Category Archives for small business marketing

Shakin’ All Over

Thursday, 5:31pm
Reno, NV
“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.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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…

The Moment Your Life Changed Forever

Thursday, 9:35pm
Reno, NV
“Are you a good witch… or a bad witch?” Glenda, The Good Witch of North Oz


As always with selling stuff…

… there comes a moment when the concept of “opportunity” must be broached.

Now, never mind the pitch. That’s something for another post.

However… it occurs to me that, as human beings, one of our primary relationships…

… is with opportunity.

How’s your relationship going?

There are good opportunities, and bad ones. They almost never reveal their true nature until long after they’ve passed, though, so you never quite know what you’re dealing with when you need to deal with it.

Thus, you are left with relying on your instincts.

And your instincts about opportunity will absolutely suck, unless you’ve been busy exercising them.

You do this by recognizing opportunity when it knocks… and reacting to the choices in front of you.

As you gain experience, you will note (and you really should be taking lots of notes along the way, so you can study your results) that you’ve jumped on a few bad opportunities, which either didn’t pan out as expected, or led you someplace you didn’t want to be.

And there will be good opportunities you passed up for excellent (excellent!) reasons… which later turn out to exactly what you really did want after all.

And vice versa. And versa vice.

If you want to fine-tune your instincts to razor sharp perfection, you’ll first need to know what silly, unnecessary blunders to avoid. First step is getting my free report by joining my list here.

The first rule, of course, is to learn to recognize opportunity.

It will almost NEVEr announce itself, while arriving with shocking irregularity and without any warning whatsoever.

The only way to prepare for it… is to engage it, in as many forms as possible, and hone your chops in dealing with it.

Everyone has an uncountable number of opportunities that present themselves each and every day. You know you’re dealing with a zombie when they tell you their lives are opportunity-starved. It simply isn’t true. (More painfully, if you sit back at this point and have to mentally squint to remember the last opportunity that tapped you on the shoulder… well, you done been zombified. Time to sit back more often, and reflect on what’s going on around you.)


  • Tomorrow morning, you have an opportunity to wake up an hour earlier, and start writing that novel that’s been burning up inside you for years.
  • Or start exercising before you get to work, slough off some of that unwanted beef.
  • Or spend the hour googling job offerings in Paris, while getting your resume in order.

What’s stopping you? Nothing.

Those opportunities, and a bazillion more, hover just outside your grasp… available, ready to cooperate, plump with promise.

If you were but to grasp for them.

Or, you could wake up early — say, just before dawn — dress in black, drive downtown with a bunch of tools, and break into the bank. Or murder your business rival. Or set a building on fire.

You laugh?

Here in Reno, just in the past year or so, all of those opportunties occured to certain people, who gleefully jumped on them. (Among them were a multi-millionaire, a lady with multiple suitors, and a college student.) (Sounds like a Gilligan’s Island reunion, doesn’t it?)

There are good opportunities… and bad opportunities.

Now, most folks have a weak (at best) relationship with opportunity. They quickly lose sight of the role of “choice” in every action they take. Caught up in the panic, or the enthusiasm, or their own sense of inevitability (“I didn’t have a choice” is a common refrain), they abandon critical thought… and do some truly stupid shit.

Again — how’s your relationship with opportunity?

Copywriters KNOW they’re supposed to mention opportunity in every sales pitch they create.

But most of the time, it’s a desultory wave as they roar by the subject on the way to the close.

Yet, if you study salesmanship… you’ll see that even if the word itself is never mentioned… the concept of opportunity plays a huge role in the best and most effective pitches.

But hey — let’s forget about potential opportunities for right now. Never mind thinking about what might or could happen tomorrow.

Think, instead, about what has already happened in your life.

How has opportunity shaped who you are… and you aren’t today?

Pick any period of your life. There aren’t really any hard categories here. I often look back on my own life as being cataloged depending on which city I was living in at the time. But then, I’ve moved around a lot.

For you, a period may be nothing more than the standard “ages” — childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, etc. All the way to geezerhood.

What matters is that you remember, and consider, how your relationship with opportunity sent you off in one or another direction. You jumped on some, avoided others. Mangled many, smoothly surfed a precious few.

Like Sinatra, we all have regrets. Some more than others.

It’s relative, of course. I have vast numbers of regrets… but as a percentage of regret-versus-“glad I did it”, I’m way ahead.

And that’s because I had an opportunity, late in my teens, to sort of wake up and “see” how my choices were affecting my life’s direction.

The details of this are rather grisly: I was a passenger in an off-road jeep that rolled near the top of a very steep mountainside. Because I wasn’t strapped in, I was thrown clear — sort of, anyway. The jeep actually rolled over me, and the roll bar hit my head with enough force to shatter my glasses… but not crush my head. The driver was buckled in, and after rolling the length of three football fields down into a gulley, was minutes from dying when we finally reached him.

It was my first brush with death — both my own, and the passing of a friend.

The shock wore off right about when school started, a few weeks later. It was my senior year of high school, and I was slated to be a student body officer, and a low-ranking member of the football team. These “jobs” had seemed inevitable, because I had never considered the idea that I had chosen a path that included them.

I was a zombie. I felt like life was something that happened TO you. I honestly felt I had been assigned a role to play. Nothing had ever been stated outright — there was no overt pressure from anyone.

But simply considering — for the first time as a teenager — what I wanted to do, rather than what I believed was “expected” of me, changed my life forever.

I mean… I had been inches away from death just weeks before. Life suddenly took on new angles, as if the lights had been turned on suddenly.

I didn’t feel good drifting anymore. I wanted a say in how it played out.

I quit the team. Like a good wannabe athlete, I hadn’t allowed “quit” into my vocabulary before. I thought the stress of struggling to attain status among jocks was something I was supposed to want to do.

And I had no idea what the consequences of just quitting would be. I’d never known anyone who’d quit a team before. (Cut, sure… but never quit of their own free will.)

Yet, instead of lightning bolts from the sky, I felt this enormous relief wash over me.

I felt… there’s no other way to describe it… free. Free to make a choice, and live with the consequences.

Giddy with newfound power, I then blew off my “duties” as a student body officer. Hey — it was 1969, and there were more… pleasant… opportunities presenting themselves, if you know what I mean.

I had ended my junior year, just months prior, as one of the “nice” kids in school. Full of respect for authority, good grades, a solid citizen.

And then, three months into my senior year, I was publishing an underground newspaper that ridiculed and challenged school rules.

I got expelled for refusing to cut my hair… got jettisoned from the short list for homecoming king (and earned the wrath of the socially-blessed set) by not playing by the “rules” when I hooked up with one of the cheerleader-types… and (best of all) nearly got into a fist fight with one of the athletic department mucky-mucks.

The coach had hate in his eyes. He saw my rebellion as a personal affront. It got ugly, too. I was that-close to getting permanently expelled. (Which would have meant instantly being gobbled up by the draft board, and hustled over to Viet Nam.)

The disasterous date with the cheerleader should have been humiliating, under “normal” circumstances. Instead, somehow, I weathered it just fine.

There were too many other opportunities popping up, all over the place, to care about a public dissing, no matter how hot she was.

There were, in fact, hotter ones on the horizon. (Non-social types, too.)


Sorry for the lapse into personal stuff.

My point is that when you look back on your life, there will be moments that were like crossroads — you either went one way, or the other.

And the rest of your life floated on the consequences.

I regret much of the open rebellion I manifested during the two or three years it took for me to work out what was making me so pissed off at authority. (And regret can be a good thing, too — I long ago worked hard to re-earn the respect and love of the people who got caught in the whirlwind of my “Rebel Without A Cause” period. I had the opportunity to punt on the “face up to the damage” stuff, and decided instead to suck it up and make amends. That decision, too, shaped me greatly.)

But I do not regret for a second jumping on what I saw as my first opportunity to live life on my terms.

I was pathetically bad at it, at first. I broke hearts, I insulted people who were only doing their jobs, I taunted danger. I flamed out, spectacularly.

Looking back, it’s what I had to do to get on the path that eventually led me here.

And, as I said, in the final tally, I enjoyed many more “good” adventures and experiences than I did “bad” ones. I was like a bull in the china shop of life, but eventually I started to appreciate the artisty of good china.

I had many friends, however, who were appalled at my willingness to dive into every adventure that presented itself. Only much later did I realize that their relationship with opportunity was fearful and stubbornly rooted in the status quo.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of those guys are still friends. They don’t have a lot of stories to share about wrestling life into submission… but they’re good people.

The road less traveled is less traveled because it’s a hard trek.

If everyone jumped on every opportunity that peeked over their shoulder, the world would be total chaos. Somebody’s gotta drive the bus.

We all have a love/hate thing going with opportunity.

But the reason it resonates so powerfully in a good sales pitch… is that most people have never come to grips with their personal relationship with it.

I get to hang out with many of the top entrepreneur marketers online.

And if you listen to their stories carefully, you’ll notice that their success started with a single, simple opportunity taken.

  • It might have been a book.
  • Or a decision to attend a seminar.
  • Or — no kidding — it might have been a simple decision to get up an hour earlier, and create their own opportunity by devoting some time to learning the ropes of self-employment.

Of course, the reason I know so many of these guys… is that I started teaching writing skills, and wrote “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel“, which fell into their hands at some point.

And I wrote that damn book by relying on my very polished relationship with opportunity to help me out. I was at a period in my career where I craved new challenges.

However, I also had an opportunity to go hang out in Holland for a long stretch at the same time.

Back when I had a haphazard acquaintance with opportunity, I would have been torn over those options — slave over writing a book on copywriting and marketing… or go soak up another culture, deeply? How the hell do you decide?

But I felt comfy with opportunity, after a lifetime of looking for it, entangling with it, and studying it.

And it was easy to choose between those options.


Holland is still there, as is the rest of the world and all its wonders. And writing that book has allowed me to see much more of the world, than I would have without it.

Look back on your own life.

Spend a little time cataloging the moments that changed things forever for you. Not just the biggies, like divorce and getting drafted and earning your first bundle.

Much more critical are the opportunities that almost slipped by, and maybe went unnoticed even when you took advantage of them.

The little decisions. To do this, and not that anymore. To say yes, or no, with wildly diverging paths leading from each utterance.

Sometimes opportunity knocks.

And sometimes you roust it from the ether yourself, and create opportunity where none existed before.

We all have a relationship with opportunity. Good, bad or indifferent.

How’s yours?

Love to hear about one of the defining moments in your life.

Hearing how other people embrace, shun or just deal with opportunity is always a learning experience. The horror stories are often just as instructive as the happy endings.

The comment section is waiting for y’all…

Stay frosty,


P.S. One of the best ways to improve your relationship with opportunity is to constantly be adding to your “Bag ‘O Tricks.” Especially when it comes to learning to craft an irresistible sales message. And you’ll find the motherlode of resources to help right over here.

Now THAT is an opportunity…

Jerks, Genius, and Juice

Monday, 9:43pm
Reno, NV
“I’ll tell you what matters most in life: @#&*, %&*#@, and #@%&*. And if there’s any money left after that, more @#&*.” The Big Ugly Guy


Let’s talk more about Halbert’s legacy, what d’ya say?

His name keeps cropping up, both in praise and in confusion.

I’m thinking this is gonna be the case for a long time to come, too. The guy both intrigued and mystified people. While he was still around, he didn’t need anyone to speak for him, because he loved to engage in dialog about his theories, his lessons, and his own legacy.

And once he had your phone number, you could expect frequent late-night calls on every important subject under the sun.

(One thing I’m fairly proud of is realizing, years ago, how valuable and precious those calls were. It was never lost on me that I was privy to the intimate thoughts and ruminations of a towering figure in the game.)

Now that he’s causing trouble in another realm somewhere, it’s fallen to his old pals to metaphorically watch Halbert’s back.

It’s an interesting situation. When I first began my career, advertising legends like Claude Hopkins and Robert Collier had fallen off the face of the earth. Their books were out-of-print, and if you mentioned their names — even in a hard-crowd of marketers — you’d get blank stares.

Life’s like that. Some of the greatest groups in rock (if you count influence as a sign of greatness) spent their entire existence in near-obscurity. (Good example is The Flying Burrito Bros. Founder Gram Parsons’ voice has buckled the knees of many a now-famous musician — U2’s “Joshua Tree” album is a tribute to the dude, just for starters — and he’s an honored guest in the Rock Hall of Fame. But they were pretty much ignored during their brief glory days. Same with Arthur Lee and his band Love. Yet… whenever I urge some young musician to seek this music out — and I’m not alone in doing this — the result is always the same: No one who finally discovers this stuff can understand why it’s been overlooked, and remains nearly hidden except for small pockets of rabid fans.)

When Gary and I first met, we bonded because we were like “advertising geeks” sharing a respect for the forgotten genius of guys who died before we were born.

When I found out he had a thrashed photocopy of The Robert Collier Letter Book… and was willing to let me copy it… it was like discovering buried treasure.

It’s kinda hard to understand, now that you can find copies of nearly everything ever published online. And a whole fresh generation of guru’s are making sure that their students, at least, don’t forget about the past again.

There’s juice in the old stuff. While most of the rest of the world sinks into myopic delusion (believing that nothing old can possibly have value), the savvy few know better.

And continue to profit from this vast stash of overlooked swag.


I refuse to look at Gary’s stuff as “old”. Some of his references are dated, sure — especially in the 20-year-old newsletters. His genius was forged in the gnarly and complex world of direct mail and direct response print ads.

And yet he was hip to the ways marketing was morphing online. No one would mistake him for a tech-geek, but he was pointing out profit opportunities on the Web right up to the end.

No moss growing on that boy.

And because the fundamentals will never change — it all comes down to killer salesmanship, whether you’re marketing online, in the mail, on TV, or bouncing signals off satellites for passing UFO’s — his teachings will never become obsolete. No matter how dated you find some of his references.

He remains a primary source of what I call “the good stuff”. Not a secondary source, but a PRIMARY one.

A whole bunch of the guru’s out there would be mute without Gary’s influence, inspiration, and specific teachings.


… virgin mobs of rookies are crowding into the online marketing game every day.

And their first obstacle is to wade through the bullshit out there… and find trustworthy resources for info, tactics, and tools. And there are endless minefields of misinformation, wrong directions, and evil intentions looking to suck them in.

I do not envy anyone arriving in the online marketing world without friends or at least a clue.

But I do try to steer as many as I can reach straight, whenever possible.

Last week, a rookie posted something interesting on Michel Fortin’s “Copywriter’s Board” (a free online gathering place for freelancers of all stripes and persuasions).

Title: “Are all copywriters jerks?”

The entire thread includes input from a lot of smart writers, and it’s a fun read.

Usually, I just lurk in those forums (cuz, you know, I’m a little pressed for time). But this “jerk” post was right in my wheelhouse — the subject was Gary’s writing “style” (and also mine and a few other guru’s) and how… offensive… it was.

The writer was genuinely disturbed by the attitude and tone of “this guy Halbert”. It was exactly the sort of post that Gary would have loved to respectfully engage with… and I figured I’d chime in, since he couldn’t.

Respectfully, but with a heavy emphasis on reality.

Not that Gary (or any of us) needs defending. We’re all happy to let our stuff speak for itself.

But something in my gut was telling me that newbies were not getting good introductions to some of “the good stuff”… and might wander away never giving it the chance it deserves.

So here’s my post in that thread, below.

It’s a message that may bear repeating a few times, as “ancient history” online increasingly gets defined as anything older than last week…

Here’s my post:

Hey —

I’ll have you know I’m not a jerk… I’m a curmudgeon.

Seriously, though, the posters here who mention the importance of “real world” knowledge about how biz gets done are right on. I know ALL the copywriters mentioned in this thread, on a personal level. And I’ll share a secret: Behind the scenes, it’s a locker room out there.

Top writers are nearly always wicked smart, and they devour life in large chunks.

They have no fear of any subject… and (key point here) they respect language in all forms. Especially slang and the way people actually speak to each other.

Still, I totally understand why some folks think many of us cross a line with our ribald writing and outrageous public attitudes.

However, none of us do it just for shock value. In fact, my SOP is to emphasize to fresh prospects that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I mean it. We never schedule consultations with anyone who isn’t hip to my teaching tactics (which are, admittedly, brutal and in-your-face). You gotta walk in with your eyes wide open. (You’re allowed to blush, but we’ll be merciless regardless.)

Halbert, in fact, has a very specific warning on the first page of his website. I won’t quote it here, cuz I don’t to give anyone a conniption fit. But it’s VERY specific.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with demanding a certain behavior code from the people you learn from.

There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with putting up an “adults only” sign, and getting on with things in an aggressive, , uncensored, no-holds-barred way.

Choose your poison.

And be happy in your work.

God bless the First Amendment.

John Carlton

PS: When I write for joints like Rodale, BTW, I am Mr. Nice Guy to a nauseating degree. That’s because my copy has to reach an almost ridiculously large audience… and you’re right to believe that, once you’re outside specific niches with identifiable language preferences, the Zeitgeist tends to skew socially conservative. (It’s like network TV versus cable.)

In the pieces I’ve done for Rodale in the “sex info” market, I believe I dance around the inherent voyeuristic and naughty details in a way that sneaks past people’s internal censors with the best of them.

Let me tell ya, that is tough to pull off, too. You must have total command of the language… combined with a street-level savvy of buyer psychology. (And yes, the majority of these “better sex” DVDs go to your neighbors, co-workers, and other people who are completely and boringly normal.)

Another interesting fact: Halbert’s most famous ads are also squeaky clean, language-wise. Do not confuse his newsletters — a teaching vehicle to hard-core business people — with his ads aimede at buying audiences. Very different animals.

Our first seminars together were also models of propiety and professionalism. Miss Manners would have been proud. (Later on, we got a little raunchy, of course. Attendees loved it, demanded more of it, and wore their experience like a badge of honor.)

The great revolution in teaching now playing out has centered around the idea of offering people (who self-select themselves, voluntarily) the opportunity to see behind the curtain… and experience how business actually gets done. For folks without access to real back rooms, this is a priceless glimpse into the world of movers and shakers. Putting up with a little bad-boy behavior seems, to me, to be a small price to pay for such a valuable resource.

Over my career, I’ve encountered countless business situations where we had to wait for the fussy folks to leave the room before we could get down to the “real” business at hand.

Yes, it can be shocking to move beyond surface-level observations of how people behave, especially in positions of authority and responsibility.

It’s also the only way to learn how things get done. (Listen to the Nixon tapes from the White House to get a taste of how people in power talk about you when they don’t think you’re in earshot.)

Final observation I’ll share here: Some of rowdiest and most obscene-joke-loving business people I’ve ever encountered… were self-identified as strictly religious, hard-core conservatives.

My first experiences with “back room” business kinda shocked me, too. Soon, though, I learned to love it. It’s not a place for idealists or party poopers. But for writers who crave action and adventure and fun, it’s the only game in town.

Anyway, just thought I’d pass on my insights from the front lines.

Again — everyone is COMPLETELY justified in setting limits and boundaries. And there are lots of markets where rough-and-tumble attitudes don’t cut it. You don’t have to hang out with anyone you consider a jerk, ever.

That’s what’s great about this brave new online world: There’s a place for everyone.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

Okay, we’re back to the blog here, and I’m signing off.

P.S. By the way… we got our Yankee tickets for New York. I can’t wait.

Also: When I get back from this crazy trip that starts next week (Vegas with the Walkers, South Carolina for Ron LeGrand’s seminar — which is shaping up to be THE event of the summer — and then our Hot Seat “flash mob” in NYC) we’ll be scheduling consultations for the rest of the season.

We’ve been putting people on “hold”, because our schedule has been so nuts… but we’ve got a handle on it now, and if you want to explore getting private “hands on” consulting from me (or, even better, me and Stan in tandem), pop over to and get busy.

There are VERY few spots open for the “Launching Pad” option. Get in touch with my assistant Diane if you’re finally ready to make your move…

Luck Of The Draw

Monday, 8:59pm
Reno, NV
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry


Did luck have anything to do with how you got where you are today?

Do you consider yourself generally lucky, either in life or circumstance? Or cards, maybe?

I run into the concept of “luck” a lot in business. And since I’ve had such a stormy relationship with luck throughout my life, I perk up whenever I hear anyone talk about it.

I’ll come clean right off the top, though, before going further: I consider “luck” (at least the way people I grew up around think about it) as a form of superstition.

Which almost consumed me in my youth. The idea that unrelated things could influence the outcome of certain events, once it takes hold in your head, can dominate your life. Being in sports didn’t help.

Here’s my example (love to hear yours, too): I played hardball until I was 17, and while I couldn’t hit worth a damn — no peripheral vision — I was considered agile enough with the glove to start at shortshop with my Colt League team.

I still have nightmares about the anxiety. At that level of ball, the left side of the infield handles most of the action… and it’s brutal. (Some of those guys were only a few more years away from pro ball.)

I always considered third basemen as fortunate bastards — you’re so close to the batter, you have no time to think when a shot comes your way. You’re totally into reactive mode. Every play is bam-bam.

Fifteen feet farther back, at short, you’ve get enough time even with a hot grounder for your fevered brain to go through a dozen different ways you could screw this play up before the ball reaches you. The anxiety ate me up. (If I hadn’t gotten a handle on that nervousness, I surely would be crippled with ulcers today.)

Every pitch presented a new opportunity for physical pain (ever had a baseball going 4,000 mph take a wicked hop and careen into your face, groin, or neck?), and the humiliation of letting down your team with an error. The irony is, I had a good fielding percentage… yet, I felt no elation at making a play. That was my job, to make the play. No glory in just doing your job out there.

No glory. But an avalanche of shame and self-loathing if you didn’t perform absolutley perfectly.

Yeah, I was kinda hard on myself. I should have quit, and devoted myself to the band. (For whatever reason, I had zero fear of mounting a stage to play music. No anxiety, and no sense that I had to be perfect, either. It was fun.)

Anyway… isolated out there at short, with vast stretches of infield dirt in every direction, I somehow got the idea that if I smashed all the dirt clods around me before each pitch, I would be protected from errors.

I have no clue how that thought got into my head. The pitchers refused to step on the baseline going in and coming out each inning, and you weren’t supposed to talk to them while they had a no-no going… and other guys had their lucky socks (phew!) and their must-do routines to avoid jinxes… but I have never come across another jock who thought of dirt clods as holding any power over outcomes.

Once the thought took hold, though, it obsessed me. At first, I just had to stomp the clods next to me. But by mid-season, I would spot a clump six feet away, and NEED to scurry over there as the pitcher wound up, crush it, and get back into position before the ball reached the plate. I must have looked like a bugged-out meth addict out there, desperately looking for things to stomp, and dancing left and right when I should have been settling in and getting ready for action.

Finally, the coach grabbed me by the scruff between innings and asked me what the HELL I was doing out there, huh? Was I channeling Fred Astaire, maybe? Or Ginger Rogers?

So I gave it up. The little dirt clods would mock me, and the anxiety ran hot through my gut… but I quit. The horror of riding the bench trumped my fear of fate.

Here’s the Final Jeopardy question, of course: Did not killing the dirt clods affect the outcome of my play at shortshop, once I altered my behavior?

The answer is no, it did not.

However, in the grip of superstitious thinking, empirical evidence like that cannot make a dent. I did not come away from that forced experiment with any new sense of freedom.

Most of the people I knew back then “believed” in superstitions, sometimes to ridiculous extents. So I wasn’t gonna get any sensible advice from them about dealing with my own need to “protect” myself from bad things using unrelated behavior rituals, lucky charms, and magical thinking.

THey were, in fact, all for rituals, charms, and magic.

This paranoia went on for years… and then, one day, I just snapped.

It was soon after I’d discovered the power of setting goals. In a way, setting a goal, and going after it, is the opposite of superstition.

Instead of being at the mercy of “fate”, or mysterious forces that cause things to either go well or go badly for you…

… with goal setting, YOU are in control.

It’s like two opposing models of looking at the world.

When you feel mostly out of control… and you’re not being proactive about regaining control… it’s easy to believe that events are entirely out of your hands. You need luck.

On the other hand… when you’ve done your homework, and visualized outcomes, and put everything you possibly can in your favor… you exert actual control over how things will turn out.

When you’re prepared, you may welcome a lucky break here or there.

But you don’t NEED it. You will succeed or fail from your own exertions.

Anyway, one of my early and most fundamental goals was to become “comfortable in my own skin”. I sensed that most anxiety and low self-esteem came from not taking control.

And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that superstition sucked.

It was a negative force. It came from weakness, and fear, and a refusal to face life square on. (I was studying Carl Jung at that time, too… and one thing he said about nightmares leaped out at me: “When you are chased by a monster, stop and confront it. You will see that the monster’s strength comes from your fear. He has no power when you face him down.” That hit me hard — I’d spent most of my life believing I had to run faster in my nightmares.) (I don’t have nightmares much anymore, and while I miss the adventure, I don’t miss the anxiety.)

So I made a simple vow: No more superstition.

No matter how much I felt I “needed” to obey the demands of the superstitious monsters deep inside… and no matter how much they threatened me with horror and humiliation and pain if I refused their burnt offerings… I just stopped engaging.

And years of pent-up fear fell away, instantly. I was no longer a prisoner to irrationality.

Even better… I started keeping track of results.

And guess what?

Things are going to happen, or not happen, or happen in odd ways, regardless of any superstitious thinking involved.

The ONLY thing that affects the outcome… is preparation. Being aware, awake, and alert to the odds. Hip and ready to rumble.

And, especially, hyper-alert to opportunity.

Hey — for all I know, “luck” actually exists. I know I’ve been a pretty lucky guy for most of my life… starting with having the good sense to be born to good parents in a good generation, in a good little town in a good country that offered all kinds of basic freedoms and opportunities.

However… the opportunities in life didn’t “change” around me when I got hip to going after them.

No. What changed was my attitude about opportunity. When you allow notions of luck and superstitious belief to dominate, you have little incentive to grab onto opportunity… because, hey, if I’m in a lucky streak, I can be picky.

But when you have a set of goals to measure any incoming opportunity against, you know exactly what to do. If the opportunity moves you closer to your goal, then you jump on it. If it doesn’t… well, you’re allowed to reconsider your fundamental goals, but when you’re dead set on something specific (like being an entrepreneur) then it’s easy to let even hot opportunities go (like taking another job with The Man, regardless of how attractive the salary is).

I’ve been very lucky with the way things have turned out in my life. And yet, despite the fortunate series of events that allowed me to grow up near the center of the cultural maelstrom on the west coast, soaking up the peak experiences of my generation (I was 13 — the perfect age — when the Beatles hit US shores, and went through college with what became “classic rock” as the soundtrack behind the sexual, social and consciousness revolutions we enjoyed) and somehow staying safe in spite of all the factors sending me toward danger (the draft ended my last year in college — I was set to go, too) (and all those car wrecks… jeez, I should’ve been diced, sliced and minced a dozen times over, and yet never broke a bone) — despite all that cool, fascinating action…

… I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.

In fact, I was miserable. I was having a damn good time… but the lack of having a “place” in the world left me feeling like an exile in the culture. I was bereft of any anchor, or purpose, or direction.

It may well have been lucky that a woman I was dating had just been fired from her job with the ad agency, and was reading the Want Ads when I stopped by one afternoon… and she pointed out this “weird” little ad by a guy named Jay Abraham talking about Claude Hopkins or some other such nonsense. Wasn’t that a funny ad? What freelancer in their right mind would answer such a goofy ad?

But it was focused goal-attainment that got me to jump on that opportunity, regardless of whether “luck” put it in my lap or not. (That woman lost all respect for me by going to see Jay, by the way… and Jay at first told me I didn’t have what it took to work with him, which would have crushed me a year earlier… but I suspected he hadn’t actually read my submitted pieces, which was true, and because I also suspected this was a guy on my path to where I wanted to go… I burst into his offices unannounced and nearly got in a fight. We made nice, though, and I ended up working with him for a couple of years — writing for free, in exchange for being able to sit in on meetings and have free run of his offices — which led to that “fateful” party where I was introduced to Gary Halbert, recently out of the clink and raring to go, and so on…)

Luck is for pussies.

Goals are what gets things done.

The point of all this: My youthful obsession with luck and superstition and the idea that I was essentially NOT in control of my life was aiming me in a direction where… at my current age… I would still be uncomfortable in my own skin.

I think about this all the time. Especially as I watch my colleagues and friends and neighbors go about their day. Many still believe that money will buy them happiness. Or a new car will do the trick, or a new spouse, or moving to a new city, or whatever.

I’d have to guess that 90% of the people I know are squirming in their own skin. Not comfy at all.

I never get jealous when I hear about some dude scoring big bucks in a launch, or a new biz venture, or even from an inheritance. I USED to, before I realized what my own main goal in life was.

Now, I have a simple test: Whenever I meet someone new, or meet up with someone who’s the toast of the town… I gauge their inner comfort.

And I wonder: Would I want to spend a single minute inside their skin? BE them for any length of time?

In my earlier days of angst and cluelessness, I quickly assigned massive levels of happiness and contentment to anyone with a better basic set-up than I had. My default position was that everyone else was having a better time than I was.

Now, though, I guess I’ve attained a sort of Zen ease.

I haven’t met anyone who isn’t riven with inner turmoil in a long time.

And I don’t know anyone I’d like to trade places with, even for a short time.

I worked hard to get comfy in this battle-scarred, weathered, grizzled body of mine.

I kinda like it in here, now. A lot.

And luck had nothing to do with me getting to this lovely point.


What do you think about luck, superstition, and envy?

Love to hear your thoughts…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

PS: Don’t forget that I’m speaking at Ron LeGrand’s “Info and Internet Marketing Bootcamp” the last weekend of June. In South Carolina.

I consider Ron the most consumate salesman I’ve ever met, period. I have NEVER spent more than a minute with him, either on the phone or in person, without learning several killer Master’s Level lessons in classic salesmanship.

And my guess is, this event may be one of the last times you’ll get to see him live like this. He’s one of those guys who isn’t working because he needs the money — instead, he just loves teaching. Still, I know this is a rare event where he will BE there, speaking and interacting with the audience. We’re talking history here.

If you — like me — value the lessons of masters, you’ll want to check out the opportunity here:

I’m really looking forward to this event. Never been to SC…

Burn Down The House

Thursday, 8:53pm
Reno, NV
“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…”)
/End rant

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.

I’m addicted.

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?)

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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.

Tech Snobs, Geek Angels, and Dinobots

Monday, 7:33pm
Reno, NV
“You called me… Bizzaro. Must be my name.” Bizzaro, Superman’s twisted doppleganger (circa 1958)


I think I just created a new word.

Tell me what you think of it.

It came about this weekend while Michele and I were taking her nephew David out for a “grill lunch”. A grill lunch is where you hold someone you care about (but haven’t seen for a long time) captive for a couple of hours while you grill them on every detail of their lives.

When I was growing up, I always resisted such info-mining, and became a petulant, sulking zipped-lipped prisoner, offering nothing. To this day, the worse way to find out how I’ve been or what I’ve been up to is to ask me directly.

Child psych still works pretty well with my type, though.

Trick me into spilling the beans, and I’ll give it all up.

If you want to stay on the cutting edge of salesmanship and marketing, you can join us right here, and get my free report to boot.

I’m easy that way.

Nephew David, however, is of better stock. He handles grill lunches with grace and wit, and he’s a joy to hang out with.

He’s also my main contact in the new generation coming up the ranks. He’ll be a senior next year at a major mid-western university, studying subjects that didn’t exist when I was in academia.

That is, he’ll be a senior if his summer “project” doesn’t haul in a million bucks, which it could. The kid is tech-savvy to a scary degree, both as a creator of sites and ideas, and as a cutting-edge consumer of technology. And now he’s honing his business chops, too.

He’s got entrepreneur’s blood in his veins, and he smells the financial adventures ahead.

However, my guess is that, like his other summer projects, he’ll experience some success, gain amazing experience, have too much fun, and finish out his education like a champ.

Or, as he refers to himself: Like a budding tech snob.

In other words: He’s SO wired into the virtual culture, that he has a sixth sense of what’s coming down the pipe… and waiting a bit longer to launch into the business world might be an advantage during this phase of the blossoming online world.

What I’m taking from talking to him… is a cultural warning: Increasingly, the gap between tech-savvy kids and technophobic geezers threatens to become an unbridgable chasm.

However, it doesn’t mean the tech snobs will automatically win.

Take, for example, how the ability to be in “constant contact” with your friends has morphed into something weird and icky: A few short years ago, the dude with the cell phone permanently screwed into his ear — so he could chat with both hands free — was either a cultural warrior bravely navigating the far reaches of technology (as he saw himself)… or a shallow chatterbox, devoid of deep thought (as the people around him thought).

This condition (“Phone-Welded-To-Brain-Itis”) is no longer startling to encounter. You see someone walking around in a distracted state, babbling loudly to no one in particular, and you just shrug. He’s not crazy — he’s wired.

Though, sometimes I can’t help myself from leaning over and telling him to say “hello” to Kathy, and that I sure hope she gets those packages out to Fed Ex in time. I mean, I felt such a part of his conversation (it’s called “cell shouting”, with no known cure), it’s like we’re now old buds.


… cell shouting now seems SO innocent, with the arrival of “micro blogging”.

Texting constantly to people wasn’t enough. No.

Now, it’s critical to keep whole populations of other folks hip to exactly what you’re doing at this very second.


I can see where this is going, too.

Once we combine GPS systems, micro-video, and IM with Twitter into something that can be wired directly to your autonomic nervous system, you can be a walking reality show.

Everyone you know will have instant, unrelenting access to your every thought, action, and movement. Like “The Truman Show”, only more invasive. (“Hey, everybody — my iPhone just alerted me that Susie’s blood pressure spiked twenty points, so she must have arrived at the prom… and… wow… looks like she’s gonna fart…”)

Listen: I live with someone, and I often don’t know where she is in the house, or what she’s doing… and I don’t NEED to know.

A little mystery, folks, is not a bad thing.

Here’s some insight from a guy who’s walked both sides of the knowledge divide: When I first met Gary Halbert, I was composing ads on a personal computer (early model), playing hip video games, and totally clued-in to the cultural Zeitgeist… while he was still usng a No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, had zero video-game dexterity, and considered MTV as something akin to an alien invasion of UFOs.

I was in the room when he was ridiculed by other writers, in fact, for his retro-style. Younger, hipper, more tech-savvy writers actually shook their heads and pitied the guy.

That was an important moment for me.

Because I knew that the accoutrements of writing — whether pencils and paper, computers and hard drives, or chisel and clay…

… were irrelevant IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO SAY.

What Halbert possessed was deep experience and knowledge of classic salesmanship… stuff that transcended the physical act of writing. Or talking, for that matter.

For me, it was a major epiphany that still reverberates in my career today.

Technology is fun, and important.

And you very well may be left behind if you refuse to get hip.

If you need to get hip, check out the incredible array of valuable resources right over here. It’s like getting an MBA in biz and marketing in a weekend.

But, dude… it’s still JUST human-to-human communication.

No matter how much electronic whiz-bangery occurs between the thought in your skull and the receipt of that thought by another person… the rather crucial issue of IMPORTANCE still matters most.

I often get blank stares from seminar crowds when I bludgeon them with the concept of learning classic salesmanship early in their quest for wealth and fame. I understand how confusing it can be, too.

In many of the first marketing seminars we gave (back when we were inventing the model), we would often get some guy who would stand up and announce that he’d just popped for THE most expensive and tricked-out computer in existence…

… and now he wanted to know HOW to make money with it.

We’d sigh, collectively. And then patiently explain that, no, it’s not the equipment that brings in the bucks. It’s the brains behind the equipment.

In fact, in most cases the equipment is just a side-show.

I do not remember ever having any of those guys do a double-take as we explained all this, and suddenly say “By Jove, you’re right! I need to learn salesmanship and marketing skills!”

Usually, they stared at us without comprehension. Our answer couldn’t find a toe-hold in their brains.

Back to kids and tech: Nephew David called himself, in a moment of rueful self-actualization, a “tech snob”… because he is SO wired into the technological hinderlands, that he gets bored with “dumb” tech (like software or games or devices diluted for the masses).

When you can write code, you have little patience for people who can’t make their new GPS system work in the car. (We call our GPS “Know It All Betty”, cuz the voice sounds like a Betty, and she DOES pretend to know it all… especially when you miss a turn, and she goes into “scold mode”…)

His aunt Michele, however, sees him as a “Geek Angel”. Because he can explain things in ways she can understand.

To her credit, she first takes the technology she wants to learn to the absolute furtherst reaches of her learning curve… so she’s not bothering him with questions she could find out herself.

When she presents a problem she can’t figure out, she really can’t figure it out… because she’s spent massive hours in dead-ends, and needs help.

A Geek Angel will never be out of a job.

He possesses a rare ability to both immerse into the mysterious Tech Culture and thrive… and yet still be able to sit with unfortunate earth-bound tech-illiterates, and reveal some of the magic to make their lives better.

I’ve heard many tech-savvy people complain about the way clueless friends waste their time with incessant demands to “fix” their buggy computers, or detangle the electronic miasma of their TV remotes. (I have 3 remotes for my plasma, sound system and cable, which can all be thrown utterly out of synch when the dog sits on one of them. Don’t you?)

I sympathize.

I learned long ago not to tell people I’m a writer.

Trust me — soon after revealing your occupation, one of the folks you’ve just enlightened will approach you with a killer offer: “Hey, man. I’ve got a great story to tell. How about you write the screenplay, using my idea, and we’ll split the profits from the movie 50-50?”

I’ve had guys get ugly when I’ve begged off, too.

Hey — all I had to do was write up their idea, you know, do that “typing thing” for a few hours. Greedy bastard. How dare you withhold your pathetic little writing tricks from the rest of us?

I’m sure it’s the same when you’re super tech-savvy, among the tech clueless.

And you ARE an angel when you help, though. Consider it a good deed, which will fortify your karma. (But make sure your second help session includes contacting a professional outfit that offers computer help, so your desperate technophobes have an alternative path when their bugged-up laptop crashes the next time, and they can’t find you.) (Or, you don’t want to be found.)


Here’s the new word I invented: “Dinobot.”

It is, of course, a quasi-clever combo of “dinosaur” and “robot”… and I consider it a description of the best place to be in business right now.

Part old-world, part new-world.

It’s important to have a certain level of tech savvy, if you’re gonna do any online marketing. If you’re a newbie, this transition may be painful… but it’s critical.

Technology is a fact of modern life; no need to get gnarly about it.

There is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.

And we ALL need to learn to thrive in BOTH.

Gone are the days when a marketer could proudly proclaim to be ignorant of new tech. (Hey — it wasn’t that long ago when direct mail, print and broadcast media were the ONLY way to go.)

Also gone are the days when simply being hip to the latest and greatest software applications will give you any astounding advantage online. (Again, not too long ago, just having a pop-up squeeze page would so overwhelm a visitor to your site, that he’d give you his email and name out of existential fear.) (Man, those were the days, weren’t they?)

I don’t expect to win over many converts… but I’ve always taught that the best position to be in… is to straddle the worlds of old-time salesmanship and ultra-modern tech.

Thus: Dinobot.

A little bit of the stubborn street-wise classic salesman… welded to a shrewd knowledge of what the tech is capable of providing you in terms of traffic, attention-getting tactics, and practical social networking.

Emphasis on the word “practical.”

Look — I have immense respect for my colleagues in the online entrepreneurial world. Some of these guys are pulling down vast fortunes while literally creating the business model for Web marketing that will be around for decades to come.

True pioneers.

However, the models they’re creating are all based on concepts that go way back. Essentially, online biz is all about finding a hot market, becoming the “go to guy”, and creating a greased slide sales funnel. Just like offline marketing.

The difference, of course, is in scale, and cost. What would have worked in, say, direct mail… and cost you fifty grand to pull in two hundred grand… can now be re-fitted for the Web, and cost a couple of hundred bucks to bring in the same two hundred thou. Or more.

And instead of months using the postal system… you can use email, and get ‘er done in a few days.

The Web has created an opportunity for anyone to become a filthy-rich capitalist from their kitchen table, using a laptop and a few low-cost online vendors for processing orders and managing data.

I have been one lucky son of a bitch to have a front-row seat for much of this current marketing revolution, too.

I make no claims for exceptionality, other than I have remained open to opportunity my entire career… and I happened to start in the old-world model of direct mail and infomercials, and smoothly segued into the new-world model of online marketing.

And from this cat-bird seat, I can tell you without doubt that the guys raking it in… are all using classic salesmanship, welded to a basic understanding of the current technology. They are NOT geeks. They hire electronic cowboys to wrangle the technological details.

It’s an important realization.

The world is fast moving to a new class system:

  1. The top layer will be the guys who know how to USE the technology to their advantage… and they do not need to be masters of the code and electronics.
  2. The second layer will be the geeks who roll up their virtual sleeves and immerse in the Grid to keep the tech alive.
  3. The bottom layer will be a tiered mess of technology consumers. Some will be mostly clueless. Others will be wired to the max, with a satellite connection installed in their brains.

But they’ll still be “just” consumers.

You wanna grab a seat at the top?

Become a dinobot.

Dude, I’m telling ya. It’s the path less trod, but it’s the way to go.

Okay, I’m done.

What do you think?

Stay frosty,




Lying Little Weasels

Monday, 9:28pm
Reno, NV
“You can always tell when he’s lying to you — his mouth is moving.”


Has anyone lied to you today?

Have you loosed a zinger yourself?

Do you have a sophisticated grading system for your own non-truths, so you can ameliorate any guilt you feel when you only lie a little tiny bit? Or only lie to, you know, spare someone pain? Or keep them blissfully in the dark?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about lies and the miserable bastard weasels who use them as tools for doing business and for controlling their social lives.

One of the hardest lessons to learn, while I was sculpting my career, was how to deal with lies. In all their myriad forms and nuances.

I hung out with shrinks as much as I could — both as paid listeners and as biz colleagues (cuz most psychologists desperately want out of the job of professionally raking the muck in other people’s brains and hearts… and every time one would sense an opening through Halbert or me into the entrepreneurial world, they jumped at it). (Some of the weirdest stories I have entail shrinks and marketing misadventures.)

Dudes who study human behavior (and all its sordid and disheartening variations) professionally know some amazing things about people. For a salesman, this is fabulous insider knowledge, and we crave and seek it.

And one of the main things I picked up from a shrink wannabe-entrepreneur… was his idea of how to divide the human population into three basic categories:

1. Those who saw the world as mostly safe…

2. Those who saw the world as mostly dangerous…

3. And those who had a well-defined, balanced view of things as they really are.

This last group might well be called “adults”. Not as in “you’re just turned 21, so you’re now an adult”… but rather “you’re the only guy in the room who isn’t driven and tortured by demons, guilt and sick needs.”

I must say: Growing up as I did… snug in the biggest bulge of the post-war Baby Boom and nurtured by parents devoted to giving their kids a real childhood (without spoiling us)… I treated the entire world around me as a big, mostly-safe playground. I easily took too many risks, pulled too many completely stupid stunts, and contantly put myself and others in situations where somebody could have gotten seriously hurt or killed.

Living through it made us stronger. Amazingly, no one suffered any permanent damage (other than a few nasty scars, busted bones and popped vertebrae).

My cousins (co-agents of adventure with me throughout childhood) and I are just stunned by the leeway we were given: We absolutely had to be home at certain hours, and we never dared break that taboo. We had to be polite to grown-ups, and do what we were told. We had a few chores here and there, and any added responsibilities that came up were to be done without complaint.

Other than that… we were like little Viking mauraders, unleashed on the neighborhoods to pillage and lay waste to everything we could tear up, burn, or steal.

Mom would wave goodbye on a typical summer day, warn us to be home for lunch… and then she would not have a clue where we were or what we were doing for the next four hours. We’d show up, dirty and panting (and maybe a little bloody), gobble food, and leave again until dinner.

No questions asked, no information offered.

The world was ours. As far as the folks were concerned, kids needed to be kids… and you just sort of hoped some sense or help from angels or something would intervene in any serious danger.

(Once, exploring New York City with my pal David Deutsch, we started chatting with a couple eating pizza next to us, because David has a couple of kids nearly the age of their two young boys. I was shocked to learn that the oldest boy — who was almost thirteen — had NEVER been out of their Manhattan apartment without adult supervision. NEVER! They talked excitedly about maybe allowing him to take a walk around the block or even — gasp! — ride the subway for a stop or two… alone. Maybe they’d let him do that, in the near future. Maybe. I’m still stunned at that — kids growing up without the space to get in trouble, and figure out how to get OUT of that trouble. I don’t think that’s a make-up skill you can master very easily, once you’re an adult…)

Anyway, my point is that I grew up with this possibly exaggerated sense of how safe the world was. This caused some problems as I got old enough to drive… and challenge other boys for the right to date some girls… and try to find my place in the hive.

We started losing friends in car crashes. I myself was in around a dozen bloody wrecks before I left college, and I’m pretty sure our Boomer sense of invulnerability was behind our dumbest choices and decisions.

I was in high school before I started realizing that some of the other kids didn’t share my sense of entitlement to enjoy the wonders of the world. They were hostile to the idea of unfettered adventure, or had such strict home rules they never dared dream of going out at night to see what might happen… or, sometimes, they just seemed cowed and broken.

Like the weight of the world was crushing them.

I even went out of my way to make friends with some depressed kids, and drug them into my social circle almost as a sponsor. But there was always some horrible secret burning inside them, and they tended to suck energy out of the room rather than supply energy.

Many years later — after life had delivered some very adult-like blows to my self-esteem — I got a good taste of what depression could do to you. It tightened you up, bled you of vigor, and exhausted your heart just getting through a day. Fun was hard to come by.

The world seemed… hostile.

I have empathy for people in all the categories now. Been there, felt that, survived all of it.

Makes you humble. And gives you insight.

The world, as I now clearly see it, is both dangerous and delightful… often at the same time. I hitch-hiked for years without problem (and with a novel’s worth of adventure) before I even knew what a serial killer was. Can’t even imagine doing it now. Can’t believe I never had any trouble before. Would NOT recommend it to anyone today.

There are dark alleys, here and there, you can wander through without fear. Mostly, though, I avoid them all. (I’ve been writing for the self-defense market too long, perhaps… seen too much of the bad side of people.)

I have no allusions of safety among my fellow citizens. Nor do I keep a loaded pistol next to my bed, though. (I prefer the baseball bat.)

What’s all this got to do with lying?


See, when the world seems safe, you don’t look for lies. You take people at face value, and accept statements as either true or possibly true until they are proven otherwise.

This seemed like a great way to move through the world, for a long time.

Once I went deep into the business world, however, I realized I was being seen as a fool for having so much trust in other people. I started encountering whole roomfuls of folks who considered everything you said an outrageous lie until you could be proven to have told the truth.

Lying as the default position?

This was like Alice in Wonderland for me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a world where you couldn’t trust most folks, most of the time.

It felt too… lonely. Like it was you against the world, every second of the day.

Fortunately, I soon discovered a whole segment of business people who felt as I did. Except, they had developed a kind of “lie radar” inside their intuition that operated 24/7, quietly and in the background.

They would always entertain whatever they were told as true, but not act until they got the report from their “lie radar”. It might start with a feeling, that you followed with a little easy research or a phone call to someone who might confirm or deny certain elements, followed with some mild questioning of the speaker.

I liked this approach. It didn’t matter if the other guy was lying through his teeth, because I wasn’t gonna act one way or another on what he said until I verified it. There was ALWAYS something positive to pull from any meeting or experience in business… even if what I pulled from it was a little practice in being patient, and testing my immediate intuition against hard-core research into facts.

I don’t feel so lonely, as I would if I walked around (like many folks I know) assuming that everyone was lying through their teeth, and out to get me.

I probably get “taken” a few more times than the paranoid dude… but I’ll enjoy my calmer life (full of friends who share my worldview of “mostly not dangerous”) and accept the occasional screwing like a man. (Besides — I’ve also noticed, in my long career, that the pissed-off, brick-on-shoulder guy always looking for the scam also gets tricked fairly often anyway. His snarling defenses are like an empty moat, as worthless against a skilled liar as the most gullible dude around.)

I get irked when people lie. Don’t get me wrong.

But I don’t take it personally (unless it IS personal) (which hasn’t happened to me in decades).

People lie. For all kinds of reasons. They can’t handle getting yelled at, they’re just trying to spin things so they don’t look like idiots, they think they can avoid responsibility or consequences… it’s a long list.

Some do it just because they can.

Others do it to position themselves.

And when you think about it… once you get over the myth that lying is an aberration in human behavior, and realize that most folks waddle through their day weaving one tall tale after another (often for reasons they can’t even fathom themselves)… there’s little downside to conducting yourself with full knowledge that everyone around you is delivering a soupy mix of truth, half-truth, and damned lies every single day.

Heck — James Bond, one of my literary heroes, was a professional liar. Just part of his toolkit for survival. I have friends who exaggerate so much, you start to doubt every detail they offer in a story… and yet, they remain friends. I just work a tiny bit harder to find the nuggets of truth in what they say, and ignore the fluff.

I’ve been a lifelong fan of tall tales, too. I’ll add a few outrageous details to a story, just to emphasize some angle, or to call attention to the absurdity or irony of a plot twist. (“The poodle was, like, twelve hundred pounds. Couldn’t fit through the door.” “We loved going spelunking in the county sewer pipes, where you could walk for miles in six-foot diameter tunnels in pitch darkness. Sometimes, we’d lose one of the kids if he fell behind. I’m sure there’s at least one of them still down there, turned into a troll.”)

Professionally, however, I have developed a sharp ear for red flag lying, after years in the smoldering center of the biz world. Sometimes it’s just a tiny blip on my “lie radar”… a tick that others can’t even detect.

This happened last week, when one of my assistants related the “confirmation” of all email problems being fixed by an Infusion customer service rep. To my ass’t, the FUBAR situation must have been cleared up, because the CSR weasel told him it was.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Tell me exactly what that ‘confirmation’ was.”

“He confirmed all was okay,” said my ass’t, confidently. “He said everything should be fixed now.”



“Terminate the batch emailing,” I ordered. “Right fucking NOW.”

One weasel word, which slipped by less experienced ears, froze my gut.

And, it turned out, I was right to be alarmed. The bug wasn’t fixed at all, and if we hadn’t terminated the job, tens of thousands of blank emails would have gone out… ruining my reputation and denting our credibility. (As it was, several thousand did get out… thanks to the lying little CSR weasel at Infusion.)

Words matter. Doctors repeated told my family — back when my Mom took sick — that they were “confident” they could predict how the cancer would take her out. Six months, for sure, some said. Three months, said others.

This didn’t sit right with me. I dug deeper, and discovered than four different docs had four different ideas of what KIND of cancer she had. Bone. Breast. Liver. Lung.

They were lying.

They didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

We didn’t ask them for a prediction of when it would be over. They just offered it.

Lying weasels.

What IS it about so many people… that they are simply incapable of saying “I don’t know”?

I have searched in vain, my entire career, for the answer to that ridiculous question.

There is no shame in not knowing an answer.

And yet, to my mind, there is TERRIFIC shame in making something up, as if your imagination and your desire to be a know-it-all trumped reality.

Lying is all around us.

It’s a piss-poor way to get through a situation, but some forms of lying are just built into the human hard drive.

Work on your own “lie radar”. Simply make a mental note of what someone tells you, and then check it out. They don’t need to know what you discover. But you do.

You don’t “win” anything by confronting a liar, most of the time. Many people cannot abide by what they consider an affront against Truth, and they will verbally assault anyone they catch lying. As if the universe will not be right until the lie is confronted, confessed, and scorched by the light of day.

And these avengers lustily engage in lie-witch-hunts while ignoring their own culpubility in twisting things once in a while.

It’s not your job to set everything straight in the world. In my experience, liars don’t often “get away” with much, over the long haul. They may see short-term benefits, but they’re living a spiritually unhealthy life… and it catches up with you, eventually.

The Zen warrior would rather learn the truth in secret, than share in a communal lie. That can be lonely… but when you surround yourself with honorable people, the truth is always welcome, and you can even forgive small transgressions (since you don’t act on their version of things without fact-checking everything first, anyway).

Sure, it’s complex. Tangled webs and all that.

Work on your intuitive radar.

All top marketers possess it… and most became good at it only after years of disciplined practice and follow-through.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Just a small warning — the slots in the “Launching Pad” consulting program are dwindling, especially in the near-term.

To see how you can be “John’s New Best Friend” for a month, and get unbelievable personal access to me (and Stan) while going deep into your biz and plans, go to:

And see what’s going on. It’s intense mentoring, as the folks who’ve been through it will tell you.

And I ain’t lying.

P.P.S. One last thing — for folks like Karen, who aren’t getting their email notifications when I blog (thanks, Infusion)… just remember that I’m being fairly faithful to a Monday-Thursday schedule. I blog on Monday, and then again on Thursday of each week.

That’s the plan.

Rain or shine. (Though I did miss a couple during the heavy traveling days recently.)

So go ahead and drop by, even if you haven’t gotten an email.

I’m always dinking around here with some idea or notion or whatever…


Thursday, 8:17pm
Reno, NV
“…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.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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


What Does A Good Life Look Like?

Monday, 8:46pm
Reno, NV
Shake, rattle ‘n roll… ‘n roll… n’ roll… n’ roll…


Not sure if you’ve been following the micro-news or not… but our little town here nestled against the Sierra Nevada has been Earthquake Central for the last week or so.

That’s right. Reno made the national newscasts by shaking its butt.

Actually, a flurry of heart-pounding smallish quakes has been unsettling the joint since February… but things got really interesting this past week: On average, we’re experiencing over a hundred shaking events a day (!), with the largest so far nudging 5.0 (knock you off your feet level).

The experts assure us a volcano isn’t about to emerge from under Fourth Street and shower us with lava or anything like that.

Still, the whole city is holding its collective breath, waiting for the punchline to arrive.

Now, I’m from California, and we’re so blaise about seismic activity, we named our minor-league baseball team after earthquakes. (Literally, the Cucamonga Quakes, single A.) I slept through most of the big ones while growing up — my bed would bounce across the floor, and everything from the walls and bookcases would doink off my head, yet I refused to leave slumberland. (Probably helped that I grew up less than one hundred feet from active train tracks, where the Southern Pacific freights would rattle the house several times a day.)

So I’m not particularly nervous. Been sleeping fine, even when the big jolts arrive in the wee hours. I’ll get up, calm the dogs down, check for flaming lava in the hallway, and fall back into a deep snooze before the first aftershock arrives.

Of course, everyone who didn’t grow up in California is freaking out. Michele’s downright jumpy — her hometown of Chicago was, she insists, firmly nailed down like a city is supposed to be. Damn it. She is actually offended by my smug refusal to sit up all night waiting for the next tremblor.

And hey, being jumpy is fine. As long as you channel that energy into being prepared. We’ve been chatty with neighbors we haven’t noticed since last summer (when everyone spent the evening sipping wine in the middle of the cul de sac, watching the nearby hills burn and taking bets on whose house would go up like a matchhead first if the wind changed). Trading info and phone numbers and secret emergency plans.

And also trading fears.

It’s gotten me thinking about what life is really all about, again.

You know — once the danger passes, how are you gonna change things so you enjoy this corporeal ride with a little more gusto?

Gary Halbert and I used to gleefully have a very similar conversation, over and over, whenever the mood struck: We asked ourselves, what does a good life look like?

It’s a subject worthy of repeated exploration.

If you need help getting started, consider those inane celebrity interview modules in magazines… where somebody pitches them 20 fast questions like “What is your perfect day?” and “What do you see yourself doing five years from now?”

They ask these questions as if, of course everyone has an instant answer handy. I mean, who doesn’t constantly obsess on what a perfect day would be?

Try it on your friends, and on yourself. You’ll find that, in reality, very few people have even considered the concept of looking ahead like that. (I’m betting the celebs have their PR handlers do most of the answering in those articles, anyway.)

Many folks are just plain superstitious about imagining the future, like they’ll jinx any chance they may have of attaining a good life down the road…

… when — once you understand how goal-setting works — that kind of avoidance is actually a damn good way to guarantee you’ll never get close to a perfect anything.

A good life seldom just happens to you.

You gotta envision it… go after it… and attain it.

You want it… you take it… and you pay the price.

Here’s a tip you may not discover immediately, that will help you understand why it’s so hard at first to see your future very clearly: Your desires, and thus your “perfect” goals, will change dramatically over time.

If you have your old high school yearbook, go read what your pals wrote about the impending future. If life just kinda “happened” to any of them in the cruel adult world, there wasn’t much in the way of startling surprises. Or adventures.

It’s very much worth thinking about what a good life looks like.

The rules Halbert and I came up for our incessant chats on this topic were simple: We had to be painfully and excruciatingly honest.

Sometimes, this meant our talk degenerated into locker room fantasies. That was allowed. We both had bloated biological imperatives.

Mostly, though, we talked of finding not a moment in time where bliss was attained… but rather an ongoing series of opportunities for exploration and sampling.

In other words… we suspected that the Perfect Life would be too full of surprises, too unpredictable, and too intertwined with edgy adventure to allow a quick, pat, consistent answer.

So our vision changed, constantly. Curiously, neither of us gave a shit about material possessions. Or power.

In the end, the Introvert usually triumphed within us. A good life had its lovely carnal pleasures, sure… but central to complete fulfillment was a pursuit of intellectual goals and long greedy spells acquiring knowledge and (as silly as it sounds) wisdom.

(I’ve recently heard how Gene Simmons, the bass player from KISS, describes his perfect day… and I gotta admit, he has a point about not getting too philosophical about shit. Fortunately, I’ve had a few extended spells of hedonistic excess to enjoy… and while I do not regret a single hour, I will admit that it gets boring after a while. Especially for someone who spends an inordinate amount of time deep inside their head.)

(Still, you go, Gene. Party ev-er-y day…)

Now, here’s the kicker: You cannot just possess wisdom. To set up a life where you have the LUXURY of pursuing such lofty crap… you need lots of freedom.

I realized something a very long time ago: Many entrepreneurs really do get into biz for the money, and all the things money can buy. The freedom they enjoy is the freedom from want, and the giddy gorging at the teat of modern pleasures.

However, there are just as many others for whom money is just a way to buy different kinds of freedom: Never having others choose for you, never needing to shoulder responsibilities you don’t freely seek, never wondering when “life” will begin… because you’re highly aware you’re deep into it, every day.

As you explore your own notions of a good life, judge harshly against your intuition and your gut. Make sure no one else is influencing your dream, unless you welcome the influence. (My first lists of goals — while I was struggling with the concept of being able to actually “want” something and go after it — were heavy with rewards I didn’t actually want… like boats, or a big mansion, or fame. I had to extract myself from the quicksand-like influence of other people’s desires, before I could find where my heart truly lay. It’s a process. I had a long way to go, but each attempt at refining and reshaping my peculiar goals paid off hugely.)

Is freedom important to you? It’s not, for everyone. Like Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. A higher purpose, a god, an addiction, a family model, something. If you choose something hard-to-define, like a “higher purpose”, then your everlasting homework assignment is to explain to yourself HOW you will serve that purpose.

You can’t just say you’re after it, either. When you’re engaging life on all cylinders, you get busy, not philosophical.

You go after it.

In Gary’s case — and this still influences me today — he had a peculiar inability to settle down and enjoy any reward he’d attained. For him, the happiness of succeeding meant only that another chapter in his life had ended… and he had to hunker down to find that next challenge, that next hill to climb, that next dragon to vanquish.

That’s an exhausting way to live, but it’s also invigorating when you do it right.

And, because you have the freedom to choose your goals and directions… and the freedom (in your mind and your bank account) to pursue them with balls-to-the-wall fervor… you can change direction any time your gut tells you it’s time.

Consider, as you mull your own perfect day and good life, if the destination or the journey is more important to you.

For me, it’s always been about the ride.

Sometimes, I get too complacent about success, and make the horrible mistake of thinking “I’ve done it, by Jove!” When, according to my private scorecard, I haven’t done jack shit yet in life.

I’ve been telling people lately to think about their life story as a movie. Because that’s easy to digest. For me — and maybe for you, too — the better analogy is a big long novel.

When chapters end, new ones begin immediately. The tale has no clear final act, because life isn’t a static frozen moment, but a continual jaunt through ever-changing scenery.

Still, it’s good to think (and to talk about, with good friends) what your good life looks like.

I’m always fascinated by other people’s ideas on this, too.

Comments are welcome. If you’re just beginning to consider your own journey, all the better — here’s a forum for your thoughts.

I am constantly blown away by how smart, how involved, and how alive the commenters in this blog are. It’s a rush, I gotta tell ya, to know so many people of quality and insight are out there.

Love to hear from you.

My good life is taking me over to San Francisco this weekend, of course — out of the Sierra Bed O’ Earthquakes, into the quivering bosom of The Mother Of All Fault Lines in the Bay Area.

If we survive, I’ve got a big damn fresh list of “good life” things to indulge in over the summer.

What a ride we’re on…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. If you’re still bummed about missing out on this upcoming copywriting workshop… and who in their right mind isn’t bummed about missing it?… remember that we’ve still got several coaching programs in place, all heavily loaded with personal attention from me.

Check out, while you’re contemplating your future.

Might be a great fit there, you know.

Cuz I’m The Taxman…

Monday, 10:44pm
Reno, NV
“…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.

Damn proud.

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.

Taxes suck.

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…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Important note to anyone who’s been gazing longingly at any of the offers over at 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 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…