“There is nothing that cannot be achieved by a man who refuses to listen to reason” (Gary Halbert)
I was going to slap a quickie book on Amazon for you…
… stuffed with all the advice, shared wisdom, tactics and strange asides I’ve been assaulting folks with lately on my Facebook page.
But then I thought, “screw that”.
Why not just give the book to you here?
And that’s what I’m gonna do.
Hey, it saves me a ton of editing and detail work (which I loathe).
Brain Farts, Psych Insights,
Strange Tales & Goddamn
The “bad Uncle” rantings of the most ripped-off and respected copywriter alive.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Big Damn Jenga Game That Is Your Future
Chapter 2: The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You Your Entire Life
Chapter 3: Respect Brilliance, And Brilliance Will Respect You
Chapter 4: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Chapter 5: The Genius Of Operation Money$uck
Chapter 6: The Best Way To Learn From Mentors
Chapter 7: What’s Your Excuse?
Chapter 8: The Small Stories That Do The Most Work
Chapter 9: Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert
Chapter 10: Where To Find The Eternal Truths Of Great Copywriting
Chapter 11: The Simple Tactic That Opens Doors For You Every Time
Bonus Chapter 12: When Logic Sucks
Folks complain to me all the time about the length of many of my posts (especially here in the blog).
Here’s a nice quickie book full of very short chapters...
… all of which nevertheless pack a vicious punch of insight and savvy.
You can read it in 11 minutes, unless you’re a plodding reader (like me). (I like to dawdle along, savoring the writing.)
Anyway, it’s free, so you don’t get a big, deep introduction.
The Big Damn Jenga Game
That Is Your Future
Today’s Brain Fart Lesson: We all get lost sometimes.
The longer you live, the more it happens.
Even after you’ve succeeded, and nailed down your spot in the hierarchy (whatever it is, biz, family, team), you will never stay in one place.
The universe likes to screw with us, treating our plans and lives like a big Jenga game.
The occasional collapse is inevitable.
So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to wake up one day and realize you’re all lost again. It happens.
The only constant will be yourself, smack in the middle of all the melodrama, tragedy and chaos of a normal life. (You can ramp up the intensity of everything once you become an entrepreneur, too, so be prepared for a more jolting ride.)
Lost, found, lost, found.
For me, a nice Zen approach to the ebbs and flows of life works.
It’s only when you freak out and panic that you get REALLY lost.
Remember who you are, and what you’ve survived… and why you’re here in the first place.
You have a purpose. It will sometimes shimmer just out of easy reach…
… and it will sometimes be in your face, like a flash bulb.
When you’re lost, it’s barely a dot on the horizon, and you’re not sure you even know what it is anymore.
Stay frosty. Keep calm.
No one gets out of here alive, but during the ride (however long or short it is) you’ve got control of the script.
This is what your network is for.
(What do ya mean you don’t have a network yet? Well then get over here immediately! Sheesh!)
When you’re feeling lost, reach out. Don’t curl up and suck your thumb.
You’re normal. This shit happens. There is a way out (there’s ALWAYS a way around a bad spot…
… even if it’s not the solution you’ve hoped for). If you have medicine to take, take it. If you have to limp back to the beginning and start over, limp back and get going.
The universe, as capricious as it can be at times, respects movement.
Good luck, and carry on.
When you find love, cherish it.
When you stumble into chaos, fight.
Above all, keep moving…
The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You
For Your Entire Life
Dept. of Adventure Junkies United, memo #38: I’ve lived long enough to realize there are basically 3 distinct types of people:
- Those who crave living through adventures, like crack addicts seeking peak thrills.
- Those who love adventure, but get as much enjoyment out of reliving them as they do going through them.
- And those who avoid adventure at all costs.
We call that last group “Safes”, meaning they play life safe, seldom straying anywhere near The Edge (and never, if they can help it, peeking over into the abyss).
I don’t have many acquaintances who are Safes. They don’t do well in my world.
I’ve spent most of my youth in the first camp. As kids, we dared Life to actually kill us as we fell out of trees, explored dangerous caves, jumped across roofs and rode bikes at speeds that drove our eyeballs back into our brains.
As a teen, it just got ridiculous. I have yet to see a “kids go crazy” movie that comes close to the wild-ass stunts and death-defying idiocy we performed on a regular basis (and that includes Animal House, Porky’s, Dazed And Confused, and any other one you can name).
And once I reached legal age…
… well, I’m not gonna discuss it here. Let your imagination run wild. It won’t come close to what we pulled off.
However, as I’ve mellowed a bit, I’ve backed off of experiencing adventure first hand. I just don’t heal like I used to.
Plus, it’s now as much fun to kick back and relive those memories with old pals as it was to generate the memories in the first place.
The top writers of the world all fuel their existence with raw adventure while young…
… and then write about it as they totter away from The Edge, glad for the experiences, ecstatic to have survived, and happy to have some pals around to share the tale with.
I feel sorry for the adrenaline junkies I’ve known — those poor souls who live fast, but never seem to have a story to tell. It’s all about the hormone dump, the internal chemical rush.
I get it. I know that flush of excitement over physical feats of insane boundary-testing very well…
… but it was just a side perk of the experience.
Mostly, I was after the STORY — the essence of doing something outrageous, living to tell the tale…
… and then TELLING the tale. And telling it with skill.
It’s important to understand these starkly different categories of people. You shouldn’t trick Safes into crawling up the side of a tall building downtown after a night of boozing. That’s not nice, and they won’t appreciate it.
The story they’ll tell is what a total asshole sociopath you are for making them do that shit.
And be wary of wandering off with the adrenaline junkies, if you’re not part of that tribe. They tend to die young.
And if you’re a writer…
… well, cherish the adventures you’ve had, make your bucket lists of adventures not yet realized and go after it…
… and keep honing your story-telling chops.
Did you know that a lot of top copywriters refer to storytelling as the million dollar step? It’s quite simple. Stories sell. Want to get my inside secrets for crafting a riveting tale? Here’s a great place to start that’s also free.
There’s nothing worse than sitting through a poorly-told tale, no matter how rousing the story COULD have been if shared with some pizzazz and skill.
One of the first things I reveal in the Simple Writing System is how to tell a story. It’s critical for anyone wanting to reach the next level up in biz (where all the Big Bucks and true happiness lives).
And — big treat — there may be a few spots left in the SWS Coaching Program if you want to get hands on help from an A-List copywriter.
There are never many spots available, cuz we keep classes small so we can offer personalized coaching customized to your particular needs.
It’s one of the best ways to jumpstart your marketing prowess, so check it out here if interested.
Respect Brilliance, And
Brilliance Will Respect You
Dept. Of Shiny Objects: I’ve been thinking about all the brilliant people I get to hang out with.
My biz partner, brilliant. The staggeringly long line of mentors throughout my career, all brilliant. The folks I share stages with at events…
… brilliant. (Well, okay, not all of them. Some duds in there. But mostly, by the time you reach a major stage, you’ve honed your brilliance to a sparkly sheen.)
My colleagues, especially the writers: Brilliant. My old college pals (who I still hang with regularly, and dangerously): Brilliant.
A good subset of the neighbors in this somewhat exclusive enclave I call home: Brilliant.
The lovely lady I share the hovel with: Brilliant.
I’m fucking surrounded by brilliance.
You’d think it’d get boring, after a while.
Naw. Just gotta remember to be patient with the less-than-brilliant people who populate most of the rest of the joint.
And, gotta remember not to take anything for granted.
You cannot imagine what it’s actually like to sit at a bar telling war stories with my writer friends. Or going on long road-dog adventures with my long-gone pal Gary Halbert (or his kid Bond). Or going deep in one of our mastermind meetings…
…surrounded by the likes of David L. Deutsch, Kevin Rogers, David Garfinkel, the various guest experts I invite in, and most of the members.
The people around you are your braintrust.
It can take half a lifetime to gather a good group — especially if (like me) you’re a little weird and introverted.
But when you find the right folks, you hold on tight.
The world is filled with aggressive stupidity. It can be annoying hanging out with brilliant people (who ALL have bizarre behavior disorders, usually undiagnosed)…
… but it’s always worth it.
This is how stuff gets done in the world.
Brilliance will out.
No Good Deed
Today’s Hard Knock: One of the first rules I learned, while climbing the career ladder, is “No good deed goes unpunished.”
It only makes sense after you’ve seen it in action, and you’ve taken the time to reflect on the way it plays out in real life.
But many folks take the wrong lesson from this sad realization of human frailty.
The thing is, just because you will be punished for your good deeds, you don’t stop doing them.
You just stop expecting to be rewarded.
This is why it can get lonely at the top. If you harshly judge people by their as-yet-unenlightened actions, you are soon left as a solo act.
So learn your Hard Knock lessons, but don’t feel superior about it.
Be an agent of change and practice massive forgiveness.
Perhaps, by tending your own garden well, you will influence the world.
Or, hell, just go ahead and blow the joint up. It’s what humans do when frustrated and impatient.
A few will continue doing the right thing, against the tide…
The Genius Of
Operation Money$uck Rule #1: If money can fix a problem, don’t waste time trying to fix it yourself.
Instead, use your time to make enough money to pay your way out of the problem.
If a problem requires time, measure the cost vs benefit of YOU handling it (cuz your time is very valuable), vs delegating it to someone else.
If you’re the dude or dudette responsible for bringing in the moolah, then that’s your primary job.
I’m always astonished at busy entrepreneurs who do their own laundry, shopping and chores when it takes them away from the biz.
Then, I’m absolutely floored when I discover they also handle every detail in the biz. Right down to fixing the printer when it goes wonky.
First thing I did when I started my biz was hire an assistant. She was still with me, 15 years later, and her worth cannot be calculated. She multiplied the amount of time I had available for doing the Op$uck stuff.
Your time is your most important resource.
Every second you rob your biz of your cash-generating efforts is a loss on the bottom line.
Need help launching your own ‘Op$uck?’ This here might just be the fastest & easiest way to get going.”
The Best Way To Learn
Some hard advice: Mentors active and successful in the real world are essential for anyone serious about leading in any part of life or business.
And it’s very difficult to find good mentors in academia. At least, that’s my experience.
Too many dumb rules.
You must venture into the “real world” to find the good ones.
I taught a single evening’s class each at both Exeter and the Missouri school of journalism, via Skype. It was a great little adventure, really glad I did it…
… but the students were not happy about being challenged. And I was lobbing softballs.
It was pearls before swine, I suspect.
In my first day with every real mentor I’ve ever had (notably Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert) I had my teeth metaphorically kicked in.
In my long experience, tough love is the best way to learn, with no second-best method in the running.
Academia has its place, and I learned a lot getting my BA (though very little in actual class).
But for entrepreneurs, it’s real world all the way.
Read copiously, but put what you learn to the test immediately.
Best advice for copywriters: Writers write…
… and great writers write with consequences.
Get busy. (And for crying out loud, go read my freaking book.)
What’s Your Excuse?
One of the very bright dividing lines separating happy, successful folks from the unhappy wannabe’s…
… are the role of excuses in moving through life.
Dudes and dudettes who get stuff done stare down obstacles and find ways through or around them…
… no matter how long it takes, or how many times they fail at it.
They’re the minority.
Much more common is the notion that having a good excuse lets you off the hook for getting something done.
Our bollocked-up school system encourages this — oh, your dog ate your homework? Okay, you can have an extra day.
And it just gets worse in adult life — oh, sorry I T-boned your car there, but I just broke up with my girlfriend and was re-reading her last text to me…
At some point, most civilians will be on their death-bed, looking back on their failures and crushed dreams, and have to find cold comfort in the idea that at least they had good excuses. They tried, sort of, and had their feelings hurt or their efforts rebuffed, and what can you do?
Life’s hard, right?
Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.
You might garner a bit of sympathy from some folks, but you’ll just continue to be disregarded by anyone feasting on life and getting shit done.
Start with being late. If you think it’s okay, as long as you have a plausible excuse (the traffic lights were absolutely conspiring against you, or gosh, clocks are just hard to understand, you know?)…
… then move to the back of the line right now.
You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…
… but if being late is “who you are” (and yes, you are judged harshly and continually in the biz world on this stuff)…
… then consider WHY it’s a habit.
Look deep. It may be passive-aggressive behavior you picked up as a kid. It may be a symptom of happiness-corrupting disorganization (which no potential client wants any part of). It may be undiagnosed ADD, or even the first ripples of real cognitive disorder.
But usually, it’s just a habit. You keep getting away with it — or you THINK you’re getting away with it (and really, the people around you just stop relying on you, and consider you a liability).
The consequences seem mild — maybe somebody gets pissed off once in a while, or you miss a flight. Whatever. Life is hard, right? Get off my case.
The problem, of course, is that if you want to play in the level above you — in biz, romance, sports or just generally effective living — you are going to pay dearly for your bad habits.
Top clients won’t put up with sloppy non-professional behavior. Self-respecting potential romantic partners will avoid committing to you. And a whole bunch of cool life experiences will vanish…
… all because you think having a good excuse absolves you from the responsibility to be where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there… prepared to do what you said you’d do.
Getting away with something is NOT the same as “succeeding”.
Highly effective people, who get shit done and succeed at life, rarely allow excuse-artists into their lives in any meaningful way.
Buy a fucking watch. Add twenty minutes to your estimation of how long you’ll need to get somewhere (or more)…
… and if you’re early, find a spot to kick back and check email or Facebook or just relax. Or read a book. There’s no such thing as “wasting time by being early”. Be prepared for it.
And it’s worth repeating: Yes, the people operating in the level above you ARE judging you by these small behaviors.
Maybe other folks in your world are just character actors, whose time isn’t worth much. (That’s the way stone-cold sociopaths think, you know.)
However, the successful crowd you want to be dealing with will not put up with that bullshit.
Okay, you better get moving. You’re gonna be late…
Also, make sure you’re taking full advantage of all the high-value resources you can get your hands on. Like my free report “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now.” You have signed up already, right?
The Small Stories
That Do The Most Work
Rumor Control, memo 34b: Here’s a fun exercise — for the next few days, pay attention to the stories people near you toss around as settled truth.
Ignore the politically-charged stuff. Too obvious.
Instead, note the smaller tales.
It’s easy, within an extended family, to spot foundational “facts” that are actually just shared assumptions with little or no evidence behind them.
Auntie Flo is just an eccentric, innocent old lady (not a dangerous self-medicating bipolar nutbar who keeps loaded guns in the silverware drawer).
Cousin Farquar’s sexual offender status is just a simple misunderstanding with the cops (and his 3 exes).
And your neighbors have concocted scripts about each and every household in the area (including yours).
Often, they won’t use names to identify a house, but plot lines. “Did you see the cop car parked over at the drug den yesterday?” says Mr. Perfect Lawn, while talking with That Hippie Couple across the street.
Noticing these smaller stories is how top ad writers become legendary.
It’s this kind of detail, plucked from real experience, that breathes life into a sales message.
I’ve been peppering my copy with snatches of observed reality since I first realized the potency of bringing the “truth” of human interaction to the selling game.
We are a whacky species, fueled by assumption, rumor, believable bullshit and tall tales invented out of thin air.
We all routinely just make stuff up to fill in the blanks.
We loathe blanks.
Understanding the mechanics of social interaction — with all its nonsense, silliness and fluff — is key to communicating effectively.
God help us.
Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert
The Spectacular Failure of Human Rationality, Part 5: I’ve been gleefully collecting stories of bizarre decision-making by my fellow humans for decades.
As a marketer, these tales are sobering revelations about what I’m up against trying to persuade prospects to do something.
As a caring friend, they’re a reminder not to beat my head against the wall when stubborn resistance makes efforts to help futile.
Top example: A medical doctor friend refuses to entertain even the idea that I solved my migraine problems through diet, massage and chiropractic.
She’s old-school medicine, educated in the days when the AMA taught that masseuses were hookers, vitamins were bullshit, and chiro’s were quacks (and she just ignores the fact the AMA long ago apologized, and now many modern docs work closely with chiro’s cuz, you know, the shit works).
No, somehow HER migraines (which are interferring with her life big-time) require drastic brain surgery. No amount of empirical evidence from pals can dent her resistance to an alternative.
This is cognitive dissonance on a major-league scale — she doesn’t think I’m evil or lying, yet she just cannot allow my story to be “real” in her mind.
So she simply refuses to acknowledge it.
The downside of trying non-surgical alternatives?
No matter, she’s headed for the scalpel, to treat something other folks routinely beat with simple measures that don’t involve blood and removal of brain tissue.
You realize that this kind of stubbornness exists up and down the human decision-making process (from choosing what shoes to wear today, to who to marry and what car to buy) and you’re on the way to becoming Mr Persuasion Expert, for whom no objection is too weird or difficult to deal with.
Where To Find The Eternal Truths
Of Great Copywriting
Just posted this in a damn good thread about finding the best copywriters to follow for advice and tactics (crowd’s ultimate decision: look for the gray-hairs)… thought you’d dig it:
“In truth, any copywriter who’s had sustained success for several years can help you with the basics.
IF they’ve written for multiple markets, weathered massive economic disasters, and gone up against other seasoned pros in hyper-competitive niches and won.
Too many writers luck out by exploiting rare conditions and early adoption of hot tech changes. Which is great for making money, but doesn’t mean they can thrive outside of those rare conditions.
Google slaps and Zuckerberg tantrums tend to frustrate writers who lack deep knowledge of advertising history.
To learn the eternal truths, yes, find the grizzled pros. But only those who aren’t bitter about how shit keeps changing.
There will always be massive and unfair upheaval in biz. The true grownups have learned how to adjust.
Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters…”
The Simple Tactic That
Opens Doors For You Every Time
You want a simple tactic that will open doors for you?
Can’t believe I have to keep reminding folks of this…
… but just be very, very polite.
Say “please” and mean it.
Say “thanks” and mean it.
Call men “sir” (even if they’re younger than you), call women “m’am” (even when they’re younger than you), and listen intently when anyone is speaking to you.
Meet their eyes.
Do not argue, unless that is the dark alley you want to go down (and say goodbye to any doors that may have opened for you).
You know who the most polite people on the planet are?
Sociopaths, and folks who can kick your ass. They don’t give a ratfuck about the social “score” of who feels dominant in any given situation…
… and they want to get to their goals (which never, ever include arguing) as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you’re good…
… or successful…
… or smart, experienced, talented, or can kick ass…
… folks will either find out soon enough, or they won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
Use the simple tools available to us socially to get people in rapport with you quickly, use charm to be non-threatening (when you can), and give others your total focus during conversations.
And remain committed to your goals.
I mean, Jeez Louise — you’re a nice person, who deserves more…
… yet the sociopaths and ass-kickers are waltzing through doors into opportunities that should have been YOURS.
Because they’re charming and polite and know how to move through social situations without an attitude.
Caring about the small shit is a sucker’s game.
Breathe deeper. Reach higher. Live bigger.
And please get my books. All of them, immediately. Devour them with gusto, and start moving up a couple of levels in life and biz.
You can find everything on the blog, right there in plain sight: john-carlton dot com.
When Logic Sucks
Psych Insight #233: The idea that “logic” enters into buying decisions is ludicrous.
A super-rational Vulcan like Mr Spock may accidentally hit on the right way to sell something to a market, but it would only be coincidence if it was actually logical.
He was not a persuader.
The Voice Of Reason seldom is.
Humans operate in this roiling soup of emotion, confusion, delusion, excuses, denial, and wishful thinking…
… it’s what makes us so charming and fun.
The universe may work under gorgeously-precise rules of physics, but our brains are big clumps of chaos.
Great salesmen know this, and proceed accordingly.
That’s it, Bucko.
Nice, short book, crammed with wisdom, advice and insight to moving your slacker butt up another level in life and biz.
My gift to you.
Now go rummage through the books and courses for sale in the right-hand column, and buy something to fill in the blanks of your skill set and biz mojo…
Still not sure where to start? Then read this…
Photo courtesy of Ms Significant Other
12:37pm, Christmas Day
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” (Ralphie’s Mom, “A Christmas Story”)
Hope you’re having a great holiday, and all your dreams have come true.
If you’re here after grabbing your FREE copy of the book that Dean Jackson and I just released, welcome. Our gift to you took just 90 minutes to create, per Dean’s brilliant “90-Minute Book” magic. Well, 90 minutes, plus the four years since I first proposed the book to Dean…
… but since we dawdled away those years never actually writing any of it, this sudden burst of creativity for 90 minutes actually represents a Christmas miracle.
I’m stunned we got it out.
Sure, it’s in need of some editing, which we’ll do later (when the book is sold on Amazon), because it’s a transcription, and my brain-to-mouth process works much differently than my usual brain-to-keyboard process. But for now, today at least, this somewhat raw first edition is your free gift from us.
Get your free copy at www.3or4problems.com… if you missed the announcement of it on Facebook last night.
And welcome to the blog. Be sure to sign up for alerts, top right. Right there. No, your other right. Yeah, right there, inside the little box. Just type in your email address — the good one you always check, not the fake oaddresse you use to throw folks off your trail. You want to hear from me. I won’t deluge you with email, and I swear you’ll love every message you do get from me. (I’ll never share it, either.)
PLUS — you get a cool free special report when you sign up, jammed with info you can put to use right away to make yourself and your biz glow with profits. Yet another freebie gift for you. The goodies are just piling up.
There are tons of great posts for you here on the blog — over a decade’s worth of advice, tips, strategies, insight and pro-level marketing secrets… all in the archives. Which you can access in the lower right column. Yes, just below where you left your email address.
Also, check out the books I offer, the great deals on the courses, all of it.
Oh, and just for now, I’ve slashed my normal Skype consults (where I personally solve your entrepreneurial biz problems, and even critique your copy if you want, in real time, digitally face-to-face). Right now, you can get a full-on consult for $999 — which includes your hour on Skype with me, personally, plus an email exchange for anything you want me to look at. I normally charge $2,500 for these. But I’m feeling the holiday spirit, big time.
To get the details, just email my assistant Diane at email@example.com. Write “I want to know how to get a personal consult with John” in the subject line. We’ll get right back to you with the details. And get you on the schedule fast.
The new year is right around the corner. How rich and happy you get over the course of 2017 depends on how you approach the opportunities and problems you have in front of you now.
One of the best ways to kick it up a notch is to get your sticking points unstuck, your problems solved, and your plan for the year double-checked by a respected, well-known pro. I’ve been doing this stuff for over 30 years now, and the list of folks who owe their wealth and happiness to me is long (and full of some very famous people).
But enough of that.
If you’re ready to goose your fortunes for the coming year, great. I can help you in ways you can barely imagine right now.
Today, just enjoy your Christmas gift from Dean and me.
Hope you and yours are having a great day.
“Knowledge is Good.” (Farber College, “Animal House”)
As a public service, I like to occasionally collect the best of the insane/brilliant/outrageous/decent advice and observations I spread around Facebook, and post it here for your frenzied and happy consumption.
It’s the least I can do, since a few of you have absolutely refused to join us in Zuck’s digital playground. I don’t blame you — Facebook can suck enormous quantities of time from your life, and take you down dark holes to the fever swamps of the worst of human thinking…
… but then again, some of the crap there is really cool.
So, at any rate, here’s a round up of the last month or so, in no particular order. I promise, no cat videos…
Friday Mentoring Session #33: One of the small advantages I had when I started my career as a freelance copywriter was having my then-soon-to-to-be-ex-girlfriend throw a lamp at me as I ducked out the door for the last time.
She was mad that I was devoting so much time to the gig, and I realized I needed to fly solo for a while if I was gonna successfully navigate the rocky early-career months.
Now, I’ve helped many a married-with-kids rookie get their mojo going in this same career — there’s no requirement to live like a monk (and I didn’t, either).
But any sweetie who wants to come along needs to be VERY clear on the time/energy/focus commitment that IS required. A rookie has an enormous amount of reading, video-watching and audio-listening to do for many months (I took a year to feel I’d “arrived”, but I had zero help and was inventing the entire process as I went)…
… and if you’re also juggling a “real” job, there just ain’t gonna be much time for lovey-dovey and relationship nurturing.
It’s not a permanent status, though… and any couple that has gone through military deployment, for example, will understand that during crunch time, you just gotta buck up.
Becoming an entrepreneur requires an entirely different mindset than “normal” living — and you need to understand this as you commit to deadlines (which you can NEVER miss) while your family/significant-other/new-squeeze needs to have the self-confidence and respect for your career that gives you room to move through the early months.
Cuz you’re gonna be frustrated, you’re gonna fuck up, you’re gonna be obsessed to distraction with problems, and you’re gonna be used and abused by clients.
After a period of self-hazing and chaos, if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the hang of the gig, and your productivity will zoom while time-commitments drop…
… and you can start planning deadlines and time-boxing projects so you again have plenty of time to get busy with your sweetie(s).
Just sayin’ — this isn’t a normal kind of job. Your entire brain chemistry is going to transform and your lifestyle will be obliterated (so you can rebuild it how you choose).
My first breakthrough was making “business before pleasure” my mantra (which completely harshed my former partying/slacker habits).
I’ve since counseled many writers and entrepreneurs through the burn-out and destroyed relationships that occur from miscommunication, selfishness and narrow-minded/short-sighted thinking (which is rampant in our culture, btw).
Fore-warned is fore-armed. For someone with entrepreneur’s blood in their veins and a writer’s soul, there isn’t a better gig in the universe.
But you seldom travel solo. With the right partners, it’s a dream ride. With the wrong ones, it’s like hacking through jungle with a butter knife.
Be sensible. Communicate. Prepare yourself and everyone around you, and enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of moving into the world of success and goal-attainment.
Observations From The Sludge Days Of Summer: My energy levels fluctuate like crazy — mostly, I’m a total sloth, following the great “dog wisdom”: Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never just lie there when you can snooze.
However, when I get moving, I go from Neutral straight into fifth gear, with a natural walking pace somewhere between a meth addict and a New York hedge fund asshole with bidniz to get to.
Yesterday, though, the heat woulda killed me at that pace. So I purposely slid it on back to cruise levels while bopping around on errands. And you know what? There’s something truly luxurious and wonderful about moving slow.
I mean, little old ladies fresh from eye surgery passed me in their Caddy behemoths. A squirrel mocked me by running faster across a lawn than I was driving. I made sure not to hold anyone up, even pulling over when a wild eyed guy in a thrashed Buick tail-gated my ass for four feet. And I walked with a slow-mo pace that felt languorous.
Y’all just get on your way, don’t mind me. I’m cruising today, thanks. Just truckin’ through the ether, moseying on down the line.
It was great. It was really great.
I’m gonna be that guy who pisses off everyone else by taking things slow now, as much as possible.
Happy Fourth, folks.
Remember: Light, then TOSS the firework. Don’t hold on.
Work Hack #47: Did you know that many top writers use sleep as a productivity tool?
You’ll get more done, at a higher quality level, in one hour after a power nap… than you’ll ever drag out of your brain in five hours of exhausted effort.
Plus, you can easily teach your subconscious to write FOR you. Some of my best headlines burbled up after a nap. I just asked my brain to distill all the info and ideas I’d crammed into it while I snoozed, and deliver a good headline when I woke up. Voila!
Cool part: Once you get hip to this hack, naps are technically “work”.
So you can toss the guilt, and legitimately tell folks you’re working while hitting the couch.
I love my job.
Department Of STFU, memo #24: Can you keep a secret?
Can any of your friends, family or colleagues?
Of course YOU can keep a secret. You’re a totally trustworthy dude… except maybe for that one time you let a secret slip. But it was just that one time. And it was SUCH a good secret, you know what I mean?
Okay, maybe a few other times, too… but no more than a dozen. Or so.
Okay, fine. You’re a freaking slack-jawed sieve. A virtual walking tabloid of juicy info.
Relax. You’re not necessarily a “bad person” if you occasionally blurt out shit that should remain buried. Humans are social animals, and keeping good info to ourselves isn’t standard equipment in our emotional makeup.
Still, if you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to get a handle on this.
One of the vows I made when I started my freelance career was to BE that guy you could trust. It just seemed natural. In the “real” jobs I’ve had, approximately none of the working stiffs around me could be trusted with anything.
Heck, untrue (and hard to believe) rumors spread like wildfire. The true stuff was treated like first draft ideas that required embellishment to meet the fundamental requirements of being whispered about at lunch.
Your secret wasn’t just spread around like cheap mulch. It was was dressed up like a French streetwalker and highlighted with fireworks.
I discovered that actually keeping a secret was kinda empowering. I enjoyed locking away a Big Story. It changed my own opinion of myself.
Plus, when my rep spread, it helped me slip into inner circles and behind closed doors. A trustworthy dude is hard to find.
Still, the urge to share is almost overwhelming.
People tell you things when you’re perceived as someone who can keep a secret. Especially in those inner circles and behind those closed doors.
Folks in powerful positions are eager to talk… but seldom have anyone around they can safely spill to. They’re forever waiting for the blabbers to leave the room, so they can relax their guard. Hopefully with a trusted fellow insider around, who they can dish with in confidence (often like 7th grade girls on the playground).
It’s lonely at the top.
You want to rise in your chosen profession? You crave the excitement of being on the inside? The thrill of moving and shaking with the movers and shakers?
Then learn to shut the fuck up. Love and trust your close friends with all your might…
… but KEEP the secrets entrusted to you.
It’s part of the job description when you start being a responsible, trustworthy dude or dudette.
Yes, I know it’s hard.
If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.
Extra Bonus Lesson: It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one slip-up to destroy it forever. Never forget that.
As Close As I’ll Get To Politics: I have no answers for the current sad state of affairs in the world (and especially here in the States)…
… and you don’t, either.
Nobody does. The ideologues, the idealists, the conspiracy nuts, the whack jobs and the serious elites all have their fave theories (and bones to pick).
But it’s all futile. It’s not comforting to know this isn’t new shit going on, but at least it helps with a bit of perspective.
First, this current upheaval doesn’t even begin to match the turbulence of the sixties. Just in ’68 alone, we had the police riot at the Chi-town Dem convention (and no one was ever held accountable)… the assignations of Kennedy and King, within months of each other… the Tet offensive in Viet Nam (which signaled the end of illusion about “winning” the war, and the start of the 7-year grind to get the hell out)…
… and an encyclopedia’s worth of other gruesome shit that just went on and on and on.
Cities burned — Watts, near LA. ‘Lanta. Detroit. NYC was becoming a wasteland. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered, always. Jim Crow wasn’t letting go without a lethal fight.
We could be entering another period of chaos like that. Or not. It’s a brave new world, with one superpower and a whole new kind of battlefield (virtual, digital, grid-wide). No one knows what’s gonna happen.
That floating anxiety you feel? Get used to it. Knock it down by tending to your own garden, affecting the things you have some control over. For the Big Picture stuff, you’ve just got to breathe deep and hope our luck holds out.
Second: There are no special factors creating the messes we’re now seeing daily. A lot of it is biology — we’re still essentially shaved apes, fresh from the primordial jungle, inventing wonders with our advanced cerebral cortexes and mis-using them with our lizard brains.
Eat, fuck, defend territory, fear change and The Other. That’s the subliminal message sent through your system, undetected unless you work hard to raise your self-awareness.
Sure, you look nice in your new duds, drinking expensive wine and all caught up on the latest gossip. But beneath the groomed, clean, perfumed surface lurks a survival-minded eco-system of biological imperatives that care not a whit about civility or fairness.
We aren’t doomed to succumb. The history that brought Americans to this high stage of civilization is a gore-strewn mess, and we may never be done with the bloodshed. Cuz that’s our nature — to fight when oppressed, to protect what’s “ours” against all threats, to huddle up in tribes that require real power to thrive.
It’s really kind of stunning we’ve lasted this long, especially with the nukes, chemical weapons, and grid-destroying computer viruses now available. And the way sociopaths tend to rise to leadership positions in all political systems.
No answers. But lots of hope.
We’ve worked our way through similar shit before. We may pull it off again. Beneath the nihilism, there remains the strong urge to survive, to make better choices that help rather than destroy.
I’m betting on good beating evil right now. I’ve been through this crap before, and seen how time can heal and rancid politics can swing back to rational governance.
Meanwhile, choose your battles carefully. There are a lot of us on the planet right now, and you may be in a minority more than you think. We’re not living “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet.
Reality can suck, big time. But calmly being proactive can work at solving horrendous problems. You gotta give it time, though. There’s no magic. You keep your head down, choose your goals wisely, and do the right thing.
Above all, do not give in to panic, or that withering fear the assholes like to exploit for drastic moves that are not conducive to a good solution.
Never let the bastards win. But never expect them to stop trying, either.
Good night, and good luck.
(Side note: Don’t post anything overtly political here. I don’t agree with your cultural spin, don’t wanna hear your fever-swamp conspiracy theories, and will delete all trolls. This is NOT the time to thrash togetherness.)
Nice little “how did I get here?” exercise: Quick now, recall your ten favorite summer memories.
Good stuff, I’ll bet.
Now, chart where most of them came from. Certain time frame, certain group of people, particular place frequently visited, particular recurring state of mind, perhaps.
Whatever you discover… whether it was youthful indiscretions on vacation, mid-life crises gone well, a period of discovery, whatever…
… it is a clue to who you are today, and how you got here. Your bad memories also count, but this is more fun.
Most people never question who they are. Top creative minds are forever consumed with it. If you crave maximum wealth with happiness (not just one or the other), such critical thinking about your past is essential.
I’ve never agreed with folks who insist on no regrets and no nostalgia. Screw that. A life well lived is a long-form tale worth sharing, and those stories take shape through the retellings.
Embrace moments of recalling good times. You’ll still have plenty of time left each day to get your shit done…
Wait — how did you not know we’ve put up a brand new Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast?
You fools! It’s being shoved into Insiders’ ear-holes at this very moment all over the globe… causing all kinds of awesome havoc amongst entrepreneurs who thought they were doomed to be uninteresting people for the rest of their days.
Not so, it turns out. We actually deliver a FORMULA for murdering your boring tendencies…
… which opens huge opportunities to up your game (and results) with more interesting copy, hooks, stories and offers.
Plus, you’ll be sought after at parties, instead of avoided.
I’m telling you, this is life altering stuff.
Go listen now at www.pi4mm.com. And accept the burdens of being an awesome storyteller…
Lifestylin’ Question #14: What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent living out of a backpack?
I lived out of my car for several months while homeless… hitchhiked with just a canvas pack for over a week at a time for a few years (after reading “On The Road” at 19)… logged a fortnight in Boy Scouts out in the hinderlands… and spent a good part of my career living out of suitcases in hotels (which doesn’t count).
Absolutely loved it all. Though occasionally scary, often a bit desperate, and always unpredictable, low-rent travel really does shave off the idealistic crap in your brain.
Seeking out adventure as a young, broke, and enthusiastic hormone-drenched young person used to be a requirement for growing up. Live by your wits, see some of the world from street level, meet whacky characters and have no clue where you’ll be tomorrow…
… there’s something to be said for that kind of dramatic journey.
I’m hearing, though, that it’s becoming rare with the new crop of kids. I hope it’s just another bullshit meme by the snarky press…
… cuz, if true, it would be a damn shame.
What’s your story?
Get Your Shit Together Memo #15: Did you know we completely revamped the Simple Writing System “at home” course? Reshot it in HD, updated every detail, made it just more awesome than it already was all the way around.
And this SWS 2.0 version has just been released… in a very limited amount, while we make triple-sure all the glitches are ironed out in the delivery system. (You get to watch the videos online, on any device, at your convenience… plus you get some serious time in the Marketing Rebel membership site, where I have a permanent virtual office.)
I’m a bit older in the videos (yes, I’m personally delivering every lesson), but wiser. As good as the SWS was (and we’ve put thousands of entrepreneurs, writers and biz owners through it), each of the simple steps is now even more powerful…
… because we’ve learned a few things in the 8 years since first launching it (including all the feedback from students and celebrity teachers — like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, David L. Deutsch and so many others).
Plus: Bonuses up the yin-yang.
Anyway, if (like every breathing marketer on the planet) you need to up your game with the written parts of your biz… including email, ads, VSLs, social media, speeches, and everything else… then here’s your first stop.
It’s a permanent resource, once you get it. A freakin’ bargain, too, considering the way these simple skills can immediately change your life (as they have so many others).
Just check it out: www.simplewritingsystem.com.
Dept. Of Political Standoffs, Memo #17: What’s the matter, Bunky? All this political discord infesting the media got you down?
One of the best things to ever happen to me in college was taking a debate class. I thought “Oh, boy, I’m gonna demolish my opponents with totally bitchin’ arguments that cannot be refuted!”
But the teacher had other plans.
The entire semester, she forced me to present the opposite side of any issue we debated. Total WTF moments for me. To prep, I had to get into the head of people I despised, disagreed with, and never wanted to hang with.
But I also wanted to win the debate. So I bucked up and crawled into the mindset of the opposite side.
Result: An awesome jolt of empathy powers. Equal to the mind-expanding acid trip I’d taken earlier that month. (Relax, it was the seventies.) Completely opened up my mind.
And I totally destroyed my opponents with bitchin’ arguments that could not be refuted.
Did it change my politics? Nope.
But I saw the other side with stunning clarity… including the humanity and sincerity of their positions.
My sense of a black-and-white world of easy decisions, obliterated. My compassion for people who thought differently, massively expanded.
And my ability to persuade… multiplied by a factor of a gazillion.
Shouting at each other accomplishes nothing. Refusing to entertain the thought you may be wrong and (shudder) the other guy is right is a habit of dunces. (See: Dunning-Kruger effect.)
The world is full of subtlety and nuance, whether you recognize it or not.
Being open minded ain’t a handicap, Bunky. It’s the only way for thinking folks to live well.
Okay, now back to the blood-sport shouting on the tube…
Jeez, almost forgot it’s “Piss Somebody Off” Monday!
Here’s my contribution: Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies. And one of my fave quotes from it:
“Jim, you’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
Now, I grew up in both the West and the South — the tiny town of Cucamonga in southern California — and my extended family and neighborhood was rife with Oakies, hillbillies, Texans and some of the most aggressively-naive blowhards you’ve ever met.
But they were, at heart, good people, most of them. Casual bigots, sure. And suspicious of anyone who got “too big for their britches” or acted snooty (whatever that was).
Now, I’m no genius, but I’m damn proud of every neuron I’ve managed to squeeze some IQ units out of, and I’ve worked hard to get myself all educated and shit.
And I’ll tell you that it’s awful lonely out there in the real world sometimes… cuz if you value intelligence and critical thinking at all, you’ll be in the minority in most groups outside of your silo.
And it pays to remember that, often. Blazing Saddles was offensive, outrageous, puerile and gut-wrenchingly funny. It was also stuffed with observational truisms about life in these United States that you don’t get from Reader’s Digest.
If you can at all handle it, try not to be a total maroon. More than ever, we need to stop disrespecting intelligence and thoughtfulness. I know it’s hard, folks, but “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”… (guess that quote, and you can sit at the bar with us next time we’re at the same seminar)…
Busy day. I just trashed the dry cleaner who ruined some of my new shirts, on Yelp.
Lakeridge cleaners, here in Reno, if you want to see how a pro writer eviscerates someone.
I used them for years. They told me go screw myself after they botched a job badly. Good call — lose a great customer, be a total jerk was about it, and irritate a writer who knows how Yelp works.
My main job in life is to help good entrepreneurs and biz owners. Part of that includes helping to rid the joint of bad businesses. Like Batman, if he understood marketing.
Though, from the other reviews, I see they’re doing pretty good at committing biz suicide all by their lonesomes…
Uncomfortable Discussion #8: Here’s the thing about change — learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess. And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…
… and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.
And then the world changes. In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.
You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.
But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…
… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).
I marvel at my Pop’s life (he’s 94 and still kickin’). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and I’m gonna do a Skype video call with him later this afternoon. On his PC. He’s impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), still reads the entire newspaper every day (but fact-checks the editorials on Google, the lying bastards), and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he’d be the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knows how make stuff and fix machines).
Mostly, though, I sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tries to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He’s not bitter, and reveals a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.
And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.
There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit. You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).
The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.
You are not required, however, to change your “core” self… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.
Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.
It doesn’t. The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways. Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.
Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.
Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?
I’m seeing a lot of fear in the news lately — some of it real, lots of it imagined, most of it overplayed. The battle for eyeballs and clicks has turned the entire media circus into a rabid dog fight.
Couple of rules for staying sane:
- Remember that the news story you’re reading has been written by a single person (or, at most, two people). Maybe an editor did some fact checking (increasingly not, though, as staffs get trimmed to bare bones everywhere).
God did not write the article. Neither did Satan. Nor was it penned by a genius, or even a particularly bright individual in many cases. It’s a regular dude or dudette with biases, neuroses and an overwhelming fear of being disliked, fired or (worse, for a writer) ignored.
So take it all with a grain of salt. If the topic interests you, go find several other takes on it by other writers in other venues. (Yes, even the dreaded “other side” of the political spectrum.)
(This all goes double for TV talking heads, by the way.)
- The idea of “aggregate” info gathering has real merit in today’s confusing environment of instant news and sensationalism-posing-as-journalism. With opinion polls, for example, it’s best to never take a single poll as meaningful — get the aggregate of multiple polls (like Nate Silver and several other sources do), which will present a more nuanced view of what “the truth of the matter” is.
The same idea goes for understanding statistics that get thrown around to bolster or shoot down arguments. Any savvy disruptor can cherry-pick stats to fit his narrative. Much better to see what the context is, and learn how stats about “real life” work.
Just remember that the talking heads on TV, and the bloviators on the radio, and the writers for online and tree-killing news sources are TRYING to punch your buttons. Dog fight.
- Best tip: Figure out what is beyond your control, and what is within your control. No, your vote, nor your angry letter to the editor, nor your heated argument with the guy on the barstool next to you will change anything about world events.
Unless you’re a player on the world stage.
However, you can be a player in LOCAL events quite easily. If you truly believe you have answers and solutions, then the school board, the city council, and even the neighborhood watch program needs you.
Reality has a way of weeding out the big talkers, cuz when it’s time for action they tend to wander off, bored.
- Movement solves problems that sitting around being scared creates.
Literally, you can walk off a lot of stress. Put on your sneakers, get out and chug up some hills. Have those internal conversations while you’re burning up calories.
You’ll feel better later, I promise.
Paranoia is like a leach on your mojo. Once it gets its claws into you, it won’t easily let go. You’ll need to spend twice the time murdering it, than you spent acquiring it.
But that’s the game. You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sitting around wishing you had a better one is useless. Learning how to maneuver with what you have available in resources, skill and savvy is the ONLY way to win consistently.
- Stop whining. We’re all in this together. However it goes (and I admit, the news looks pretty anxiety-provoking… as it has since I was a kid), we’ll either muddle through or die trying.
Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards win.
Shh. Big Brother is listening: Back in the old days (before the turn of the century), the standard advice was never to write anything in a letter you didn’t want to see in a headline in the next day’s newspaper.
Then those new-fangled voice message machines appeared, and you had to add that to the list: Don’t leave a voice trail, either.
Also good advice.
Then we added email. Common sense, right? Then, with the NSA gaining muscle in the Grid, we added phone calls.
Now, with video cameras covering most of the public (and much of the private) spaces in the modern world, you should probably be careful about your actions, too. Don’t write, say, or do anything you wouldn’t want blasted across the Web tomorrow. Or in an hour from now.
All good advice.
Which leaves me with one question: Are we already in a world where you cannot exchange ideas with someone else… without the risk of that conversation becoming public? And not through hearsay, but through paper, voice, digital and video trails?
Are we really there already?
Disturbing Reality Check #4: For the most part…
… baring true interventions of nature (such as trees falling on you or zombies assaulting you unawares)…
… you are exactly where you’ve designed your life to be at this point. That may be hard to swallow, if where you’re at sucks right now.
Still, when you stop fighting the reality of how you got here, and accept that you’re responsible for much (or all) of the damage currently roiling in your life…
… you can finally stop blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and get busy fixing what’s broken.
To really get in a primo Zen groove, you should also get busy cleaning up whatever messes you’ve made, while filling in the gaps (in knowledge and skills) that will eventually round you out as a Dude (or Dudette) To Be Reckoned With.
The first rule of Reality Checks is: Reality checks suck. They bitch-slap your ego, demolish the excuses that have been propping you up, and rub your nose in the stark fact that your choices are now “change or rot in place” if you truly lust for a better life.
But the pain of exiting your former deluded self is brief… and the rewards so outweigh the inconveniences… that once you get in the habit, you’ll continue to morph and become a better and better person for the rest of your days.
One ticket. That’s all we get, folks. No do-overs, no replay buttons, no time machines. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve got decades left ahead of you, or only a few seasons… if YOU don’t seize the day and gobble up the opportunities around you, nobody else is gonna do it for you.
Heads Up Alert #13: 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Sorry for the long post. It’s hard to explain some of this crap without needing extra paper…
Stress-busting tip: Life got you down? Sales tanking, creditors swarming, job going south, angst bubbling up in your gut?
Worse, is your brain locked in a hellish loop, obsessing and freaking out?
Time to intervene. Write yourself a letter, outlining all your troubles & all your immediate plans. Be specific, just get it all out of your head (where it’s causing trouble) & onto the written page (where you know it can found, so you can forget about it).
Then take a break. Hide the letter for 24 hrs. Let your unconscious work on solutions. When the loop starts, remind yourself that it’s all safely written down, so you don’t need to memorize details.
Your unconscious has a remarkable talent at organizing things and getting perspective on what’s important and what’s fluff. But you gotta give it elbow room to maneuver.
So back off for a day. Or even a few hours, if deadlines are approaching.
You’ll be stunned at how sensible and efficient your brain can be, when you stop fussing and awfullizing everything.
Hey, did you know I’ve got a book on Amazon?
Yeah, you can order it and read it and use it as a doorstop or throw it at the mice in your closet. Or use it as kindling for the fireplace (what with winter only 5 months away and all).
I mention this only because, if you do NOT own this book, your life will be one long miserable slide into horror and boredom. And I don’t wanna be responsible for something like that.
Anyway, after more than a year on the charts, it’s still bubbling up in the best-seller lists (for starting a biz, entrepreneurs, etc). This makes me happy. And a happy John is a productive John.
Go here to get it.
I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?”
Most folks never think about their legacy. The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.
Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?
I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.
There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. They’re like separate John’s, completely different people.
Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.
I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).
I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.
The flip side: I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life. I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.
It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.
It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge secrets.
And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do.
As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.
And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.
They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask back. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.
But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.
Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.
It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives. No one had ever asked before.
And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.
It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly). Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…
… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.
It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.
Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.
Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.
Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.
And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them…
Psych Insight #439: The one consistently shocking piece of advice I give rookie freelancers is… if a prospective client says “money is no problem”, then you can be sure it very much IS a problem. Larger lesson: We are creatures of denial & masks. Deconstructing “who” a man is reveals what he fears and desires most. Heavy, but essential to great salesmanship.
Really Petty (But Important) Pet Peeve: People who have no sense of time when they say “just one second”, or “give me two minutes”, or a dozen other random time periods…
… who then get mad when called on it in one second, or two minutes, or whatever.
I know they’re just really saying “I need an indeterminate amount of time here before I can deal with you”…
… but what they’re actually doing is making their lack of awareness MY problem. Cuz now I gotta cool my heels for some multiple of the time period they want — it’s never a second or two minutes — and that’s fucking irritating. Especially when it gets into half-hour territory.
Top pro’s respect other people’s time. Even back before cell phones, Gary Halbert and I would pull over and call a client from a pay phone if we were gonna be ten minutes late from traffic…
… a significant hassle that could add five minutes. But it stemmed from the knowledge that being late was one thing, but eating up someone else’s time by keeping them waiting in the dark was quite another.
Being purposely late is a power game tactic, a whole different lesson. It’s a move you better be prepared to handle the consequences of. (It can ruin a reputation fast when misused.)
Even if you’re always the first person to arrive by being on-time, DO it if you want to be considered a pro. And learn to judge time, for crying out loud. Don’t say “just a sec” when it will actually be ten minutes. You’re just setting up resentment and arguments, and you gain NOTHING.
Grow up. Learn how time works.
And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope you enjoyed the short articles, pieces of advice, and other crap collected here. I’ll be back in a few months with another round up. Meanwhile, you can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/john.carlton.
P.S. If you’d like to learn how to write EVERYTHING you need for your biz to flourish… from emails to ads to VSLs to speeches and regular old pitches… then you need to check out the Simple Writing System right freakin’ now.
I poured my heart and soul into creating this unique at-home learning course, and it’s the bomb. On your own, at your own pace, you can quickly master the very straightforward skill set behind writing the best possible copy, under every possible circumstance, for every possible situation. Step by step, easily and simply.
Go here to see what’s up (and get a glimpse of some of the thousands of entrepreneurs and pro writers who’ve used the SWS to make their world happier, wealthier, and more awesome all the way around).
Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. Don’t stall any longer on finally goosing your life and career into the next level.
“I love, I love, I love my calendar girl…” (icky pop song from last century)
Every December, I like to root through my Facebook posts for the ones that triggered high readership (or pissed people off) and got a slew of responses.
I had a good time in social media this year, I will not lie to you. It was a raucous blast interacting with the 5,000 “friends” and 3,900 followers to my Facebook page. (I’ve quit Twitter, mostly — the longer posts available on FB fit my style better… and, anyway, Twitter mostly sucks.)
I hope you’re one of the folks I get to hear from and interact with on social media. You whacky person, you. If not, follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/john.carlton. And keep this blog bookmarked.
Below, I’ve assembled a nice little “taste” of what I like to post over on Zuckerberg’s world. (The photo up top, by the way, is from a post earlier this month — my favorite kitchen magnet. Got something like 115 likes and 16 shares. Figure one “like” equals about 40-100 eyeballs — cuz most folks are too lazy to hit the “like” button no matter how enlightened or entertained they are by the post. The fun stuff generates as much or more response than the serious stuff… as it should. Social media gets a bum rap as a source of bad news and harsh anger… but that’s only if you stay entangled with mean people. Just stop doing that.)
Anyway, here’s some samples of recent posts:
First, some actual advice for writers and entrepreneurs:
Chicken, Head-Cut-Off Departmental Memo #437: Sometimes, I like the way deadlines scrunch-up time and make life vivid. Each hour becomes critical, and the looming specifics of delivering promised goods or climbing onto a plane or just making a final-final decision gives you a bright focus like little else in your day.
It’s worthwhile, too, to try to capture that vividness, understand how it’s viscerally created through hormone dumps and brain burps, and how you might generate it at will later (minus the deadline or freak out).
In the higher levels of biz, when you do it right, a kind of active Zen calm settles in no matter what chaos is swirling around you. Experience, tested skills and a solid philosophy of doing the right thing the best way you’re capable (at all times) fuels your power.
You may still get your butt stomped, things may go sideways, and the universe is guaranteed to never make it too easy for you… and that’s okay. That’s what brings us back to the office every morning, the challenges and the mysteries of real life.
… it’d also be nice if the universe stopped piling up shit like it’s trash day during a garbage truck strike, and gave me a breather once in a while.
Is that too much to ask?
The main concerns of an entrepreneur eventually become:
Main 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.
Main 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.
Main Concern #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 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.
You don’t get this stuff from a book.
You tap into the experience and savvy of mentors and experts and colleagues willing to share.
That’s where masterminds come in. One-stop resource for all the idea vetting, implementation strategies, and high-end reality checks you need to goose your mojo (and bring in the Major Bucks).
If you’ve never looked into the mastermind I’ve hosted for 7 years now, you’re just being your own biggest impediment to growth.
I can’t force you to see what’s up. But I can remind you of the time (and wonderful lifestyle) you’re squandering by delaying this simplest of hard-core growth tactics.
Silly rabbit. (Check out the mastermind here.)
Writer’s Hack #47: Most folks have two vocabularies — the one they understand when they read or listen to others…
… and the functional one they use when communicating.
The first one is, on average, that of a very bright high school freshman.
The second is, on average, equal to a foul-mouthed fifth grader with a comic book fetish.
To become a more influential writer, simply converge your two vocabularies into one… so the words available to you when communicating expand outside your usual half-assed choices.
Yes, it requires effort. If it was easy, then everyone would be a damn good writer.
What’s So Funny?
One of the main decision points in my career has always been who to trust and hang with, and who to avoid. Early on, as a rising “A List” copywriter working in the financial newsletter market (where all the money is), I had resigned myself to getting gigs where I had to muffle my sense of humor.
I just smiled and grinned, and felt like a spy in the midst of the enemy at times.
Then I met Gary Halbert, and realized there was a whole other part of the biz world, where I could let my freak flag fly. I turned my back on a fortune in the financial field, and gleefully jumped into the entrepreneurial swamp, where I found many clients, colleagues and weirdos who loved a raucous good time (with belly laughs that left you breathless) as much as I did.
And I made my fortune there. And dabbled in the more conservative markets (including the financial fields) every so often, just to remind myself how much fun it can be to call your own shots in a career. (Yes, I retained my old chops.)
The bright dividing line, for me, has always been what folks find funny. A staggering percentage of biz denizens have zero sense of humor, and I avoid them like the plague. Some like puns, which is worse. (What’s worse than the plague? Hang out with a punner for a while, and you’ll know.) Some confuse the act of laughing while being offensive as “humor”, but they’re really just bullies being passive-aggressive with social cues.
Not all funny folks are trustworthy. However, I’ve found that most trustworthy folks are funny, or at least appreciate real humor. I think it has something to do with accepting the tragic-comedic absurdity of reality, and I know from gruesome personal experience that laughing through my tears has helped me live a long and prosperous life. Laughter can dissolve stress like nothing else.
There’s no crime in not having a solid, well-developed sense of humor. More than half the population is thusly disabled.
However, you need to know where you are in this measurement. Halbert and I had many hangers-on who never got the jokes, who cringed at stuff that had us doubled over laughing, and who in general were the folks we tried to usher away from the room so we could get down to biz.
The humor-under-achievers were never a good fit in our world. Those who realized it drifted away to more staid markets, and were happy. Those who refused to self-identify as humorless bastards were angry, confused and resentful when faced with funny shit. Bad fit.
Nothing profound here. But something you need to consider as you move through your life. I’ve found humor mis-matches to be the primary friction in most biz, family, and life-style situations. And it’s rarely addressed.
From my perch — after a long life of observation, experimentation, and deep experience — the world is terrifying, hilarious, brutal and wonderful, all at the same time. And then you die.
Without laughter, it would be a slow, humiliating slog to the grave. With laugher, it’s a joyous (if scary) long, strange trip well worth the ride.
Thinkin’ about you, Gary. Your huge laugh still resonates in the ether…
Department Of “Sez Who?”, Memo #33: For years, I was told by experts that nearly everything I do on stage at seminars is wrong. These were accomplished masters of the craft, who earned big bucks grooming and training people to be killer presenters, and I believe them when they said they could turn a neophyte stutterer into a bigger-than-life celebrity who dominates every room they enter.
It’s not for me, though. Fuck being a calculated control-freak over my “image”. I don’t own a suit or a tie (okay, except for two Jerry Garcia ties from 20 years ago) (is thin still in?), I have no pyrotechnic gimmicks, I often engage with the audience in unscripted conversation, and my PPTs are gruesome examples of a creative mind gone berserk.
Plus — egad! — I haul my beat-up backpack with me (a no-no for the experts) and work off of a small explosion of notes.
And yet, I routinely have been one of the top rated (and top selling) speakers at most of the events I’ve been to. Not always. But to crowds that have even a minimal expectation of what to expect, I tend to do well.
The secret: I just honestly like people, and am not impressed or intimidated by anyone else on the planet. I go onstage with the intent of kicking some butt, forcing some folks to face their fears (and hopefully change their self-ruining BS)…
… and, most importantly, having a good time. I’m an introvert’s introvert, yes — but when I’ve got to drag my ass onto a stage, I commit to doing the best I can up there. If I reach just one person in the audience, I’ve had a good day.
I’ve had a stupendously-successful career for over 3 decades. I’m now intent on fulfilling a promise I made to myself as a scared, clueless rookie: “If I pull this freelance thing off, I will help others do it, too, minus all the grief, blunders and excruciating lesson-learning I have to endure.”
I could never pretend to be the guy to show others how to present from stage, though. I’m too eclectic, too idiosyncratic, too much of a knee-jerk rebel. (I mean, 95% of the other speakers I’ve known are HORRIFIED that I often engage with an audience, free-form and off the script. Heresy!) (I think they’re just afraid of what might happen.)
However, I am a good example of the “exception to the rule” thing. And I urge you to explore that notion in your own life, as often as possible.
Control-freak experts are relentlessly trying to manipulate you. Sometimes, they have a point. But sometimes, it’s all just glossy bullshit. The most successful folks I know are all total individuals, and the LAST thing they care about is what others think of them.
And yet, somehow, they end up as highly likable, morally sound, top-shelf people. Who deliver some of the best, and most unique, presentations you’ve ever witnessed.
More than one way to skin a cat, I guess, is the message. Go your own way…
There was some productivity advice:
I like to trick myself into working. Been doing it for decades, and you’d think I would catch on to my evil tactics at some point.
Faced with a daunting task, I promise myself I’m just gonna peek at it. Read just one page, one email, one video, whatever… and write down a small notecard’s worth of ideas.
Works every time. My lazy-ass brain says “Sure, why not, if you insist“, and then opens the door of my internal “work room”… and once inside, we’re off to the races. Just focusing on one small thing fires up the entire engine, and once started, it likes to work.
I am so gullible to my own tricks.
It’s embarrassing, really…
And, there was a little “straight from experience” life advice:
Department of Spiritual Measurements: Happiness based on what you have can be taken from you. It’s shallow and begs the universe to fuck with your bad ass.
Happiness based on who you are cannot easily be wrecked. You’re not invulnerable to trauma, but neither are you trapped in a constant accounting cycle.
We all get just one ticket in life, and the ride is breathtakingly short. It’s good to enjoy it, not so good to gloat over possessions.
Jeez Louise, the stuff you start to realize after a few times around the block is just relentlessly humbling…
Department of Weird Ruminations, #34: At some point in your life — unless you get squashed by a bus or some other sudden disruption of your wiring cancels your ticket — you’re gonna be faced with a moment where the stark question “what’s it all mean?” slams you in the gut.
There’s a lot of pre-packaged answers out there, and if those comfort you, great. Rock on.
For deeper thinkers, though, it’s a more thorny issue. And most folks avoid considering it as long as possible.
The thing is, there’s no clever around it, once you breach the topic. What, indeed, has your life been about? What has motivated you, what battles did you choose, where have you made a difference…
… and, most critically, was any of it worth the struggle?
Some say “do what you love” is the way to go. For others, duty calls. For far too many, the acquisition of toys and wealth rules.
But the worst state of all is to have never questioned your existence. Who are you, really, and what the hell have you been doing with this amazing gift of life in modern times?
We can only answer for ourselves, when it comes to crunch time.
Heavy, yes. But it’s also one of the simmering unconscious bugaboos that feeds the vague fears behind missing out on a truly good life.
Be bold. Ask the big questions. Even on a busy Monday, with so much going on…
The town I grew up in (Cucamonga, a block off Route 66) is now largely gone, buried under developments and the refusal of west coast newcomers to respect old shit.
But I still “see” the original joint when I drive around. The ghostly images of long-gone hamburger stands, orchards, outlier roadhouses and ballparks shimmer in my peripheral vision, vanished yet still vital in my mind.
There is no decent way to pass along the wonder of your youthful adventures except in stories.
So make ’em good. Your wild ass yarns may not be better than anyone else’s, but they’re still important. I love hearing old folks reveal the stark truth of life in a time completely alien to me. And I hope I’m entertaining the young folks willing to tolerate my rollicking tales.
Otherwise, all those moments will be lost… like tears in rain. (Yeah, that’s a Blade Runner quote…)
“Seems To Me” Department of Conflicted Opinion, Item No. 336b: Seems to me the Big Problem we face, as a consequence of our success in colonizing this tiny planet, is not the myriad details of dealing with “whose ox is getting gored”…
… but rather the meta-battle of innate human stupidity versus rational critical thinking.
And the problem is, the truly stupid all think they’re pretty smart.
Irrational dumbfuckedness is like a relentless tide, oblivious to everything but the need to breed and feed (and keep “our” ox from getting gored, while gleefully goring everyone else’s).
How I long for the tranquility of the unplugged mind, free of clear thought and unconcerned with consequence or fealty to promises. Must be nice, never imagining you’re actually a bug up the ass of the universe…
And, a question for you (in the theme of finding out more about my readers):
We have a “reading room” in the house. Five bookshelves along one wall crammed with tomes and a few chunks of offbeat ceramic art (plus some Art Deco toys and an ancient stereo). And a small rain forest-worth of plants.
I have a favorite couch with good light where I can read with the dog curled up next to me. I like the look and company of the books — some of them have been hauled all over the west coast in boxes since I was a kid. Even when I was poor and living out of my car, I always had books nearby.
Younger writers I know have no piles of books, nor stacks of records, cassettes and CDs. This is a simple and logical generational shift into digital storage. I can’t really tell you why I keep books I read decades ago and likely will never open again. They’re trophies, I suppose. Reminders of the guy I used to be. Benchmarks of a long life heavily influenced by published works.
Or maybe they’re talismans against the curse of anti-intellectualism I’ve fought against so long.
Do you like books, as a physical manifestation of knowledge and culture?
Or do you prefer a more sparse living arrangement, uncluttered by dusty pages?
There’s no right answer, of course. Just curious…
There was some timely stuff, too:
Department of “I Don’t Even Freaking Care Anymore”, memo #33: So I caved and bought a new iPhone…
… AND connected to the cloud. That big, mystery-laden, scary-ass cloud up there somewhere.
I hate having to trust shit I can’t see. No actual clouds in the sky today. Sunny. Faint glinting of distant satellites and space-alien aircraft, but that’s it. A few drones buzzing here and there.
Where ARE you, oh great and powerful Cloud?
So, anyway… I’m talking to my 3rd #Apple rep (because, of course, set up = calling Apple reps sooner or later)… and she casually mentions that she’s looking at my iCloud stuff along with me.
Key phrase: “Along with me”.
Low level Apple employee traipsing around in my goodies.
And I just gave up. That’s it, I fucking surrender.
Privacy, gone in this world. I have given up resisting and just welcomed The Man into my life. I am connected to The Grid now, six ways from Sunday, and I imagine It’s watching me this very minute from the camera on my iMac — cuz I removed the Post-It note formerly covering the lens.
That was the OLD me, the paranoid guy trying to lay low and stay under the radar. Ha! Poor fool. Much better to give up and give in, and just connect. Connect! Be at One with The Grid! Hallelujah! Tin foil hat, gone! It’s so liberating! I’m free! Free, do you hear me?!?
I. Give. Up.
Hold on, there’s someone at the door…
This is fun: Tidy little test on whether you’re a narcissist or not. (Most actual narcissists will not appreciate being outed, by the way.)
Go ahead and guess my score. (I’ll bet you’re wrong.)
I’ve hung out with plenty of narcissists in my time. Also sociopaths and really fucking dumb people who believe they are smart (the Dunning-Kruger effect).
In fact, the more you get behind the scenes in biz (into the closed meetings, the green rooms, the big offices) the more variety of crazy/evil you encounter.
Back when I worked the worst jobs in the world — in restaurant kitchens, construction, commercial fishing, corporate advertising — I noticed most of the folks causing trouble fit into just a few personality categories: Really dumb and seeking more power or money, and really smart and seeking more power or money. But the truly evil ones got outed pretty quickly, probably because there was so little room to maneuver (and everyone knew a malingerer or an asshole when they saw one).
In the back rooms of biz, though, there’s a LOT of room to maneuver… and the folks who sell their soul to the devil can stay camouflaged for years (sometimes forever).
One of the most painful discoveries I made, while growing up, was what made someone a “real” friend. It seems simple now, but for a long time it was confusing. Many people will be your “friend” as long as they can use you and your resources. They’re charming, fun to hang out with… but once you need something, or once you dry up as a resource, they’re gone.
Real friends are hard to come by. They may be a bit crazy, have messy lives, and exhibit pure undiluted stupidity at times… but you can count on them. And they make your life better, in large and small ways.
I have pals who are beyond whacky (including being mirror-addicted narcissists), and I never expect them to act out of character — which saves our friendship. I know what to expect, I don’t try to change them, and we do what we do well together. Sometimes it’s just work stuff, other times it’s just friend stuff, occasionally it’s both (like my long-time best pal and biz partner Stan Dahl, one of the smartest and most unique people I’ve ever met).
If you severely judge everyone around you, and refuse to tolerate non-average behavior or personalities, you’re gonna be a very, very lonely dude or dudette. Take stock of your current crop of pals, colleagues and clients. I’ll bet they’re a mob of weirdos, slackers, goofballs and cray-cray’s. Just like most of the world…
Here’s that test (discovered by my very, very whacky pal Chris Haddad):
I love learning new stuff, always have. And, I get bored easily, which meant I was always jostling against The Man’s plan to funnel me into a regular job and lifestyle.
However, I also hate being a putz, hurting other people and mucking up anything I’m responsible for.
This created a perfect little storm for my career. While young and bumbling about looking for fresh adventure, I made just about every mistake possible — in social situations, at work, managing money, dealing with problems, I botched it all up. Often spectacularly.
At first, I felt ashamed that I was somehow “inadequate” for living amongst my fellow humans. Then, I had an epiphany: We ALL screw up, often. But it’s how we HANDLE the consequences that puts us on different paths.
So I packaged up my shame and buried it. Useless. I replaced it with actionable remorse — when I did something wrong, I did my best to clean it up or fix it (or replace it, at my cost)… and, more critically, I then examined WHY I bollocked it up, figured out where I was lacking skill, info or experience…
… and then proceeded to fill in those gaps. And then climb back into the ring to practice doing it right.
It’s the only way I’ve been able to learn any of the good lessons in life. Reading about them helped me understand where I lacked skills or info… but the lessons never really “took” until I used them in real life.
The result has been a life filled with gloriously awful misadventures, followed by fabulously great adventures… plus a ton of solid friends (who’ve had to forgive me at times), biz success, and even a bit of real wisdom.
The books I write all feature personal stories, because that’s how I figured out how to get stuff done. A lot of folks bristle at this biographical style of teaching, which is fine. Everyone brings their own strange views of “how things ought to be done” to the game.
But my main question for anyone claiming to have expertise in anything (especially the tough biz and personal behavior questions that define a well-lived life) is simply:
“Have you actually gone through this situation yourself?”
Most, it turns out, have not. They “learned” their self-proclaimed expertise without having to sully their hands in the dirty details of real life. And maybe that’s enough for them, that their innate genius allows them special powers to grok how stuff gets done minus the experience of actually doing it.
I’m skeptical. Reading a thousand books on how to hit a baseball won’t match your learning curve of standing in a batter’s box one time, while someone throws fastballs high and tight as you try to hit them.
And the visceral thrill of receiving your first dollar from a transaction you negotiated yourself offers deep-tissue revelations you’ll never get from completing an MBA.
That’s my experience, anyway.
And that’s why I position the lessons I share within personal stories. I’m not TELLING you what to do — rather, I’m sharing what I learned by screwing up, learning my lesson, filling in the gaps, and then going back in to do it right the next time.
It’s the most ancient, and still most effective way to hand off a real piece of advice that has teeth. Take it or leave it, it’s advice that worked.
You can see how it’s done in any of my books, which of course you already own.
Wait — you don’t own them? Are you insane?
Okay, fine. I’ve put the links to two of them in the first comments below. The others you can find at the blog (john-carlton dot com). [Editor’s Note: You’re already on the blog. Just click on the icons in the far right column to find out more about anything I offer.]
Meanwhile, I’m off to more blundering about in the world, where I’m pretty sure I’ll learn something new today…
I like worn, well-used stuff. My favorite guitar is fifty years old (she wears it well). My San Francisco Giants cap is thrashed from all those pre-World Series years when I’d toss it in disgust. But I wear it proudly now, the tatters a tribute to true fandom.
New clothes bug me. If you can’t be faithful to a coat that’s served you well, what can you be faithful to?
This archaeophilia has been a huge advantage as a writer. Them fads come and go, and every new hotshot writer believes he invented copywriting yesterday…
… but the tried-and-true humbly saunters on, nailing the tough jobs and keeping the wheels of civilization greased.
Respect is earned, moment by moment, and truth often looks a bit ratty. This is still one of the primary lessons to grok in this chaotic universe…
Consider your life as an ongoing novel or movie. This particular chapter may be slow, but plot points you put into play now will trigger fresh adventure soon.
There are good folks who’ve been dealt a worse hand than you, who would trade up to your situation in a heartbeat. You owe it to them to chew up some scenery and murder all whining…
Back in my twenties (before you were born), I could party until they threw us out of the pub at gunpoint, grab a few hours of snooze time, and be at the job the next morning shaved, showered, shirt tucked and hair combed, ready for my 8-hour slog at whatever grind I was employed at.
That’s not a skill. That’s just an abundance of hormones, energy, and wasted youth.
For a recent 10-year period, I was flying off somewhere almost every month to speak on the circuit. Dubai, Sydney, NYC, Cleveland, didn’t matter — I could pack with my eyes closed, in an hour, get all documents printed and sorted while brushing my teeth, and cram enough gear, snacks and clothes into a single carry-on to last me a week. Then finish up the PPT on the plane between naps. No problem.
That’s a skill.
What folks get wrong about Free Speech in this country is that just cuz it’s free, it don’t mean it’s true.
You hear a guy say something on the radio or the teevee or the Interwebs that is so outrageous, for sure he wouldn’t be “allowed” to get away with it if it weren’t the gosh-darned truth. And he gets away with it, so ha!… You believe you’ve been let in on a solid piece of info.
And all your deluded friends who think they’re so smart can’t handle it. All of which gives you a warm feeling, despite the awfulness of the subject.
Welcome to the Great American Befuddlement Over Truth. It’s the painful part of the freedom to speak and think without gummit interference — not everyone comes equipped with the necessary critical thinking to discern the bullshit from truth.
A healthy dose of skepticism goes a long way. If your smart friends disagree with you, maybe your resources getting away with all that outrageous stuff aren’t the beacon of truth you think they are.
How much have road trips played a role in your life? Solo, with a pal or a small mob, you pack up the car and take off to parts unknown, wind whistling through the open window, history and life itself rushing by outside.
In high school, getting my driver’s license was like securing a pass to a bustling new world of adventure, terror and delight. My buddy Art and I would just hop into his ’56 Buick and drive for hours, seeking some scenery to chew up. Later, Tim and I drove across the south in a battered Pinto, all the way from Cape Canaveral to SF for a wild half summer.
I’ve driven up and down the west coast so many times it feels like my old neighborhood.
Maybe growing up a block from Route 66 instilled the love of the road in me. Just having that endless path to somewhere else was a relentless temptation to take off.
Every autumn, I itch for another road trip. I can’t handle the hours at the wheel like I used to, and it’s not quite the same when you’re never out of reach of a radio station (I cannot explain to the uninitiated the bliss of finally dialing in a distant DJ after a stretch of musing on the ambient noise of cruising)…
… but the essence of the road trip is, I think, part of our modern DNA.
On the road again, indeed…
And finally… a taste of the rants we like to share on my FB page:
Let’s get straight on this: I love people, and am humbly grateful for everything.
That said, would you fuckers please stop driving like brain-dead zombies while around me?
Thanks. ‘Preciate it.
And that’s it for this edition.
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section (where I hang out a lot).
Happy holidays to you and yours, and…
Wednesday, 8:59 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…
“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…” (Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”)
A lot of my social media focus lately has been on Facebook. As much as I distrust and mildly despise The Zuck, I have to hand it to the little sociopath for figuring out a dynamic that allows for real interaction with folks…
… which lasts, on average, around one to three days. Then, even the most viral post disappears down the social media rathole and is gone forever.
So I like to rescue some of the better posts I’ve carved into the FB newsfeed, and stack ’em up here on the blog… where they’ll survive in the archives for as long as this rickety thing exists. (We’re officially at the decade mark, by the way. Ten years of posting monthly… except for January of 2012, where I inadvertently didn’t publish an intended article in time, so the archives have that single hole in them. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.)
Anyway, no need for context here. If you’d enjoy seeing the comment threads on any of these posts, just hop over to my FB page (where you should already be following me, anyway, what are you thinking?). It’s www.facebook.com/john.carlton.
And, as always, I love to hear what you’re thinking in the comments here (where I often hang out and interact).
By the way… that photo up top is from the big damn AWAI seminar I was a featured speaker at, back in October. Everything about the photo (and yes, that’s Dan Kennedy sitting with us) is explained in the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast I link to below (in one of the posts) (and yes, this is a tease to get you to read this entire thing).
Enjoy the year-end Facebook roundup:
Take This To The Bank, Part 11: Most people’s daily actions (eating, buying, loving, hating, grooming, working, all of it) are based on beliefs… which they regard as “true”.
You better grok this, if you want to communicate with, sell to, or persuade folks in any way.
As irrational and unfounded in reality as these belief systems can be, they become unshakeable foundations for all behavior, thought and decisions.
Rookie copywriters like to bowl readers over with facts and data and science. Yawn. These are humans you’re writing to. Reality is very subjective, and by the time perception gets past the internal obstacle course of flawed senses, emotional distress, and knee-jerk denial… your facts will get ambushed and slaughtered as efficiently as a 30’s-era mob hit.
Real persuasion occurs in the murky soup of people’s ancient, mostly-unconscious belief systems. Timid efforts ain’t gonna cut it.
Bold, and even spectacularly whacky beliefs trump crunchy facts every time.
Just something to keep in mind as you explore persuasion expertise…
A life well-lived will be roiling with stories. Seems pretty obvious.
But it’s the same with a business well-run. And a career with lofty goals. Even a project you’ve thrown yourself into. Or a single day of enthusiastic productivity.
The world spins in the greased grooves of stories. All around you, and deeply intertwined with your very existence, are stories of romance, harrowing adventure, small and large heroic episodes, and the fascinating history of your impact on everything you touch. Yes, you.
Your stories swirl and crash into the stories of your friends, colleagues, lovers, clients, family, enemies and random encounters.
Recognizing these stories, and molding them into snarling tales with a set-up, a point, and a punchline or lesson, can kick you into a higher level of conscious living. The slumbering masses ignore, deny and deflate their stories… and yet, the hunger in all of us for well-told tales is never sated.
There’s no big secret to success. It’s not the moolah or power you accumulate… it’s the wealth of experience, feelings, brain stimulation, and your impact on others generated by living large.
It’s hard to become, and stay conscious. Your stories help you catalog the good stuff, and keep you enmeshed with all the other actors in your life’s movie.
The best marketing is alive with stories, because it’s all just an extension of life well-lived.
Go chew up some scenery. The only real crime in the universe is squandering this unique, scary and wonderful existence you woke up with today…
“Ch-ch-changes, oh look out, you rock and rollers…” (David Bowie, “Changes”)
All last week, on Facebook, I opened myself up to the mob…
… and promised to answer the best 5 questions posed in an experimental “Bug The Grizzled Pro” post. I just wanted to see what was bothering folks, holding them up, disrupting sleep and profits and happiness.
I was pretty damned impressed with the level of questions that poured in, too. Finding 5 good ones was easy. Answering them required my full focus… and the stuff is good.
So, just to make sure this advanced Q&A isn’t lost in the mire of Facebook (where stuff fades away forever), I’ve posted the entire exchange here. (If you want to see the comments, you’ll have to go to my Facebook page and root around in the posts for the week of November 9-14. And while you’re there, thrilling to the banter, trolling, and fevered debate, sign up to follow me, why don’tcha?)
Here’s the relevant posts. Enjoy:
Bug The Grizzled Pro: Anything you’d like to ask me about, or see me rant about here or on the blog?
I’ll never run out of my own ideas (you oughta see the cluster-mess of untapped stories, advice, epiphanies and general bullshit roiling around in my head)…
… (just be happy you aren’t experiencing this kind of internal chaos yourself)…
… but I’m always happy to see what folks are curious about.
I mean, really — how often do you get a chance to strafe the deck of a veteran, seen-it-all professional like this?
Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is public humiliation, or accidental enlightenment that forces you to change your life (or something in-between).
Don’t be a coward. Ask.
I’ll answer the first… um… five good questions during the week. But they gotta be good…
San Francisco, CA
“If you want it, here it is, come and get it…” (Badfinger)
Quick post today — I’m hosting my awesome Platinum Mastermind early tomorrow, and have a little prep work left to do.
However, I thought you might enjoy sampling the kind of posts I’m getting global recognition for… on Facebook. So I ripped a recent one from the site, and put it here for your delight and consumption.
Social media confuses most marketers — many refuse to even engage with Twitter or Facebook (or any of the myriad other options online to share silly secrets and post photos you’ll regret later). But I was an early adopter, and eagerly so — I had one of the very first marketing blogs (which you’re enjoying here), one of the first biz-oriented podcasts on iTunes (and if you haven’t listened to the latest free podcasts I’ve been hosting, go to the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers site now and indulge: www.pi4mm.com)…
… and I’ve been breaking every “rule” on Facebook ever since it hit the mainstream. I use FB to have fun, sometimes… but also to share insight, advice, lessons and some of the more obscure (and funny) war stories I’ve gathered in my 30 year career. (I currently have 5,000 “friends” — the limit — plus another couple of thousand “followers”… and I expect them all to show up at my wake and cause trouble. I’ve made them promise, in fact.)
To get the full flavor of what’s up — including the very long comment threads that you are invited to join — you’ll need to pop over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/john.carlton).
However, here’s a nice little taste:Read more…
“Train whistle blows, lost on its own track…” (Dwight Yoakum, “Long White Cadillac”)
I thought you’d want to see this.
I first posted it on Facebook, and it generated an avalanche of “likes” and comments… which always means I’ve hit a nerve. And since many of the nice folks on my main list are curmudgeons who refuse to participate in social media (“Facebook, bah, humbug!”)…
… I’m reprinting it here. So you don’t have to sully yourself by dropping by Facebook. (Bonus: The post below actually trashes large swaths of the Web.)
The cold, dark days of December are, traditionally, a breeding ground for both regret over mistakes in the past year…
… and (more happily) for bold new plans in the coming year.
So, in the spirit of helping you end the year on a positive note… while also teeing up 2014 as possibly your best new year ever…
… let’s see if this advice (which has transformed so many entrepreneurial adventures into something amazing) will have any effect on you. Maybe get a head-start on wading through the mounting piles of nonsense out there, and snuggling up closer to the reality-checks and truths that can help you attain your wildest goals and dreams.
Here’s the post:
Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive. And because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world…
… which included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abbey), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).
So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades. I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.
The discussions are critical… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture. It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns…
… and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.
My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary. We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.
So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…
… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.
Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials. The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…
… all of it. And when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.
I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh. They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.
And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.
As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.
That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.
Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this. I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…Read more…
“Step right up, we got bargains galore…” (Tom Waits, “Step Right Up”)
I’ve had a flood of new folks wander in through the side door of this blog lately…
… so I thought I’d just catch everyone up on what’s happening.
Happenin’ Thang #1: I’m speaking at my dear friend (and legend in the biz) Joe Sugarman’s seminar (in Vegas, baby!) on the 24/25th of October.
The line-up of speakers is pretty shocking — Joe Polish, Jon Benson (VSL wizard), just a mob of snarling experts who rarely are in the same room at one time.
Rather than re-explain how awesome this seminar will be (and it’s a “must be there” event… and nearly all the hottest “A List” copywriters I know booked their spot the moment they heard about it)…
… I’m just gonna post the URL, so you can check it out for yourself. Time is tight. And anyone who understands how unique this kind of event is, and why it’s so critical for entrepreneurs to hang out at live seminars and brush elbows with experts is already salivating over the opportunities this opens up.
Go here to see why so many pro’s are going to the Sugarman event.
Happenin’ Thang #2: As many of you already know, I’ve been co-hosting a killer new podcast series called “Psych Insights for Modern Marketers” with my colleague Kevin Rogers (who has authored several guest posts on this blog).
It’s killer stuff… all focused on going deep into the street-level salesman’s psychology of what makes people buy. You won’t find subject matter like this anywhere else, and you sure as heck won’t get the deep-behind-the-scenes insight from grizzled professionals like me on any other podcast.
Plus… it’s free.
Go here to check out the latest podcast. I hang out in the comments section, too, so feel free to start a thread or join one of the existing brouhaha’s already getting frothy in there.
Happenin’ Thang #3: If you haven’t subscribed to my Facebook page, you’re missing out on the frequent posting I do there… especially the Monday Mentoring Sessions, which reveal the essential lessons I’ve learned (always the hard way, by getting bloody first and only then figuring out where I went wrong and how to fix it next time) on becoming a happy, successful dude.
I’m usually over the limit on “friends” there, so just subscribe as a “follower” — you get the same privileges.
My Facebook handle is: www.facebook.com/john.carlton
Last note: I’ll be posting more original articles next month.
For now, if you’re jonesing for more stuff to dive into, just hit the archives over in the right-hand column here.
Coming up on nine years of material in there. All free.
Be sure to sign up for alerts, though, so you find out when new posts are added. Top of the right hand column, in the “Keep Informed” box.
Use your best email, not your slog one. I’m not gonna spam you, or send too much stuff — I usually send out no more than a couple of emails each month, all related to things you (as an entrepreneur, writer, biz owner or freelancer) will appreciate discovering.
Okay, that’s it for today. Lots of great stuff available here, and you ignore any of it at your peril.
Enjoy your Halloween, and I’ll see you here next month.