“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?
Black Rock Desert, Nevada
“And when the morning of the warning came, the gassed and flaccid kids were strung across the stars…” Along Comes Mary (The Association)
Tonight, I have a strange question to ask you.
I’ve just experienced a fairly fabulous week, from all angles. I’m juiced with positive energy, feeling good, and bubbling with hope.
… I am also oddly compelled to ask: “What are you afraid of?”
Your thoughts are welcome. And needed.
Here’s my side of the story: I attended two events this week that couldn’t be more different…
… and yet shared so much of the same voodoo that fuels livnig a good life.
First, I drove out to one of Napa’s oldest and most exclusive golf resorts (The Silverado, deep in the lushest part of California’s wine country) to meet with a star-studded group of speakers and authors for a big damn 3-day brainstorm session.
This event is the brainchild of my old pals Stephen Pierce and Chet Holmes and Larry Benet.
In attendance were marketing lumaries Ron LeGrand, Alex Mandosian, Russell Brunson, Brad Smart, Scott Hallman, Joel Comm, JT Snow, and too many others to count.
Plus a few dudes who’d hit the billion-dollar mark in earnings.
It was a super-exclusive group. By invitation only.
The meeting place was about as hoity-toity as you can imagine, with hordes of staff scurrying about and an air of old-world colonial spendor hovering over everything. Though tastefully so.
Parking lot crammed with Lexus’s and Caddies and Porshes.
Cocktails are twelve bucks in the bar.
It was a great place to hang out with the cream of Web marketing for a few days. Safe, nurturing, comfortable.
… I rushed home, unpacked the collared shirts and nice shoes, re-packed with dingy hiking gear…
… and headed out to Burning Man.
I’m not even going to attempt to explain Burning Man in detail. Words fail the effort. Go to www.burningman.com for some history.
… a bunch of artists, neo-hippies and funsters from the coasts hold an in credible outdoor party and art-fest every year on the Playa in the middle of The Black Rock desert in Nevada.
It’s an actual functioning city of 40,000 people from all over the world. Tents, RVs, hammocks, you name it, you’ll see it. (And the port-a-potties are actually clean… not counting the thin coating of Playa dirt) (which you will never get completely out of your clothes.)
For 51 weeks of the year, the Playa is a flat, nearly lifeless plain of dirt. (Looks kinda like the Salt Flats in Utah, where all the land speed records are broken.)
Then, for one amazing week every August, it’s a beehive of action, art and partying.
When the party breaks up, everyone decamps, leaving ZERO trace of human activity. Every scrap of paper, every drop of gray water, every day-glo pasty is hauled out…
… leaving the Playa once again lifeless and naturally gorgeous.
No trace. That’s the rule.
It’s a pretty stunning event. They’re on year 22, I believe.
It’s exclusive, in that you gotta buy into the ideology to survive (and afford the $300 tickets).
Once you become a citizen, no money can buy you anything within the well-laid out streets of Black Rock City — you must trade art, water or something else of immediate value to conduct any business.
The art is often massive, built with industrial savvy (so it moves), and sometimes hydraulic power. (A mechanical hand the size of a Volkswagon moved eerily like a real human hand… and yet could actually crush stuff like a Volkswagon. Which they actually crushed again and again during shows. Impressive. And arty.)
Much of the art burns, or entails fire.
At night, 40,000 people are grooving to ear-shattering techno-pop and dance music, while huge installations burst into flame.
Lots of Mad Max-style costumes, mixed with total nudity. Think “Thunderdome meets Satyricon”.
Okay, I tried to explain it a little bit. Sorry.
But I want you to have these two distinct images in mind: The clean wealth and influence of Napa’s Silverado resort… coupled with the filthy fun of Burning Man’s impromptu Black Rock City.
Got that image?
Here’s my point: Underneath the shallow first glance…
… they are almost identical events.
Here’s how: They both thrive on…
… Freedom From Fear.
See, all the energy of our civilization comes from the edges. I’m not dissing the center… but the great mass of sonambulent middle class folks aren’t really a driving force for action.
No, the heat comes from the extremes. The top business owners and especially the entrepreneurs who take risks and push envelopes keep the financial side humming.
And — just as important, if you truly care about the quality of life — the top artists and especially the semi-deranged free thinkers who take risks and push envelopes keep the fun side humming.
Both sets do their thang by crawling outside the “box” of repression society tries to foist on us all… and creating something new from, essentially, thin air.
And before anyone gets all huffy about responsibility and values and all that hokum…
… you should reflect on the fact that Burning Man attracts lots and lots of Republicans (elected officials, no less) from all over the country… and the Silverado will not deny entry to anyone based on ideology. (Heck, I got in.)
Both sets have dress codes, once you step back and look at things dispassionately.
Both have strict behavior requirements. (Burning Man has an “alternative” list of acceptable behavior, but it’s very unforgiving if you violate it.)
Both, basically, are refuges for people who just need to get the fuck away from the straight-jacket of “normal” life.
And freak out in a way that appeals to you.
(Yes, on the Meta level… playing lots and lots of golf while guzzling top shelf booze is just as much an orgy… as dancing naked around a Playa bonfire buzzed on pharmeceuticals is…)
It’s all about finding a safety zone, where there is a palpable absence of fear.
Both Black Rock City and the Silverado are situated out in the middle of nowhere. Far from easy to get to.
Both have long approach driveways — several blocks for the Silverado, on a private road… and 8 freakin’ miles of arid desert for BR City.
Both are staffed with an army of folks dedicated to making your stay happy.
You can relax. Be yourself.
And let go of the bullshit that cranks up your blood pressure in the world outside.
You’re among, if not exactly friends, at least like-minded people who share your idea of a good time.
It’s pretty amazing that to get this kind of freedom, you have to go to such extremes.
Because what everyone is afraid of…
… is opportunistic crime…
… The Man.
Anyone who gets deeply involved with life has a libertarian streak, or should. Or quickly develops one.
You just want to be left alone. You don’t want sociopaths preying on you, and you don’t want cops sniffing around just because they can.
At the Silverado, you’re on private grounds… so you’re not gonna get a DUI or get rousted for public drunkeness.
I found it very interesting that Burning Man is held in the middle of the desert, in the hottest week of the hottest month of the year, far, far away from any semblance of a “normal” town…
… and yet every law enforcement branch that CAN hover and cruise the party…
There are BLM rangers, Pershing County sheriffs, FBI and Nevada Highway Patrol officers all over the joint.
It’s like they’re just TERRIFIED that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.
Authorities — meaning uptight politicians looking toward re-election — have tried to close down Burning Man throughout the two-decade history of the event.
Despite the money that floods into Nevada from the international crowd. Despite the way the desert is not harmed. Despite the very obvious fact that 40,000 people (again, including every strata of society — old to young, socialist to capitalist, pagan to papist, straight to not-so-straight) very much WANT to be left alone to their single week of controlled debuachery and artsy engorgement.
I saw more people at the Silverado too drunk to stand up, than I did at Burning Man the day I spent there.
And I’ll bet the actual amount of drugs were about equal, per capita. If, that is, you count prescription pharmaceuticals with Mother Nature’s alternatives.
(Just to cut any rumors off at the knees here… I was at Burning Man as an observer only, not as a participant. I was there as a guest of the City of Reno arts and culture manager, to check out some of the artsy installations the city might want to purchase.)
Not that there’s anything wrong with choosing your own poison for Miller Time.
But that’s where the two worlds collide nicely.
What the HELL is The Man afraid of?
So WHAT if people wanna get naked and burn shit up during a week of weirdness in the desert?
Fear drives us in so many ways.
Fascist-leaning societies want lots of fear cooking in people’s system. Makes control a lot easier.
And certain kinds of power corrupts, by making someone with a badge “more equal” than you… simply because he has the badge. The symbol of nasty, humorless power that WILL be obeyed.
The Man has come to an uneasy truce with the Burning Man participants. Nudity is overlooked. Displays of weirdness are ignored.
And yet, I heard cops were busting Burners for “driving” while under the influence… even though they were driving golf carts reconfigured (with some creative welding) into giant lizards or Mickey Mouse heads. And, of course, not hurting anyone.
The irony is inescapable.
And I ask again: What are you afraid of?
The entrepreneurs and artists I know — and I know vast mobs of each — all share a similar love of freedom…
… and an overriding lack of fear.
Heck — we even taunt Fate with our outrageous plans and way-out ideas.
Most of society asks “Why do you need to challenge the system?”
And we answer “Because it fucking NEEDS challenging.”
Maybe now, more than ever.
Long live Burning Man.
Love to hear what you think in the comments section below.
P.S. Sometimes — in fits of hopeful dreams — I try to imagine a world where The Man just lets go of being so uptight all the time.
Look — I’m all for a level of authority. I’m a home owner. I’m a business owner. I pay taxes, I vote, I get involved with the community.
And I think there is a place for regulation and laws restricting actions that harsh my mellow. (This is why no existing US political party will have me — not even the Libertarians.)
But the greatest assets of our country — whether people realize it or not (clueless zombies) — are freedom of speech and the right to be left alone.
Not bullshit freedom of speech. The real thing. We’re losing it.
And we’ve already lost so much privacy to prying government eyes, it may take a generation or two to re-establish it.
Yes, it’s a dangerous world.
It’s also a beautiful world… and beauty shrivels under the boot of a self-righteous majority.
Something to consider, if you’re ever tired of walking around zombified.
P.P.S. And, on a purely capitalist finishing note…
… I want to congratulate all the folks who grabbed a spot for the upcoming Simple Writing System at-home mentoring course.
If you missed out — cuz the door slammed shut on Wednesday, when all the slots were gobbled up — you should know there’s a waiting list.
Just hop over to www.simplewritingsystem.com, and scroll down to the P.S. on the first page.
You’ll see how to get on the waiting list.
This is gonna be a blast…
“Quivers down my kneebone… I got the shakes in my thighbone…” Guess Who (“Shakin’ All Over”)
Have you ever been so freakin’ nervous you almost lost control of bodily functions?
Two things made me suddenly think about this unseemly subject.
First Thing: We have an Afghan hound in the house with a bark that rattles windows four blocks away… and he has come thisclose to eating the mailman, the Fed Ex guy, three neighbors, and a flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses who dared knock on the door.
And that’s just over the past month or so.
But here’s the kicker: He will break down into a sobbing lump of useless self-pity if Michele or I so much as look at him cross-eyed.
His bark is a mask for the social vulnerability he suffers.
He doesn’t really want to rip out your throat.
Deep inside, he’s just a confused, awkward puppy, trapped in an adult dog’s body. Scared shitless of the world. (Literally shitless, whenever fireworks or lightning are nearby.) (Yeah, it’s a mess.)
Second Thing: I was recently advising someone about “getting his ass out in the marketplace as an expert”… and the guy actually started shaking.
Just the thought of stepping onto the metaphorical stage of life, and performing… sent this poor guy into a stuttering implosion.
He not only had no “bark”… he had no cojones, either.
This got me thinking about my own journey from stuttering fear-meister to swaggering bluster-bomb.
It’s relevant… because, in business, my line is: If you truly have a great product that your prospect should own… then shame on you if you don’t step forward confidently and BE that guy he needs you to be… so he can feel good about buying.
You can’t sell from your heels, people.
(I love to trot out the old quote by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones: “It’s not that I’m all that great of a guitar player, you know. It’s just that I can step out in front of ten thousand people and DO it.”)
(Talent comes in WAY behind cojones when it comes to carving out your niche.)
Anyway, back to me…
I am not an extrovert by any stretch.
In fact, I chart pretty heavily toward “total thumb-sucking, light-avoiding, cave-dwelling introvert” in basic personality tests.
You can tell an introvert from an extrovert pretty easily: When the extro is around people, like at a party, he gets energized. The introvert finds it a chore, and leaves the event drained.
It’s all about energy transference.
Now, I was lucky to grow up with a sizeable contingent of good friends — who I went all the way from kindergarten through high school with — which saved me from having to “make” new friends until I hustled off to college.
And, in college, for whatever reason, I was immediately taken in by a group of goofballs who somehow saw my potential for furthering their goofball yearnings.
However, it took me a long time to get to “know” most of these people.
Seriously. It was decades before I finally felt comfortable around most of them.
Nearly all of the people I’m close to, I’ve been close to for half my life. (I’ve known my business partner, Stan, for 25 years, and our contract writer, Mark, since we were nineteen.)
I tell you this to illustrate how ill-equiped I was to become a guru.
I stuttered as a kid… and frequently found myself getting stuck on words as an adult whenever I encountered uncomfortable situations.
Meaning, any new situation where people I didn’t know were looking at me.
In grade school — back when I was convinced that everybody else knew things they weren’t sharing with me (and that’s why life seemed like such a mystery) — I even burst into tears in class math competitions. (One little girl — Peggy The Bitch, I call her — repeatedly tripped me up with the question “What’s 5 times 0?” I nearly always said “5!” before realizing my blunder and being told to sit down while the rest of the class continued the competition.)
(Ah, childhood humiliation. What a concept.)
As a teen, a good (longtime) friend convinced me to learn guitar so we could start playing in bands. He wanted the excitement and recognition of being on stage. I just got a thrill from playing music.
So he fronted the many bands we formed, happily, from center-stage… and I happily lurked near the far edge, out of the limelight, content to concentrate on the tunes.
I was kinda like Garth, from Wayne’s World. Thrust into the action on the coattails of a raging extrovert.
Freelancing was a natural for me. It required long, lonely hours inside your head… and you were excused from looking like the regular “suits” in the agencies because, as a writer, the more outrageous you appeared, the more they believed you must possess the “goods”.
Halbert, of course, was THE uber-extrovert. He publicly listed his main hobby as “finding new methods of self-aggrandizement”.
I stayed behind the scenes as much as possible. My main job, in fact, during seminars was to handle everything but the actual delivery of the action onstage.
It was Halbert’s show, and I liked it that way.
I had defined myself as an introvert, and never considered it could be any other way.
I even had a “defining moment” — back in college, when I was introduced to my first “real” girlfriend’s beloved sister, I started laughing uncontrollably. Not because anything was funny… but because my body betrayed me, and just went off in an inappropriate spasm.
I was humiliated, because after lamely stuttering about why I had burst out with guffaws (I could come with nothing good to explain myself), the awkwardness just got deeper and deeper. My girlfriend forgave me (and even sorta found it endearing — I was her “bad boy” artistic-type boyfriend, so weirdness was expected).
But her sister forever thought I was an A-Number One Doofus Jerk-Off.
Rightly so, I might add.
Around uncomfortable situations, I was that guy.
After, oh, around thirty gazillion private consultations and Hot Seats and meetings with clients once I became a sought-after pro… all of whom initially tried to “alpha male” me into submission, because they wanted the writer (me) to be their slave…
… I started to think that maybe I had unwisely “defined” myself.
As anyone who has gotten freelance advice from me knows, I quickly learned to walk into a new client’s life and OWN the bastard. I knew that I held all the cards — he needed copy, couldn’t produce it himself to save his life, and thus was in zero position to be dictating terms to me.
I ain’t shy, professionally.
Now, my technique may or may not help others. (I developed a “stage personality” for these consultations I called Dr. Smooth… and let this “alternative John” take over.)
(And damn, but that Doctor was good at taking control and bullying clients.)
It’s a standard tactic, adapted from acting. No big deal, nothing revelatory about it.
What it did for me was immediately obliterate that old “defining moment” that I had regarded as my “fate”.
I wasn’t really a socially-retarded loser.
I just played one in life.
Cuz I thought I’d been… assigned… the role.
If you’ve ever seen me speak at seminars, you know I’m no wallflower these days. I’m totally comfy in front of any size crowd, because the “mystery” of what’s going on has been solved in my mind.
It’s not about me.
It’s about the content of what I share.
(Plus, of course, I know so much about the people in the audience nowadays… from all those decades of delving into the psychology of salesmanship… that I don’t even need to imagine anyone naked to be calm.)
(It’s just us folks in the room. Good people looking for good info, plus maybe a little entertainment along the way. And a speaker line-up of “just-plain-dudes” having fun in the limelight.)
My point: You can do what you need to do.
If your market is crying out for someone to stand up and be the go-to-guy… you really can do it.
Like Keith Richards, you can get your chops honed to a degree that gives you enough confidence to be “onstage” (however you define the stage — it can be your website, an actual stage, or infomercials or any other media)… where you will deliver what the folks paid to see.
There are vast armies of “experts” out there (especially online) with no more real skill or insight or knowledge than you have.
Often, they have less.
What they DO have, that so many others refuse to cultivate, are the cojones to step up and BE that guy the audience needs you to be.
I can tell you this with absolute certainty (because I personally know it’s true): Most of the top guru’s in the entrepreneurial world — especially online — are former dweebs, stutterers, social outcasts and semi-dangerous nutcases.
They are, essentially, gawky and lonely and scared little kids trapped inside an adult’s body.
What they have done, however…
… is to re-define WHO they are when it counts.
Everyone, at some time or another, feels the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over their head. Life is tough, business tougher. Hamlet’s slings and arrows constantly rain on everyone’s parade, and NO ONE gets a pass.
… the winners define themselves.
I’m still an introvert. I still have my awkward social moments. I still occasionally stutter.
But those things do not define me.
Long ago, I threw away the role “assigned” to me… and just created my own new one. Which allows me to do whatever needs doing to further my goals… including climbing up on stage alone and engaging a thousand people as a ringleader.
Life sucks when you’re crawling around under the weight of unnecessary self-loathing, self-pity and self-expectations you can never meet.
Life rocks when you re-cut the jigsaw of your personality, and make something new according to who YOU want to be.
Just food for thought.
Love to hear your experiences with self-defining moments.
It’s heartening to hear so many commenters in past blogs finally come to grips with internal battles they’ve sometimes struggled with for years.
Hey — it’s fun when this stuff starts working.
P.S. We are very close to finishing up a new venture here that — if you crave rollicking adventure in your business life — will absolutely light up many people’s worlds.
It’s a limited opportunity… but the folks who truly know, in your heart, that one of the spots was meant for you… will instantly understand what has to happen to get involved.
Just a few more days…
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry
Did luck have anything to do with how you got where you are today?
Do you consider yourself generally lucky, either in life or circumstance? Or cards, maybe?
I run into the concept of “luck” a lot in business. And since I’ve had such a stormy relationship with luck throughout my life, I perk up whenever I hear anyone talk about it.
I’ll come clean right off the top, though, before going further: I consider “luck” (at least the way people I grew up around think about it) as a form of superstition.
Which almost consumed me in my youth. The idea that unrelated things could influence the outcome of certain events, once it takes hold in your head, can dominate your life. Being in sports didn’t help.
Here’s my example (love to hear yours, too): I played hardball until I was 17, and while I couldn’t hit worth a damn — no peripheral vision — I was considered agile enough with the glove to start at shortshop with my Colt League team.
I still have nightmares about the anxiety. At that level of ball, the left side of the infield handles most of the action… and it’s brutal. (Some of those guys were only a few more years away from pro ball.)
I always considered third basemen as fortunate bastards — you’re so close to the batter, you have no time to think when a shot comes your way. You’re totally into reactive mode. Every play is bam-bam.
Fifteen feet farther back, at short, you’ve get enough time even with a hot grounder for your fevered brain to go through a dozen different ways you could screw this play up before the ball reaches you. The anxiety ate me up. (If I hadn’t gotten a handle on that nervousness, I surely would be crippled with ulcers today.)
Every pitch presented a new opportunity for physical pain (ever had a baseball going 4,000 mph take a wicked hop and careen into your face, groin, or neck?), and the humiliation of letting down your team with an error. The irony is, I had a good fielding percentage… yet, I felt no elation at making a play. That was my job, to make the play. No glory in just doing your job out there.
No glory. But an avalanche of shame and self-loathing if you didn’t perform absolutley perfectly.
Yeah, I was kinda hard on myself. I should have quit, and devoted myself to the band. (For whatever reason, I had zero fear of mounting a stage to play music. No anxiety, and no sense that I had to be perfect, either. It was fun.)
Anyway… isolated out there at short, with vast stretches of infield dirt in every direction, I somehow got the idea that if I smashed all the dirt clods around me before each pitch, I would be protected from errors.
I have no clue how that thought got into my head. The pitchers refused to step on the baseline going in and coming out each inning, and you weren’t supposed to talk to them while they had a no-no going… and other guys had their lucky socks (phew!) and their must-do routines to avoid jinxes… but I have never come across another jock who thought of dirt clods as holding any power over outcomes.
Once the thought took hold, though, it obsessed me. At first, I just had to stomp the clods next to me. But by mid-season, I would spot a clump six feet away, and NEED to scurry over there as the pitcher wound up, crush it, and get back into position before the ball reached the plate. I must have looked like a bugged-out meth addict out there, desperately looking for things to stomp, and dancing left and right when I should have been settling in and getting ready for action.
Finally, the coach grabbed me by the scruff between innings and asked me what the HELL I was doing out there, huh? Was I channeling Fred Astaire, maybe? Or Ginger Rogers?
So I gave it up. The little dirt clods would mock me, and the anxiety ran hot through my gut… but I quit. The horror of riding the bench trumped my fear of fate.
Here’s the Final Jeopardy question, of course: Did not killing the dirt clods affect the outcome of my play at shortshop, once I altered my behavior?
The answer is no, it did not.
However, in the grip of superstitious thinking, empirical evidence like that cannot make a dent. I did not come away from that forced experiment with any new sense of freedom.
Most of the people I knew back then “believed” in superstitions, sometimes to ridiculous extents. So I wasn’t gonna get any sensible advice from them about dealing with my own need to “protect” myself from bad things using unrelated behavior rituals, lucky charms, and magical thinking.
THey were, in fact, all for rituals, charms, and magic.
This paranoia went on for years… and then, one day, I just snapped.
It was soon after I’d discovered the power of setting goals. In a way, setting a goal, and going after it, is the opposite of superstition.
Instead of being at the mercy of “fate”, or mysterious forces that cause things to either go well or go badly for you…
… with goal setting, YOU are in control.
It’s like two opposing models of looking at the world.
When you feel mostly out of control… and you’re not being proactive about regaining control… it’s easy to believe that events are entirely out of your hands. You need luck.
On the other hand… when you’ve done your homework, and visualized outcomes, and put everything you possibly can in your favor… you exert actual control over how things will turn out.
When you’re prepared, you may welcome a lucky break here or there.
But you don’t NEED it. You will succeed or fail from your own exertions.
Anyway, one of my early and most fundamental goals was to become “comfortable in my own skin”. I sensed that most anxiety and low self-esteem came from not taking control.
And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that superstition sucked.
It was a negative force. It came from weakness, and fear, and a refusal to face life square on. (I was studying Carl Jung at that time, too… and one thing he said about nightmares leaped out at me: “When you are chased by a monster, stop and confront it. You will see that the monster’s strength comes from your fear. He has no power when you face him down.” That hit me hard — I’d spent most of my life believing I had to run faster in my nightmares.) (I don’t have nightmares much anymore, and while I miss the adventure, I don’t miss the anxiety.)
So I made a simple vow: No more superstition.
No matter how much I felt I “needed” to obey the demands of the superstitious monsters deep inside… and no matter how much they threatened me with horror and humiliation and pain if I refused their burnt offerings… I just stopped engaging.
And years of pent-up fear fell away, instantly. I was no longer a prisoner to irrationality.
Even better… I started keeping track of results.
And guess what?
Things are going to happen, or not happen, or happen in odd ways, regardless of any superstitious thinking involved.
The ONLY thing that affects the outcome… is preparation. Being aware, awake, and alert to the odds. Hip and ready to rumble.
And, especially, hyper-alert to opportunity.
Hey — for all I know, “luck” actually exists. I know I’ve been a pretty lucky guy for most of my life… starting with having the good sense to be born to good parents in a good generation, in a good little town in a good country that offered all kinds of basic freedoms and opportunities.
However… the opportunities in life didn’t “change” around me when I got hip to going after them.
No. What changed was my attitude about opportunity. When you allow notions of luck and superstitious belief to dominate, you have little incentive to grab onto opportunity… because, hey, if I’m in a lucky streak, I can be picky.
But when you have a set of goals to measure any incoming opportunity against, you know exactly what to do. If the opportunity moves you closer to your goal, then you jump on it. If it doesn’t… well, you’re allowed to reconsider your fundamental goals, but when you’re dead set on something specific (like being an entrepreneur) then it’s easy to let even hot opportunities go (like taking another job with The Man, regardless of how attractive the salary is).
I’ve been very lucky with the way things have turned out in my life. And yet, despite the fortunate series of events that allowed me to grow up near the center of the cultural maelstrom on the west coast, soaking up the peak experiences of my generation (I was 13 — the perfect age — when the Beatles hit US shores, and went through college with what became “classic rock” as the soundtrack behind the sexual, social and consciousness revolutions we enjoyed) and somehow staying safe in spite of all the factors sending me toward danger (the draft ended my last year in college — I was set to go, too) (and all those car wrecks… jeez, I should’ve been diced, sliced and minced a dozen times over, and yet never broke a bone) — despite all that cool, fascinating action…
… I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
In fact, I was miserable. I was having a damn good time… but the lack of having a “place” in the world left me feeling like an exile in the culture. I was bereft of any anchor, or purpose, or direction.
It may well have been lucky that a woman I was dating had just been fired from her job with the ad agency, and was reading the Want Ads when I stopped by one afternoon… and she pointed out this “weird” little ad by a guy named Jay Abraham talking about Claude Hopkins or some other such nonsense. Wasn’t that a funny ad? What freelancer in their right mind would answer such a goofy ad?
But it was focused goal-attainment that got me to jump on that opportunity, regardless of whether “luck” put it in my lap or not. (That woman lost all respect for me by going to see Jay, by the way… and Jay at first told me I didn’t have what it took to work with him, which would have crushed me a year earlier… but I suspected he hadn’t actually read my submitted pieces, which was true, and because I also suspected this was a guy on my path to where I wanted to go… I burst into his offices unannounced and nearly got in a fight. We made nice, though, and I ended up working with him for a couple of years — writing for free, in exchange for being able to sit in on meetings and have free run of his offices — which led to that “fateful” party where I was introduced to Gary Halbert, recently out of the clink and raring to go, and so on…)
Luck is for pussies.
Goals are what gets things done.
The point of all this: My youthful obsession with luck and superstition and the idea that I was essentially NOT in control of my life was aiming me in a direction where… at my current age… I would still be uncomfortable in my own skin.
I think about this all the time. Especially as I watch my colleagues and friends and neighbors go about their day. Many still believe that money will buy them happiness. Or a new car will do the trick, or a new spouse, or moving to a new city, or whatever.
I’d have to guess that 90% of the people I know are squirming in their own skin. Not comfy at all.
I never get jealous when I hear about some dude scoring big bucks in a launch, or a new biz venture, or even from an inheritance. I USED to, before I realized what my own main goal in life was.
Now, I have a simple test: Whenever I meet someone new, or meet up with someone who’s the toast of the town… I gauge their inner comfort.
And I wonder: Would I want to spend a single minute inside their skin? BE them for any length of time?
In my earlier days of angst and cluelessness, I quickly assigned massive levels of happiness and contentment to anyone with a better basic set-up than I had. My default position was that everyone else was having a better time than I was.
Now, though, I guess I’ve attained a sort of Zen ease.
I haven’t met anyone who isn’t riven with inner turmoil in a long time.
And I don’t know anyone I’d like to trade places with, even for a short time.
I worked hard to get comfy in this battle-scarred, weathered, grizzled body of mine.
I kinda like it in here, now. A lot.
And luck had nothing to do with me getting to this lovely point.
What do you think about luck, superstition, and envy?
Love to hear your thoughts…
PS: Don’t forget that I’m speaking at Ron LeGrand’s “Info and Internet Marketing Bootcamp” the last weekend of June. In South Carolina.
I consider Ron the most consumate salesman I’ve ever met, period. I have NEVER spent more than a minute with him, either on the phone or in person, without learning several killer Master’s Level lessons in classic salesmanship.
And my guess is, this event may be one of the last times you’ll get to see him live like this. He’s one of those guys who isn’t working because he needs the money — instead, he just loves teaching. Still, I know this is a rare event where he will BE there, speaking and interacting with the audience. We’re talking history here.
If you — like me — value the lessons of masters, you’ll want to check out the opportunity here:
I’m really looking forward to this event. Never been to SC…
“Code Blue! Gimme the paddles…” Dr. House (alot)
You got a favorite TV show?
I was a charter member of the first TV-addicted generation, and I may yet live to see the end of network television as we’ve all known and loved it all these seasons.
The Web’s already killed it for the youngest generations.
Once the last of the Boomers wander off, we’ll take our fond memories of Howdy Doody and The Twilight Zone with us… and no one will much care, being too busy with fourteen incoming Twittering IMs on their ear/eye implants and a fresh scene loading up from the new Grand Theft Auto XXVII they just injected straight into their pituitary gland.
Sometimes I think about that.
Television, easily the most culture-shaping technology advance in the history of mankind… eclipsed before it reached seventy years old… murdered by hotter, more intensely interactive tech. (Okay — I know that television was actually viable in the 1920s, but get real. It wasn’t a cultural phenomenon until the fifties.)
But that’s not what I want to write about tonight.
Instead, something else triggered my interest.
I thought back to the season-ending episode of “House”, which had everyone in the room reaching for tear-soaked tissues (including the cat, who was barely watching).
And, if you’ll give me a minute here, I’m gonna tie that show in with you making money with your ads.
VERY major lesson coming up, so pay attention.
First, though, you gotta put up with some ranting:
/Begin rant: Television, overall, has followed the same arc that — in micro — the show Saturday Night Live has followed: Great for a couple of years… suck for several years… recover, and be great again… then quickly descend into Suckdom once more… and over and over, in a cycle that (someday) historians will probably be able to track down to the second. (“As we can clearly see, class, the show left the rails thirteen minutes into the first episode after Lorne Michaels left in season five… you can almost — chuckle — see it jumping the shark as Louise-Dreyfus sputters in yet another vapid, unfunny scene…”)
Speaking of rants, you’ll get some of my very best when you sign up for 11Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now. You get it for free, right here.
And I believe we’re currently in one of the recurring “up” bumps. Always good when you realize there are actually a couple of shows on that DESERVE to be watched. Not brain-dead watching, but active interest watching.
What do you Tivo?
We religiously record House, 30 Rock, The Office (though I suspect the shark is in mid-air on that one), and Manchester United games on Fox Sports. (Okay, Michele won’t watch soccer with me, and I can’t stomach Brothers And Sisters with her. Trade off.)
I love the medium, but I don’t “need” it.
I grew up watching all the sixties sit-com, sci-fi, drama and kitsch I could cram into an evening (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Addams Family, Outer Limits, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, She-Bang, Soupy Sales, Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Monkees… God, I’m embarrassed to admit all that…).
But I watched, primarialy, because it was there. Mom had the kitchen radio on all day (it’s how I discovered rock and roll), and the boob tube was cranked on when Pop came home, and wasn’t turned off until beddy-bye. (Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Where The Action Is, Your Show of Shows, The Match Game…)
Once I was old enough to beg Pop for the car keys, my evening rituals changed dramatically. I didn’t even own a TV through the seventies. (Never saw a single episode of Mork & Mindy, Mary Tyler Moore, or Three’s Company, thank you very much.) (One of TV’s “down” cycles, I would say.) (Showed up, often drunk, at friends’ houses with toobs for SNL, of course.)
MTV and cable brought me back to the fold, fitfully.
Now, I’m in a groove once again.
Gotta have my “House”, and the occasional Law & Order SVU. (BTW: Why is Rooney not playing for Man U lately? Did he get hurt? Traded? What’s up? He wasn’t in the Moscow grueler…)
Okay, back to the point of all this:
The last episodes (it was a twin-hour ending show) of House were pretty riveting television. I’m ALWAYS impressed with good writing (Boston Legal, CSI: NY, the commentors on the World Series of Poker, Californication)… and I’ve learned to watch both passively (to enjoy the moment)…
… and to go back over what just hooked me, and watch critically.
I like to break down exactly what the writers did to tweak my emotions, my interest, and ESPECIALLY my resistance to being sucked into the story.
That’s right. With every show, I challenge the writing to do its job.
We have an unwritten rule in the house: Any time either of us can start predicting the dialog before the actors speak it… that show is toast.
The shark has done jumped, when the script is so weak you can burble along with the actors in real time.
So here’s the thing…
… this House final episode (WARNING: Spoiler alert!) polished off one of the major characters. That’s not unique in television… but the way the writers did it defied what any viewer would have predicted.
It was as if… the script burned down the house.
Just created all kinds of emotional havoc and brain-tickling mayhem.
It was that riveting, and satisfying.
I can’t wait for next season. Seriously.
I’m pissed I gotta wait.
Consider what the writers did, as you consider how to write compelling, riveting copy yourself.
Sometimes, you gotta burn down the house just to get your prospect’s attention.
Not literally, of course (“you idiot”, House would add).
Most ad copy is like an episode of Three’s Company.
At best, vaguely suggestive, but nothing you’d remember the next day (or even the next hour).
Great copy, on the other hand, is like South Park.
You simply cannot snooze through it.
You gotta be prepared for the reaction, too, if you ever get ballsy with your writing. Not everyone will cheer you on. “He can’t say that, can he?” will be a common response.
“Somebody’s got to do something about that repulsive material.”
“Can’t we shoot them, or deport them, or something?”
I’ve never gone for straight outrage, but neither were my first golf ads greeted with encouragement at the big golf magazines.
They swallowed hard during the first round, took the money, and pretended not to notice how much those 3-page copy-dense beasts fouled up the pretty “look” of their publications.
When my client went back for multiple insertions, it was almost too much to bear.
Fortunately, the publishers were shameless money-grubbing whores, and the ads ran despite the cries of alarm from readers. (But only from readers outside our target market. The guys we were after LOVED those ads.) (Still do.)
We, essentially, burned down the nice golf house, like vandals in a riot.
Something to think about, the next time you absolutely have to get attention for your copy. Don’t you think?
What TV shows do you remember fondly? (I’d watch MTV for hours in the first years, when it was all video, all the time… and I still consider The Larry Sanders Show to be one of the best ever written. Entourage ain’t bad, though it’s occasionally infuriatingly stupid. The Simpsons, yeah. Seinfeld, I guess. What else am I missing here?)
P.S. Do you really want to know how to write ads that “burn down the house?” People are still ripping off my ads from decades ago, and you can find out more about my secrets right here.
“You called me… Bizzaro. Must be my name.” Bizzaro, Superman’s twisted doppleganger (circa 1958)
I think I just created a new word.
Tell me what you think of it.
It came about this weekend while Michele and I were taking her nephew David out for a “grill lunch”. A grill lunch is where you hold someone you care about (but haven’t seen for a long time) captive for a couple of hours while you grill them on every detail of their lives.
When I was growing up, I always resisted such info-mining, and became a petulant, sulking zipped-lipped prisoner, offering nothing. To this day, the worse way to find out how I’ve been or what I’ve been up to is to ask me directly.
Child psych still works pretty well with my type, though. Trick me into spilling the beans, and I’ll give it all up.
I’m easy that way.
Nephew David, however, is of better stock. He handles grill lunches with grace and wit, and he’s a joy to hang out with.
He’s also my main contact in the new generation coming up the ranks. He’ll be a senior next year at a major mid-western university, studying subjects that didn’t exist when I was in academia.
That is, he’ll be a senior if his summer “project” doesn’t haul in a million bucks, which it could. The kid is tech-savvy to a scary degree, both as a creator of sites and ideas, and as a cutting-edge consumer of technology. And now he’s honing his business chops, too.
He’s got entrepreneur’s blood in his veins, and he smells the financial adventures ahead.
However, my guess is that, like his other summer projects, he’ll experience some success, gain amazing experience, have too much fun, and finish out his education like a champ.
Or, as he refers to himself: Like a budding tech snob.
In other words: He’s SO wired into the virtual culture, that he has a sixth sense of what’s coming down the pipe… and waiting a bit longer to launch into the business world might be an advantage during this phase of the blossoming online world.
What I’m taking from talking to him… is a cultural warning: Increasingly, the gap between tech-savvy kids and technophobic geezers threatens to become an unbridgable chasm.
However, it doesn’t necessarly mean the tech snobs will automatically win.
Take, for example, how the ability to be in “constant contact” with your friends has morphed into something weird and icky: A few short years ago, the dude with the cell phone permanently screwed into his ear — so he could chat with both hands free — was either a cultural warrior bravely navigating the far reaches of technology (as he saw himself)… or a shallow chatterbox, devoid of deep thought (as the people around him thought).
This condition (“Phone-Welded-To-Brain-Itis”) is no longer startling to encounter. You see someone walking around in a distracted state, babbling loudly to no one in particular, and you just shrug. He’s not crazy — he’s wired.
Though, sometimes I can’t help myself from leaning over and telling him to say “hello” to Kathy, and that I sure hope she gets those packages out to Fed Ex in time. I mean, I felt such a part of his conversation (it’s called “cell shouting”, with no known cure), it’s like we’re now old buds.
… cell shouting now seems SO innocent, with the arrival of “micro blogging”.
Texting constantly to people wasn’t enough. No.
Now, it’s critical to keep whole populations of other folks hip to exactly what you’re doing at this very second.
I can see where this is going, too — once we combine GPS systems, micro-video, and IM with Twitter into something that can be wired directly to your autonomic nervous system, you can be a walking reality show.
Everyone you know will have instant, unrelenting access to your every thought, action, and movement. Like “The Truman Show”, only more invasive. (“Hey, everybody — my iPhone just alerted me that Susie’s blood pressure spiked twenty points, so she must have arrived at the prom… and… wow… looks like she’s gonna fart…”)
Listen: I live with someone, and I often don’t know where she is in the house, or what she’s doing… and I don’t NEED to know.
A little mystery, folks, is not necesarily a bad thing.
Here’s some insight from a guy who’s walked both sides of the knowledge divide: When I first met Gary Halbert, I was composing ads on a personal computer (early model), playing hip video games, and totally clued-in to the cultural Zeitgeist… while he was still usng a No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, had zero video-game dexterity, and considered MTV as something akin to an alien invasion of UFOs.
I was in the room when he was ridiculed by other writers, in fact, for his retro-style. Younger, hipper, more tech-savvy writers actually shook their heads and pitied the guy.
That was an important moment for me.
Because I knew that the accoutrements of writing — whether pencils and paper, computers and hard drives, or chisel and clay — were irrelevant IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO SAY.
What Halbert possessed was deep experience and knowledge of classic salesmanship… stuff that transcended the physical act of writing. Or talking, for that matter.
For me, it was a major epiphany that still reverberates in my career today.
Technology is fun, and important. And, especially with the arrival of the Internet, you very well may be left behind if you refuse to get hip.
But, dude… it’s still JUST human-to-human communication. No matter how much electronic whiz-bangery occurs between the thought in your skull and the receipt of that thought by another person… the rather crucial issue of IMPORTANCE still matters most.
I often get blank stares from seminar crowds when I bludgeon them with the concept of learning classic salesmanship early in their quest for wealth and fame. I understand how confusing it can be, too. In many of the first marketing seminars we gave (back when we were inventing the model), we would often get some guy who would stand up and announce that he’d just popped for THE most expensive and tricked-out computer in existence… and now he wanted to know how to make money with it.
We’d sigh, collectively. And then patiently explain that, no, it’s not the equipment that brings in the bucks. It’s the brains behind the equipment.
In fact, in most cases the equipment is just a side-show.
I do not remember ever having any of those guys do a double-take as we explained all this, and suddenly say “By Jove, you’re right! I need to learn salesmanship and marketing skills!”
Usually, they stared at us without comprehension. Our answer couldn’t find a toe-hold in their brains.
Back to kids and tech: Nephew David called himself, in a moment of rueful self-actualization, a “tech snob”… because he is SO wired into the technological hinderlands, that he gets bored with “dumb” tech (like software or games or devices diluted for the masses).
When you can write code, you have little patience for people who can’t make their new GPS system work in the car. (We call our GPS “Know It All Betty”, cuz the voice sounds like a Betty, and she DOES pretend to know it all… especially when you miss a turn, and she goes into “scold mode”…)
His aunt Michele, however, sees him as a “Geek Angel”. Because he can explain things in ways she can understand.
To her credit, she first takes the technology she wants to learn to the absolute furtherst reaches of her learning curve… so she’s not bothering him with questions she could find out herself.
When she presents a problem she can’t figure out, she really can’t figure it out… because she’s spent massive hours in dead-ends, and needs help.
A Geek Angel will never be out of a job. He possesses a rare ability to both immerse into the mysterious Tech Culture and thrive… and yet still be able to sit with unfortunate earth-bound tech-illiterates, and reveal some of the magic to make their lives better.
I’ve heard many tech-savvy people complain about the way clueless friends waste their time with incessant demands to “fix” their buggy computers, or detangle the electronic miasma of their TV remotes. (I have 3 remotes for my plasma, sound system and cable, which can all be thrown utterly out of synch when the dog sits on one of them. Don’t you?)
I sympathize. I learned long ago not to tell people I’m a writer. Trust me — soon after revealing your occupation, one of the folks you’ve just enlightened will approach you with a killer offer: “Hey, man. I’ve got a great story to tell. How about you write the screenplay, using my idea, and we’ll split the profits from the movie 50-50?”
I’ve had guys get ugly when I’ve begged off, too. Hey — all I had to do was write up their idea, you know, do that “typing thing” for a few hours. Greedy bastard. How dare you withhold your pathetic little writing tricks from the rest of us?
I’m sure it’s the same when you’re super tech-savvy, among the tech clueless.
And you ARE an angel when you help, though. Consider it a good deed, which will fortify your karma. (But make sure your second help session includes contacting a professional outfit that offers computer help, so your desperate technophobes have an alternative path when their bugged-up laptop crashes the next time, and they can’t find you.) (Or, you don’t want to be found.)
Here’s the new word I invented: “Dinobot.”
It is, of course, a quasi-clever combo of “dinosaur” and “robot”… and I consider it a description of the best place to be in business right now.
Part old-world, part new-world.
It’s important to have a certain level of tech savvy, if you’re gonna do any online marketing. If you’re new to the Web, this transition may be painful… but it’s critical.
The Web is technology made manifest, to get gnarly about it.
It’s a new life form — there is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.
And we need to learn to thrive in BOTH.
Gone are the days when a marketer could proudly proclaim to be ignorant of new tech. (Hey — it wasn’t that long ago when direct mail, print and broadcast media were the ONLY way to go.)
Also gone are the days when simply being hip to the latest and greatest software applications will give you any astounding advantage online. (Again, not too long ago, just having a pop-up squeeze page would so overwhelm a visitor to your site, that he’d give you his email and name out of existential fear.) (Man, those were the days, weren’t they?)
I don’t expect to win over many converts… but I’ve always taught that the best position to be in… is to straddle the worlds of old-time salesmanship and ultra-modern tech.
Thus: Dinobot. A little bit of the stubborn street-wise classic salesman… welded to a shrewd knowledge of what the ‘Net is capable of providing you in terms of traffic, attention-getting tactics, and practical social networking.
Emphasis on the word “practical”.
Look — I have immense respect for my colleagues in the online entrepreneurial world. Some of these guys are pulling down vast fortunes while literally creating the business model for Web marketing that will be around for decades to come.
However, the models they’re creating are all based on concepts that go way back. Essentially, online biz is all about finding a hot market, becoming the “go to guy”, and creating a greased slide sales funnel. Just like offline marketing.
The difference, of course, is in scale, and cost. What would have worked in, say, direct mail… and cost you fifty grand to pull in two hundred grand… can now be re-fitted for the Web, and cost a couple of hundred bucks to bring in the same two hundred thou. Or more.
And instead of months using the postal system… you can use email, and get ‘er done in a few days.
The Web has created an opportunity for anyone to become a filthy-rich capitalist from their kitchen table, using a laptop and a few low-cost online vendors for processing orders and managing data.
I have been one lucky son of a bitch to have a front-row seat for much of this current marketing revolution, too.
I make no claims for exceptionality, other than I have remained open to opportunity my entire career… and I happened to start in the old-world model of direct mail and infomercials, and smoothly segued into the new-world model of online marketing.
And from this cat-bird seat, I can tell you without doubt that the guys raking it in… are all using classic salesmanship, welded to a basic understanding of the current technology. They are NOT geeks. They hire electronic cowboys to wrangle the technological details.
It’s an important realization.
The world is fast moving to a new class system: The top layer will be the guys who know how to USE the technology to their advantage… and they do not need to be masters of the code and electronics.
The second layer will be the geeks who roll up their virtual sleeves and immerse in the Grid to keep the tech alive.
The bottom layer will be a tiered mess of technology consumers. Some will be mostly clueless. Others will be wired to the max, with a satellite connection installed in their brains.
But they’ll still be “just” consumers.
You wanna grab a seat at the top?
Become a dinobot.
Dude, I’m telling ya. It’s the path less trod, but it’s the way to go.
Okay, I’m done.
What do you think?
P.S. Increasingly, the coaching we do in the “Radio Rant Coaching Club” (which is all virtual, by the way) settles into a groove of convincing people to find happiness with a balance of high-tech savvy and classic marketing skills.
It helps to realize, as you clamber aboard the Web, that you need both. You’re able to move ahead quickly, and you’re not surprised by any sudden gap in your knowledge base.
We’re creating a race of dinobots.
Check it out: Go to http://www.carltoncoaching.com and see what’s available.
The world is changing under your feet. Hooking into the right resources for info and tactics and savvy is essential.
Just a suggestion.
P.P.S. Okay, here’s an update (a week later): Enough parents have written in to inform me that Dinobot has already been taken by the Transformers juggernaut.
I’d toyed with other options before choosing dinobot: Geek-o-saurus. Techosaur. Dinology.
You guys got any suggestions?
“You can always tell when he’s lying to you — his mouth is moving.”
Has anyone lied to you today?
Have you loosed a zinger yourself?
Do you have a sophisticated grading system for your own non-truths, so you can ameliorate any guilt you feel when you only lie a little tiny bit? Or only lie to, you know, spare someone pain? Or keep them blissfully in the dark?
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about lies and the miserable bastard weasels who use them as tools for doing business and for controlling their social lives.
One of the hardest lessons to learn, while I was sculpting my career, was how to deal with lies. In all their myriad forms and nuances.
I hung out with shrinks as much as I could — both as paid listeners and as biz colleagues (cuz most psychologists desperately want out of the job of professionally raking the muck in other people’s brains and hearts… and every time one would sense an opening through Halbert or me into the entrepreneurial world, they jumped at it). (Some of the weirdest stories I have entail shrinks and marketing misadventures.)
Dudes who study human behavior (and all its sordid and disheartening variations) professionally know some amazing things about people. For a salesman, this is fabulous insider knowledge, and we crave and seek it.
And one of the main things I picked up from a shrink wannabe-entrepreneur… was his idea of how to divide the human population into three basic categories:
1. Those who saw the world as mostly safe…
2. Those who saw the world as mostly dangerous…
3. And those who had a well-defined, balanced view of things as they really are.
This last group might well be called “adults”. Not as in “you’re just turned 21, so you’re now an adult”… but rather “you’re the only guy in the room who isn’t driven and tortured by demons, guilt and sick needs.”
I must say: Growing up as I did… snug in the biggest bulge of the post-war Baby Boom and nurtured by parents devoted to giving their kids a real childhood (without spoiling us)… I treated the entire world around me as a big, mostly-safe playground. I easily took too many risks, pulled too many completely stupid stunts, and contantly put myself and others in situations where somebody could have gotten seriously hurt or killed.
Living through it made us stronger. Amazingly, no one suffered any permanent damage (other than a few nasty scars, busted bones and popped vertebrae).
My cousins (co-agents of adventure with me throughout childhood) and I are just stunned by the leeway we were given: We absolutely had to be home at certain hours, and we never dared break that taboo. We had to be polite to grown-ups, and do what we were told. We had a few chores here and there, and any added responsibilities that came up were to be done without complaint.
Other than that… we were like little Viking mauraders, unleashed on the neighborhoods to pillage and lay waste to everything we could tear up, burn, or steal.
Mom would wave goodbye on a typical summer day, warn us to be home for lunch… and then she would not have a clue where we were or what we were doing for the next four hours. We’d show up, dirty and panting (and maybe a little bloody), gobble food, and leave again until dinner.
No questions asked, no information offered.
The world was ours. As far as the folks were concerned, kids needed to be kids… and you just sort of hoped some sense or help from angels or something would intervene in any serious danger.
(Once, exploring New York City with my pal David Deutsch, we started chatting with a couple eating pizza next to us, because David has a couple of kids nearly the age of their two young boys. I was shocked to learn that the oldest boy — who was almost thirteen — had NEVER been out of their Manhattan apartment without adult supervision. NEVER! They talked excitedly about maybe allowing him to take a walk around the block or even — gasp! — ride the subway for a stop or two… alone. Maybe they’d let him do that, in the near future. Maybe. I’m still stunned at that — kids growing up without the space to get in trouble, and figure out how to get OUT of that trouble. I don’t think that’s a make-up skill you can master very easily, once you’re an adult…)
Anyway, my point is that I grew up with this possibly exaggerated sense of how safe the world was. This caused some problems as I got old enough to drive… and challenge other boys for the right to date some girls… and try to find my place in the hive.
We started losing friends in car crashes. I myself was in around a dozen bloody wrecks before I left college, and I’m pretty sure our Boomer sense of invulnerability was behind our dumbest choices and decisions.
I was in high school before I started realizing that some of the other kids didn’t share my sense of entitlement to enjoy the wonders of the world. They were hostile to the idea of unfettered adventure, or had such strict home rules they never dared dream of going out at night to see what might happen… or, sometimes, they just seemed cowed and broken.
Like the weight of the world was crushing them.
I even went out of my way to make friends with some depressed kids, and drug them into my social circle almost as a sponsor. But there was always some horrible secret burning inside them, and they tended to suck energy out of the room rather than supply energy.
Many years later — after life had delivered some very adult-like blows to my self-esteem — I got a good taste of what depression could do to you. It tightened you up, bled you of vigor, and exhausted your heart just getting through a day. Fun was hard to come by.
The world seemed… hostile.
I have empathy for people in all the categories now. Been there, felt that, survived all of it.
Makes you humble. And gives you insight.
The world, as I now clearly see it, is both dangerous and delightful… often at the same time. I hitch-hiked for years without problem (and with a novel’s worth of adventure) before I even knew what a serial killer was. Can’t even imagine doing it now. Can’t believe I never had any trouble before. Would NOT recommend it to anyone today.
There are dark alleys, here and there, you can wander through without fear. Mostly, though, I avoid them all. (I’ve been writing for the self-defense market too long, perhaps… seen too much of the bad side of people.)
I have no allusions of safety among my fellow citizens. Nor do I keep a loaded pistol next to my bed, though. (I prefer the baseball bat.)
What’s all this got to do with lying?
See, when the world seems safe, you don’t look for lies. You take people at face value, and accept statements as either true or possibly true until they are proven otherwise.
This seemed like a great way to move through the world, for a long time.
Once I went deep into the business world, however, I realized I was being seen as a fool for having so much trust in other people. I started encountering whole roomfuls of folks who considered everything you said an outrageous lie until you could be proven to have told the truth.
Lying as the default position?
This was like Alice in Wonderland for me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a world where you couldn’t trust most folks, most of the time.
It felt too… lonely. Like it was you against the world, every second of the day.
Fortunately, I soon discovered a whole segment of business people who felt as I did. Except, they had developed a kind of “lie radar” inside their intuition that operated 24/7, quietly and in the background.
They would always entertain whatever they were told as true, but not act until they got the report from their “lie radar”. It might start with a feeling, that you followed with a little easy research or a phone call to someone who might confirm or deny certain elements, followed with some mild questioning of the speaker.
I liked this approach. It didn’t matter if the other guy was lying through his teeth, because I wasn’t gonna act one way or another on what he said until I verified it. There was ALWAYS something positive to pull from any meeting or experience in business… even if what I pulled from it was a little practice in being patient, and testing my immediate intuition against hard-core research into facts.
I don’t feel so lonely, as I would if I walked around (like many folks I know) assuming that everyone was lying through their teeth, and out to get me.
I probably get “taken” a few more times than the paranoid dude… but I’ll enjoy my calmer life (full of friends who share my worldview of “mostly not dangerous”) and accept the occasional screwing like a man. (Besides — I’ve also noticed, in my long career, that the pissed-off, brick-on-shoulder guy always looking for the scam also gets tricked fairly often anyway. His snarling defenses are like an empty moat, as worthless against a skilled liar as the most gullible dude around.)
I get irked when people lie. Don’t get me wrong.
But I don’t take it personally (unless it IS personal) (which hasn’t happened to me in decades).
People lie. For all kinds of reasons. They can’t handle getting yelled at, they’re just trying to spin things so they don’t look like idiots, they think they can avoid responsibility or consequences… it’s a long list.
Some do it just because they can.
Others do it to position themselves.
And when you think about it… once you get over the myth that lying is an aberration in human behavior, and realize that most folks waddle through their day weaving one tall tale after another (often for reasons they can’t even fathom themselves)… there’s little downside to conducting yourself with full knowledge that everyone around you is delivering a soupy mix of truth, half-truth, and damned lies every single day.
Heck — James Bond, one of my literary heroes, was a professional liar. Just part of his toolkit for survival. I have friends who exaggerate so much, you start to doubt every detail they offer in a story… and yet, they remain friends. I just work a tiny bit harder to find the nuggets of truth in what they say, and ignore the fluff.
I’ve been a lifelong fan of tall tales, too. I’ll add a few outrageous details to a story, just to emphasize some angle, or to call attention to the absurdity or irony of a plot twist. (“The poodle was, like, twelve hundred pounds. Couldn’t fit through the door.” “We loved going spelunking in the county sewer pipes, where you could walk for miles in six-foot diameter tunnels in pitch darkness. Sometimes, we’d lose one of the kids if he fell behind. I’m sure there’s at least one of them still down there, turned into a troll.”)
Professionally, however, I have developed a sharp ear for red flag lying, after years in the smoldering center of the biz world. Sometimes it’s just a tiny blip on my “lie radar”… a tick that others can’t even detect.
This happened last week, when one of my assistants related the “confirmation” of all email problems being fixed by an Infusion customer service rep. To my ass’t, the FUBAR situation must have been cleared up, because the CSR weasel told him it was.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Tell me exactly what that ‘confirmation’ was.”
“He confirmed all was okay,” said my ass’t, confidently. “He said everything should be fixed now.”
“Terminate the batch emailing,” I ordered. “Right fucking NOW.”
One weasel word, which slipped by less experienced ears, froze my gut.
And, it turned out, I was right to be alarmed. The bug wasn’t fixed at all, and if we hadn’t terminated the job, tens of thousands of blank emails would have gone out… ruining my reputation and denting our credibility. (As it was, several thousand did get out… thanks to the lying little CSR weasel at Infusion.)
Words matter. Doctors repeated told my family — back when my Mom took sick — that they were “confident” they could predict how the cancer would take her out. Six months, for sure, some said. Three months, said others.
This didn’t sit right with me. I dug deeper, and discovered than four different docs had four different ideas of what KIND of cancer she had. Bone. Breast. Liver. Lung.
They were lying.
They didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.
We didn’t ask them for a prediction of when it would be over. They just offered it.
What IS it about so many people… that they are simply incapable of saying “I don’t know”?
I have searched in vain, my entire career, for the answer to that ridiculous question.
There is no shame in not knowing an answer.
And yet, to my mind, there is TERRIFIC shame in making something up, as if your imagination and your desire to be a know-it-all trumped reality.
Lying is all around us.
It’s a piss-poor way to get through a situation, but some forms of lying are just built into the human hard drive.
Work on your own “lie radar”. Simply make a mental note of what someone tells you, and then check it out. They don’t need to know what you discover. But you do.
You don’t “win” anything by confronting a liar, most of the time. Many people cannot abide by what they consider an affront against Truth, and they will verbally assault anyone they catch lying. As if the universe will not be right until the lie is confronted, confessed, and scorched by the light of day.
And these avengers lustily engage in lie-witch-hunts while ignoring their own culpubility in twisting things once in a while.
It’s not your job to set everything straight in the world. In my experience, liars don’t often “get away” with much, over the long haul. They may see short-term benefits, but they’re living a spiritually unhealthy life… and it catches up with you, eventually.
The Zen warrior would rather learn the truth in secret, than share in a communal lie. That can be lonely… but when you surround yourself with honorable people, the truth is always welcome, and you can even forgive small transgressions (since you don’t act on their version of things without fact-checking everything first, anyway).
Sure, it’s complex. Tangled webs and all that.
Work on your intuitive radar.
All top marketers possess it… and most became good at it only after years of disciplined practice and follow-through.
P.S. Just a small warning — the slots in the “Launching Pad” consulting program are dwindling, especially in the near-term.
To see how you can be “John’s New Best Friend” for a month, and get unbelievable personal access to me (and Stan) while going deep into your biz and plans, go to:
And see what’s going on. It’s intense mentoring, as the folks who’ve been through it will tell you.
And I ain’t lying.
P.P.S. One last thing — for folks like Karen, who aren’t getting their email notifications when I blog (thanks, Infusion)… just remember that I’m being fairly faithful to a Monday-Thursday schedule. I blog on Monday, and then again on Thursday of each week.
That’s the plan.
Rain or shine. (Though I did miss a couple during the heavy traveling days recently.)
So go ahead and drop by, even if you haven’t gotten an email.
I’m always dinking around here with some idea or notion or whatever…
“When we remember we are all nuts, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” Mark Twain (sorta)
Have you seen my partner Stan’s first information video?
I think you need to see it, if you’re interested in mastering communication (which is the life-blood of selling lots and lots of stuff).
Personally, I find his video fascinating. He’s getting a ton of feedback on it, and we just spent an hour on the phone talking about it. One guy sent him such a personal email that Stan called him… not to argue, but to get the background story on why the guy had the opinion he had.
It was a calm conversation, Stan tells me… yet, at first, it was like sharing a bench on the fourth floor of the Tower of Babel. Each person was saying something important, but mere words didn’t seem to be able to get any points across.
I’m laughing my ass off over this as Stan tells the tale.
Cuz this is all about communication… and for the 25 years I’ve known Stan, we are constantly bickering about who said (or didn’t say) what, and who’s right and who’s a miserable toad for being so wrong.
It’s the foundation of our friendship.
Remember Star Trek? Stan’s like Spock, only with a sense of humor (and a taste for jazz and good beer). Very, VERY logical, and impatient with people who process info in illogical ways.
Like, oh… me, for instance.
Drives him frigging bonkers.
And I’d have to say I’m like Captain Kirk… not a Read more…
“Things will have to get more clear before I can even say I’m confused…”
I’m gonna need your feedback on this.
See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude, because I have to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).
This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.
And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, most of the time.
It can get spooky, climbing into the psyche of your market.
Still, though, it is, ultimately, exquisite fun. This gig — figuring out how to Read more…
Waitin’ for the guaifenesin to kick in…
I seriously want to hear from you on this.
It’s kinda driving me nuts.
Here’s the situation: Just around a year ago, my partner Stan and I hoisted the curtain on the Marketing Rebel Radio Rant Coaching Club.
The format is simple and elegant. There is a feisty Forum where members can post ANY question they have, on any subject they believe we (the grizzled pro’s) might have an answer (or insight) to.
And twice a month, Stan and I record a call answering and offering insight on all those questions. It’s a mini-seminar, delivered in the balls-to-the-wall conversational style you would expect from successful guys who’ve been around the block a few times.
But hold on.
There’s moreRead more…