rule #1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations.
Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers.
Yes, even if they’re wrong.
Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career.
All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff.
But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.
You know the best way to beat the trolls and haters?
Find a like-minded group of people to support you and bounce your best ideas off of. No one becomes success all on their own. Everyone has help, and you get a whopping generous supply of it by joining the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club right here.
Rule #2. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game.
Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)
And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better…
… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)
Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.
Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.
Rule #3. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”
Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.
P.S. Volume 2 of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is now available.
So if you haven’t Volume 1 yet, it’s time to catch up here.
“Tell your mama and your papa, I’m a little schoolboy, too…” (“Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”, Sonny Boy Williamson)
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.
What? You haven’t signed up for my “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz And Life Right Now” report? You know it’s free right?
Get your actionable free biz advice right here.
Concern #2. Are you maximizing the easier ways to bring in money through multiple streams?
Your cash register should be pounding away even when you’re asleep, on vacation, or missing in action.
But 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.
… 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. And as it happens, there’s a super easy way to get your network. Find out more right here.
For some, their 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.
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).
And remember, you have an excellent one-stop resource like that here, sitting right under your nose…
“My social life’s a dud, my name is really Mud…” (“Talk Talk”, Music Machine)
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 secret marketing club.
My biz partner Stan Dahl and I have been hosting the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club for around 10+ years now.
It’s an interactive learning environment for copywriters, entrepreneurs & biz minded folks at all levels.
Inside, you’ll find a ton of original lessons by some of the top marketing minds around. Oh sure, you might find your way eventually through trial and error and stumbling around… Or you can spend hours scouring the Internet trying to find answers to these pressing problems plaguing your biz.
Or you can have it all at your fingertips in one convenient spot, along with access to the Marketing Rebel team, who are always available to answer your questions.
You’ll also get access to some of my best marketing & copywriting know-how that I’ve gleaned from YEARS as an in-demand freelancer.
We’re talking swipe files, hot seats, and of course – the scuttlebutt sessions where I chat strategy with some of the most successful marketers to walk the planet in the last 20 years, including Joe Polish, Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy and others.
We’ve helped everyone from kitchen table startups to Fortune 500 companies overcome every obstacle imaginable to become wickedly successful in their businesses.
This is serious guidance and coaching, for folks serious about putting their life and biz on the fast track to happiness and wealth.
They 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.
It’s easy (and painless) to find out if the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club can help you too.
Just go here to get the details.
Go get started, already.
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 gain access to.
“See if you can guess what I am now?” (Bluto, “Animal House”)
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.
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…
Las Vegas, NV
“Hey, watch this…” (Famous last words of a drunk redneck)
Quick lesson in competence and incompetence.
Which are about a hair’s width apart in your brain, even if you refuse to admit it.
Here’s the lesson:
Just because you rock at one thing does NOT mean you are competent in everything (or anything) else.
Sounds obvious, right?
Isn’t, to most of your fellow humans.
Examples abound: Doctors (who got through years of freakin’ medical school) are well-known chumps when it comes to financial matters, falling for the worst-designed scams imaginable. High school jocks who figure their on-field athletic skills are preparing them for a wonderful adult life often have a rude awakening headed their way. Marriage counselors (especially the good ones) are typically already divorced a few times.
And entrepreneurs who conquer one marketing medium (say, Clickbank) assume they’re bulletproof…
… and gleefully murder their wealth by cluelessly wandering into a new biz model (where they’re quickly eaten alive).
And yet people never stop assigning all kinds of savvy and skills to experts who have shown absolutely zero competence to support such laurels. (Looking at you, TV political pundits.) (And you, Mr. Marketing Guru with a nice smile but nil real-world experience.)
Why do we do this?
Mostly because we crave real experts, honest heroes, and genuine leaders so much, we’re willing to overlook little things (like reality) and cross our fingers over outcomes.
The alternative is to, you know, become competent yourself and — ick — take responsibility for your decisions and actions.
The very best biz owners are like the best stand-up comics — they become self-aware, know their weak areas, and laugh about them.
And never pretend they’re something they’re not.
I am very, very good at what I’m good at, for example.
And what I’m not good at, I absolutely suck at.
Which is why I surround myself with folks who are good at what I’m not good at.
Your network of pals, colleagues, friendly enemies, experts, and partners should be diverse, self-aware themselves, and deeply experienced. You don’t have to become BFFs with your tech guy, but you do need to “connect” on a real level…
… so your values, ethics, lifestyle preferences and long-term goals are aligned and headed in the same direction. (Not surprisingly, this often does result in lifelong friendships… but it’s incidental.)
This Is Rule #1: Don’t try to “go it alone” for the long run.
The more successful you become, the more you’ll need a network to support you.
And the more successful you DESIRE to become…
… the more your network needs to be truly competent and front-loaded with massive experience (which they’ve learned from, not merely gone through).
Most of the folks you’ll meet in your journey through life will be incompetent at most of what they do.
And oblivious of it.
As an entrepreneur, you are no longer “one of the crowd”.
Your needs change immediately, your exposure to risk skyrockets, and the degree of “adventure” you experience goes off the charts.
If you do it right, that is.
Learn to judge your colleagues by what they do, not what they SAY they’ll do.
Arrogant, cynical braggarts are hiding something.
Shake off your natural inclination to assign competence to them (cuz they’re demanding you do so), and instead, take responsibility for your decisions by knowing your limits, and surrounding yourself with real experts who fill in the gaps.
P.S. Have you ever glanced at the testimonials piled up on Amazon about my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”?
Some of the most famous folks in marketing and advertising give the book a solid thumb’s up. Looky some of the more recent ones from regular entrepreneurs, too:
“I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)
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.
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.
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…