If this is your first time here, you’re in for a treat.
First: There are over 15 years worth of archives here, all sizzling articles crammed with advice and insight and raw fun. Free. Just browse the stacks.
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Plus — you’ll be first to know about any news I’m privy to in this whacky business. And things happen fast. You NEED these emails as part of your network, for the insight, the connections, and the access to me.
Third: If you find yourself jonesing for even more of my stuff… well, instant links for every course, book, and coaching opportunity I offer is on display everywhere on these pages.
Start anywhere. The entire blog is a vast playground for entrepreneurs, with joys and wonders abounding.
If you comment on anything, I’ll see it. I often personally respond to readers, too, so don’t be shy with questions.
See you inside…
P.S. Be sure to check out my Platinum Mastermind group, which is now meeting via Zoom every few months. It’s the longest-running “real” mastermind in the game, and has changed more lives than you could ever believe.
And when this Plague backs off, we’ll be meeting in person again.
However, there are only a dozen spots available for each meeting, and those spots go fast. So go here now to see if this amazing gathering is for you…
P.P.S. The above photo is from a Key West informercial shoot Gary and I did with Dan Kennedy, back around 1990 (the “good ol’ days”).
You’ll notice a ton of stories about those days in this blog, along with lessons learned and disasters averted and all the fun, outrage, harrowing adventures and wondrous victories from a life well-lived.
You’re batshit if you don’t sign up for this ride…
One of the best Zen lessons I ever had busted over my head was the role of anxiety in our lives.
Something does or doesn’t happen that tweaks your mojo, your stomach knots up, you sweat like a pig, you get get brain-vapor-lock and can’t stop obsessing over past and future events.
You are held captive by anxiety. Blood pressure burbles up, heart races, hands shake, eyes tear up.
Then… suddenly… a fresh crisis occurs.
You receive an emergency phone call, zombies attack, some doofus rear-ends you in traffic, the dog gets in a fight with a rabid squirrel, an earthquake knocks over you and the furniture, or whatever.
Your mind is instantly freed from the anxiety, as you marshall inner resources to deal with the immediate incoming shit. (Killing zombies is hard work.)
This proves your anxiety is an invention of your own bad-ass mind. A concocted fear of things outside your control.
You’ve done it to yourself.
Later, calmer, you can deal with the original anxiety-provoking situation. Apologize, clean up the mess, make amends, pay your penalty, accept the consequences…
… and move on.
Anxiety is an invented state. You can also beat it with hard-core exercise (or a few pints)…
… but the main realization is that you can beat it.
Strangle it at it’s worst, crush it like a bug even as it crests in your system.
Murder the little bastard.
It might take some practice. Without the intervention of good tactics (like good old Americanized Beat-inspired Zen), you can spend your entire life shackled to the whims of your super-ego. That nagging voice telling you you’re not good enough. That vague sense of impending doom and failure, no matter how experienced you’ve become at something. Feeling like an imposter about to be revealed, like a criminal about to be exposed, like a pathetic twerp deserving ridicule.
It’s all bullshit. There are warring sub-personalities inside your head, and too often the wrong ones win.
You have SO much more input than you realize, if only you’ll take back the control room in your brain.
Write your own script for a change, and let your love-light shine.
So do the usual prescriptions for dealing with it (via our overlord, Big Pharma).
Zen out, instead.
It’s only hard while you’re in the initial battle with the demons refusing to relinquish control of your life… and once you get good at vanquishing them, you can stop worrying about zombies (until the actual apocalypse).
Hope you’re playing it safe during the Plague.
P.S. Be sure to check out the courses and books available here on the blog.
This is a GREAT time to get the basics of solid salesmanship (and especially salesmanship-in-print) down cold… as the world pivots to some new version of “normal” that will eat the weak and demand intense discipline from the survivors.
“Nothing is impossible for a man who refuses to listen to reason.” (Gary Halbert)
While we’re all hunkering down during the new Plague…
… the smart folks are all using the time to gear up for the near future.
Because we WILL get through this disaster. The world will change in many ways…
… but will remain the same in many others.
Especially in human behavior.
We haven’t changed all that much since we left the jungle and began living our lives on asphalt and grass. Our minds are still packed solid with ancient lizard-brain fears, ape-brain biases and desires, and modern neuroses and paranoia and all the attendant problems of living in this Brave New World.
So, because what I’m about to share with you has proven massively important through my entire career…
… I’m very confident it will survive as excellent advice as long as humans stalk the planet.
So pay attention:
I learned a lot from Gary Halbert, but the lesson that most affected my life had nothing to do with copywriting.
Rather, it was about living well.
I began my freelance copywriting career back in the “dark ages” of the mid-eighties, when direct response advertising had gone out of fashion and there were just a handful of us “true believers” in the game, devouring the ancient (and often out-of-print) books on advertising while doing the hard work of becoming masters at old school salesmanship…
… so we could relentlessly obliterate our clueless competition in every market we went after.
I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles at the time… because multiple large agencies had just opened up branches there and were starved for competent copywriters. I quickly became the guy the creative directors snuck in the back door to do the work their house staff couldn’t pull off (because none of them studied the craft).
Then the large mailers back east caught wind of my work, and I found myself moving in the “A List” crowd of now-legendary copywriters like Gary Bencivenga and Jim Rutz (who I ghost-wrote for).
However, the corporate world bored me to tears. It was primarily financial and health newsletters with the large mailers, and insurance and equipment sales with the agencies. Yawn.
That’s when I met Gary, at Jay Abraham’s house.
He was the most arrogant, vain and outrageous person I’d ever met in the business world…
… and I liked him immediately.
I began doing odd writing jobs for him, and the day arrived when he asked if I was ready to become his main full-time writer.
The lesson I learned was hidden inside of the ensuing dilemma. I was a rising star in the corporate world, and the fees (with royalties) were quickly entering “small fortune” territory.
If I went off with Gary, I’d be turning my back on a million-dollar career.
But what Gary offered was a chance to be true to my own mojo. With him, we’d be working mostly with entrepreneurs, and each new gig would be wildly different than the one before. And we’d be ushered into the back-rooms of powerful businesses, to observe and influence how entire markets operated.
I realized how little I was motivated by money. And how alive I felt in the entrepreneurial world, where rules were constantly broken and reinvented, and we could field-test our wildest ideas (the ideas that made the corporate beasts squirm).
Without Gary’s unique vision of how fun and exhilarating advertising could be, I might have stayed in that corporate world.
But we have such a short ride here on earth.
And sometimes, the riskier path is the one you need to take.
And damn the torpedoes.
What I learned from Gary over the ensuing decades was both financially and intellectually fulfilling, to the point of being ridiculous. I got to watch the growth of direct response in the nineties from a ring-side seat, and I became a pioneer in online marketing when it became viable in the early aughts. Gary and I produced some of the very first marketing seminars, we invented the Hot Seat method of “speed consulting” with new clients, and we influenced the way nearly all successful copywriting is now used all over the world.
The lesson I learned is simple: Find out what rocks your boat…
… and go for it with everything you have.
Gary was the first living example I’d ever met of someone who went for the gusto, every time.
And after 30 years of sharing what I’ve learned, I’m still not done tapping into the deep well of tactics, insight and savvy gathered from the raw wonder of working with the man.
The only way you can measure the worth of your life is later in the game, looking back. With Gary, there were as many misadventures as good ones, and what saved our butts time and again was our brutal sense of humor.
No one here gets out alive, and you gotta play the hand you’re dealt. There is no room for regret or wishful thinking when you’re deep into life.
Sometimes, the riskier path is the only sensible one to take.
P.S. Would you like to see what it’s like to have your OWN “speed consulting” Hot Seat, completely focused on you and your business and whatever’s holding you up or bugging you?
This is a critical resource for smart entrepreneurs (which includes freelance copywriters and marketing types).
Especially NOW… when everything seems to be topsy-turvy, and the entire universe is now hostile to your continued quest for wealth and happiness.
If you need to talk it out, and discover new ways to make your biz adapt to the hellscape out there…
… then pop over here, and feast…
Let’s get right to the Dire Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive.
Because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world.
This included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abby), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).
So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades.
I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.
The discussions are critical…
… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture.
It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns, and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.
My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary.
We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.
So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…
… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.
Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials.
The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…
… when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.
I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh.
They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.
And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.
As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.
That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.
Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this.
I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…
… and host my own very elite mastermind 3 times a year. (If you think you’d enjoy being locked in a room with me and a small group of focused entrepreneurs just like you, then go here to see how you might join.)
The arrival of the Web, and all the vast access to data and info it’s brought, has NOT delivered “truth” to your door.
Just the opposite — it’s piled up the BS so high that you need, more than ever, some serious resources to help you navigate the nonsense.
Humans like to believe we’re able to conquer worlds and markets all on our lonesome, like Hollywood insists.
However, I know of ZERO top marketers (and I know a ton) who operate alone.
They seek out, and USE, the advice and brainstorming of colleagues whenever possible.
Their decisions (especially the really important ones) are laced with facts, intuition, gut feelings, facts, input from peers, facts and more facts.
Not “common wisdom” derived from the cultural wasteland out there.
You wanna swim in the wealthy ponds, you best get hip to this.
Find colleagues you trust, from all age groups and as far from your usual intellectual echo chamber as possible, and never stop challenging every thought that enters your brain.
Alone, entrepreneurs are vulnerable to idiotic decisions.
Together, you may still go with the idiocy, but at least you’ll go into it knowing all the alternative data and opinion and advice...
“You want it, you take it… you pay the price.” (Bruuuuuuce Springsteen, “Prove It All Night”)
One afternoon when I was around 9, I found a $2 bill laying in the parking lot of the local plunge (where we’d just spent the day trying to drown ourselves and trick each other into doing belly-flops off the high dive).
I was as ecstatic as Sinbad when he discovered the Cyclops’ treasure cave. The rarity of the bill just added to the sense of forbidden loot and mysterious swag. Bought us a lot of candy back then.
However, it also changed me. I spent years looking under cars in parking lots after that, obsessed with the notion that vast caches of moolah were laying around, waiting to be found. It was magical thinking at its finest. I was half-convinced it might be a way to fund my childhood, just harvesting the cash laying around.
I mean, Santa had already been outed as “not real”. And Zorro, when I met him at a supermarket opening, was shorter than he looked on TV (and smelled like beer). I had these gaping holes in my belief system of “how things worked”, and since no one was offering better ideas, I just picked up on whatever silly notion entered my head and ran with it.
Later, when we realized The Monkees weren’t a real band, and Rock Hudson was gay, and Nixon lied to us, and…
It was HARD keeping a bullshit myth-laden belief system operating. You had to really dig in and ignore facts, and even get burned a lot.
Finally, when I became a freelance copywriter and there was real money on the line (and not just opinions or hurt feelings)… I saw the light.
And it remains one of the Big Revelations I had, early in my career: The role of reality in becoming a world-class salesman.
In order to persuade large groups of people to buy, act now, or even just begin to see your side of things… you have to see the world as it is.
Not as you wish it was. Not as you believe it should be. Not as you were told it was.
As it is. The stark, cold reality of how things actually work, and how people actually behave.
This is often scary, at first. It requires you to look behind your go-to belief systems (which you may have had since you were a kid)… to challenge authority’s version of what’s going on… and — most important — you must willingly exit the shared delusion among the majority of your fellow humans that what they say they’ll do is more important than what they actually do.
This kind of critical thinking, of looking behind the curtain and not being lulled into false promises, drags you away from the main party… and can seem lonely. Folks will even get hostile at times, because you’re no longer playing along. (I had multiple occasions, before I learned to just let it go, of ending a family argument by pulling out a dictionary or encyclopedia… and later, hoping onto Google. Thus ruining everyone’s mood, because no one enjoys having their bullshit beliefs challenged.)
This sense of becoming alienated from friends and family sometimes keeps copywriters from tossing their myth-based belief systems, and diving deep into the murky waters of reality. They’re afraid it will change them for the worst. Make them azzholes and doubters and unpleasant realists.
But that’s not how it needs to work. Here are a few Starter Rules to help you get going:
Starter Rule #1: Observing how people act, versus what they say they’ll do, just gives you a tool to avoid being bamboozled. In its simplest form, you’ll notice that the folks who are most emphatic in their promises (“I will absolutely be there on time. No excuses…”) are the ones who will chronically let you down.
In the advanced form, your Bullshit Detector will start buzzing whenever a client says “money isn’t a problem”… because, much of the time, that means money is very much a problem. (Resist the urge to automatically assume the opposite of everything anyone says… even when your experience shows you it will often be the case. Don’t get into the habit of making rash decisions, based on what you’ve seen before. But DO put your instincts and experience into the mix.)
Starter Rule #2: And for God’s sake, don’t let this make you cynical. It’s not your job to call folks out on the inconsistency of their actions, versus what they insist is their intention. You can, however, quietly understand that the rare individuals who DO fulfill their promises are the ones you want around you professionally (and probably romantically, too).
Personally, I’ve found that you start to attract professionally-minded colleagues quickly, once your reality-based modus operandi kicks in.
When money, results and the success of a biz venture is on the line, promises count for nothing. The cold hard reality of how the market reacts to your ads is all that matters.. and you must react accordingly.
Starter Rule #3: Keep your ego out of it. At first, you’ll need to monitor your own bad habits of not following up on your promises… and this will change you fundamentally as a person. Don’t announce that you’re suddenly a “new man”. Instead, just start acting as if your word really does mean something.
Early on, I developed my version of a “professional’s code”: You are where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there, having done what you said you’d do.
This means you meet all deadlines, no matter what (even if it means staying up all night working, missing the big party, disappointing Susie Q, defying the insults and demands of your old pals who hate the idea of you becoming a pro and leaving their slacker butts in the dust). You honor your contracts, even if it’s just something you said (and could, if you weren’t such a pro, weasel out of).
You become “that guy” who can be trusted… not because you say you can be trusted, but because you really can be trusted.
Huge difference that requires behavioral changes at your cellular level. It’s hard to pull off, but you can do it.
Starter Rule #4: When you first start living in reality, there is a danger of becoming cynical and angry. Just move past it — your goal is to become a world-class persuader and provider of actual results.
You may become a quieter person… because all that time you once spent trying to convince someone you were going to do something is no longer required. You simply agree to do it, and then do it. On time. With all the expertise you can muster.
You never, ever need to explain yourself. You become a Dude Of Action. This becomes your reputation over time — not because you’ve announced it, but because this is who you’ve become. You’ve got to be patient, and hold yourself accountable for everything you do.
And yes, I’m serious when I say “everything”. Stop lying, pretending, wishing and cheating. It’s stunningly easy to do, but it requires a commitment.
Starter Rule #5: There is never a need to argue. As a rookie copywriter, I realized (after meeting my twentieth VP of Marketing or CEO or entrepreneur) that incompetence is the RULE, not the exception, in business.
Most bosses — no matter how good-hearted they are, or how smart they are, or even how experienced they are — simply cannot know all there is to know about every part of running a biz. So they’ll insist on using certain (dumb) sales angles, demand that offers be presented in specific (dumb) ways, and — worst of all — have their niece with the degree in English Lit edit your work.
Early in your career, this is not a problem to worry about. Get your money up front, with any other royalties or payments in written form, and just keep moving. Most of your clients will suck, and not follow through, and botch the marketing up. That’s just the way it goes.
As you gain experience, and especially as your reputation allows you to have more of a voice in what goes down, you’ll eventually be in the position of forcing every client to do what you tell them to do. But that doesn’t happen right away.
(For more on these high-end freelance tactics, including details on how to get paid, check out The Freelance Manual, available here.)
When you work through reality, the mysteries of the world play less and less a part of how you proceed. If you don’t know something, you don’t pretend that saying you know it makes it so. You go learn it. Or hire someone who’s proficient at it to do it for you. You research, you comparison shop, you do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal.
You say “I don’t know. I’ll find out,” a lot.
You are relieved from the task of keeping your lies and boasts and pretend-knowledge straight.
And suddenly, you’re spending your time honing your chops, filling in the gaps with actual skills and know-how, and getting shit done.
Most folks prefer the world to remain full of mystery. It’s that childhood thrill of simply deciding that something is so, and then never questioning it again, even as evidence mounts that it’s bullshit. (I never did find another $2 bill on the ground. And I missed a few rainbows along the way, because I was always looking down…)
Reality is unforgiving, and requires you to be responsible, take action, and stop pretending. But it’s really the only way to go. I found that, rather than making me more cynical about people, I actually loved them more. I instantly forgive them their bullshit promises, even while fulfilling all of my own. I also never allow someone to steal time from me, or ruin my day with a failed promise — I give them a reasonable window, and when they’ve failed, I go to Plan B.
You always have a Plan B (and Plan C, and Plan D) when you live in reality. Sometimes you find yourself saying goodbye to unreliable friends and fun-but-sketchy colleagues… and you have to be okay with that. You’re going after long-term and short-term goals, and it takes commitment and sweat to reach them. If your old crowd still believes that success comes from luck (like finding a $2 bill on the ground), you may have to find a new crowd.
There will always be a little mystery in life. You encounter new stuff all the time, in business and in relationships and in everything you do.
But each mystery can be broken down into knowable parts, and figured out, and solved. Every time. Eventually, after you’ve worked with a lot of clients in a lot of markets, you realize you are never stumped by the obstacles that freeze most entrepreneurs up. There is always a reason why sales are down, or returns are up, or something that used to work ain’t working no more.
When the reality of business and life become second-nature to you… you become That Consultant Every Biz Owner Wants To Hire. And the top copywriting experts are all consultants first, solving the mysteries with reality-based solutions. The writing comes later.
Does this make sense to you?
This entire subject is often the main entree at our masterminds, and in every Hot Seat consultation I do.
Living in reality is a much better way to go, every time. And it really can make you a happier, more fun and pleasant person… who just happens to get a lot done.
Love to hear what you think, in the comment section below.
“You think you’re alone until you realize you’re in it…” (Elvis Costello, Watching The Detectives)
Short post today…
… and yet, it may be the most important thing you read all year.
First, a bit of context:
We all have shame, hiding deep inside us.
No matter how successful, pretty, rich or beloved you are…
… a dark pool of roiling shame lies below the surface. It’s just part of our animal nature — that big slab of neo-cortex which gave us language, critical thinking and vast memory storage also gave us the capacity to register shame.
And hold onto it forever.
Shrinks make a fortune seeing clients who are obsessed with their shameful past. And it’s a renewable resource — because the way many psychologists treat it, the shame never really leaves.
And I say: Fuck that.
Let your shame go, and be free of it.
It really can be that simple.
Listen: Holding onto your secrets is a choice. Not an obligation, not a command, not something you have no control over.
You actually have HUGE amounts of control over what you choose to hold onto. Also what you think about, what keeps you up at night, what bothers you, and — especially — what holds you back.
It’s just that no one TOLD you about this power before. And there’s no Owner’s Manual around to find instructions in.
It’s a glitch in the human system: You’re born, you grow up, you do stuff or have stuff done to you that triggers shame… and it becomes a 200-pound backback you haul around with you for the rest of your journey.
Or, anyway, that’s how most folks approach it.
What can you do? It’s just part of the game.
Except… it isn’t.
Now that I’ve simply told you about this secret power you have — the ability to choose what you hold onto — you’re essentially free.
You may choose to ignore this new power, and continue to cling to your shameful memories. That’s a choice you can make.
Or, you can fire up that new power, and just let it all go.
News flash: You are, nearly always, the ONLY person on the planet who cares about your ancient shameful memories.
If there are others who have some kind of investment in keeping you riddled with shame… well, you also have the choice to eliminate them from your life.
It’s not rocket science.
Let it go.
Isolate the memory, define it, box it up in your head. Name it. Make that box strong, unbreakable, and lock it forever.
Then… toss it from your brain.
Let it go. And get the fuck OVER it already.
If you need to make amends, do so. If you need to find new coping tactics for the next time you’re triggered, find them and incorporate them into your new power to let go.
But choose to be free of shame.
If you like, you can replace shame with something more proactive: Remorse.
When you do something that used to create shame, engage your ability to feel remorse instead. Remorse is temporary: You fucked up. Fix it, if you can. Clean up your mess, apologize, and take steps to do better next time.
Then actually TAKE those steps. You may need to learn some new skills. Learn them. You may need to have awkward conversations with people. Have them.
You may need to complete a whole “to do” list in order to do better next time.
That’s how adults handle fucking up.
Rookies and children and emotional zombies go straight to shame. You didn’t just fuck up — you’re a bad person. There’s something horribly wrong with you. Your shame is eternal and unfixable.
Which is all bullshit.
Shame is like setting up camp on your life’s journey. You seldom move on. You’re stuck in place, wallowing.
Remorse is a pit stop. Oops, screwed up. Get out the mop and coping strategies, make thing right… and move along.
You’ll be a more effective and worthwhile person for feeling remorse, and taking steps to do better next time.
It’s a bit like “failure” to an entrepreneur.
To civilians, failure is personal, the end of the world, a nightmare that will never leave.
To an entrepreneur, failure is just another step along the path to success. Everyone fails sometimes. So what? Lick your wounds, figure out what went wrong, take steps to do better next time…
… and get back in the ring, armed and ready for the next go-round.
You now know your shame is bullshit, and fixable.
You no longer have the excuse to wallow in your misery, because you have the power to escape that self-destructive crap.
Whether you use it or not is up to you.
And I say: Start your new year right.
Get busy, and stop hauling around that 200-pound backpack.
I’m waiting for my Uber to take me to the Tampa airport at this ungodly hour because when booking my flight home, I obviously was hallucinating or drunk.
New rule for travel: Never, ever, ever book a 6 am flight. Cuz it requires getting up before the roosters, and that is almost never a good idea.
I’ve just spent a week in the Florida panhandle, first visiting my longtime friend Dean Jackson (he of the More Cheese, Less Whiskers podcast)…
… and then attending my colleague Kevin Rogers’ “Copy Chief Live” event.
Where there were raucous times with my other colleagues (like David Deutsch and Lori Haller and Parris Lampopolous and Mike Morgan and many others)…
… plus, as I fully expected and prepared for…
… a TON of fresh insight to living well and happily.
Because that’s what always happens you hang out at rowdy seminars like this. The speakers fill your head with lofty ideas, and your pals re-juice your brain with verve and stories and the sizzling secrets that fuel the best careers out there.
I had a few topics in mind that I wanted to bring up during private conversations, and that’s all the ammo I needed to get things rolling.
In two successive afternoons, for example, apropos of nothing, separate conversations with Dean Jackson and then Aussie James Schramko (who both also spoke at the event)…
… helped me solve two of the biggest problems now facing me in my little biz here.
No, you don’t need to know the particulars. I’ll be writing about them in further posts later on, as things progress beyond the “Holy cow, that’s a great idea!” stage and I start implementing them.
Stay tuned, here in the blog.
But I can assure they are both life-changing.
Cuz that’s what the guys at the top of the food chain in this little niche of the marketing world.
The thing I want to share with you is much more vital to YOUR jouney through life and biz.
Here it is:
Many of the greatest breakthroughs you have will concern “sticking points” that are hampering you reaching the Next Step of your career…
… whatever that Next Step might be.
And I’ve learned over the 40 sometimes-gruesome years of my own career that these sticking points are often…
… just blind spots that you can’t get a bead on.
And yet, just talking about them out loud with your colleagues can jigger loose the solutions.
I always prefer simple, elegant and easy solutions myself…
… and that’s exactly what I often get from hanging out with savvy colleagues.
The simple solutions that zoom me past the sticking points, and get me cooking on high heat again.
I’ve seen entire careers and once-thriving businesses collapse…
… because of problems that were actually easy to solve.
But the owners couldn’t get away from the ruts they’d dug for themselves to see those solutions.
They needed help, and didn’t get it in time.
Unfortunately, this is way too common. So many entrepreneurs and freelancers become too isolated to get the kind of input, advice and brainstorming that are crucial to quickly blowing through trouble.
For me, going to an event is rarely about the actual event.
No. Not by a long shot.
What I’m going for is the pleasure… and the breakthroughs… that come with simply hanging out with colleagues and the fresh wave of new brainiacs that they introduce me to during the event.
That’s the magic, my friend.
Other minds, with all the experience and tactics and breakthroughs they’ve been gathering for their entire careers.
It will blow your mind.
This is why so many top-of-the-game experts still haunt the halls of regular seminars and masterminds.
To get that good stuff that ONLY comes with hanging out with like-minded folks. Away from the bustle and distractions of “normal” biz life.
I just solved two of the biggest sticking points I’ve had for over a year… all in the space of two random conversations with colleagues I trust.
Who were happy to help.
Because I’ve helped them in the past the very same way.
Your network is your greatest resource, and always will be.
Never forget this.
P.S. The next upcoming Platinum mastermind I’ve hosted for over ten years is sold out, I believe. (Each meeting is limited to just a dozen or so people, because we spend so much time brainstorming and solving the problems for EACH attendee during the two-day event.)
However, you may still be able to squeeze into the following meeting, coming up next spring.
If you want to get a taste of what’s in store for you when you make it to one of these breakthrough-triggering meetings, just pop over here.
No obligation, of course, just for looking.
But you may want to check it out quickly, since spots fill up.
Rome, Italy (yeah, I’m on vacation)
“Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?” (Jack Kerouac)
I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?”
Most folks never think about their legacy.
The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.
Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?
I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.
There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. Each of these eras are like separate John’s, completely different people.
Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.
I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).
I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.
The flip side: On the other hand, I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life.
I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.
It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.
It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge the juicy secrets.
And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do. But your reputation as a person capable of keeping secrets is solid. It has to be.
As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.
And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.
They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask bac. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.
But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.
Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.
It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives.
No one had ever asked before.
And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight…
… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.
It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly).
Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…
… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.
It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.
Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.
Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.
Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.
And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them.
For a marketer looking to succeed, this is the key to the kingdom.
P.S. If you’ve followed me for any length of time (here on the blog, in my books, or on social media) you know I frame my advice on being successful within stories.
I do it, because that’s how ideas stick. We’re hard-wired to listen to stories, and remember the good ones.
If you’re interested in the lessons I’ve learned about success and living large (from a very long career at the roiling edge of life and biz)…
… then you’ll be interested in this.
You can thank me later.
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” (Stealer’s Wheel)
Thought I’d share Heads Up Alert #13 with you today: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…
… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.
Not everyone likes you, remember.
You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.)
There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you…
… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.
And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.
Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world.
Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)
When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin.
Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.
Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked…
… and it can escalate fast if you engage.
Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of.
When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…
… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose.
Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.
Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:
Rule #1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations.
Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers.
Yes, even if they’re wrong.
Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career.
All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff.
But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.
Rule #2. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game.
Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)
And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better…
… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)
Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.
Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.
Rule #3. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”
Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.
P.S. Volume 2 of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is out and a copy is eagerly awaiting your eyeballs.
So when you’re ready for more wisdom and cool advice, it’s time to catch up here.
“I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)
For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.
Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…
… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.
For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.
Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…
… particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.
For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…
… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.
We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.
Yet, the opposite is true.
Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet.
Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries.
I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.
It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.
Much deeper than that.
The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship.
All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.
It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges.
The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it.
Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions.
And I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art.
But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all have been banned or censored at some point in our history).
And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.
We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades…
… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.
So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today.
This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.
The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box.
I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine…
… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.
For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about…
… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks.
Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.
Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm).
But the restrictions should remain rare.
Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it.
Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology.
And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.
I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life.
It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.
For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence…
… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory.
Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being.
P.S. Hey — make sure you’ve got my books with you when you go off on holiday.
You can order them right now, in the right-hand column here. The digital versions will be in your digital hands immediately, too… no waiting…