“I read the news today, oh boy…” (Lennon, “A Day In The Life”)
One of my favorite quotes from Gary Halbert: “There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by a man who refuses to face reality.”
You laugh, but he was dead serious. One of the reasons we became fast friends was our mutual outlook on life – whenever reality was inconvenient to our goals, we just ignored the facts, lowered our head, and bulled forward.
That photo, above, is me in high school (from the yearbook). I loved basketball, and was good enough to become the captain of the “B” squad my junior year…
… however, as should be evident in this photo, I ran into a brick wall trying out for the varsity a year later.
The guy guarding me as I took that jumper is taller than me by a foot. I was the smallest guy on the squad…
… and really, at some point a caring coach probably should have taken me aside and said “John, I know you love the game… but look at your family. No one is taller than 5’10”, and basketball is a sport for tall folks. You’re not going to magically grow into the size they want on the varsity team…”
I wouldn’t have listened, anyway. I’m like a Jack Russell terrier – a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body. Eventually, in sports, my poor eyesight and lack of height stopped me…
… but I had fun for a couple of years in the meantime.
Later on, as I was gathering my courage to try copywriting, an actual professional copywriter earnestly informed me that I should not even try.
“It’s too hard,” she said. “You’ll never be a pro writer.”
That was, of course, the BEST thing she could have ever told me. I doubt I could have survived the first years without that internal motivation of needing to prove her wrong.
I call it “negative motivation”… and it’s actually one of the most powerful forces available for getting stuff done. I never saw her again, and don’t even remember her name…
… so it wasn’t a need to flaunt my success in her face. It was all internal for me – I used her as the “face” of the obstacles in front of me, and I even laughed when I later realized I was in a position to tell her “Fuck you, I made it anyway.”
Yes, my internal ego is an immature twerp sometimes. Chip on the shoulder, snarling underdog attitude, and an almost stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face reality.
I am so grateful for it, too.
(By the way… I nailed that shot in the photo, above… and ended up with 20 points while also hitting the winning basket. Easily my finest moment in a futile, doomed effort to be a “real” basketball player. A has-been at 16.)
You do not need to be a belligerent rebel to be a good entrepreneur…
… but it can help sometimes.
Certainly, given the choice of sitting down to dinner with the business types in suits, who are uber-polite and careful in their conversations…
… or the rowdy crowd of rule-breaking ne’er-do-well whack job entrepreneurs who may easily get kicked OUT of the restaurant….
… well, you know which one I’d pick.
I was Halbert’s sidekick for a very long time, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the gig wasContinue reading
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless you’ve got a black hole handy.”
Nice, short post here today. In keeping with the theme “KISS.”
Veteran entrepreneurs recognize this, of course, as an acronym of “Keep It Simple, Stupid“… easily some of the best biz advice I ever received in my long career. I carefully printed this slogan out, by hand, on a big notecard and had it taped above my desk for years (though, my sign was even more direct and vicious: Keep It Simple, Shithead. I wanted to get my own attention.)
I made good use of slogans during the early days. “Business before pleasure” was also huge for me, since I’d squandered my youth as a party-hardy slacker… and simply re-directing my energy first to biz (and having evil fun afterward, if I still had any juice left) instantly changed my entire existence. I made a vow to myself — my first real vow that I took deadly seriously — to follow that self-administered advice without hesitation or complaint… and to never apologize for basing my career on a hackneyed phrase that few people ever thought twice about. And that’s when things started popping for me, success-wise.
That was a key realization: All those dog-eared rickety slogans, as mocked as they are, have earned their way into the culture…
… because they Continue reading
“Use all your well-learned politics, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.” (Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”)
Today, I’m gonna share with you one of the nastiest, yet most valuable lessons you’ll ever get in your career.
It’s all about the firestorm of conflicting personality types you’ll encounter in the Big Game O’ Biz. It took me ages to figure all this out (and get it into a simple concept that’s easily explained)… and many, many times it has saved my butt from disaster.
This is the mostly hidden part of being in business. The other fundamentals… honing your skills, dealing with technology, managing moolah… all seem to be fairly straightforward.
If only we didn’t have to deal with human beings to get through the day, everything would be just dandy.
However, sizzling underneath every interaction with another Shaved Ape lies a volcanic pit of emotional, physiological/biological, intellectual and metaphysical goo. Experienced professionals intuitively learn to negotiate this roiling obstacle, eventually… but usually can’t explain what they’re doing. They rely on a code of ethics, first, that eliminates or salvages biz relationships with the most common kinds of crooks and monsters out there.
However, waiting for the other guy to violate your code before jettisoning him from your life means you’re a punching bag while the truth about the human capacity for evil slowly dawns on you. (And most folks never really understand any of this. Which is why the neighbors of the freshly-caught serial killer always express disbelief — “He seemed like a nice guy. Always mowed his lawn. Sure, there were screams from the basement sometimes, but…”)
I studied this stuff — and figured it out — only because I was completely on my own in the early part of my career as a freelance copywriter (where I constantly dealt with new people, and needed all the insight to make quick-yet-correct decisions I could muster). I had a smidgeon of a hint, through an otherwise-worthless psychology degree I snagged in my youth…
… but the real breakthrough came because my quest to become an expert in salesmanship forced me to go deep with how people actually react to a sales pitch. This was my introduction to “street level psychology”… Continue reading
“Indeed your dancing days are done…” (Irish folk song)
I hope you’re doing well, and seizing the day. As we all should, every day we’re alive.
Sometimes, for me, the best way to appreciate life is to, occasionally, also appreciate death. For all the sound and fury and chaos surrounding us on the Big Earthly Stage… for all the urgency of accomplishment and all the troubles of cobbling together a modern lifestyle…
… sometimes you just gotta stop and take a deep breath.
And know that, at some point, there will be one last breath like that… and then no more.
All of us sharing space on the planet have been granted a ticket to ride, and none of us know how long the ride will last. Or how it ends.
Or, for that matter, what’s going to happen one second from now, let alone tomorrow or next month or next year.
And yet, life goes on. And goes on well for some of us, and progresses haltingly for others. But it goes on.
For Steve Jobs, the dancing days are done. I did not suspect his leaving us would affect me this profoundly, but it has. I never met him. And yet, our lives are intertwined. I’m writing this on an iMac, using the friendly interface he championed (and forced the “who cares about fonts” geek-dominated virtual world to adopt), while my iPhone sits nearby (buzzing with incoming texts).
There will be plenty written about Jobs and his effect on how we live today. I’ve already read a dozen articles online… and even the iHaters have to admit the world has shifted significantly with Steve gone.
For me, he was the Uber-Entrepreneur. Dropped out of college because his energy and ideas bristled at the shackles of staid academia. Aimlessly sought out ways to engage with life on a more grand scale, correctly sensing that the world was about toContinue reading