“Lately it occurs to me… what a long, strange trip its been…”
I’m gonna be on the road for a while here (heading to Dubai for a seminar, for starters)… and also takin’ care of some personal biz.
All of which means I’ll be putting the blog here on ice for a couple of weeks.
This doesn’t mean you should not visit.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that almost exactly four years of this blog are archived… on this very page.
It’s a ton of heavy-duty stuff, just waiting for you to feast on…
… and many will admit that the specific advice and tactics you can discover here — for free — are better than the crap you pay through the nose for elsewhere.
That’s what folks tell me, anyway.
So dig in. The past few years have been particularly interesting, since they’re post-Web 2.0 and oh-so-very hip and cutting edge.
But there is treasure all the way back to the first posts, too.
1. Detailed lesson on finding hooks for headlines: “Fishing For Hooks” on 10/19/06. (Get it? Fishing for hooks?)
2. Sobering reality check on the economy: “Are Ya Scared Yet?”, 9/29/08.
3. Cool “Tip O’ The Week” on 9/01/08.
4. Then take the Quiz laid out on 9/04/08… and see the answer on 9/08/08. (Don’t cheat, now.)
5. Go all the way back to 3/14/05 for “Your Own Private Chemical Dump” (yeah, weird subject, but it’ll get ya thinking)…
6. Find out “Who Gets Read” on 8/04/08.
7. Two truly twisted visits into the teachings of the late, great Gary Halbert await in June 2008 (“Jerks, Genius & Juice”). He will forever be missed. (My completely inadequate goodbye — the most painful thing I’ve ever written — was written on 4/10/07.)
8. Check out the contest on 10/02/08, and see the results on 10/06/08.
9. Finally, wake up your Inner Salesman with “The Unforgiving Human Funk” on 2/20/06.
This is all just a taste, mind you.
I’ve been slugging it out on this blog for years, and I’ve earned every reader I’ve got (and I’ve got ’em all over the globe).
If you’ve never explored the archives… or haven’t gone back for a trip down the aisles in a while… this is a perfect opportunity to visit this very unique Dungeon Of Delights.
I’ll be back soon.
Just got some stuff I gotta take care of right now.
Stay frosty (and wish me luck)…
P.S. I might — key word, might — be able to dash off a Tweet or two in the interim. You should sign up anyway, and start following me and all the other nutcases on Twitter currently making life just a bit more… wired.
P.P.S. Oh, yeah… one more thing.
If you wanna comment on any of the referenced posts… please do it here, in this comment section, where I’ll see it.
Plus, of course, you are always welcome to use the comment section to rant, wheedle, whine, bitch, moan or gloat to your heart’s content, on any subject.
Lord knows, we all need to vent once in a while…
“No one here gets out alive…” J. Morrison
Hey, do you like roller coasters?
I grew up during a great time in American “fun zone” culture — the LA County Fair had a permanent Fun Zone built in the 1930s (long before safety codes were invented)…
… and you took your life in your hands on every ride.
Man, it was fun.
- There was The Hammer — two flimsy capsules of thin mesh swinging in opposite directions at the end of steel posts sixty feet long. You climbed in, held on tight, and spent ten minutes barely missing the other capsule as you went round and round and round…
- There was The Wheel of Death — a 90-foot-in-diameter round floor, with loosely welded-on cages along the edge, that spun around generating huge G-force, while the floor slowly tilted to a 90-degree angle. Forbidden to leave our cages, we felt obligated to crawl (cheeks flapping our ears and eyeballs bulging) from cage to cage… because, you know, none of the rides had anything remotely resembling a seat belt or restaining device of any kind.
… there were the roller coasters.
Two of ’em. Count ’em.
Two of the nastiest, most rickety and dangerous rails of decapitation and maiming ever erected by a crew of ex-con Depression-era drunks.
Good God, those were great rides.
Kids today have no idea how much fun there was to be had paying 25 cents to risk your life like that.
We’d ride ’em til we puked.
And after an afternoon of cotton candy, purple crushed ice, popcorn, hot dogs and gallons of Coke… well, you get the picture.
… on to the Tip O’ The Week.
The reason I’ve been thinking about roller coasters is — of course — because of the multiple “rides” we’ve all been sharing these past couple of years.
- The economy: Roller coaster.
- The state of Internet marketing: Roller coaster.
- Politics: Roller coaster.
- General anxiety about the state of the world: Roller coaster.
Makes ya wish for the good old 1990s, when the biggest scandal around was about that Bubba getting frisky in the Oval Office.
Ah, those were the days.
You know that quote: If you wanna make God laugh, make plans.
And I’ve had so many product launches that almost weren’t pulled off because we nearly expired from the effort.
Nevertheless, times like those have also been a hugely creative for me.
This is one of Nature’s perverse little jokes:
The worse the situation… the better the writer.
We all need crucibles to bounce against to trigger our best work.
Now, this week’s tip comes from a flurry of mentoring moments I’ve handed out in the Simple Writing System Coaching Program. (If you ignored your opportunity to participate in this breakthrough mentoring program… well, you should forever hang your head in shame and despair. It is just an amazing resource of shaing, learning and networking. Never been anything like it before. Probably will go into history as the Woodstock of Mentoring programs, never to be repeated. I don’t even know if there are any spots available at the moment. But you can always check right here.)
One of the more common trouble spots of many marketers centers on the uncomfortable fact that, often, you have to talk about yourself.
You’re part of the package. The author, the expert, the coach, the guru, the whatever. In order to make your case, you gotta stand up and (essentially) do some world-class self-aggrandizing.
Some might call it bragging. Regardless, it’s often the toughest job you’ll ever have as a marketer. I’ve known some Hall Of Fame braggarts in my time.
Halbert counted “finding new ways of self-aggrandizement” as one of his top hobbies…
… but mostly, marketers run into a brick wall of doubt and shyness when they discover they’ve got to tout themselves.
Here is what I wrote to a student who was frozen by fear over the need to “go there”:
We ALL have trouble writing for our own stuff. I HATE writing for my own products. It’s a pain to examine myself the same brutal way I examine clients…
… because it’s tough to get out of your own box.
The answer, however, is frustratingly simple: You CAN do it.
You just try.
And you try again. Until you get it right.
Psst! Here’s a killer copy tip that might help you out a bit. On the house!
And then you challenge what you believe you’ve discovered. Take a nap or a walk or a shower (I use all of these to let things “work themselves out in my unconscious”)…
… and come back and be hard-core on yourself and everything you’ve written. Not knocking yourself down — just digging past the easy answers, for the good stuff.
This is why we say — with honesty — that great salesmen lead better lives. They engage in the Zen arts of self-reflection and meditation (even if they have no idea they’re doing it)…
… and they seek self awareness and the clear, brutal honestly of reality.
You can do this.
Just know that it’s tough for all of us… but once you FIND that elusive, groove, you’re off to the races. You literally explode from your box, and the stuff just flows.
I’ve been doing this all my adult life. I’ve taught people who loathed any kind of self examination to do it anyway.
You can do this. Stay with it.
That’s the tip: Few can talk about themselves easily.
You just get over your fear… and find your groove.
And I’ll tell you something else: Once you do get past your fears and reluctance…
… it’s like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
Marketing thrives on honesty and self-discovery and openness.
That’s not the image outsiders have of marketers… but it’s true.
This simple piece of advice has been the foundation of my success ever since I left my old slacker-self (who is still sitting on that slacker couch deep in my unconscious, somewhere, wondering when I’m gonna stop all this ambition nonsense and get back to terminal goofing off): I can do it.
I didn’t believe it. I did it anyway, despite my disbelief.
And as I gained confidence, I started “doing” everything that had seemed so elusive to me before.
Give it a try.
And tell me your roller coaster stories.
P.S. Hard times call for more resources, and buckling down with better info and advice.
This blog is full of actionable marketing tips, and you can get even more by signing up for my free report “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now.”
Just dropping by to give a shout-out to readers.
I’ve been away, slaving under the brutal yoke of a Big Damn Launch.
And man, do I have stories to tell. Harrowing stuff, too, that’ll curl your hair.
But not tonight.
Tonight, I’m tipping a Pale Ale in congratulations to Mr. Obama, and wishing him serious luck as he engages the mess he signed up to fix.
Hey — it’s only the Fate Of Civilization hanging in the balance.
By a thread.
Interesting world we live in, don’t you think?
I’m all for rolling the sleeves up, and diving back in with gusto tomorrow. The ride is so much more fun when you’re committed to goals, and itching for more challenges…
Right now… I’m gonna enjoy this good feeling in my gut about the future, whether it’s real or not…
P.S. Remember, if you need to hear more of my twisted ramblings, you can always follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johncarlton007
Can you do me a favor?
Actually, two favors:
1. Just forgive me for not paying close attention to this blog over the next week or so.
2. Please hop over to www.simplewritingsystem.com/blog/ and indulge yourself.
Am I forgiven?
I’ll be back here with a vengence soon enough.
Right now, however…
… we’re launching the Simple Writing System, and it’s taking all my time.
No, seriously, I mean ALL my time.
I haven’t slept much this week… and when I do, I’m dreaming about the damn launch.
I was going to give you a blow-by-blow, “behind the scenes” commentary on the process in this blog…
… but it turns out I was deluded.
Launches are consuming events. Especially when — like us — you defy the standard “rules” and just boldly march into the process with as little preparation as possible.
Gotta love the entrepreneur spirit. Damn the torpedoes and all that.
The best part of a launch, of course…
… is that it’s over when it’s done. Sort of like a short jail sentence, where you’re chained to your desk… but you get cut loose when the curtain goes up, and all sins are erased.
“Curtain Up” day is coming up fast, too.
And that means the cool, deeply insightful webinar/interviews on the SWS blog go away, too. Not gonna leave ’em up for very long.
You definitely need to see them. We just posted Mike Filsaime, who revealed (for the FIRST time ever) his private mentoring notes from his intense learning days as a salesman…
… and Rich Schefren, who allowed me to expose all his secrets about making mere blog posts bring in massive fortunes (shocking revelation, by the way)…
… and Eben Pagan, who just unloaded on the specifics of his million-dollar marketing tactics (especially how he wrote to sell and influence so successfully)…
… and Frank Kern, who… well, who was so totally Frank in this interview, that I may bottle his webinar and turn it into rocket fuel.
These things are crammed with risky, maddeningly real-world revelations and insight these guys have rarely (if ever — Mike’s salesmanship notes, for example, are a total exclusive) shared in public.
I grilled ’em.
Now you get to feast.
… again, I’m gonna be a ghost here on this blog. But only for a few more days… while I concentrate on the Simple Writing System blog.
Lots of great stuff posted over there, and more coming.
Go check it out.
As always, your comments are welcome, helpful and encouraged.
Back to the grind…
Um, Wednesday night, I think. Maybe 9:30 or so…
Reno. Yeah, pretty sure I’m in Reno, NV still…
We officially put “The Simple Writing System” on the fast track for public release this week. And the amount of serious work (spelled w-o-r-k, the original four-letter word) required to do it right…
… is simply astonishing.
We’re pulling out all the stops.
Mind you, it’s not available yet to anyone. We’ve got details (“deets”, we call ’em) to fuss with. T’s to cross, i’s to dot.
Soon. Very soon, we’ll announce how you can get involved with the personal mentoring this unique program offers.
Oh, the excitement is swelling like a Beethoven crescendo.
I have been on the phone with a “Who’s Who” of online marketers, too… setting up interviews, getting advice (oh, I’ve been getting advice, lemme tell you), making sure everyone’s on the same page for this one-time release of the system.
Cuz this really could be…
In the last couple of days, I’ve been on the horn with Frank Kern, Mike Filsaime, Rich Schefren, Jeff Walker… and today, I completely rewrote an ad for Tellman Knudson on the phone. Pretty sure we got that recorded, too.
If he tests, we could even see some “Real World” style before-and-after results. It’s an experiment any self-respecting marketer would kill to know about.
… all this activity is exciting, sure.
But it can suck brain juice right out through your eyeballs.
I’m exhausted. Right now, I can’t rmemeber what 8 times 6 is. I’ve lost chunks of third-grade memorized multiplication tables.
(In fact, what’s 8 times 7? Wow, it’s worse than I thought…)
I’m off to a quick Miller Time, and bed. Sleep solves everything, you know.
But in the meantime… if you wanna stay in the loop about how this unique “Simple Writing System” mentoring program is gonna play out…
… you’ll want to be extra sure you’re on my list.
Easiest way to do that: Hop over to www.marketingrebel.com, and leave your name and email in the box there on the right. (You could leave your name here, on the blog notification list… but I keep those lists separate. The “master” list at marketingrebel is much better to be on for this event.)
(Plus, you get the fabulous “7 Strategy Lessons” over there, automatically, when you sign in. Very excellent marketing wisdom in those lessons. Timeless stuff you can use immediately…)
Or, if you’re one of the cool kids, you can follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com to sign up for free, then follow me at johncarlton007).
I think that’s it for now.
Mouth open, half snoring alreazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
“May I have the envelope, please…”
A very big “Thank You” to everyone who sent in a response to last week’s query.
The rather large number of well-thought-out, specific answers in the comment section was augmented by another pile of responses sent to my private inbox.
I’m truly humbled, guys.
That was a deluge of good stuff.
The question I’d asked last Thursday was (more or less): What’s keeping you (or kept you, if you did finally succeed) from learning to write copy… the one obviously essential skill mastered by all the top marketers?
I knew I’d get a good crop of answers.
A blog like this — which is followed worldwide — is just a treasure-chest of good information and insight.
So, again… thanks for writing.
You see, I had my own ideas of what the problem is among the biz owners and entrepreneurs who stubbornly resist my charm and offers of personal mentoring.
I mean, this is what I do — figure out the motivations and hidden psychology of target markets.
However, even a veteran adman (and I’ve got over 25 years in the front-line trenches) never wants to rely ONLY on his gut instincts.
Not when the stakes are so high.
I’ll give you a breakdown on the answers that came in. They were ALL good.
However… I’d originally offered a reward for the best post (“best” meaning the one that gave voice to the most insightful reasons for dilly-dallying on getting good at writing).
And that reward idea went out the window the first day.
Too many good posts.
… I’ve decided to annoint FIVE winners. All will recieve a brand spankin’ new copy of the updated “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”. (My assistant, Diane, will email you directly this week, and arrange delivery.)
And yet, we’re all winners here.
Because the sheer insight to the marketing wisdom inherent in any specific (though decidedly unscientific) research like this… is worth a FORTUNE to anyone smart enough to pay attention.
Before I announce the winners…
… let’s see how the answers broke down into categories:
The top most common responses as to why people resist learning how to write:
1. They see copywriting as “too hard” or they’re just scared to even try.
2. They just don’t know what to do. (Almost tied for number one.)
3. Time — no perceived time to learn it, plus info-overload (too much info, which causes brain freeze).
4. Close behind (and this is something I’ve been hearing for years): Anger at the “hype” of salesmanship that seems inherent in long copy ads… and a shyness about trying to sell at all. (Some folks get really pissed off at the persuasive tactics required to cause money to exchange hands.)
5. Lastly: A total disconnect and denial that it’s something they need, combined with general ADD about running a biz.
Just two people mentioned cost. Four wanted more blueprints, or templates.
My instant analysis (and I’ll be ruminating on these responses for a while): This range of answers…
… sort of jibes with my original gut feelings on the subject.
Yet, the depth of the resistance is something I dearly needed to be alerted to.
I totally understand the sense of not knowing what to do, or where to turn. That “drifting” state is where I lived my entire life… right up to the epiphany I had that led me to jump into freelancing.
As a hippie, in my weird youth, I abhored capitalism… and so I also feel a distant empathy with folks who find selling creepy and distasteful.
And that feeling of being overwhelmed by info — too much from too many guru’s, and no way to easily choose which to follow… well, that’s a chronic state for even many veteran (and successful) biz owners.
At nearly every marketing seminar I’ve been to in the last couple of years… time management and avoiding being overwhelmed is the number one topic.
There’s a strong sense that the “right” path, or “right” set of skills (with the right teacher) is out there… but it’s exhausting trying to find it… and even more draining trying to absorb it once/if you find what you’re looking for.
The big one — the most oft-cited response — was the perception that learning to write is “hard”.
This is VERY understandable, especially in this country. By the time most Americans are seniors in high school, they’ve had any affection for the written word beaten out of them.
And this is a shame that reverberates throughout the biz world.
Teachers who force students to crank out bullshit essays on bullshit subjects should be fired.
Writing is something most humans can (and should) take to easily. Ask a bored, distracted sophomore to write out the reason he should win four tickets to the upcoming AD/DC reunion tour (or pick your own must-see event… Green Day? Madonna? Clarkson? Steely Dan? Larry The Cable Guy?)…
… and he’ll fill fourteen pages in a breathless rush, stopping only when his pen runs out of ink.
Same with love letters home from overseas, heated threads on Web chat boards, even extended texting. (I’ve seen Twit posts from some of the guys I follow approach novel-length, all in bursts of multiple 140-character tweets…)
It’s not the actual writing that’s hard.
It’s the brain-numbing process required to fuel what you write with meaning and persuasion.
That’s what mucks up the enthusiasm.
This is easy to understand…
… and SOLVING this dilemna has obsessed me for decades.
For a certain percentage of people Ive taught, the mastering of the process is as easy as kicking open a stuck door. BAM! And you’re in.
For others, however, it takes some focused, hands-on mentoring.
It’s still not “hard”, though, in my experience.
It’s just… a slightly uneven path that requires a little guidance.
And the friendly hand of a mentor, who’s invested in your progress.
I used to offer that, in the now-gone “Insider’s Club” I created when I first became a guru.
You paid a small amount each year, and we became email buddies. I watched over you, critiquing your efforts and smacking you (virtually, of course) upside the head when you blundered.
The number of people I pumped through that original “Insider’s Club” include many of the most famous, filthy-rich marketers out there today. (As well as a whole mob of newly-minted guru’s in their field.)
People beg me to bring that “Insider’s Club” back… but it was just too much work on my part.
There’s only so much of me to go around, you know.
So… no. I simply cannot do something like that again.
Maybe there’s some other way I can offer the mentoring so many people seem to crave and need.
Right now, though… sorry.
Still, this insight to the mind-set of entrepreneurs and biz owners who know they need serious help with writing… and yet cannot get past the obstacles blocking and freezing them up…
… should start some gears spinning in people’s heads.
For all the info out there… for all the courses, and the books, and the webinars… there remains NO technology as effective at breakthroughs in learning…
… as personal mentoring.
It’s how I got good. And it’s how most of the wizards now dominating the online/offline scene got good, too.
We’ll have to explore this more…
Here are the winners of the little contest:
1. Margaret Gedde, for so eloquently describing the terror of selling that can gum up your brain (no matter how much you realize it’s something you “should” be doing). Nice work, Margaret.
2. Jay Cross, on being frozen by a fear of failing. This certainly held me back for a very long time, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Thanks for sharing a quasi-traumatic obstacle that more people share than dare admit, Jay.
3. Reed, on the disconnect biz owners feel between the “uncommon wisdom” of good advertising skills, and the more common “false wisdom” of the way most biz operate (and eventually die, starved for results).
4. Bill, for recognizing the prevalent opinion (common among entrepreneurs who hated school) (for good reasons) that all writing is inherently hellish and to be avoided at any cost. I’m surprised this one didn’t come up more often, actually… though it was one of the more repeated answers.
5. And finally, our old buddy Yoav… who best explained the minority position of yearning for actioniable information, rather than the theory-heavy stuff currently dominating the virtual bookshelves out there.
Great answers, guys (and gal).
Again — I am thrilled that so many people took the time to think this through, and send in a response.
No one “lost”. This laser-focused input isn’t science… but it’s still the best research you can gain access to, when your responding audience is as savvy as readers of this blog are.
So thanks. Again.
Hope you were able to take something good away from this exercise. It’s an example of how a little effort can yield amazing results.
“He… could… go… all… the… way…” (Berman, MNF of days gone by…)
Do you ever get any of those weird epiphanies about life?
The ones that burst into consciousness like the first bloom of dawn… after a particularly dark and ominous night?
They aren’t necessarily the kind of insight that drops you to your knees and propels you off into a completely different direction.
But they are a critical plot point in your life’s story.
Here’s what just happened to me (and see if you can’t identify with it):
For the last week (has it only been that long?), the global news has been a horror-show.
Politics is tearing the country apart (again)… we’ve got a financial mess that may make the dot-com bust look like a picnic… and, personally, I’ve got biz pressures building up in my head like the Mother Of All Brain Farts.
So, I’ve diving into every distraction within my grasp for Miller Time. (Miller Time, for the uninitiated, is the built-in “reward” I insist all my freelance students create for themselves. It’s main task is to help you officially call an end to the day, which helps prevent burn-out.)
(I came up with the idea while working with Halbert, as a coping mechanism. Without a set point in time where I said “That’s it — done for the day”, the pressure of the tasks at hand would suck me into even longer work hours…
… and that’s not good.
In fact, that’s bad. Very bad. I burned out once, and that’s all it took for me to never, ever, ever want to do it again. Required three years of remedial goofing off to be able to catch my breath.
And I was young, too. I’ve had students ignore my advice on this — dudes in their twenties, cooking with peak internal fuel — and flame out like a dunked match.
Miller Time is serious play time. You quit working. You have a little fun. You give it a freakin’ rest.)
Obviously, I have a much different philosophy about stress than most business owners.
I don’t avoid stress. In fact, if there’s something stressful on the plate for tomorrow… well, that’s the first thing I wanna dig into.
No avoidance on this monkey.
… neither do I regard stress as something “good”.
It is (and current research backs me up) probably the source of all the bad shit in your health profile.
So how you DEAL with it… is probably one of the most important decisions you make early in your career.
Because you’ve got to make dealing with it a habit. Breaking the stress up and jettisoning it from your system must be on your “A” list of things to do each day.
Otherwise… you’re putting that career in serious danger of short-circuiting.
For me, toys play a big part of “steam removal”. I’ve loved games and toys my entire life — and that’s what guitars, cars, iPhones, Web-surfing, Twitter, cable TV, iTunes, barbeques, and every quest you engage in for anything outside Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is: Games and toys.
It’s been a long, long time since anyone could claim to have a handle on how civilization works. The well-educated dudes of the early Renaissance MAYBE could claim a decent savvy in every skill and knowledge-base in exisitence.
But that’s simply not possible today.
Humans have never been in this situation before — where NO ONE has a handle on how the essentials of the civilization works.
It’s like nobody’s in charge anymore. It’s like glancing down the aisle and noticing that the pilot’s gone. The driver has disappeared. No one goes into the boiler room anymore, because no one knows what to do in there.
A large part of the mob deals with this sense of not being in control… by zoning out. I doubt there has ever been this large a percentage of the population zomibified before in history. Just willingly oblivious.
In my experience, you can’t really hide from stress, though. It builds up, it festers, it infects every joint and synapse in the system.
For those of us who are incapable of ignoring the blinking warning signs now flashing… (and our global engine has been overheating for a very long time)… it’s more important than ever to manage stress.
You do NOT make it go away by eating it like candy. It won’t leave unless forced out.
Thus… to be effective today (and oh my God do we need effective people in the mix right now)…
… you gotta choose your battles. You can work every day. You can gear up and charge monsters every time you go into “work mode”.
But you can’t do it 24/7. You’ll fry.
So… playtime becomes an essential tool.
What rocks your Miller Time boat may change, often, thoughout your life. That’s to be expected.
So you gotta keep a tab on your own responses.
You know what makes you happy… what sucks you in so thoroughly and pleasurably that you forget the smell of the trenches for a while.
Don’t focus on the “what”, however.
Instead, focus on how you feel. You will have to alter things — the games, toys, distractions, etc — that trigger the right response often.
And the new stuff is only going to work — only going to help you disengage so you can re-charge — if it nails the wheelhouse of your pleasure center.
At various times, playing music has been “it” for me. But then I go into another phase, and I need something else. Drawing comes and goes — hours spent completely absorbed in putting ink on paper, creating visual worlds from nothing.
Games, too. I played the first Doom like a junkie. No other game since has held my interest like that. Collecting rare stuff, too. Reading history… I’ve been lucky to have a long list of stuff that works.
But here’s the one tip I really can give everyone: One of the most enduring, and most pleasurable, Miller Times available…
… is simply going outside and feeling the universe swirl around you.
Fresh air, the cool breezes of early fall, the coming harvest moon (big as the sky), the leaves changing so fast you can almost see them turn.
Especially now… especially with so many entrepreneurs welding themselves to cyber-space at a desk…
… it’s essential to reconnect with Nature.
In as giddy a manner as possible.
Just my two cents.
What’s your Miller Time consist of?
P.S. One last funny aside: I dove into the world of Twitter with gusto this week. Not obsessed, but having great fun…
… sorta like the first time Mom let me loose in the Fun Zone at the LA County Fair. (Never been a place like that before, nor since. Total art deco sprawl of mazes, haunted houses, vast wheels that spun you in circles half the size of a football field, tight little capsules that swung like hammers at 3 G’s, pulling your cheeks back as they dove… all of it way too dangerous to ever be allowed today…)
I explored the apps of Twitter-land, strolled into little-travelled areas, spelunked in the nether regions of the software (as far as I could go without using code, I suppose).
And today, a new follower told me that, hey, he was happy to see me on Twitter…
… but, dude, I was tweeting too MUCH. “Cool it,” he implored.
Because I had found a new toy that let fresh air into my system. Fun, distracting, with some of the elements of a game. (Trading witicisms and barbs with fellow word-meisters. That’s invigorating, for me.)
And I laughed because I suspected it was time to put the Mac to sleep…
… and go outside for some real air, too. A long hike, paying attention to things. Soaking up being alive for another season.
I’m stressed, no getting around it.
Lots to be stressed about. Unless you’re a zombie, and that’s not a job I’ve ever gone after. (Can’t meet the basic requirements of accepting bullshit.)
So I need all my tools, and I need to able to use them elegantly… and that requires rest, distraction, and rejuvenation.
You on my Twitter follower’s list yet?
“Dude, you’re harshing my mellow…”
Let me know what you think about this, will ya?
It seems, at first, to be a light-weight subject…
… yet, really, it’s one of the foundations of living a good life.
I’m talking about the people you surround yourself with.
But not the way you’re thinking.
This may even jar you a little bit. Here goes:
Early in my career, I realized that grown-up life isn’t all that much different…
… than what goes on during recess in the third grade.
There are outsiders, insiders, cliques, teams, gangs, winners and losers galore.
No matter WHAT grisly experience you had in grade school…
… you’ve got company.
It’s brutal out there.
And then you become an adult…
… and it’s the SAME SHIT all over again. Hierarchies, power-grabbing, humiliation plays, one-up-manship, and clubs you can’t belong to.
The ranks of entrepreneurs I know are filled with “recess survivors” who finally gave the finger to “The System”, and went off on their own.
As amazing as it seems, you really can get on with life without the “gotcha” games and pettiness of “Life With Bullies, Prom Queens, and BMOC’s”.
… that’s not the realization I want to share with you today.
Instead, the second part of that epiphany (that life is just a replay of third grade recess) is this:
Regardless of whether you “won” or “lost” in the social-climbing bullshit you’ve suffered through in your time…
… it can all still be a blast…
… if you have the right people around you.
In other words… it’s not whether you win, or lose.
It’s how much fun and insight to life you get during the adventure.
Let’s use me as an example.
Cuz I don’t mind telling embarrassing stories about myself:
I had a very mixed record of social “success” coming up the ranks… both in school, and in early adult life.
I was okay at sports. Just good enough to make the team and suffer the anxieties and physical/emotional debt of vicious organized games. And just under-powered enough to get cut from every attempt to make varsity. So I got to play… and I got to experience the arrid loneliness of the bench and the exit door.
But I sucked, utterly and without redemption, at most social interaction. Girls scared the bejesus out of me as a kid… flummoxed me as a teen… and toyed with me after that.
I was so unprepared, so confused, and so clueless about dealing with standard issues of dating and being a cool guy and feeling like I belonged… that, if I were a character in a novel, you’d roll your eyes and say “No way could anybody be that much of a loser!”
That was me.
But get this:
I still had a BLAST.
Even when Life dialed up the most humiliating, emotionally-scarring horror possible to a shy, skittish introvert like me…
… I was able to shake it off, and show up the very next day smiling and ready for more.
“That all you got, Fate? That’s your best shot, you miserable s.o.b.? Ha!”
You know how I did it? How I survived, and even thrived while being buried in sticks and stones and the arrows of misfortune?
I’ll tell you:
I had buddies to share it all with.
Not just fellow losers, either.
And this is the essential point here: I had a close-knit group of guys (and a few gals) around me…
… who delighted in being alive.
There’s probably some social-math equation I could come up: Your ability to survive and thrive… is directly proportional to the time that elapses between a horrible event…
… and your ability to laugh about it.
With my friends and me, that time was often instantaneous.
We had a lot of practice.
(And I’m not talking about just dating disasters, or heartbreak, or social blunders. I’m including death, financial misery, and the near-total upheaval of normality. The kind of blows that can rock you to your knees.)
I’m still not yet revealing the essence here.
The take-away of this tale is not “friends are good.”
Because I will attest that there was a very definable, and very rare aspect of these friends that is absolutely essential…
… and even beside the point of being able to laugh about tragedy.
You wanna guess what that aspect is?
This realization came rushing back to me yesterday while I chatted with my best friend from high school. Haven’t seen the dude in two years, but we stay in close touch.
And, mid-way through the call…
… I realized I ached from laughing.
Even though some of the subjects we discussed were illnesses in our families, job woes, relocation horror stories, and other tragedies.
And I was able to put a “quality” on that laughter.
It was bristling with raw energy. The “good” kind of energy.
There really are two kinds of people in the world: Those who bring energy with them to everything they do…
… and the great masses, who suck energy from you like psychic vampires. (That’s a Halbert term, by the way. Privately, we had other names for these types of buzz-killing grim reapers.)
I’ve known a lot of folks in my time. And I’ve unconsciously been putting each and every one through a little test upon meeting them.
The test is simple: Do they provide energy? Or are they leeching it from the air around us?
A party crammed with energy-gobbling vampires is a drag, through and through. Even Vegas can’t salvage a good time.
And yet, just hanging out with a single “mini-solar system” type of person in a drab coffee shop… can be pure bliss.
In business… in life… in games and in every social and quasi-social gathering…
… there is no fun, and little chance for adventure or good stories when the energy level is flat-lined.
And yet… when you are in the company of someone bursting with life-force…
… well, it’s pretty freaking magical.
The most mundane tasks become a joy. (My pal Art and I used to just drive around Cucamonga, with no goal or destination… not cruising, but rather just hanging out, laughing, basking in raw energy and verve and marvelling at the cruel and wonderful adventures Life handed out.)
Life isn’t gonna treat you better when you surround yourself with heat-source types. You’re still gonna take it on the chin, still gonna encounter monsters around every corner.
My mother — after ten months of gruesome chemo — still managed to tell a joke and make me smile… just hours before she passed away.
Believe me — there was nothing funny going on that afternoon.
But I cherish that last “don’t let the bastards get you down” shared moment with her.
If you understand what I’m talking about, you don’t need to know anything else about her to know exactly what kind of special woman she was.
That was over 15 years ago. And the lesson I learned is never far from my thoughts… especially when I’m feeling like Life has it out for me again.
The ride’s too short.
If you’ve got that flame in your soul, don’t let anyone or anything douse it.
We need you in the mix.
We already got enough of the damned vampires hovering…
Anyway, something to consider.
What do you think?
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Just a block off Route 66 in the skitchy heart of the southland…
Quick note here today.
I’m still in my hometown (yeah, I grew up in Cucamonga, what’s it to ya?), visiting my family. Pop still lives in the same house he bought just after WWII, and it’s hard for me not to feel like I’m 15 again when I’m there.
Not that I feel all young and vibrant.
Naw. More like I get back in touch with how freakin’ clueless I was for the first half of my life.
It was a great childhood, a gruesome adolescence, and even now ghosts from my past haunt every corner of the neighborhood. It’s Memory Alley.
Always interesting/spooky/insightful to go back to old stomping grounds. I love my family. And I’m still chewing over how that town shaped who I am today…
Anyway, enough about me.
Here’s something about YOU: Since the last couple of posts here, I’ve been pondering long and hard about what “makes” an entrepreneur.
A lot of people — including me — talk about the value of goals in launching any entrepreneurial venture.
Figuring out what you truly want… setting a plan in motion to attain it… and following through.
There is, however, a difference in “understanding” goal-setting behavior…
… and actually DOING it.
And here is what I propose you do this weekend: Give yourself a nice, brutal Reality Check.
Are you spending enough time figuring out what you really want to do when you grow up?
This is not a trick question — most rookie goal-setters need to refine their skills at this over a frustrating period of time.
The first goals you set are likely to be things you actually don’t want, after all. There is an art to looking deep into your own heart and soul, and coming to grips with what REALLY rocks your boat…
… and what will continue to make nice waves in your future.
It’s never enough to want to be “rich”. You must spend time thinking about what “rich” means to you. Not to your buddies, or your colleagues, or anyone else.
And, if you decide you want to be filthy rich… well, you’ve got to do more than just set a goal. You gotta work out your plan to get there.
With lots of little goals along the path.
If you’ve yet to make Dime One online, for example, then a goal of becoming a billionaire online isn’t a goal… it’s a dream. You’ve got to earn your first buck. Then your second. Then start automatic pipelines, and go on from there.
Your first goal may be to weed through all the info available out there… find the resources you feel you can trust… and dig in.
Those subsequent “dig in” steps — the actual goal-by-goal step-ladder that will take you toward your desired destination — cannot be glossed over.
And, there are consequences to consider. You may not yet know what awaits you as a cash-generating genius. But you sure can start to examine how your life changes as you go.
I’ve written multiple blogs about how every detail of your life can morph in strange ways when the money starts coming in. Ken Calhoun, in the last comments section, tells a great story of how friends and family wrestle (often unsuccessfully) with your rise in status, liquidity, and self-confidence.
It’s not always pretty.
The more you “arm” yourself with insight like this, the less surprised you’ll be when you hit each milestone in your quest for a better life.
You’ll be… uh, what’s the word… prepared.
Goals are great. They saved my life.
But I’ve known too many people who ONLY set goals. They never go after them.
Movement is key.
And you’ll feel better about moving toward your goals, if you spend some serious time thinking about them.
Play with them. Mold them. Constantly put them through your “What if?” grinder. (What if you can’t do it with your first idea? Will you try again? Try something else? What?)
The “secret ingredient” of great goal setting… is to cogitate obsessively on the consequences of actually meeting your goals, once you set them. This not only helps you blow through failure… but also creates a “vision” of yourself that keeps your motivation hot.
This requires “forward thinking”… which doesn’t come with the default equipment you’re born with.
You gotta exercise it.
Without goals, you’re just being taken for a ride by Fate.
Goals do not guarantee anything… except, once you take steps to attain them, you will move SOMEWHERE new in life.
And you’ll be doing as much of the driving as possible.
Fate will still screw with you. But you’re no longer helpless.
At first, even five minutes of focused “forward thinking” will make you sweat and want to go do something else.
Get over it. Stick with it.
Soon, you’ll be an ace at peering into the fog down the line, and you’ll be able to exert more control over events than you ever dreamed possible in your pre-goal-setting days.
This weekend, get your five minutes in. Move through the sweat and avoidance.
Jump-start something new.
Let me know how you do.
P.S. I just checked with my office… and as I get ready to go to the airport to come home, one of the 5 seats is still open for the Chicago Hot Seat one-day event this September 25.
To get the details, go to www.carlton-workshop.com.
C’mon, people — this is one of those rare opportunities to get face-time with me and Stan. It just may be the virtual ass-kicking you need to get moving…
Monday, 10:09 pm
“Living well is the best revenge.” George Herbert (1593-1633)
Time to reveal the answer to last week’s burning question: “What do you think is the single most powerful motivation driving many entrepreneurs to outrageous success?”
… allow me to humbly praise everyone who took a shot at the answer.
At last count, there were over sixty responses.
Some were great… some were wild-ass stabs that missed by a mile… and some were just plain weird.
Again: There is no real “wrong” answer. If you had a driving motivation — or anything else goosing you in the right direction — vastly different than what I’m about to reveal…
… then great. It proves the adage that there are many ways to skin a cat.
… during my decades in the front-line trenches of the marketing world…
… I haven’t seen a great variety in the methods used to really make it big.
Mind you, I hear all kinds of interesting ideas about how it’s done… from good-hearted folks who haven’t done it yet.
They really, really, really want their worldview to be true, too.
They want success to happen because you’re a good person, with a mission to accomplish.
Sadly, this isn’t the way things often work.
The most dangerous time of any entrepreneur’s career…
… is in the very first months. When the pressure is on, the risks are great, and there isn’t much of a cheerleading section rooting you on.
During the early stages, it’s super-easy to stop and quit. No one will blame you. Nice try, dude — you did your best.
Now, welcome back to Slacker City. And let’s forget all about those nasty dreams of independence and wealth…
No. You need a particularly potent brew of juice in your system to power through the unrelenting obstacles sent by the universe to crush all rookie business owners.
There were some GREAT answers in the comments. Don’t get me wrong.
But most of them were about how you continue your success, AFTER you’ve attained it. And how you enjoy and enlarge on the opportunities offered by a proven entrepreneurial adventure.
Once you break free of the initial onslaught of trouble, horror and monstrous soul-killing problems…
… and you get some real traction…
… then you can shake yourself like a dog emerging from the swamp…
… breathe deep and fill your lungs with the rarified air of freedom and wealth and fame…
… and start focusing on your next subset of goals. Like saving the world, or helping others do what you did, or creating new opportunity for your brethern still slaving under the lash of The Man.
However, you gotta GET out of that swamp, first.
The independence attracted me, and was a factor in deciding to say “Screw it, I’m gonna give it a try.”
But I didn’t believe I could actually have true independence… until it became a reality. I had to pinch myself, constantly, when it looked like I was gonna pull it off. I knew it could be taken away again, without notice.
What fired me up every morning, especially when things backslid and looked bleak…
… was a very passionate juice coursing through my veins.
DaveC was close, with his post in the comments.
But GregJ nailed it early. He wrote “Someone told them they couldn’t do it or it won’t work and it pissed them off.”
I don’t know if Greg knew this from experience, or was guessing, or had been reading my stuff for awhile and remembered me broaching this very subject before.
All the positive answers were good. I mean that. I’m a positive guy, and all my goals are positive. I have no enemies that I know of, either in life or in business. I wish harm to no one.
… in the fevered early days of my race to independence…
… with risks and dangers everywhere (I had zero savings, no safety net, no Plan B)…
… I needed STRONG mojo.
I needed… (blare of trumpets)…
Let me tell you — there’s a LOT of strength and fortitude to be harnessed for your cojones in being royally pissed off.
For me, it was the first copywriter I ever met. Eileen. I remember every detail of her vividly… and I think of her often.
Especially when cashing big checks.
All long-time readers know this story. I was a lowly, starving paste-up artist in a Silicon Valley art department… and I’d never realized that someone was getting paid to write all those words I was aligning on my camera-ready art boards.
The lifestyle fascinated me. To be able to rake in fat bucks just… writing? Are you kidding me?
So I asked Eileen how you get to be a copywriter.
“It’s too hard,” she hissed. “You’ll never figure it out.”
This was not a nice woman.
A hot ember burst into full flame deep inside of me at that very moment. You’re telling me… no? You’re judging me? You’re withholding information because you feel freaking superior to me?
I was almost thirty at the time. And I’d never felt that kind of passion before. In fact, I thought internal heat that intense only happened in the sack, from the ancient biological urge to merge.
This was new.
It was a startling emotional response. It energized me in a strange, new way. Like Spidey being bitten by the radioactive spider.
And I stole her copy of “Tested Advertising Methods” (by John Caples)… and read enough before she stole it back to realize I COULD become a copywriter.
Whether I WOULD or not was yet to be determined.
I had nothing but a glimpse of what “might be”.
Now, I was strangely contenet with being a slacker at that time. No ambition. No dreams. No plans.
Just bouncing on the surface of life like so much jetsom and flotsam.
And I’ll testify right here and now: I might have continued to slack off…
… if Eileen (that gorgeous bitch) hadn’t off-handedly challenged my self-worth.
The casualness of her put-down was extra fuel for the fire.
The heat roiling inside me was tinged with humiliation, and the realization that — wow — she might be right.
And I’d never know… unless I got my act together and went after it.
It took another two years for me to cobble together a thin “bag of tricks”, and hone my skills to a point where I felt — okay — I’m diving in.
I never said “I’ll show you.” I never spoke to Eileen or saw her again.
Didn’t need to.
It’s easy to argue with people about your “worth” and your plans.
But it’s empty yapping.
The big revelation I had that day… was I needed to get my ass in gear.
Not with words.
Again: Money didn’t motivate me. Never has. (I’ve turned down more money in my career — by refusing to take jobs that didn’t interest me, or by protecting my outrageous need for massive quantities of free time — than I’ve actually earned.)
The concept of participating in business, and yet being independent intrigued me… but I had no personal experience to help me visualize what, exactly, independence would feel like.
It wasn’t enough of a driving force to help me get up after being knocked down… and get immediately back in the game.
For me… and for many others I know… it’s a sort of “snapping point”.
One second before, you were your old, slacker self.
And one second after the spark… you’re someone else.
Juiced with a fever that won’t be doused until you prove your detractors wrong.
Remember — I never saw Eileen again. My passionate drive was internalized.
I don’t care if she knows what happened to me or not. I don’t care.
Heck — I’d hug her, if I ever met her again.
Look — I can’t tattle on my colleagues. You’ll have to take my word that I know about many of their deep, dark motivations.
I can tell you my old pal Gary Halbert had his “snapping” moment. His family took great pleasure in every failure he encountered in his attempts to break the code on creating wealth.
He failed a LOT, too.
It got him down. But it never finished him off.
Because he enjoyed the broiling motivation that can only come from being told “you can’t do it.”
Not everyone reacts this way.
Most slump, when faced with failure or challenges to their dreams, and shuffle off in defeat.
There’s no shame in that. The life of an entrepreneur is often mean and brutish and short… and it’s not for everyone.
However, for some… there very much IS shame in letting others define you.
And it burns hot.
It’s great to want to help others, and make the world a better place. But you gotta get to a point where you have the power and money to DO that, before you realize those dreams.
Bill Gates, I’m willing to bet, wasn’t giving billions to needy causes before he had multiple more billions in his pocket. Starting out, he probably gave a bit to charity, and mostly as a tax deduction. (Not doubting Bill’s generosity, nor his committment to help out. Just saying he couldn’t DO it until he became successful.)
And the US swim team may or may not have beaten France in the relay during the Olympics without the extra juice of France’s insult beforehand.
But the US team had that quote from the French team captain (“We came here to smash the Americans”) on their lockers. They weren’t expected to win.
Tell me I can’t do something.
I dare you.
Love to hear your further comments and ruminating on this subject…
P.S. In case you haven’t heard…
… my biz partner Stan and I are going to Chicago later this month…
… and we’ve decided to go a day early, so we can offer a one-time, one-day Hot Seat super-intensive workshop.
A Hot Seat is where we corner you, and dive deeply into every problem you have in business. And fix them.
It’s a transformative process, and for a horde of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and online marketers… a customized Hot Seat with me was the trigger for putting their success on overdrive.
Details: September 25, all day long, in downtown Chicago. We’ll give you the hotel info when you sign up… IF you score a seat.
There’s only room for 5 attendees. Hot Seats are incredibly intense and thorough, and we cannot do more than 5 in a day. So that’s the limit.
We’ve already emailed our list about this. When we held a one-day Hot Seat event in New York city in July, it sold out like that.
So if this is something you even think might appeal to you… go to this link for more details: