Category Archives for life lessons

The Dirtiest Word For Most Adults

Thursday, 12:26pm
Reno, NV
Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…” (David Bowie)

Howdy.

Let’s have an uncomfortable discussion, what d’ya say?

Let’s talk about the dirtiest word most adults know: Change.

Here’s the thing about change: Learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess.

And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, make a fortune, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…

and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.

And then the world changes around you.

Dammit.

In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.

You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.

But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…

… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).

I marvel at my Pop’s life (he was vivacious and awesome until finally checking out at 95). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and we spoke via Skype every week for years. On his PC.

He was impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), read every page of  the newspaper every day (but fact-checked the editorials on Google, the lying bastards)…

… and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he would have been the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knew how make stuff and fix machines).

Mostly, though, I now sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tried to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He was never bitter, and revealed a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.

And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.

There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well…

… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit.

You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop music, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).

The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.

You are not required, however, to change your “core” self…

… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.

Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.

It doesn’t.

The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways.

Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.

Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.

Hope you’re enjoying this bitchin’ autumn weather.

Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you haven’t devoured my two books on Amazon, you’re just cheating your bad self of a stone-cold advantage in life and biz that your competitors are probably using to beat you over the head with.

They’re both fast yet exhilarating reads…

… and if you bother to read the reviews about them, you’ll see that the benefits pile up fast.

Stop missing out already.

Go here and here to scoop them up. And enjoy!

P.P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo…

… just after I’d taken over the Big Desk at Gary Halbert’s office on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. Like 30 years ago.

For me, looking at that smiling nutball with the out-of-control hair reminds me of the radical changes that have happened since. Both glorious and heartbreaking.

But I embraced change, and even sought it out, even back then.

What a great ride so far…

The Envy Cure

Tuesday, 3:23pm
Reno, NV
Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)

Howdy.

I’m republishing this off-beat rant, cuz it’s been one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written over the years.

And it’s a totally counter-intuitive take on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss.

Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.

So, enjoy another nugget from the archives:

Friend…

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?

Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?

Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?

Well, then step right up…

Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing. The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches“…

… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.

And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty. I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.

Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great.  We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko. Rooted for ya. Got yer back.

I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility. And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.

But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast. Whoa, there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?

And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.

Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.

This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.

The lucky creep.

I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…

And so on.

I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it. Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.

Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself.  Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before. Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)

I like that tactic.

However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.

It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.

Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept. And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.

Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.

Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category. Fame, skill, wealth…

… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.

Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail.

I mean, why them and not me yet?

The bastards were too big for their britches…

But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.

Because the better way to look at things…

… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.

There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game…

… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.

In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out.

It was win-win, all the way.

Still, though…

… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…

And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.

I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere…

… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else.  Maybe I really did invent it.

At any rate… it works.

Wanna know what it is?

Okay. Here is my…

Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…

… just imagine being inside their skin — really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes. 

Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.

And then see if their life still looks so good.

Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real. When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner. When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel. When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.

This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in. (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 13 years here in the blog.)

Great salesmen lead better lives. Not because they sell lots of stuff…

… but because they live in the real world. 

You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.

Naw. You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.

So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.

This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more…

… while also helping you understand why they do what they do.

You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.

And while you love your fellow beasts…

… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…

you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.

Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.

I love to read autobiographies and biographies. (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)

It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.

Wow, does it ever change your outlook. Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.

The novelists loathed themselves. The movie stars craved adulation like junkies. The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths. The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.

Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention. Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity. Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.

Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.

They’re also boring as hell. And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin. (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires. In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons. See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)

You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?

I do, too. But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.

In fact, I embrace it. I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.

It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.

You’re alive. You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later). You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…

… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.

It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there. But it’s worth it.

You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”.

Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…

… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.

I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business). I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see underneath the mask.

And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever. 

I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity. I fit well inside my own skin.

And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world. Really earned it.

Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.

Naw. I blundered my way into the Feast of Life. Utterly fucked things up along the ride…

… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.

That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.

We’re all pathetically flawed. All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).

Nobody gets out of here unscathed. You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.

And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto. When it happens, buy new ones.

Stay frosty (and true to yourself),

John

P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens.  Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself. Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.

The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better. Screw that nonsense.

The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly. Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses.

And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail. You lived it, dude. I wasn’t there.

What happened?

P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?

And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life.  Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…

VERY Special P.P.P.S. While not exactly an autobiography, my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” reveals a ton of behind-the-scenes adventures and insider advice aimed straight at the tender beating heart of the struggling entrepreneur.

Get your copy now, either as an ebook or in paperback. For a few measly bucks, you’ll be ushered into a front-row seat to see how I stumbled upon the amazing result-getting lessons of great marketing…

… and I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off along the way.

Get it here: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“.

Does Anyone Really Know You?

Wednesday, 11:22am
Rome, Italy (yeah, I’m on vacation)
Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?” (Jack Kerouac)

Howdy…

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.

Stay frosty,

John

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.

What Shrinks Know That You Don’t Yet

Saturday, 1:25pm
Reno, NV
“It’s game over, man, game over!” (Corporeal Hudson, “Aliens”)

Howdy.

Folks who’ve followed my ramblings and rants for a while know that I’ve had a healthy, life-long love of psychology. Both the academic discoveries, and the street-level revelations that only savvy, old school salesmen ever discover.

And that’s the useable stuff. The insights and tactics that work in marketing, for example. And in dealing with people (who, as you well know, can be whacky and illogical at the worse times).

So here’s one piece of what I call Psych Insights that may help you at a very fundamental level.

Dig: I’ve hung out with — and learned a lot from — a number of professional psychologists.

Most are whacked (with personal lives in complete disarray)…

… but it’s like knowing an insane plumber who can nevertheless fix any pipe problem you have.

You don’t judge the guy you let into your brain’s plumbing by his whackiness, but by his ability to help you.

Anyway, Gary Halbert also shared my fascination with shrinks, and even had one in his inner circle for a few years. (We tried, and tried, and tried to help him get an entrepreneurial project going… but, you know, he was just too caught up in the academic mindset to “get” marketing.)

This particular shrink really understood the territory of human behavior and belief, though. (He’d spent so much time inside people’s heads, he could recognize your particular neuroses before you opened your mouth.) (Yes, you’re neurotic. Get over it. We all are.)

What I learned from him (and other shrinks, both the good ones and the close-to-being-committed-themselves ones) gave me awesome persuasion tools to work with in ads.

But I also learned a lot about living well, too.

Here’s just one example: Generally, you can divide everyone you meet into two main camps:

  1. They either believe the world is mostly safe…
  2. … or mostly unsafe.

This seems obvious until you start realizing how this belief is the foundation of just about every decision people make in their lives.

Experience will affect your outlook over time, of course…

… but that fundamental belief usually remains.

I grew up considering the world mostly safe… with lots of caveats.

This meant we were fearless about getting ourselves into tough spots as kids, as we tested and retested our boundaries and abilities to deal with dangerous (and often idiotic) situations. I discovered there really are lots of unsafe corners in the world…

… but I also discovered that you can build new skill sets that help you deal with the danger.

The kids who were too terrified to follow us into adventures never learned much about avoiding getting hurt. They missed out on both the skinned knees and the confidence of having survived yet another brouhaha.

The bruised-but-better-equipped kids went off in one direction in life, and the scaredy cats went off in the other direction. Forever.

In marketing, there are many audiences who fall into one or the other of these two camps…

and realizing this can make your communication with them massively more effective.

The self-defense market loves paranoia, for example. Golfers who buy lessons are often positive the game hates them and course designers personally created sand traps to gobble up their shots. (Seriously.) And the “find romance” markets are full of folks who, usually out of fear, delayed their entry into the mating game.

Some markets — like guitar lessons — don’t fall into either camp.

Other markets may need a bit of research first to figure out this “first step” in understanding them…

but knowing where the majority are helps you start your copywriting journey off in the right direction. (Diet markets, for example — most prospects have been burned over and over again by fads and BS, which makes them distrustful. However, workout markets are inherently more positive about change.)

You don’t bully the fearful, and you don’t coddle the fearless, basically. Just this insight alone will help you go deep into closing pitches that work shockingly better, simply because you’re speaking directly to your prospect’s main belief system. 

Never assume anything about your market, without researching and garnering enough real info so you would bet your ass on being correct.

Safe.

Unsafe.

Two completely different directions in attitude, communication and influence.

Hope you’re having a great summer…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Most of my books are filled with insight on how to deal with your fellow humans out there in the gnarly biz world.

“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is an excellent place to start. Grab your copy here.

Special Gift For New Blog Fans!

Friday, 2:09pm
Cleveland, OH
Momma’s all right, Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird...” (Cheap Trick, Surrender)

Howdy…

I sure hope you were in Cleveland last night, and caught the “Old Dogs Bark” show that Dan Kennedy and I did onstage at his huge event.

If you were… congrats. You witnessed something people should be talking about for years to come.

And if you didn’t…

… well, shame on you for missing it. How often do you think the geezers of the marketing world (the guys with all the best stories, and most reality-based profitable advice) are going to be around to share this stuff?

Time to make the effort to gobble up the great advice and golden stories while we’re here to tell ’em. 

This blog is a great place to start, too.

And hey — I’ve got a little gift for everyone.

If you’re new to the this blog, you’re in for a treat. Twelve years of free archives, for your education and enlightenment, are available 24/7. Jump down two posts below, and you’ll find an article entitled “How to give this blog a good ‘test drive’… in just 3 minutes”. Blow through that post, and you’ll be totally hip to everything this blog has to offer.

And even better…

… if you sign up right now, you’ll not only get notices for new posts (and other cool stuff I’ve got going on you should be interested in)…

… but you also get a free gift. A free report called “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now”.

It’s a brilliant short-course reality check that should help you avoid murdering your future, quickly and efficiently.

All the common mistakes I see entrepreneurs and freelance copywriters make are in there…

… identified, deconstructed, and solved.

Best damn special report I’ve ever written. Killer stuff. All the best angles and solutions I use in my lucrative consulting biz.

And…

… it’s free. Just for signing in.

And if you’re already a sign-in fan of the blog, just sign in again to get that free report. We’ll take care of duplicate sign-ins easily enough. No hassles.

Here’s how to get your free report: Just fill in the box below…

… and you’ll get your free report emailed to you post haste.

Meanwhile, check out everything else here. The posts below are a great intro to what you’ll find in the 12-year-deep archives. And if you don’t have my books, well, get on that right now (in the right hand column). Plus, lots of other goodies.

Have fun. Don’t hurt yourself in the archives — I’ve seen people get obsessed with reading everything all at once, and it can lead to brain-freeze.

Pace your bad self.

I’ll be back here with a fresh post soon…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. We just switched hosting companies, so all the comments here were left in the dust.

Please feel free to comment on any post — I hang out enough to usually answer every one, if you have questions or just want to share something.

We had a great, long run with Host Gator as our blog hosting company, but they’re gone way downhill lately, to a dangerous place where the site was down a lot. So we’ve moved to Liquid Web, which so far is a totally bitchin’ outfit. Very professional, very much on top of making sites like this work smoothly. I’m happy now…

Congratulations. Now, Stop Being A Wuss…

iPhone09-2 225
Monday, 1:32pm
Reno, NV
But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”)

Howdy…

It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…

… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

So, without further ado… here’s the sixth redux of that post:

Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.

That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.

See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…

… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…

… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.

I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…

… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?

Naw.

While today’s graduates are facing similar grim economic times, there’s been a significant change in the concept behind a college education. Somehow, over the years, a bizarre mantra has taken hold in kids minds: “Get a degree, and it’s a ticket to the Good Life.

A job is expected to be offered to you before the ink is dry on your diploma.

And it really, really matters WHICH school you get that diploma from.

You know what I say?

Continue reading

You’re Excused.

 

Saturday, 3:53pm
Reno, NV
“Well, excuuuuuuuse me.” (Steve Martin)

Howdy.

One of the very bright dividing lines separating happy, successful folks from the unhappy wannabe’s…

… is the role of excuses in moving through life.

Dudes and dudettes who get stuff done stare down obstacles and find ways through or around them…

… no matter how long it takes, or how many times they fail at it.

They’re the minority.

Much more common is the notion that having a good excuse lets you off the hook for getting something done.

Our bollocked-up school system encourages this — oh, your dog ate your homework? Okay, you can have an extra day.

And it just gets worse in adult life — oh, sorry I T-boned your car there, but I just broke up with my girlfriend and was re-reading her last text to me… sniff…

At some point, most civilians will be on their death-bed, looking back on their failures and crushed dreams, and have to find cold comfort in the idea that at least they had good excuses.

They tried, sort of, and had their feelings hurt or their efforts rebuffed, and what can you do?

Life’s hard, right?

Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.

You might garner a bit of sympathy from some folks, but you’ll just continue to be disregarded by anyone feasting on life and getting stuff done.

Start with being late. If you think it’s okay, as long as you have a plausible excuse (the traffic lights were absolutely conspiring against you, or gosh, clocks are just hard to understand, you know?)…

… then move to the back of the line right now.

You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…

… but if being late is “who you are” (and yes, you are judged harshly and continually in the biz world on this stuff)…

… then consider WHY it’s a habit.

Look deep. It may be passive-aggressive behavior you picked up as a kid. It may be a symptom of happiness-corrupting disorganization (which no potential client wants any part of). It may be undiagnosed ADD, or even the first ripples of real cognitive disorder.

But usually, it’s just a habit. You keep getting away with it — or you THINK you’re getting away with it (and really, the people around you just stop relying on you, and consider you a liability).

The consequences seem mild — maybe somebody gets pissed off once in a while, or you miss a flight. Whatever. Life is hard, right?

Get off my case.

The problem, of course, is that if you want to play in the level above you — in biz, romance, sports or just generally effective living — you are going to pay dearly for your bad habits.

Top clients won’t put up with sloppy non-professional behavior. Self-respecting potential romantic partners will avoid committing to you.

And a whole bunch of cool life experiences will vanish…

… all because you think having a good excuse absolves you from the responsibility to be where you said you’d be, when you said you’d be there… prepared to do what you said you’d do.

Getting away with something is NOT the same as “succeeding”.

Highly effective people, who get shit done and succeed at life, rarely allow excuse-artists into their lives in any meaningful way.

Buy a fucking watch. Add twenty minutes to your estimation of how long you’ll need to get somewhere (or more)…

… and if you’re early, find a spot to kick back and check email or Facebook or just relax. Or read a book. There’s no such thing as “wasting time by being early”. Be prepared for it.

And it’s worth repeating: Yes, the people operating in the level above you ARE judging you by these small behaviors.

Maybe other folks in your world are just character actors, whose time isn’t worth much. (That’s the way stone-cold sociopaths think, you know.)

However, the successful crowd you want to be dealing with will not put up with that bullshit.

Okay, you better get moving. You’re gonna be late…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The foundation of living effectively…

… is really just a bunch of simple insights, rules and strategies that are easy to adopt…

… once you figure out what they ARE.

Simple shortcut to finding them out, right here.

P.P.S. Yeah, I drew the cartoon at the top. College days, when I was the staff doodler at The Cal Aggie Times in Davis.

This was my idea of wickedly insightful humor.

I dunno… what do you think?

Wisdom Roundup #3

Monday, 2:21pm
Reno, NV
Are you ready for a brand new beat?” (Martha & The Vandellas, “Dancin’ In The Street”)

Howdy.

Just cuz I’m such a nice guy, I like to gather recent Facebook posts I’ve published and lay them all out here on the blog…

… so you lazy types who can’t be bothered reading social media will still enjoy the advice, tactics and weirdness I lay out for everyone else.

So here, in no particular order, is a fresh pile of the good stuff from the last month or so:

Pro Chaos Theory Tip #1: Freelance copywriters learn quickly that the level of functional insanity among biz owners…

… is astonishingly high.

A client who (rightly) wouldn’t dream of interfering with his dentist, or plumber, or mechanic (“Here, let me drill for a bit on my molar — you’re doing it wrong”)…

… will routinely muck up and alter ad copy, no matter how accomplished the copywriter.

I’ve only had a tiny handful of clients in a 30-year career who resisted changing essential copy. The majority indulged in this ad-murdering habit (often after consulting with their English Lit major daughter, or the boys down at the local watering hole).

There are multiple ways to deal with this situation (the primary one is to establish yourself as “the adult in the room” early)…

… but first you have to realize what’s happening. You can’t “fix” dumb, and you can’t soothe irrational rage…

… but you can (as a First Option) learn to identify who’s gonna be trouble down the road, and choose not to play with dumb or irrational players.

Seems obvious. Isn’t. If you don’t stay aware, chaos will consume you.

Why are so many top writers introverts, I’m asked.

Easy.

It’s an extroverted world. Introverts, to survive, must observe, understand and adopt extroverted models. This strengthens your Empathy muscles to absurd degrees.

The basic ingredient of good, persuasive writing is (aha!) empathy.

Extroverts are under no such pressure to study or change behaviors…

… and just get pissed off when forced to deal with introverts, who seem inscrutable and closed-off.

So, at least for writing, introverts have the advantage.

It’s only fair, as the world tends to bully introverts in most other categories.

One of my goals is to become “That Uncle I Never Had” — a worldly guy who would have taken ME aside back when I was so tortured by the challenges and choices of life…

… and just laid out a good reality check. Not tell me how to live, but show me the OPTIONS.

A single freaking clue or two would have gone a long way helping my bewildered teenaged-self cope.

For example: The entire extended family was working class — we traded physical labor for wages. A noble lifestyle that valued hard work, sweat equity, and not getting too big for your britches.

However, I was a near-sighted, introverted thinker. Turning off my brain and rolling up my sleeves to concentrate on hauling, hammering, lifting and building was doable, but difficult. My dairy-owning cousins seemed to revel in it, and mocked my mental exhaustion from blocking critical thought.

It didn’t dawn on me to pursue “brain work” until I hit 32. All my energies, up to that point, went into figuring out why I didn’t fit in, pushing uphill against the micro-culture of being working class.

I felt like a traitor, and a weenie.

I finally got my own clue, said fuck it, and became a freelance writer.

And, surprise, I suddenly worked harder and with greater sweating glee than I ever thought possible. This square peg had finally quit trying to fit into a round hole.

Letting my brain off its leash launched the career I should have always pursued…

if I’d ever gotten a clue it was even possible.

“That” uncle I never had would taken me aside and said “Johnny, me boy, you’re different. And that’s not just okay…

… but it’s something to CELEBRATE. And pursue with gusto. Think, and write, and debate and go down dark mysterious philosophical alleys to your hearts content…

and NEVER be satisfied with mediocrity.

Or conformity. Just don’t expect anyone to applaud your choices. You’ll catch grief all the way… and that’s to be seen as a badge of honor, not shame. Go your own way, and let your freak flag fly.”

That’s all most of us need in life — a clue. A hint that we’re not wrong to want something else, or abnormal to not even know what you want yet…

… but that it’s okay to wander away from the herd to find out.

I’ve met precious few people along the way who qualify as “that” uncle. So we can all use one.

This is why I write these long posts, and have kept the blog going for ten years. It infuriates some folks, but I’m writing for those who can use the advice and clues.

The truth is, going your own way won’t always make you rich. And you gotta be okay with that, if you’re gonna unleash your brain and heart.

Cuz sometimes, you will stumble upon wealth and happiness you cannot even comprehend now.

Life is one long risky adventure. And if you think you can make it safe and without drama, you’re deluded.

Much better to embrace reality, prepare yourself for the game, and work hard on a solid, ethical and deliriously happy ride.

Big bonus if you help others and make the joint a better place.

Do you have smart friends who always seem to make dumb-ass decisions?

Are — ahem — YOU one of these miscreants yourself? (Confession: I am. More often than I care to admit.)

Well, gather ’round. I believe I’ve stumbled upon a solution.

Here it is: When you have an important decision to make…

… just ask yourself this simple question: “What would a smart person do?”

Then, go do that.

Do NOT (as so many of us somehow seem to do) ask “What would a blithering idiot do?”…

… and then go do that.

No, no, no. This is your self-intervention moment.

Don’t be the blithering idiot.

Do be the smart person.

Sounds too simple and obvious to work, doesn’t it?

Stunningly, it works.

Pass it around.

 

Random thoughts I probably should just keep to myself: It’s the birthright of every American to bitch and moan about how things are run.

Heck, the country was birthed in a snit, and didn’t last a generation before dissolving into civil war.

Still… as anyone who’s ever had to meet a payroll knows…

… it’s ridiculously easy to complain and insist you could do a better job…

… but it’s infinitely harder to roll up your sleeves and actually get something done.

All pro copywriters who’ve had a client insist their changes made the ad “better” know that look the client gets when the results come in…

… and they’re suddenly faced with the harsh reality of their doofusness.

It’s similar to the look the drunk who thinks he’s a great singer gets when he finds hisself onstage with a karaoke mic, exposed for the clueless wreck he actually is.

The world is divided into 3 groups: Those who know what they’re doing, and do it well.

Those who don’t know what they’ve doing, but figure it out.

And those those who refuse to acknowledge they are incompetent maroons, yet insist on being in control.

This is why true experts like to hang out with each other. Because the rest of the time, they’re dealing with aggressive stupidity, misplaced overconfidence, and stubborn ineptitude.

Let the bitching and moaning commence.

No one can predict the future, but the universe always lays out hints…

I may have stumbled onto a scientific way to add MASSIVE productivity to your week.

It’s just freaking amazing how awesome this tactic is.

In fact, it adds the equivalent of a entire EXTRA day to your workweek!

Wanna hear what is?

Okay.

Here’s the secret: I woke up today thinking it was Friday. Was kinda bummed that I hadn’t accomplished quite as much as I’d intended to this week…

… until I discovered it’s actually Thursday.

Voila!

Entire extra day added!

Think I’ll use this found time to goof off.

I mean, I earned it. Being a productivity scientist and all…

If you agree with everything you read… then you ain’t reading the right stuff.

There’s a baked-in bias in our brains that seeks consensus. And that’s fine for civilians, whose shallow thinking usually causes little damage outside their social circle.

But when you’ve swum into the deeper part of the pool — whether in biz, politics, or celebrity — each new decision and action is fraught with larger consequences.

It’s fine to be hard-headed when you actually know what the hell you’re talking about.

It’s pretty screwed up, however, to take your industrial-level naïveté (the polite word for raw ignorance) onto the Big Kids playground where maroonity is challenged and a real handicap to getting shit done.

Read more stuff that pisses you off, but don’t GET pissed off. Instead, walk a mile in their shoes, and try to determine what is actually rankling you.

Our default internal mechanism of blindly rejecting the Other represents the worst of our tribal tendencies. The grand arc of civilization has been a relentless battle against that destructive thinking, but it requires disciplined effort.

Surrounding yourself with people and info sources that agree with you may seem the comfy way to go.

But it’s a trap for anyone seeking to live fully and with gusto.

Life is rife with challenges. Instead of dodging them, embrace them.

It may make your brain buck and resist at first, but growth is never easy.

If growth bothers you, best to swim back to the shallow end.

And that’s it for this session, folks.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Don’t forget to solidify your position as a true bad-ass in your niche…

… by quickly learning how to write everything you need to persuade, sell, and nurture your customer base AND your future prospects.

Best way to pull that off: Take the Simple Writing System at-home program.

At your own pace, using your own best learning style, we’ll simply and efficiently install murderously-good writing skills into your brain.

No matter how stubborn you are, or how convinced you’ve been that you “can’t write”. That’s nonsense. We’ve taught thousands of entrepreneurs, biz owners and rookie writers how to write at the most awesome level possible…

… and if THEY could do it, then you can, too.

It’s time to up your game.

See what the fuss is all about here

 

When “Trust Me” Is A Red Flag…

Sunday, 9:30pm
Reno, NV
Have I got a deal for you…” (said no one, ever, truthfully)

Howdy.

You having a good week?

Nobody tried to cheat you out of anything, or make you look like a maroon?

That’s good. You’re walking the straight and true, and that’s the real key to a life of wealth and happiness.

Still, sometimes it pays to see what’s going down over in the darker side of town.

So let’s share more of the “survival rules for entrepreneurs” I have in my consulting stash — the insights (from brutal experience) that helped me build a solid biz and reputation…

… but this time, let’s wander into the really weird stuff for a spell. Be cautious, and don’t make any sudden moves, okay?

Here’s Rule #8: Convincing prospects to trust your bad self.

I first heard about “the trust game” from a wizened, street-savvy con man, early in my career.

I knew I needed to learn more about solid salesmanship tactics, and there were no books around explaining the good stuff. (There still aren’t very many.) You had to search out the old-school guys who’d made their name working face-to-face with people…

… in situations where, if they didn’t make the sale, they might not eat that night.

So they tended to get a little ruthless. Murdered their ethics, buried ‘em in the back yard, and went out to work the “game”.

I had no intention of conning people. These guys did not lead nice lives, and one of the reasons they got so good at working the con is that they often had to disappear quickly to avoid being busted. Sometimes they just split for a short time. Sometimes they left town altogether. Yes, there is another world, parallel to ours, where con men drift in and out of sight, following a sort of circuit across the country.

And with the dangerous games they play, they usually only have one shot to get it right, and losing wasn’t an acceptable option.

So they learned the hard-core persuasion tactics.

The learned the confidence game.

I realized something, though: The same tactics they used for their crooked products…

… could also be used for high-quality, completely ethical products.

They were just too lazy to create good stuff.

Plus, it was obvious they also liked the thrill of being bad. Evil bastards, most of them.

But they were also kinda lonely.

And once you got them telling stories, you couldn’t shut ‘em up. When they sensed an appreciative audience, they just spilled everything, happily. Proud of their life’s work.

So whenever I ran across one of these street-wise confidence men, I became their new best friend for an afternoon, grilling them for insight, tactics, warnings and horror stories.

And I never bored them by asking “Why don’t you just go legit, and sell good stuff? You’d make an honest killing.” They weren’t interested in becoming legit.

A good life lesson right there, but we’ll get into that another time.

Today, we’re going deep in the confidence game.

So, here’s the story…

Bob had grown up on the streets of Berkley, being a lookout as a kid, then a shill and later the dealer as a teen. By the time I met him, he had married a lawyer and was enjoying the good life as a kept man in the suburbs. But he loved to talk about the old days.

His “product”, in this instance, was a classic 3-Card Monte street game. You set up a table on a corner, and had three playing cards placed in a row: Two red aces, and the black Queen of spades.

With the lookout watching for cops, the dealer would use slight of hand to move the cards around, inviting the marks (say, you, passing by and thinking “Hey, that looks easy”) to guess where the Queen was now.

The shill was pretending to be a mark, actively engaged in the game. And winning money. He’d bet $20 that he could spot the Queen, lay down a bill, watch the dealer move the cards around…

… and then point to the card he insisted was the Queen. The dealer turned it over… and voila! The Queen.

“Yeah!” the mark would yell. “This is like taking candy from a baby,” as he pocketed another twenty.

“You’re gonna break me, man,” whined the dealer, looking all sad and embarrassed.

Now, you, of course, would never indulge in illegal street games like this. No, no, no.

But it seemed so…

easy. You followed the Queen without missing, just like the shill.

Why, all that money could have been yours. If you’d been betting.

“Hey, buddy,” says the dealer, looking at you with imploring eyes. “You want to give it a try?”

What the hell. You throw a twenty down, watch the Queen get shuffled around… and you pick her out. The dealer turns the card over, and hey, you won! You followed the Queen, without trouble.

Easiest money you ever made.

You know where this goes, right?

You win the next time, too. And the next.

Then, the dealer — looking more frustrated than before — asks if you want to double down, maybe triple down. If the lookout has signaled a cop nearby, maybe the bet gets even higher. Big money, you’re talking about now.

A pile of cash, just sitting there.

What a schmuck, you tell yourself. If this guy wants to give me more money, great.

And all of a sudden, it ain’t so easy following where the Queen went.

You’re pretty sure it’s there, yeah, it’s gotta be there on the left. Pretty sure.

And it ain’t. Not this time. Or the next. Or the next.

And you just lost a little bundle.

The cop turns the corner, the dealer folds up the table and scurries off (with your lost dough) in one direction, the shill in the other… and you’re wondering what the heck just happened.

“The con,” my new BFF told me, “is all in building up confidence. Allowing the mark to trust that the dealer is who he presents himself as — a bungling maroon who can’t hide a Queen amongst three cards to save his life.”

He sat back. “I loved that game. You gotta really work to gain someone’s trust.”

My question (which I kept to myself) was: Why do all that work to gain trust…

… and then squander it on one transaction?

Why not actually have something of real value to offer? Something worth the money, that turns the mark into an actual customer…

… who comes back for more. The lifetime value of a customer who buys again and again — delighted with the quality of the product and service — is surely worth more than a quick rip-off (and the risk of spending the night in the pokey).

For marketers and biz owners like you — who strive to do the right thing, who have a great product valued fairly — the stark elements of this game should give you a hint how to create that lifetime customer.

It’s all about trust.

Real trust, though. Not that smarmy fake stuff the street hustlers practice.

This is what’s behind the free reports, the bonuses, the unconditional guarantees, and even the “double your money back” promises of classic marketing campaigns.

Every sale begins with a relationship. Sometimes, it’s a brief one — you have something your prospect wants, he’s done some shopping around and likes your prices (and guarantee), and the deal is done.

Other times, it’s a more drawn-out affair. There has to be some wooing, some proof of your reputation and the quality of what you offer.

And the first steps may have to involve no risk at all.

Something for nothing, essentially. A “taste” of the goods. A chance to experience what it’s like to own one.

In the con game, all this is rushed. And, in truth, you can’t con an honest man. The hustler relies on teasing the greed of the average mark…

… who falls in love with the thrill of making an easy killing by putting one over on some street dude who is obviously an idiot.

Until he isn’t.

In a rational marketing campaign, you have better things to use to engender trust.

You’ve been around for a while, with a track record you can verify, testimonials from real people who can vouch for you, and clear evidence that you are a square shooter with a high-quality product, priced fairly.

Yet, it’s the same “game”, essentially. You establish trust, you let the prospect drive the transaction (no pressure), and you deliver the product.

The big difference: You’re doing it ethically.

While the con man cannot stand the thought of actually providing real value.

For him to “win”, the mark has to “lose”.

Just saying. The art of salesmanship goes back to the dawn of history, and can be used for good or evil.

Choose the right path, and I’ll help you become successful, by continuing to share these insights.

More “survival rules for entrepreneurs” to come.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. You know what else works in your favor, when you crave the Big Bucks and successful lifestyle of a damn good entrepreneur?

Knowing the “deep” secrets of awesome salesmanship.

Now, it took me DECADES of chasing down mentors and teachers (including all those old-school street-wise dudes)…

… along with the hard work of putting what I learned to work in the real world as a freelancer, and then as a consultant.

I have been around the block, my friend. And when you add the life experience of my biz partner, Stan Dahl (who was a ridiculously high-paid consultant for such companies as Starbucks and Wells Fargo before joining up with me to help entrepreneurs)…

… that’s a lot of solid, real-world experience on display. Tons of advice, tactics, strategies, problem-solving tricks, and solutions to whatever might be holding you back.

And how do you take advantage of all this experience and savvy?

The most fun (and immediate, results-wise) way is to simply join our Platinum Group… which is a hybrid mastermind/brainstorm/workshop for solutions to the problems holding you back from the Big Bucks and the Good Life. Where we share everything we know about wealth and happiness and fixing what’s wrong…

… no matter how bad you believe your problems are, or how unique you think your worries are.

There are answers to every problem, sticking point and disaster you encounter. We’ve been proving it in this globally-respected group for over 8 years now.

You’ll be among colleagues who are just like you, who’ve encountered the same decision moments and crises, and seen the best and worst of life in the marketing fast-lane.

Just see why so many entrepreneurs have relied on this group over the years. You might just discover something about yourself…

… and you might realize why these kinds of groups have been the main go-to resource for the most successful business owners throughout history.

Just go check it out here.

No pressure. No obligation. Only a peek behind the scenes at the most talked-about and unique mastermind/brainstorm/workshop around…

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (Redux)

IMG_0853

Wednesday, 6:50pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)

Howdy…

I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular annual tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

It’s a good one, worth rereading even if you’ve read it before.

What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…

… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

So, even if you’ve seen this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2016, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…

… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits. I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis. It’s timeless, classic stuff that will never let you down.

So let’s dive in. Here’s the relevant part of the post (slightly edited):

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

Yeah, yeah, I know a chat about goals can quickly turn into a boring, pedantic lecture. But then, so can a chat about space flight.

And, in reality, both space flight and your goals are VERY exciting things.

Or should be.

It’s all in the telling.

What I’m not going to discuss are “resolutions”. Those are bogus pseudo-goals that have the staying power of pudding in a microwave.

No. It’s merely a coincidence that I’m suggesting a review of your goals in January, just after the New Year’s supposed fresh start.

I mean…there’s not much else to do, so why not sit down and plan out the rest of your life.

This is, of course, a very damp, cold, and bleak time of year. The depths of winter and discontent.

A good percentage of the population suffers fleeting depression because of lack of sunlight… thanks to the geniuses behind Daylight Savings Time, who arrange for dusk to arrive around 2:30 in the afternoon in these parts.

We also just got slammed with back-to-back-to-back world-class storms, each one dumping a massive load of snow on us. I sent photos to friends, and many emailed back wondering when I’d gone to Antarctica to live.

We had a little cabin fever brewing. Didn’t help when the local PBS channel ran a special on the Donner Party, either. Three feet of snow drifting down, the lights flickering, enough ice on the road to make the SUV sidle like a Red Wing goon slamming someone into the boards.

The safest place was home… but man, the walls start to close in after a few days.

I’m telling you, I had excuses up the yin-yang for allowing my senses to get a little dulled. The natural response is to turn your mind off, and hibernate until March. And I succumbed. Started moping around, binge-watching The Wire on HBO GO instead of reading a book, surfing the Net for stuff I didn’t care about… you know the drill.

I’m sure you’ve done your own version of it now and again.

And I’m also sure you already know that no amount of “buck up” happy talk will mitigate the gloom.

In fact, there are a few enlightened health pro’s who say we should let our bodies wind down every year or so. Get a full system-flush type of cold, crawl under the covers for a few days and let the demons and other bad stuff bubble to the surface. So you can purge the crud. Evacuate the used-up bacteria and tube-clogs out of your pipes, physically. And shoo the whispering monsters out of your head.

We’re not perfect creatures. We need to sleep, we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to stop and get our bearings. At least once a year. So don’t beat yourself up for the occasional down period. We all have them, and the healthiest folks just roll with it. It’s not good to repress this stuff.

It only becomes a problem when you sink into clinical depression. That’s the cold, empty state where nothing looks good, and hope is an absurd memory.

I’ve been there. Several times. The year I turned 30 (for example) I lost my job, my girlfriend and my place to live all within a 45-day stretch.

That shit can wear you down.

Now, I have two things to say about this:

Thing Numero Uno: If you think you’re losing a grip on your mental state, seek professional help. Don’t head straight for pharmaceutical land, though — give “talk therapy” a try with a real, qualified psychotherapist.

Choose this therapist carefully. You’re going to dump every secret you have on them. You may need to plow through a couple to find one that clicks with you (just as you might have to try out several dentists or plumbers to get a good match). (And yes, you should regard this therapist just as you would your dentist — they’re not gonna become your new best friend, but they will bring a professional expertise to the table during the time you need them. And you only need to see them until you get your head straight… which might be a short time or long time. Again — just like you may need serious dental work, or just a cleaning once a year. Figure it out.)

Keep in mind the fact that everyone goes through bumpy emotional states. And that the percentage of people who actually do lose it every year is rather small.

That’s why talking about your problems with someone who has perspective can be so beneficial — the first thing you learn is that you aren’t alone. And what you’re going through is not abnormal.

Most of the time, you’re probably going to be fine. Even when your problems seem overwhelming. There are tools available to help your brain cope. You don’t often come across these tools on your own.

This kind of talk-therapy is one of the few times the “science” of psychology earns its keep — because finding out how others successfully dealt with the same nonsense you’re suffering through can change everything. Seriously — often, just discovering that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, that others have successfully navigated similar troubles, and that the folks who study human behavior and thinking patterns now have really simple (and super-effective) ways to obliterate feeling overwhelmed can solve much of what’s currently holding you back.

A good book to read (while you’re waiting for the spring thaw) is “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. I’ve recommended it before, and it deserves another nod. (The blurb on the back cover, from the New York Times Book Review, starts with “Vaulted me out of my funk…”)

I haven’t read the book in a few years, but I remember the main lesson well. A study, explained up front, stands out: Someone tested the “happiness” quotient of a vast sample of people, including Holocaust survivors.

And it turns out that, at some point in your life, Abraham Lincoln was right — you are as happy as you decide to be.

This is startling news to anyone lost in despair. Because it seems like you’ve been forced to feel that way. With no choice.

But it’s not the case. The happiness study revealed that you can NOT tell from a person’s current attitude what sort of trauma they had gone through earlier in life. People who had suffered horribly could be happy as larks, while silver-spoon never-stubbed-a-toe folks were miserable.

The difference? Attitude. Optimistic people work through setbacks and trauma… while pessimists settle into a funk that can’t be budged.

And it’s a CHOICE. At some point in your life, you choose to either live in gloom or sunlight.

This realization rocks many folk’s boat. Especially the pessimists. They dominate society, politics, business, everything. And they are very protective of their gloom and doom outlook. Invested, heavily, in proving themselves right about the inherent nastiness of life.

Maybe you’re one of ‘em.

If you are, you’re killing yourself, dude.

The guys in lab coats who study this stuff say that heart disease rates are HALF for optimists over pessimists. So, even if you doubt the ability to measure “happiness” — and it is a rather rocky science — you still can’t deny the stats on dropping dead from a gloomy ticker.

Now, I am most assuredly NOT a clear-eyed optimist. I get creepy feelings around people who are too happy all the time.

But I do prefer having a good time, and appreciating the finer things in life (like a deep breath of cold alpine air, or the salty whip of an ocean wave around my ankles, or a secret smile from the wonderful woman I live with).

I’m just good at balancing out the bad with the good.

Being in direct response helps. Lord knows, there’s a LOT of bad with every piece of good news in this wacky biz.

Gary Halbert and I had a term we used for years: We’re “pessimistic optimists”. (Or maybe we’re optimistic pessimists. I forget.)

How does that work? Easy.

We expected horrible atrocities at every turn… and rejoiced when we defied Fate and unreasonable success rained down on our undeserving heads. We grooved on the good stuff in life… and just nodded sagely at the bad stuff and moved past it as quickly as possible. Maybe cop a lesson or two as we scurried by the wreckage.

If you focus on the bad things that can go wrong, you’ll never crawl out of bed in the morning.

When you finally realize that — not counting health problems — pretty much everything bad that business, or relationships, or politics can throw at you will not kill you… then you can begin to relax.

And eagerly court the Unknown by starting another project.

Have you ever had your heart broken? Hurts like hell, doesn’t it. Feels like your life is over.

Well, from my perspective, sitting here at “way past 50” and pretty darned happy, all those romances-gone-wrong that broke my heart long ago look just plain silly now. And my resulting deep depressions — where I was sure my life was over — are just tiresome lessons I had to get through.

Not a one of those ladies was worth a burp of angst. They were fine people, I’ll agree to that. A few were exceptional (and very skilled at certain man-pleasing arts).

But worth a Shakespearean suicide?

No way.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m now a certified realist. My youthful idealism has drained away, and my brushes with hate-everything-cuz-it’s-not-perfect dogma never took.

And guess what? Contrary to what an embarrassingly huge number of self-righteous folks would have you believe… being a realist has not dented my passion for life one little bit. In fact, it has opened up a whole new world of unexplainable spirituality (which cannot be contained within any formal religion).

I’m not against religion. Let’s have no “save my soul” emails here. One of my favorite friends to argue with has a doctorate in theology. And I have many other friends committed to various belief systems ranging from fundamentalist to Buddhist to humanist. We get along because, on a deep level, we understand that true spirituality transcends whatever way you choose to express it or appreciate it.

I loathe black-and-white views of the world. It’s a shame that our great country has descended to this “you’re nuts if you don’t agree with me” mentality… but it’s part of the pendulum that’s been swinging back and forth ever since we left the jungle.

The far edges of our institutions — political, religious, cultural, all of it — are in spiritual and emotional “lock down”. They’re sure they’re right, they’re positive you’re wrong, and neither facts nor logic will sway their position.

Mushy liberals seem astonished that anyone would ever not love them, or want to destroy their culture. Repressed conservatives seem intent on crushing everyone who pisses them off (and that’s a lot of people).

It’s “whatever” versus “blind obedience”. And neither works so hot in the real world. I have no use for dogma, or idealism, or punishingly-harsh rules that have been cooked up by hypocrites.

Hey — I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live their life. I’ve screwed up plenty, and if I have any wisdom at all, it’s only because I’ve survived some truly hairy situations.

But I don’t believe anyone else is in a position to tell you how to live, either. That’s gotta be your decision.

And it’s a damn hard one to make.

Fortunately, while I can’t tell you how to live, I can move some smooth (and proven) advice in your direction. Take it or leave it… but give it a listen anyway, cuz my track record on successful advice-giving is fairly impressive.

And I’m telling you that having a hateful, brooding attitude will stunt your growth. It will make you a smaller person, a less-wise person, an older and feebler person. And you won’t grow. Not spiritually, not physically, not emotionally. Not in your business life, either.

Most people don’t want to grow, anyway. Growth only comes from movement and change… and the vast majority of the folks walking the earth with us today are terrified of change.

You can’t blame them, really. Change is a form of death. Whatever was before, dies. And whatever comes next must be nurtured with devotion and sacrifice.

That’s hard. That’s a hard way to live, always dying and being reborn.

And because it’s hard, it’s avoided.

Well, screw that.

I suspect, if you’re reading this, you are not afraid of change. But you may not yet understand the power that REALLY giving yourself to change offers.

And that brings us to…

Thing Numero Dos: Goals are all about change.

That’s a subtle point many people gloss over. Rookie goal-setters often get stuck on stuff like quitting smoking, or vague concepts like “become a better person”.

Or “get rich”.

That seldom works. Goals need to be specific… and they need to involve profound change in order to take hold.

Halbert often talked about “image suicide” — the necessity of killing and burying the “self” you are so heavily invested in, before you can move to a new level of success.

I see this all the time in my consultations. Biz owners refuse to do even slightly risky marketing, for fear of damaging their “reputations.”

And my question to them is: What reputation?

Unless you’re the top dog in your niche, no one gives a rat’s ass about what you think or do. No one is looking at your marketing for inspiration or condemnation, because you aren’t the guy to look at.

No. What these scaredy-cats are talking about when they say “reputation” is what their family and friends think of them. And that’s a sure sign of a losing attitude. That ain’t Operation MoneySuck.

My colleague Ron LeGrand, the real estate guru, is one of the best natural salesmen I’ve ever met. The guy understands the fundamental motivating psychology of a prospect at a master’s level. And he knows that one of the major obstacles he faces in every sale… is what the prospect’s spouse (usually the wife) will say.

She can nix the sale with a sneer. Or she can nix it in the prospect’s head, as he imagines that sneer.

Ron counters both sides of the objection expertly. He encourages the prospect to get his spouse involved in the decision, so she becomes invested in it. Or, he suggests waiting until the first big check comes in… and letting the money explain to her about what you’re up to.

This is the reality of most people’s lives. As much as they want what you offer… they are terrified of making a mistake. Cuz they’ll pay dearly for it at home.

It’s a huge deal-killer.

That’s why you include lots of “reason why” copy in your pitch — to give your buyer ammunition for explaining his decision to the doubters in his life. However, as Ron knows, the best (and simplest) “reason why” is results.

Money, as they say, talks.

The top marketers seldom give a moment’s thought to what a risky tactic might do to their “reputation”. They don’t really care what people think about them. You can’t bank criticism.

I know many marketers who are involved in projects they are passionate about… but which bore their spouses to tears. Some (like Howard Stern’s former wife) are even deeply embarrassed. But they don’t complain too much. Because the money’s so good.

Aw, heck. I could go on and on about this. The story of Rodale’s shock and dismay at the brutally-honest ad I wrote for their timid “sex book” is a great example. They refused to mail it, because of their “reputation”. Yet, after it accidentally did mail, and became a wildly-successful control for 5 years, they suddenly decided their reputation could handle it after all.

The people who get the most done in life are all extreme risk-takers. They embrace change, because growth is impossible without it.

But you don’t go out and start changing things willy-nilly.

You need goals.

And you need a plan.

Now, there are lots of books out there that tell you how to set goals. I recently found, in a moldy banker’s box, the ad for Joe Karbo’s book “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” that I’d responded to back in 1982. The exact ad! With the order form torn out… it was the first direct mail pitch I’d ever encountered, and it changed my life forever. Joe’s book was essentially a treatise on setting goals. And it’s good.

It was a wake-up call for me. I’m having that crinkly old ad framed. Can’t imagine why I kept it, but I did. Pack-rat riches.

If you can’t find that particular book, there are dozens of newer goal-setting guides on the shelves. But they’re all based on the same formula:

1. Decide what you want.

2. Write it down, and be specific.

3. Read the list often, imaging as you read that you have already achieved each goal.

What this does is alter the underpinnings of your unconscious. When one of your goals is to earn a million bucks this year, and that goal burns bright in the back of your mind, each decision you make will be influenced.

So, for example, you won’t accept a permanent job somewhere that pays $50,000 a year. Cuz that isn’t going to help you attain your goal.

The problem is this: To earn a mil in a year, you need to average around $50,000 every two weeks. This is why it can take a while to get your goal-setting chops honed. As I’ve said many times, most folks don’t know what they want.

And they aren’t prepared for the changes necessary to get what they want, once they do decide on a goal.

What kind of guy earns $50,000 every two weeks, like clockwork? It takes a certain level of business savvy to create that kind of steady wealth. It doesn’t fall into your lap.

What kind of guy makes a windfall of a million bucks in one chunk? That’s another kind of savvy altogether.

In that same moldy banker’s box, I also found a bunch of my early goal lists. And I’m shocked at how modest my aims were. At the time — I was in the first months of going out on my own, a totally pathetic and clueless rookie — I couldn’t even imagine earning fifty K a year. My first goal was $24,000 as a freelancer. And to score a better rental to live in. Find a date for New Year’s. Maybe buy a new used car.

Listen carefully: I met those goals. As modest as they were, it would have been hard not to. I needed them to be modest, because I was just getting my goal-setting chops together. And I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time even bothering to set goals.

Let me assure you, it was NOT a waste of time.

The lists I found covered several later years, too. And what’s fascinating is that many of the more specific goals I set down were crossed out — I wanted those goals, but didn’t feel confident about obtaining them.

So I crossed them out, and forgot about them.

A couple of decades later, I realize that I’ve attained every single one of those “forgotten” goals. The big damn house, the love of my life, the professional success, even the hobbies and the guitars and the sports car.

I’m stunned. This is powerful voodoo here.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and you don’t have to belong to a religion to realize this. The whole concept of “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened” was well-known by successful people long before Luke and Matthew wrote it down.

The keys are action. Movement.

Ask, seek, knock.

These simple actions will change your life forever.

Back to making a million in a year: Some guys know what they need to do to make this goal real. They’ve done it before, or they’ve come close.

Setting the goal is serious business for them… because they are well aware of the tasks they’ve assigned themselves. Take on partners, put on seminars, create ad campaigns, build new products. Get moving on that familiar path.

I’ve known many people who started the year with such a goal… who quickly modified it downward as the reality of the task became a burden. Turns out they didn’t really want the whole million after all. Half of that would suffice just fine. To hell with the work required for the full bag of swag.

Other guys don’t know what they need to do to earn a mil. So their goal really is: Find out what I need to do to earn a million bucks.

Their initial tasks are to ask, seek, and knock like crazy. And change the way they move and act in the world. Because they must transform themselves into the kind of guy who earns a million bucks in one year.

Right now, they aren’t that guy.

So, for example, reading “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” suddenly becomes an “A” task, while remodeling the kitchen gets moved to the back of the burner. Sharpening your ability to craft a killer sales pitch becomes more important than test-driving the new Porsche.

More important, even, than dating Little Miss Perfect. And test-driving her new accessories.

Tough choice?

Nope. When you get hip to the glory of focused change, you never lament leaving the “old” you behind.

It will be hard, sometimes, no doubt about it. Especially when you discover your old gang no longer understands you, or mocks your ambition. They liked the old, non-threatening you. They want him to come back.

But you’ve changed. And hot new adventures are going to take up a lot more of your time now.

My trick to setting goals is very simple:

Every January 15th, I sit down and write myself a letter, dated exactly one year ahead.

And I describe, in that letter, what my life is like a year hence. (So, in 2016, I dated the letter to myself as January 15, 2017.)

It’s a subtle difference to the way other people set goals. Took me a long time to figure it out, too.

For many years, I wrote out goals like “I live in a house on the ocean”, and “I earn $24,000 a year”. And that worked. But it was like pushing my goals.

Writing this letter to myself is more like pulling my goals. For me, this works even better. Every decision I make throughout the year is unconsciously influenced, as I am pulled toward becoming the person I’ve described.

But here’s where I do it very differently: My goals are deliberately in the “whew” to “no friggin’ way” range. Mega-ambitious, to downright greedy.

There’s a sweet spot in there — doable, if I commit myself, but not so outrageous that I lose interest because the required change is too radical.

I’m pretty happy with myself these days. Took me a long, hard slog to get here, and I earned every step. And I want to continue changing, because I enjoy change. But I don’t need to reinvent myself entirely anymore.

So here’s what makes this ambitious goal-setting so effective: I don’t expect to REACH most of them.

In fact, I’m happy to get half of what I wanted.

There’s a ton of psychology at work there. The person I describe a year away often resembles James Bond more than the real me. Suave, debonair, flush, famous, well-traveled… and in peak health. I hit all the big ones.

However, long ago I realized that trying to be perfect was a sure way to sabotage any goal I set. Perfectionists rarely attain anything, because they get hung up on the first detail that doesn’t go right.

Being a good goal-setter is more like successful boxing — you learn to roll with the punches, cuz you’re gonna get hit.

You just stay focused on the Big Goal. And you get there however you can.

I’m looking at last year’s letter. I was a greedy bastard when I wrote it, and I didn’t come close to earning the income figure I set down.

Yet, I still had my best year ever.

And — here’s the kicker — I would NOT have had such a great year, if I wasn’t being pulled ahead by that letter. There were numerous small and grand decisions I made that would have gone another way without the influence of what I had set down.

I didn’t travel to the places I had listed. But I did travel to other, equally-fun places. I didn’t finish writing that third biz book. But I did position it in my head, and found the voice I want for narration. That’s a biggie. That was a sticking point that would have kept the novel from ever getting finished.

Now, it’s on power-glide.

There’s another “hidden” benefit to doing this year-ahead letter: It forces you to look into the future.

A lot of people make their living peering ahead and telling everyone else what to expect. Most do a piss-poor job of it — weathermen are notorious for getting it wrong, as are stock market analysts, wannabe trend-setters, and political prognosticators.

Yet, they stay in business. Why? Because the rest of the population is terrified of looking into the future. That would require some sincere honesty about their current actions… since what the future holds is often the consequence of what you’re doing right now.

If you’re chain-smoking, chasing street hookers, and living on doughnuts, your future isn’t pretty. For example.

Or if you’ve maxed out all your credit cards, and haven’t done your due diligence to start bringing in moolah, your future isn’t nice, either.

No one can “see” into the future for real. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, it’s easy, when you have a little experience in life.

Things you do today will have consequences tomorrow. If you put up a website today for a product, and you do everything you can to bring traffic to it and capture orders… your consequence can be pretty and nice.

Sure, you may get hit by a bus while fetching the morning paper… but letting that possibility scare you off of trying for something better is for pessimists (who are scheduled for early checkout).

You have enormous control over your future.

And once you realize that, you can set out to start shaping it.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’re one of those people who’ve been skimming blogs like this… never reading anything carefully and slowly, and digesting what’s on the page… then I have one more suggestion for you: Stop doing that.

Most of the uber-successful folks I know (and I know a lot) have both skimming skills AND “deep reading” skills. And they know when to use them. You skim to get overviews, which may turn out to be flawed (because you missed something crucial in your skimming). You deep-read when you want to absorb something important, and you need to make the impression of what you read stick in your brain.

Right now, there are readers here who should be seriously considering the courses and opportunities I offer in the right-hand column of this blog. This is the stuff that has launched freelance careers, transformed biz owners into ad-writing monsters, and armed both rookie and veteran entrepreneurs with the fundamentally awesome skills of success. Quickly, and with the surety of proven-in-the-real-world tactics and advice.

So stop screwing around. If you need further help in getting your career going, or in crafting the kind of marketing that will boost profits through the roof… then consider the offerings on this page an essential task in your new list of goals. This is the real deal. No fluff, no nonsense — just honest, solid, proven stuff from a respected veteran of biz success.

Meanwhile, get busy with your January 15th letter.

P.P.S. One of your main goals, if you’re a serious entrepreneur and you haven’t mastered slamming out world-class copy yet for your bad self… is to GET bad-ass at it as soon as humanly possible. I don’t care how you do it — find a mentor, start experimenting with one of the many courses or coaching programs out there…

… or, as I recommend, just join our mastermind. We’re going into our ninth year of it, so we’re doing something right. To get the details, go here.

Give yourself at least the OPTION of deciding yes-or-no, with some background, by going to this page now and seeing what’s up. At the very least, read some of the testimonials, to get a taste of how powerful the transformation in your life and career can be when you finally get hip to the stuff no one told you about before.

I’ll be checking into the comments here, if you have questions about any of this…

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