“They’ve all gone to look for America…” (Simon & Garfunkel)
I want to wish the country a happy birthday on this fine July 4th.
She’s looking not too shabby for 235 years old. I’ve been here for a lot of those b-days, too… and here are a couple of random thoughts (before I get drowned out by fireworks):
Random Thought #1: I’m not gonna discuss politics, and I hope you have the presence of mind not to start in on it yourself in the comments. However… as far apart as we seem today on the multitude of problems faced… I can tell you it has ever been thus.
At our very best, the country has always been like a dysfunctional family forced to co-exist at a perpetual holiday dinner. My own family shows signs of it occasionally — somebody gets hot about some subject, voices rise, someone gets called an idiot, feelings are hurt…
… and then, minutes later, all is well and we’re laughing about some story from the family archives. (I had uncles who couldn’t get through a game of gin rummy without throwing cards across the room and giving us kids an excellent lesson in swearing like a sailor before the aunts corralled them back into some semblance of civilized behavior again. I miss those old farts, and a whiff of beer and cigars can take me back instantly…)Read more…
“A thief believes everybody steals.” (E.W. Howe)
For those of you bugging me about the next Quiz…
… it’s coming, it’s coming.
Tonight, though, I’ve gotta get something off my chest.
And so, a Rant. By little Johnny Carlton:
There seems to be a parasite bug infecting the brains of many marketers out there.
Let’s call this bug… “Theft“.
It’s not going away anytime soon.
In fact, the very word has been mutating for a long time now… so that what would have easily been labeled “stealing” in the bad-old pre-Web days…Read more…
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” (Ansel Adams)
I grew up in a photo-loving family.
Pop still has his trusty Kodak folding camera — a true antique now — and I cannot yet bring myself to dig through that box in the garage with all my old cameras (cuz I know it’s time to start assigning them new fates somewhere else).
I swear to you I still have a box of Polaroid film in the butter drawer of the fridge. Might even be the last batch they ever made (and R.I.P. Polaroid, dear departed friend).
Mom was the photo archivist of the family, and even as other families gravitated toward 16mm film, I retained a purist’s preference for the snapshot over the home movie.
(Side note: I remember meeting someone 20 years ago who mentioned that they were on video from the moment of their birth, and it was unsettling.
Now, it’s rare to meet anyone under the age of 30 who isn’t cataloged on film through their entire childhood. I can’t even imagine watching myself being born. I have a hard time watching old seminar footage of me from ten years ago, for cryin’ out loud.
Anyone out there hauling around a library of self-referenced film with them? What’s it like?)
I believe I fell in love with photography the moment I saw my first photograph… and realized it was actually a moment in time captured forever.
And I formed some very intense ideas about what makes a “good” photograph as a third-grader thumbing through the still-amazing stack of Nazi photos Pop brought home from his stint as a rifleman during WWII.
(There’s no way to tell for sure, but those two dozen shots seem to be a German officer’s front-line cache of “Here’s what I did during the War” snapshots. Fascinating subject material that forced us to imagine what the story actually was behind those uniformed men… especially the one with the open bullet wound in the dorsal lat.)
As I grew up, I would become captivated by very few photos in the piles coming back from the drugstore of family and friends and pets and outings.
I never questioned why I found those few snapshots so iconic.
Later, one of my first jobs in advertising was overseeing the photography for a computer supply catalog every quarter.
That job meant gathering all the equipment (cables, monitors, furniture, floppies, etc) and spending a week or so with a professional photographer in Palo Alto trying to make plastic crap look good.
(I won’t bore you with the hassle that pre-digital photography presented — the need to refrigerate film, manually load it, and nurture it like a fragile duck egg until it could be color-separated and made “camera-ready”, which means ready for the printer to fuss with during the offset process of applying wave after wave of ink until the correct color was achieved.)
(Okay, sorry, I think I just bored you there.)
Anyway… I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography (like using mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream, cuz the real treat wouldn’t survive under the required hot lights for a good shot).
Pro photographers in the ad field earned big bucks. They knew the voodoo.
But you know what?Read more…
“Dude, you’re harshing my mellow…”
Let me know what you think about this, will ya?
It seems, at first, to be a light-weight subject…
… yet, really, it’s one of the foundations of living a good life.
I’m talking about the people you surround yourself with.
But not the way you’re thinking.
This may even jar you a little bit. Here goes:
Early in my career, I realized that grown-up life isn’t all that much different…
… than what goes on during recess in the third grade.
There are outsiders, insiders, cliques, teams, gangs, winners and losers galore.
No matter WHAT grisly experience you had in grade school…
… you’ve got company.
It’s brutal out there.
And then you become an adult…
… and it’s the SAME SHIT all over again. Hierarchies, power-grabbing, humiliation plays, one-up-manship, and clubs you can’t belong to.
The ranks of entrepreneurs I know are filled with “recess survivors” who finally gave the finger to “The System”, and went off on their own.
As amazing as it seems, you really can get on with life without the “gotcha” games and pettiness of “Life With Bullies, Prom Queens, and BMOC’s”.
… that’s not the realization I want to share with you today.
Instead, the second part of that epiphany (that life is just a replay of third grade recess) is this:
Regardless of whether you “won” or “lost” in the social-climbing bullshit you’ve suffered through in your time…
… it can all still be a blast…
… if you have the right people around you.
In other words… it’s not whether you win, or lose.
It’s how much fun and insight to life you get during the adventure.
Let’s use me as an example.
Cuz I don’t mind telling embarrassing stories about myself:
I had a very mixed record of social “success” coming up the ranks… both in school, and in early adult life.
I was okay at sports. Just good enough to make the team and suffer the anxieties and physical/emotional debt of vicious organized games. And just under-powered enough to get cut from every attempt to make varsity. So I got to play… and I got to experience the arrid loneliness of the bench and the exit door.
But I sucked, utterly and without redemption, at most social interaction. Girls scared the bejesus out of me as a kid… flummoxed me as a teen… and toyed with me after that.
I was so unprepared, so confused, and so clueless about dealing with standard issues of dating and being a cool guy and feeling like I belonged… that, if I were a character in a novel, you’d roll your eyes and say “No way could anybody be that much of a loser!”
That was me.
But get this:
I still had a BLAST.
Even when Life dialed up the most humiliating, emotionally-scarring horror possible to a shy, skittish introvert like me…
… I was able to shake it off, and show up the very next day smiling and ready for more.
“That all you got, Fate? That’s your best shot, you miserable s.o.b.? Ha!”
You know how I did it? How I survived, and even thrived while being buried in sticks and stones and the arrows of misfortune?
I’ll tell you:
I had buddies to share it all with.
Not just fellow losers, either.
And this is the essential point here: I had a close-knit group of guys (and a few gals) around me…
… who delighted in being alive.
There’s probably some social-math equation I could come up: Your ability to survive and thrive… is directly proportional to the time that elapses between a horrible event…
… and your ability to laugh about it.
With my friends and me, that time was often instantaneous.
We had a lot of practice.
(And I’m not talking about just dating disasters, or heartbreak, or social blunders. I’m including death, financial misery, and the near-total upheaval of normality. The kind of blows that can rock you to your knees.)
I’m still not yet revealing the essence here.
The take-away of this tale is not “friends are good.”
Because I will attest that there was a very definable, and very rare aspect of these friends that is absolutely essential…
… and even beside the point of being able to laugh about tragedy.
You wanna guess what that aspect is?
This realization came rushing back to me yesterday while I chatted with my best friend from high school. Haven’t seen the dude in two years, but we stay in close touch.
And, mid-way through the call…
… I realized I ached from laughing.
Even though some of the subjects we discussed were illnesses in our families, job woes, relocation horror stories, and other tragedies.
And I was able to put a “quality” on that laughter.
It was bristling with raw energy. The “good” kind of energy.
There really are two kinds of people in the world: Those who bring energy with them to everything they do…
… and the great masses, who suck energy from you like psychic vampires. (That’s a Halbert term, by the way. Privately, we had other names for these types of buzz-killing grim reapers.)
I’ve known a lot of folks in my time. And I’ve unconsciously been putting each and every one through a little test upon meeting them.
The test is simple: Do they provide energy? Or are they leeching it from the air around us?
A party crammed with energy-gobbling vampires is a drag, through and through. Even Vegas can’t salvage a good time.
And yet, just hanging out with a single “mini-solar system” type of person in a drab coffee shop… can be pure bliss.
In business… in life… in games and in every social and quasi-social gathering…
… there is no fun, and little chance for adventure or good stories when the energy level is flat-lined.
And yet… when you are in the company of someone bursting with life-force…
… well, it’s pretty freaking magical.
The most mundane tasks become a joy. (My pal Art and I used to just drive around Cucamonga, with no goal or destination… not cruising, but rather just hanging out, laughing, basking in raw energy and verve and marvelling at the cruel and wonderful adventures Life handed out.)
Life isn’t gonna treat you better when you surround yourself with heat-source types. You’re still gonna take it on the chin, still gonna encounter monsters around every corner.
My mother — after ten months of gruesome chemo — still managed to tell a joke and make me smile… just hours before she passed away.
Believe me — there was nothing funny going on that afternoon.
But I cherish that last “don’t let the bastards get you down” shared moment with her.
If you understand what I’m talking about, you don’t need to know anything else about her to know exactly what kind of special woman she was.
That was over 15 years ago. And the lesson I learned is never far from my thoughts… especially when I’m feeling like Life has it out for me again.
The ride’s too short.
If you’ve got that flame in your soul, don’t let anyone or anything douse it.
We need you in the mix.
We already got enough of the damned vampires hovering…
Anyway, something to consider.
What do you think?
“Quivers down my kneebone… I got the shakes in my thighbone…” Guess Who (“Shakin’ All Over”)
Have you ever been so freakin’ nervous you almost lost control of bodily functions?
Two things made me suddenly think about this unseemly subject.
First Thing: We have an Afghan hound in the house with a bark that rattles windows four blocks away… and he has come thisclose to eating the mailman, the Fed Ex guy, three neighbors, and a flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses who dared knock on the door.
And that’s just over the past month or so.
But here’s the kicker: He will break down into a sobbing lump of useless self-pity if Michele or I so much as look at him cross-eyed.
His bark is a mask for the social vulnerability he suffers.
He doesn’t really want to rip out your throat.
Deep inside, he’s just a confused, awkward puppy, trapped in an adult dog’s body. Scared shitless of the world. (Literally shitless, whenever fireworks or lightning are nearby.) (Yeah, it’s a mess.)
Second Thing: I was recently advising someone about “getting his ass out in the marketplace as an expert”… and the guy actually started shaking.
Just the thought of stepping onto the metaphorical stage of life, and performing… sent this poor guy into a stuttering implosion.
He not only had no “bark”… he had no cojones, either.
This got me thinking about my own journey from stuttering fear-meister to swaggering bluster-bomb.
It’s relevant… because, in business, my line is: If you truly have a great product that your prospect should own… then shame on you if you don’t step forward confidently and BE that guy he needs you to be… so he can feel good about buying.
You can’t sell from your heels, people.
(I love to trot out the old quote by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones: “It’s not that I’m all that great of a guitar player, you know. It’s just that I can step out in front of ten thousand people and DO it.”)
(Talent comes in WAY behind cojones when it comes to carving out your niche.)
Anyway, back to me…
I am not an extrovert by any stretch.
In fact, I chart pretty heavily toward “total thumb-sucking, light-avoiding, cave-dwelling introvert” in basic personality tests.
You can tell an introvert from an extrovert pretty easily: When the extro is around people, like at a party, he gets energized. The introvert finds it a chore, and leaves the event drained.
It’s all about energy transference.
Now, I was lucky to grow up with a sizeable contingent of good friends — who I went all the way from kindergarten through high school with — which saved me from having to “make” new friends until I hustled off to college.
And, in college, for whatever reason, I was immediately taken in by a group of goofballs who somehow saw my potential for furthering their goofball yearnings.
However, it took me a long time to get to “know” most of these people.
Seriously. It was decades before I finally felt comfortable around most of them.
Nearly all of the people I’m close to, I’ve been close to for half my life. (I’ve known my business partner, Stan, for 25 years, and our contract writer, Mark, since we were nineteen.)
I tell you this to illustrate how ill-equiped I was to become a guru.
I stuttered as a kid… and frequently found myself getting stuck on words as an adult whenever I encountered uncomfortable situations.
Meaning, any new situation where people I didn’t know were looking at me.
In grade school — back when I was convinced that everybody else knew things they weren’t sharing with me (and that’s why life seemed like such a mystery) — I even burst into tears in class math competitions. (One little girl — Peggy The Bitch, I call her — repeatedly tripped me up with the question “What’s 5 times 0?” I nearly always said “5!” before realizing my blunder and being told to sit down while the rest of the class continued the competition.)
(Ah, childhood humiliation. What a concept.)
As a teen, a good (longtime) friend convinced me to learn guitar so we could start playing in bands. He wanted the excitement and recognition of being on stage. I just got a thrill from playing music.
So he fronted the many bands we formed, happily, from center-stage… and I happily lurked near the far edge, out of the limelight, content to concentrate on the tunes.
I was kinda like Garth, from Wayne’s World. Thrust into the action on the coattails of a raging extrovert.
Freelancing was a natural for me. It required long, lonely hours inside your head… and you were excused from looking like the regular “suits” in the agencies because, as a writer, the more outrageous you appeared, the more they believed you must possess the “goods”.
Halbert, of course, was THE uber-extrovert. He publicly listed his main hobby as “finding new methods of self-aggrandizement”.
I stayed behind the scenes as much as possible. My main job, in fact, during seminars was to handle everything but the actual delivery of the action onstage.
It was Halbert’s show, and I liked it that way.
I had defined myself as an introvert, and never considered it could be any other way.
I even had a “defining moment” — back in college, when I was introduced to my first “real” girlfriend’s beloved sister, I started laughing uncontrollably. Not because anything was funny… but because my body betrayed me, and just went off in an inappropriate spasm.
I was humiliated, because after lamely stuttering about why I had burst out with guffaws (I could come with nothing good to explain myself), the awkwardness just got deeper and deeper. My girlfriend forgave me (and even sorta found it endearing — I was her “bad boy” artistic-type boyfriend, so weirdness was expected).
But her sister forever thought I was an A-Number One Doofus Jerk-Off.
Rightly so, I might add.
Around uncomfortable situations, I was that guy.
After, oh, around thirty gazillion private consultations and Hot Seats and meetings with clients once I became a sought-after pro… all of whom initially tried to “alpha male” me into submission, because they wanted the writer (me) to be their slave…
… I started to think that maybe I had unwisely “defined” myself.
As anyone who has gotten freelance advice from me knows, I quickly learned to walk into a new client’s life and OWN the bastard. I knew that I held all the cards — he needed copy, couldn’t produce it himself to save his life, and thus was in zero position to be dictating terms to me.
I ain’t shy, professionally.
Now, my technique may or may not help others. (I developed a “stage personality” for these consultations I called Dr. Smooth… and let this “alternative John” take over.)
(And damn, but that Doctor was good at taking control and bullying clients.)
It’s a standard tactic, adapted from acting. No big deal, nothing revelatory about it.
What it did for me was immediately obliterate that old “defining moment” that I had regarded as my “fate”.
I wasn’t really a socially-retarded loser.
I just played one in life.
Cuz I thought I’d been… assigned… the role.
If you’ve ever seen me speak at seminars, you know I’m no wallflower these days. I’m totally comfy in front of any size crowd, because the “mystery” of what’s going on has been solved in my mind.
It’s not about me.
It’s about the content of what I share.
(Plus, of course, I know so much about the people in the audience nowadays… from all those decades of delving into the psychology of salesmanship… that I don’t even need to imagine anyone naked to be calm.)
(It’s just us folks in the room. Good people looking for good info, plus maybe a little entertainment along the way. And a speaker line-up of “just-plain-dudes” having fun in the limelight.)
My point: You can do what you need to do.
If your market is crying out for someone to stand up and be the go-to-guy… you really can do it.
Like Keith Richards, you can get your chops honed to a degree that gives you enough confidence to be “onstage” (however you define the stage — it can be your website, an actual stage, or infomercials or any other media)… where you will deliver what the folks paid to see.
There are vast armies of “experts” out there (especially online) with no more real skill or insight or knowledge than you have.
Often, they have less.
What they DO have, that so many others refuse to cultivate, are the cojones to step up and BE that guy the audience needs you to be.
I can tell you this with absolute certainty (because I personally know it’s true): Most of the top guru’s in the entrepreneurial world — especially online — are former dweebs, stutterers, social outcasts and semi-dangerous nutcases.
They are, essentially, gawky and lonely and scared little kids trapped inside an adult’s body.
What they have done, however…
… is to re-define WHO they are when it counts.
Everyone, at some time or another, feels the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over their head. Life is tough, business tougher. Hamlet’s slings and arrows constantly rain on everyone’s parade, and NO ONE gets a pass.
… the winners define themselves.
I’m still an introvert. I still have my awkward social moments. I still occasionally stutter.
But those things do not define me.
Long ago, I threw away the role “assigned” to me… and just created my own new one. Which allows me to do whatever needs doing to further my goals… including climbing up on stage alone and engaging a thousand people as a ringleader.
Life sucks when you’re crawling around under the weight of unnecessary self-loathing, self-pity and self-expectations you can never meet.
Life rocks when you re-cut the jigsaw of your personality, and make something new according to who YOU want to be.
Just food for thought.
Love to hear your experiences with self-defining moments.
It’s heartening to hear so many commenters in past blogs finally come to grips with internal battles they’ve sometimes struggled with for years.
Hey — it’s fun when this stuff starts working.
P.S. We are very close to finishing up a new venture here that — if you crave rollicking adventure in your business life — will absolutely light up many people’s worlds.
It’s a limited opportunity… but the folks who truly know, in your heart, that one of the spots was meant for you… will instantly understand what has to happen to get involved.
Just a few more days…
“Code Blue! Gimme the paddles…” Dr. House (alot)
You got a favorite TV show?
I was a charter member of the first TV-addicted generation, and I may yet live to see the end of network television as we’ve all known and loved it all these seasons.
The Web’s already killed it for the youngest generations.
Once the last of the Boomers wander off, we’ll take our fond memories of Howdy Doody and The Twilight Zone with us… and no one will much care, being too busy with fourteen incoming Twittering IMs on their ear/eye implants and a fresh scene loading up from the new Grand Theft Auto XXVII they just injected straight into their pituitary gland.
Sometimes I think about that.
Television, easily the most culture-shaping technology advance in the history of mankind… eclipsed before it reached seventy years old… murdered by hotter, more intensely interactive tech. (Okay — I know that television was actually viable in the 1920s, but get real. It wasn’t a cultural phenomenon until the fifties.)
But that’s not what I want to write about tonight.
Instead, something else triggered my interest.
I thought back to the season-ending episode of “House”, which had everyone in the room reaching for tear-soaked tissues (including the cat, who was barely watching).
And, if you’ll give me a minute here, I’m gonna tie that show in with you making money with your ads.
VERY major lesson coming up, so pay attention.
First, though, you gotta put up with some ranting:
/Begin rant: Television, overall, has followed the same arc that — in micro — the show Saturday Night Live has followed: Great for a couple of years… suck for several years… recover, and be great again… then quickly descend into Suckdom once more… and over and over, in a cycle that (someday) historians will probably be able to track down to the second. (“As we can clearly see, class, the show left the rails thirteen minutes into the first episode after Lorne Michaels left in season five… you can almost — chuckle — see it jumping the shark as Louise-Dreyfus sputters in yet another vapid, unfunny scene…”)
Speaking of rants, you’ll get some of my very best when you sign up for 11Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now. You get it for free, right here.
And I believe we’re currently in one of the recurring “up” bumps. Always good when you realize there are actually a couple of shows on that DESERVE to be watched. Not brain-dead watching, but active interest watching.
What do you Tivo?
We religiously record House, 30 Rock, The Office (though I suspect the shark is in mid-air on that one), and Manchester United games on Fox Sports. (Okay, Michele won’t watch soccer with me, and I can’t stomach Brothers And Sisters with her. Trade off.)
I love the medium, but I don’t “need” it.
I grew up watching all the sixties sit-com, sci-fi, drama and kitsch I could cram into an evening (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Addams Family, Outer Limits, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, She-Bang, Soupy Sales, Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Monkees… God, I’m embarrassed to admit all that…).
But I watched, primarialy, because it was there. Mom had the kitchen radio on all day (it’s how I discovered rock and roll), and the boob tube was cranked on when Pop came home, and wasn’t turned off until beddy-bye. (Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Where The Action Is, Your Show of Shows, The Match Game…)
Once I was old enough to beg Pop for the car keys, my evening rituals changed dramatically. I didn’t even own a TV through the seventies. (Never saw a single episode of Mork & Mindy, Mary Tyler Moore, or Three’s Company, thank you very much.) (One of TV’s “down” cycles, I would say.) (Showed up, often drunk, at friends’ houses with toobs for SNL, of course.)
MTV and cable brought me back to the fold, fitfully.
Now, I’m in a groove once again.
Gotta have my “House”, and the occasional Law & Order SVU. (BTW: Why is Rooney not playing for Man U lately? Did he get hurt? Traded? What’s up? He wasn’t in the Moscow grueler…)
Okay, back to the point of all this:
The last episodes (it was a twin-hour ending show) of House were pretty riveting television. I’m ALWAYS impressed with good writing (Boston Legal, CSI: NY, the commentors on the World Series of Poker, Californication)… and I’ve learned to watch both passively (to enjoy the moment)…
… and to go back over what just hooked me, and watch critically.
I like to break down exactly what the writers did to tweak my emotions, my interest, and ESPECIALLY my resistance to being sucked into the story.
That’s right. With every show, I challenge the writing to do its job.
We have an unwritten rule in the house: Any time either of us can start predicting the dialog before the actors speak it… that show is toast.
The shark has done jumped, when the script is so weak you can burble along with the actors in real time.
So here’s the thing…
… this House final episode (WARNING: Spoiler alert!) polished off one of the major characters. That’s not unique in television… but the way the writers did it defied what any viewer would have predicted.
It was as if… the script burned down the house.
Just created all kinds of emotional havoc and brain-tickling mayhem.
It was that riveting, and satisfying.
I can’t wait for next season. Seriously.
I’m pissed I gotta wait.
Consider what the writers did, as you consider how to write compelling, riveting copy yourself.
Sometimes, you gotta burn down the house just to get your prospect’s attention.
Not literally, of course (“you idiot”, House would add).
Most ad copy is like an episode of Three’s Company.
At best, vaguely suggestive, but nothing you’d remember the next day (or even the next hour).
Great copy, on the other hand, is like South Park.
You simply cannot snooze through it.
You gotta be prepared for the reaction, too, if you ever get ballsy with your writing. Not everyone will cheer you on. “He can’t say that, can he?” will be a common response.
“Somebody’s got to do something about that repulsive material.”
“Can’t we shoot them, or deport them, or something?”
I’ve never gone for straight outrage, but neither were my first golf ads greeted with encouragement at the big golf magazines.
They swallowed hard during the first round, took the money, and pretended not to notice how much those 3-page copy-dense beasts fouled up the pretty “look” of their publications.
When my client went back for multiple insertions, it was almost too much to bear.
Fortunately, the publishers were shameless money-grubbing whores, and the ads ran despite the cries of alarm from readers. (But only from readers outside our target market. The guys we were after LOVED those ads.) (Still do.)
We, essentially, burned down the nice golf house, like vandals in a riot.
Something to think about, the next time you absolutely have to get attention for your copy. Don’t you think?
What TV shows do you remember fondly? (I’d watch MTV for hours in the first years, when it was all video, all the time… and I still consider The Larry Sanders Show to be one of the best ever written. Entourage ain’t bad, though it’s occasionally infuriatingly stupid. The Simpsons, yeah. Seinfeld, I guess. What else am I missing here?)
P.S. Do you really want to know how to write ads that “burn down the house?” People are still ripping off my ads from decades ago, and you can find out more about my secrets right here.
“…and I’m doing this, and I’m signing that…” Mick Jagger, “Satisfaction”
I’m gonna be flat-out honest with you: I’m freaking exhausted.
The “17 Points” workshop is in the can, but it took a piece out of us to pull off. Three entire days, morning to evening, locked in mortal combat with Truth, Insight, and The Path To Riches & Spiritual Fulfillment.
Man, it was fun.
But grueling. In that “everything got revealed (and then some)” way.
I’ll be sharing more of what exactly was shared at this one-of-a-kind event later… but for now, I just want to gloat a bit.
I mean… NO ONE else puts on events like this. I honestly believe hosting one of these marathon teaching workshops would kill your average guru. Even the ones half my age. Just curl ’em up and leave a singed hulk trailing wisps of bacon smoke.
You really shoulda been there, you know.
Oh, wait… you were invited. But you missed out on your spot by not gaming the auction, didn’t you.
Ah, well. I’d say “next time”, but without an act of God (like the video spontaneously combusting), there won’t BE a next time. My entire career was metaphorically aimed at this one single in-depth workshop… and I pushed myself as hard as I’ve ever pushed.
And I ain’t never giving it again.
It was just too exhausting.
Have you ever stood on your feet for three solid days, keeping your mind completely engaged, in fever-pitch mode… working without a net, in front of appropriately-greedy people who have paid big bucks for the opportunity to suck every scrap of wisdom from your skull?
I can’t say I recommend it.
Other folks put on big damn seminars with a mob in the audience, and as impressive a line-up of speakers as they can bribe or cajole into showing up. The actual host is onstage for only a short amount of time. He’s more of a ring-leader and MC.
I like that model fine. It’s a good way to present a lot of stuff to a lot of people.
But my DNA just won’t allow me to host that kind of event.
I cut my teeth, long ago, with Halbert, doing intimate and shockingly-interactive seminars with relatively small groups of people… most of whom were highly skeptical of the whole scene. We had no script, no “battle plan” for how to proceed, no clear idea of what was gonna happen from hour to hour… and it was just us on the stage, with little or no backup.
And we liked it that way.
It was theater-meets-the-barroom-brawl time. We took each attendee through their paces, and kept the entire event utterly and completely focused on real-world solutions to the actual marketing problems they brought to us.
No theory. No bullshit academics. No clever speeches. And no pitching.
Just raw, nasty, front-trenches marketing hard work.
Once you get a taste for that kind of impromptu action, “regular” seminars full of talking heads seem boring and nowhere near dangerous enough.
My seminars are always small, always unpredictable, always pumping adrenaline and endorphines… because the live, unrehearsed, uncensored interaction of host-and-attendee IS dangerous and exciting.
Hey — the action kept me going for three packed days.
Kept the attendees on their toes, too.
It was a raging success, by all metrics.
But I’m never, ever, doing it again.
Still, I’m sitting here laughing out loud, remembering some of the stories we pulled from the extended weekend. It was great having my long-time buds David Deutsch and Garf (David Garfinkel) as wingmen, watching my back from the audience. The hotel was perfectly placed between Chinatown and North Beach (where Kerouac and The Dead hung out) — fabulous food, ambience up the yin-yang (literally, if you went into Chinatown), all the energy that comes from hanging out in the nerve-center of a bitchin’ city like San Francisco.
Plus, witnessing Deutsch attempt to murder Garf with an IED of olive oil and glass was just priceless. Later, we all made up and toured Carol Doda’s old haunt for laughs, along with the new “Beat Museum” (Ginsberg’s typewriter!).
Ever had a Chinese foot massage in a room filled with top Web marketers, all half-drunk and giggling?
I’m truly sorry you missed this event, I really am.
We may have a few video snippets to share with you, soon. But we will not be releasing the DVDs of the event (like we have for the other seminars/sweatshops I’ve held).
Naw. This one was too special. For now, the hot stuff is staying in the vault.
And I’m gonna bask in the warmth of having pulled it off for a little while here.
A little creative gloating. There hasn’t been anything in any of the other marketing events you’ve heard of… that is even remotely close to what was shared in this workshop.
I wish you coulda been there.
PS: Just a note to the curious here — the schedule for the much-desired “Launching Pad” coaching option (what we call around the office “Be John’s New Best Friend For A Month”) is starting to look like the 405 during the morning commute. In other words: Packed.
Over the past months, while we’ve been on the road (to Kern’s “Mass Control” event, Eben’s “Altitude” spectacular, Schefren’s Orlando seminar, and everywhere else we’ve been traipsing around) people have aggressively cornered Stan or me and grilled us on the availability of this super-intense consulting opportunity.
If even a fraction of those folks follow up, we’ll be booked solid soon. It’s first-come, first-served, though… so, while there are spots on the schedule, you have a shot.
Check it out at http://www.carltoncoaching.com.
“…and you’re working for nobody but me…” George Harrison
Just plowed through the old tax grind here. Spent several hours chasing down documents, digging through files, double-checking my math.
Cuz I suck at math, you know. How I got through trig in high school is a mystery (let alone statistics and matrix theory in college).
In fact, I’m only half-joking when I say I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the ability to multiply by 8. That entire synapse has just dried up and fluffed away. (I still have vivid memories of squirming in my third grade class during the vicious head-to-head multiplication games the teacher forced us to play. I got tricked more than once with “five times zero”, blurting “FIVE!” before realizing my blunder. Argh!)
This is why one of my first splurges when my career got going was hiring an accountant.
Accountants like numbers. Watching their hands fly across a calculator is something to behold. Looky there — all my money vanishing like dots on a digital screen…
But here’s the thing: The first time I wrote a check to the IRS for an estimated payment… I was actually thrilled to death.
This first quarterly payment was proof that I was — finally — my own man. In my own biz. Paying my own taxes.
No withholding. No payroll check. No timing my bills to The Man’s schedule for doling out my hard-earned dough.
But I enjoyed that thrill alone.
Many of my early gigs as a freelancer were with business owners who considered taxes to be evil, evil, evil. Reagan encouraged them in this hatred — it was a time when government was seen as the problem, and unfettered free enterprise the solution.
The only solution.
I’m not gonna get into it… but after last month’s bailing out of Bear Stearns with taxpayer money (mine!) — because deregulation allowed them to act like four-year-olds with someone else’s piggy bank — I’m gonna slug the next guy who spouts ideological bullshit about the free market being able to regulate itself and fix any problem.
Economics has never been easy to understand, no matter what anyone else tells you. It’s a complex mix of theory, emotion, psychology, greed. con-man tactics, and lots and lots of wishing and hoping.
Oh, and gambling. The entire financial infrastructure of our civilization is essentially a big damn roll of the dice. If everybody woke up tomorrow and decided that paper money was worthless… it would be. Same with gold. And IOUs, and everything else of “value” you can’t eat, use for fuel, or build anything with.
…I was damn proud to start paying my taxes as a rookie freelancer.
This confused nearly everyone I worked with at the time. Especially since I was hip to Ayn Rand and Robert Ringer and a small bit of economic theory…
It was like, I should know better or something.
Back then, it was almost heresy to like paying taxes. A few of my colleagues even became tax rebels, refusing to pay anything under the hazy notion that income tax wasn’t “in” the constitution, and so… blah, blah, blah.
They got in trouble. Ayn couldn’t save ’em.
I kept my thoughts mostly to myself. As a vandal in my formative years, I destroyed lots of stuff. We were removed from the creation of bridges, street lighting systems, even stop signs. So we burned, blew up, cut down and defaced public property like it was a game.
Seriously. It seemed like a game.
I’ve had this idea for a “basic lesson” I’d like to deliver to “pre-vandal” kids in grade school and junior high. In this lesson, I would explain to kids where they “fit” in the culture, and where stuff like street lights and earth-moving equipment came from. Cuz no one ever did it for me.
My theory is that kids are too removed from the creation of the stuff around us. Strangers arrive in uniforms, build and fix shit, and vanish. In earlier times, you may have known the folks who put up the lights (“Hi, Mr. Edison!”), ran the tractors, painted the walls, dug the holes for power lines, etc. (Heck, you may have even been involved — I doubt a kid who helped raise a barn would later vandalize it.)
I got a taste of this when my little town formed a Little League. Parents got together, pooled scarce resources and money, sought out sponsors… and my Pop helped build the freaking baseball field. From scratch. Went out there and leveled the field, cleared the debris and rocks (big rocks in the dirt, too), erected the stands and concession, wired the microphones, poured concrete for the dugouts… all of it.
We treated that diamond like church, too. It was sacred ground.
Slowly, it was dawning on me that anarchy was dumb, and could harsh your mellow.
Building stuff… and (gasp!) even taking care of it… could make life better.
Once I became an entrepreneur, I was ready to step up and be an “owner” of the civilization I was living in. Taxes weren’t “taken out” of my paycheck anymore. Instead, I wrote quarterly checks to do my part in funding the upkeep and creation of local and national crap.
Crap we needed. Like roads, sewers, firehouses, power lines, the whole interconnected mess that kept the lights on, the beer cold, and garbage picked up.
Yep. I’m a proud taxpayer.
I have never forgotten listening in on a heated conversation between a couple of advanced businessmen, back when I first weaseled my way into those kinds of meetings. (Literally smoky back rooms.)
Most of the guys were all pissed off about taxes, hated the thought of paying even a single penny to “the gummit”, and considered the whole thing extortion.
But there was this one guy… the wealthiest and most Zen-centered dude in the group… who just shrugged.
He said — and I remember the sound of his voice — that he made his millions, and paid every penny he owed in tax, when it was due. And slept like a baby, and went about earning another million.
The other guys grumbled and bitched and moaned and agreed with each other that this was the wrong way to go about being a success. You fought with the taxman over everything, smuggled money into hidey holes whenever possible, lied, cheated, played dumb and dumped vast sums into off-shore accounts.
Over the years, I paid attention to who led the better life. No contest.
Off-shore money vanished (“Oops!”)… years were spent wrangling with attorneys and IRS agents… and many sleepless nights ensued.
And I slept like a baby, having taken the rich guy’s advice. And got busy with my career.
No one understands my joy at being able to say I pay for the upkeep of my quirky little town and my staggeringly-big nation. And though the checks I write are pretty damn huge (I quickly got used to paying more in quarterly’s than I used to earn in a year), I do not begrudge Caesar a single coin.
Sure, lots of it is wasted, misspent, stolen and worse.
The world’s a messy place. Choose your battles.
I focus on the never-ceasing wonder of living in a joint where a guy like me — lowly, formerly-clueless, working class me — had the opportunity to grab a seat at the Feast… simply by getting busy and setting goals.
This is an astonishing playground we live in here. Most of the rest of world is agog at our freedoms, and would happily pay twice the tax we dole out just for the privilege of being able to bitch about paying it… and not being jailed or shot in the process.
So pay ’em and forget about it until the next quarter.
You really should be too busy making hay to even notice the money’s gone…
P.S. Important note to anyone who’s been gazing longingly at any of the offers over at www.marketingrebel.com: Every single package there is on the front burner for being taken OFF that site (probably forever).
In particular, the mega-popular “Bag of Tricks” package is about to be retired.
It’s just too good a deal (especially with the personal attention from me included).
We’re not getting greedy, mind you. We’re just getting hip to the structure our new biz model is becoming. And that killer offer needs serious revamping (and higher prices).
However, as long as it’s there on the site, we’ll honor the deal. I’m heading down to San Diego this week to speak at Frank Kern’s spectacular seminar, and I’m kinda focused on the upcoming “17 points of copywriting” workshop just around the corner.
Still, we’ve got geeks scrambling… and as soon as we can, the entire current set of deals at www.marketingrebel.com vanishes. I can’t tell you, right now, what will replace them… but I CAN tell you this: You will never see an amazingly hyper-generous deal exactly like the “Bag of Tricks” again.
So pop over and check it out while you can. This particular “menu” of essential info and tools and skills is what fueled so many of the top marketers now doing their thang online. Just check the testimonials.
We’re not shelving the “Bag of Tricks” to be mean… it’s just time to grow into a new model. Changes online demand it.
Don’t dally. I know you’ve been lusting after that package. I’m announcing it’s demise at the Kern event, and we’ll follow through soon after…
P.P.S. By the way… all incoming comments were disabled last night, due to a technical glitch while our server was upgraded. I know at least a few people emailed me, privately, to tell me they were denied.
Anyway, it’s all working fine now. Fire away, if you like…
“Things will have to get more clear before I can even say I’m confused…”
I’m gonna need your feedback on this.
See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude, because I have to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).
This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.
And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, most of the time.
It can get spooky, climbing into the psyche of your market.
Still, though, it is, ultimately, exquisite fun. This gig — figuring out how to Read more…
Let me share with you an important re-discovery I was just bludgeoned with about the nature of what is “true”, and what is manufactured bullshit.
It’s a version of “truth” I believe is critical for all marketers and seekers of success (both in life and in biz)… and yet remains shockingly elusive and hard to nail down.
Why? Because some very dedicated people do not want you to get hip about it.
Here’s the story: Technically, I just got to share a stage with Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines/Virgin Records this past weekend.
Maybe “virtually” is the better word, though. I was in Phoenix, at Joe Polish’s stunning Super Conference, and I pulled a shift onstage chatting with Joe and then putting the audience of 700+ though their paces writing some headlines.
Branson was “on” the following day, via satellite. Very cool technology — totally live (well, almost, with a 3-second delay bouncing the images and sound off the orbiting junkpile up there) — and amazingly intriguing for a live audience. I had no idea a real audience could be held captive so effectively by someone’s huge head on a screen, broadcasting from half a world away.
But it works.
And I gotta tell you: I was prepared to NOT like Branson, and was ready to bolt the room the second he bored me.
Why? I’ll get to that in a moment. But by the third or fourth minute of his talk, I found myself really liking this guy… and thoroughly enjoying both what he had to say, and how he said it.
By the time he finished his “speech” and generously began to answer questions from the audience, I felt bad that he and I would never have the opportunity to hang out together. I felt that simpatico with him.
Later on, I thought about my prior feelings about him… and how they had been formed.
Bottom line: I was duped.
By the media, and probably also by corporate monsters who hate his message of independence and responsibility for taking care of the world.
The Man (the icon of the beasts who control this world) loathes rich people who attain success by alternative means, and then insult the Power Structure by challenging the “pillage and rape” methods they use to acquire and hold dominion over markets, populations and the “reality” most of us experience through media. (The beasts really, really, really want us sedated and mollified by the value-less aspects of such things as Youtube and Facebook, which act as opiates to keep the bulk of society from questioning anything The Man is doing.) (There IS some value to Youtube and Facebook, of course… but they’re not exactly sterling examples of enlightenment.)
Branson’s main ventures have all been centered on his experiences in modern life… and how he found them lacking and in dire need of updating or complete revolutions. Air travel has sucked for several generations, and so he created Virgin Airlines, which apparently rocks. (I’ve never had the pleasure, but my partner Stan gives it 10 out of 10 stars.) He created his record label to fill the huge gap of taste and relevance that the Big Ugly Record Companies left open… and they have despised him for it ever since.
Now, of course, he’s doing amazing things to try and make the world better… and The Man is apoplectic with rage for the effort. (Branson had Nelson Mandella and Kofi Anan of the UN ready to go to Iraq and convince Saddam to step down and go live in exile in Liberia — which would have been a bloodless, peaceful coup that accomplished everything the Bush administration said it wanted — but the day they were ready to leave for Iraq, the war started and it was too late. I remember this getting scant media attention — at least here in the US — and being completely squelched soon after. The Man hates being second-guessed.)
All this has reminded me, yet again, of the unpleasant responsibility of enjoying the privileges of a free society: We can NEVER take the word of those in power as gospel… and we are saddled forever with the need to stay vigilant and challenge authority on every major point.
The media has not been totally unkind to Branson… but the general attitude about him (if you never actually listened to his side of the story) was skeptical and sneering. Rich do-gooder guy, who was a self-admitted “party animal”, trying to ignore the rules the rest of us have to live by. Deserves to be taken down a notch or two, the little bastard.
Which, of course, is an ABSURD notion for a guy like me to have in his head at all. Heck… I never play by the rules, and I distrust authority with the best of them.
In fact, my entire teaching style is centered on “waking up”… ditching the zombie lifestyle The Man prefers you to stumble though life with… and claiming your place at the Feast.
So what I’ve come away with — from this little exercise in awareness — is the POWER of the media in this regard. I hadn’t bothered to go deep, and get the story myself. To be fair, I’m a tad busy to be doing my own research on everybody in the news… but in this case, we have a guy who is knocking himself out trying to do the right thing in many, many ways that require courage, vision and piles of his own money… and I allowed the snarling media to gobble up his basic message and keep the BEST part of it away from me.
Entirely my fault. I dozed, and got snookered.
The truth will always be slippery, hard to nail down, and subject to misinformation and propaganda.
Still, it’s worth remembering who’s in charge of most of the “news” you are spoon-fed. Rich people who have a stake in you NOT becoming rich, too. They got theirs, and aren’t too happy about you getting yours.
It’s a good thing to spend just a little more energy to get a better view of any story by uncovering alternative news outlets.
And it’s also a good thing to remember how nasty The Man can get when riled. I have zero interest in any kind of “real” fame specifically because of this. I’m fine with the very minor celebrity status I enjoy on the seminar circuit, and among my subscribers and clients and customers. It’s like having a big, raucous, fun and interesting extended family to hang out with.
But the kind of fame that would regularly get you on the front page? Forget it. You instantly become canon fodder for a heartless media that doesn’t care a whit about truth or serving the Greater Good.
Me? I’m gonna get Branson’s book and read it right away.
The dude has me intrigued… and I feel I owe it to him.