“Quivers down my kneebone… I got the shakes in my thighbone…” Guess Who (“Shakin’ All Over”)
Have you ever been so freakin’ nervous you almost lost control of bodily functions?
Two things made me suddenly think about this unseemly subject.
First Thing: We have an Afghan hound in the house with a bark that rattles windows four blocks away… and he has come thisclose to eating the mailman, the Fed Ex guy, three neighbors, and a flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses who dared knock on the door.
And that’s just over the past month or so.
But here’s the kicker: He will break down into a sobbing lump of useless self-pity if Michele or I so much as look at him cross-eyed.
His bark is a mask for the social vulnerability he suffers.
He doesn’t really want to rip out your throat.
Deep inside, he’s just a confused, awkward puppy, trapped in an adult dog’s body. Scared shitless of the world. (Literally shitless, whenever fireworks or lightning are nearby.) (Yeah, it’s a mess.)
Second Thing: I was recently advising someone about “getting his ass out in the marketplace as an expert”… and the guy actually started shaking.
Just the thought of stepping onto the metaphorical stage of life, and performing… sent this poor guy into a stuttering implosion.
He not only had no “bark”… he had no cojones, either.
This got me thinking about my own journey from stuttering fear-meister to swaggering bluster-bomb.
It’s relevant… because, in business, my line is: If you truly have a great product that your prospect should own… then shame on you if you don’t step forward confidently and BE that guy he needs you to be… so he can feel good about buying.
You can’t sell from your heels, people.
(I love to trot out the old quote by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones: “It’s not that I’m all that great of a guitar player, you know. It’s just that I can step out in front of ten thousand people and DO it.”)
(Talent comes in WAY behind cojones when it comes to carving out your niche.)
Anyway, back to me…
I am not an extrovert by any stretch.
In fact, I chart pretty heavily toward “total thumb-sucking, light-avoiding, cave-dwelling introvert” in basic personality tests.
You can tell an introvert from an extrovert pretty easily: When the extro is around people, like at a party, he gets energized. The introvert finds it a chore, and leaves the event drained.
It’s all about energy transference.
Now, I was lucky to grow up with a sizeable contingent of good friends — who I went all the way from kindergarten through high school with — which saved me from having to “make” new friends until I hustled off to college.
And, in college, for whatever reason, I was immediately taken in by a group of goofballs who somehow saw my potential for furthering their goofball yearnings.
However, it took me a long time to get to “know” most of these people.
Seriously. It was decades before I finally felt comfortable around most of them.
Nearly all of the people I’m close to, I’ve been close to for half my life. (I’ve known my business partner, Stan, for 25 years, and our contract writer, Mark, since we were nineteen.)
I tell you this to illustrate how ill-equiped I was to become a guru.
I stuttered as a kid… and frequently found myself getting stuck on words as an adult whenever I encountered uncomfortable situations.
Meaning, any new situation where people I didn’t know were looking at me.
In grade school — back when I was convinced that everybody else knew things they weren’t sharing with me (and that’s why life seemed like such a mystery) — I even burst into tears in class math competitions. (One little girl — Peggy The Bitch, I call her — repeatedly tripped me up with the question “What’s 5 times 0?” I nearly always said “5!” before realizing my blunder and being told to sit down while the rest of the class continued the competition.)
(Ah, childhood humiliation. What a concept.)
As a teen, a good (longtime) friend convinced me to learn guitar so we could start playing in bands. He wanted the excitement and recognition of being on stage. I just got a thrill from playing music.
So he fronted the many bands we formed, happily, from center-stage… and I happily lurked near the far edge, out of the limelight, content to concentrate on the tunes.
I was kinda like Garth, from Wayne’s World. Thrust into the action on the coattails of a raging extrovert.
Freelancing was a natural for me. It required long, lonely hours inside your head… and you were excused from looking like the regular “suits” in the agencies because, as a writer, the more outrageous you appeared, the more they believed you must possess the “goods”.
Halbert, of course, was THE uber-extrovert. He publicly listed his main hobby as “finding new methods of self-aggrandizement”.
I stayed behind the scenes as much as possible. My main job, in fact, during seminars was to handle everything but the actual delivery of the action onstage.
It was Halbert’s show, and I liked it that way.
I had defined myself as an introvert, and never considered it could be any other way.
I even had a “defining moment” — back in college, when I was introduced to my first “real” girlfriend’s beloved sister, I started laughing uncontrollably. Not because anything was funny… but because my body betrayed me, and just went off in an inappropriate spasm.
I was humiliated, because after lamely stuttering about why I had burst out with guffaws (I could come with nothing good to explain myself), the awkwardness just got deeper and deeper. My girlfriend forgave me (and even sorta found it endearing — I was her “bad boy” artistic-type boyfriend, so weirdness was expected).
But her sister forever thought I was an A-Number One Doofus Jerk-Off.
Rightly so, I might add.
Around uncomfortable situations, I was that guy.
After, oh, around thirty gazillion private consultations and Hot Seats and meetings with clients once I became a sought-after pro… all of whom initially tried to “alpha male” me into submission, because they wanted the writer (me) to be their slave…
… I started to think that maybe I had unwisely “defined” myself.
As anyone who has gotten freelance advice from me knows, I quickly learned to walk into a new client’s life and OWN the bastard. I knew that I held all the cards — he needed copy, couldn’t produce it himself to save his life, and thus was in zero position to be dictating terms to me.
I ain’t shy, professionally.
Now, my technique may or may not help others. (I developed a “stage personality” for these consultations I called Dr. Smooth… and let this “alternative John” take over.)
(And damn, but that Doctor was good at taking control and bullying clients.)
It’s a standard tactic, adapted from acting. No big deal, nothing revelatory about it.
What it did for me was immediately obliterate that old “defining moment” that I had regarded as my “fate”.
I wasn’t really a socially-retarded loser.
I just played one in life.
Cuz I thought I’d been… assigned… the role.
If you’ve ever seen me speak at seminars, you know I’m no wallflower these days. I’m totally comfy in front of any size crowd, because the “mystery” of what’s going on has been solved in my mind.
It’s not about me.
It’s about the content of what I share.
(Plus, of course, I know so much about the people in the audience nowadays… from all those decades of delving into the psychology of salesmanship… that I don’t even need to imagine anyone naked to be calm.)
(It’s just us folks in the room. Good people looking for good info, plus maybe a little entertainment along the way. And a speaker line-up of “just-plain-dudes” having fun in the limelight.)
My point: You can do what you need to do.
If your market is crying out for someone to stand up and be the go-to-guy… you really can do it.
Like Keith Richards, you can get your chops honed to a degree that gives you enough confidence to be “onstage” (however you define the stage — it can be your website, an actual stage, or infomercials or any other media)… where you will deliver what the folks paid to see.
There are vast armies of “experts” out there (especially online) with no more real skill or insight or knowledge than you have.
Often, they have less.
What they DO have, that so many others refuse to cultivate, are the cojones to step up and BE that guy the audience needs you to be.
I can tell you this with absolute certainty (because I personally know it’s true): Most of the top guru’s in the entrepreneurial world — especially online — are former dweebs, stutterers, social outcasts and semi-dangerous nutcases.
They are, essentially, gawky and lonely and scared little kids trapped inside an adult’s body.
What they have done, however…
… is to re-define WHO they are when it counts.
Everyone, at some time or another, feels the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over their head. Life is tough, business tougher. Hamlet’s slings and arrows constantly rain on everyone’s parade, and NO ONE gets a pass.
… the winners define themselves.
I’m still an introvert. I still have my awkward social moments. I still occasionally stutter.
But those things do not define me.
Long ago, I threw away the role “assigned” to me… and just created my own new one. Which allows me to do whatever needs doing to further my goals… including climbing up on stage alone and engaging a thousand people as a ringleader.
Life sucks when you’re crawling around under the weight of unnecessary self-loathing, self-pity and self-expectations you can never meet.
Life rocks when you re-cut the jigsaw of your personality, and make something new according to who YOU want to be.
Just food for thought.
Love to hear your experiences with self-defining moments.
It’s heartening to hear so many commenters in past blogs finally come to grips with internal battles they’ve sometimes struggled with for years.
Hey — it’s fun when this stuff starts working.
P.S. We are very close to finishing up a new venture here that — if you crave rollicking adventure in your business life — will absolutely light up many people’s worlds.
It’s a limited opportunity… but the folks who truly know, in your heart, that one of the spots was meant for you… will instantly understand what has to happen to get involved.
Just a few more days…
“Are you a good witch… or a bad witch?” Glenda, The Good Witch of North Oz
I’m hot on a deadline here, writing a new pitch (I’ll let you know when you’re allowed to hear it)…
… and, as always with selling crap…
… 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.
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.)
Consider: 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 excercising 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.
Nothing’s stopping you. 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.
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… 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.
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…
P.S. Don’t forget that the notorious “Bag of Tricks” offering at www.marketingrebel.com is going away soon. (We had it slated for demolition around now, but it’s gotten a slight reprieve because the replacement package is still being edited.)
No penalty for jumping on that sweet offer now. You can always upgrade, for cheap.
The “Bag of Tricks” was just too generous.
But it IS an opportunity…
“Code Blue! Gimme the paddles…” Dr. House (alot)
You got a favorite TV show?
I was a charter member of the first TV-addicted generation, and I may yet live to see the end of network television as we’ve all known and loved it all these seasons.
The Web’s already killed it for the youngest generations.
Once the last of the Boomers wander off, we’ll take our fond memories of Howdy Doody and The Twilight Zone with us… and no one will much care, being too busy with fourteen incoming Twittering IMs on their ear/eye implants and a fresh scene loading up from the new Grand Theft Auto XXVII they just injected straight into their pituitary gland.
Sometimes I think about that.
Television, easily the most culture-shaping technology advance in the history of mankind… eclipsed before it reached seventy years old… murdered by hotter, more intensely interactive tech. (Okay — I know that television was actually viable in the 1920s, but get real. It wasn’t a cultural phenomenon until the fifties.)
But that’s not what I want to write about tonight.
Instead, something else triggered my interest.
I thought back to the season-ending episode of “House”, which had everyone in the room reaching for tear-soaked tissues (including the cat, who was barely watching).
And, if you’ll give me a minute here, I’m gonna tie that show in with you making money with your ads.
VERY major lesson coming up, so pay attention.
First, though, you gotta put up with some ranting:
/Begin rant: Television, overall, has followed the same arc that — in micro — the show Saturday Night Live has followed: Great for a couple of years… suck for several years… recover, and be great again… then quickly descend into Suckdom once more… and over and over, in a cycle that (someday) historians will probably be able to track down to the second. (“As we can clearly see, class, the show left the rails thirteen minutes into the first episode after Lorne Michaels left in season five… you can almost — chuckle — see it jumping the shark as Louise-Dreyfus sputters in yet another vapid, unfunny scene…”)
Speaking of rants, you’ll get some of my very best when you sign up for 11Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now. You get it for free, right here.
And I believe we’re currently in one of the recurring “up” bumps. Always good when you realize there are actually a couple of shows on that DESERVE to be watched. Not brain-dead watching, but active interest watching.
What do you Tivo?
We religiously record House, 30 Rock, The Office (though I suspect the shark is in mid-air on that one), and Manchester United games on Fox Sports. (Okay, Michele won’t watch soccer with me, and I can’t stomach Brothers And Sisters with her. Trade off.)
I love the medium, but I don’t “need” it.
I grew up watching all the sixties sit-com, sci-fi, drama and kitsch I could cram into an evening (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Addams Family, Outer Limits, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, She-Bang, Soupy Sales, Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Monkees… God, I’m embarrassed to admit all that…).
But I watched, primarialy, because it was there. Mom had the kitchen radio on all day (it’s how I discovered rock and roll), and the boob tube was cranked on when Pop came home, and wasn’t turned off until beddy-bye. (Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Where The Action Is, Your Show of Shows, The Match Game…)
Once I was old enough to beg Pop for the car keys, my evening rituals changed dramatically. I didn’t even own a TV through the seventies. (Never saw a single episode of Mork & Mindy, Mary Tyler Moore, or Three’s Company, thank you very much.) (One of TV’s “down” cycles, I would say.) (Showed up, often drunk, at friends’ houses with toobs for SNL, of course.)
MTV and cable brought me back to the fold, fitfully.
Now, I’m in a groove once again.
Gotta have my “House”, and the occasional Law & Order SVU. (BTW: Why is Rooney not playing for Man U lately? Did he get hurt? Traded? What’s up? He wasn’t in the Moscow grueler…)
Okay, back to the point of all this:
The last episodes (it was a twin-hour ending show) of House were pretty riveting television. I’m ALWAYS impressed with good writing (Boston Legal, CSI: NY, the commentors on the World Series of Poker, Californication)… and I’ve learned to watch both passively (to enjoy the moment)…
… and to go back over what just hooked me, and watch critically.
I like to break down exactly what the writers did to tweak my emotions, my interest, and ESPECIALLY my resistance to being sucked into the story.
That’s right. With every show, I challenge the writing to do its job.
We have an unwritten rule in the house: Any time either of us can start predicting the dialog before the actors speak it… that show is toast.
The shark has done jumped, when the script is so weak you can burble along with the actors in real time.
So here’s the thing…
… this House final episode (WARNING: Spoiler alert!) polished off one of the major characters. That’s not unique in television… but the way the writers did it defied what any viewer would have predicted.
It was as if… the script burned down the house.
Just created all kinds of emotional havoc and brain-tickling mayhem.
It was that riveting, and satisfying.
I can’t wait for next season. Seriously.
I’m pissed I gotta wait.
Consider what the writers did, as you consider how to write compelling, riveting copy yourself.
Sometimes, you gotta burn down the house just to get your prospect’s attention.
Not literally, of course (“you idiot”, House would add).
Most ad copy is like an episode of Three’s Company.
At best, vaguely suggestive, but nothing you’d remember the next day (or even the next hour).
Great copy, on the other hand, is like South Park.
You simply cannot snooze through it.
You gotta be prepared for the reaction, too, if you ever get ballsy with your writing. Not everyone will cheer you on. “He can’t say that, can he?” will be a common response.
“Somebody’s got to do something about that repulsive material.”
“Can’t we shoot them, or deport them, or something?”
I’ve never gone for straight outrage, but neither were my first golf ads greeted with encouragement at the big golf magazines.
They swallowed hard during the first round, took the money, and pretended not to notice how much those 3-page copy-dense beasts fouled up the pretty “look” of their publications.
When my client went back for multiple insertions, it was almost too much to bear.
Fortunately, the publishers were shameless money-grubbing whores, and the ads ran despite the cries of alarm from readers. (But only from readers outside our target market. The guys we were after LOVED those ads.) (Still do.)
We, essentially, burned down the nice golf house, like vandals in a riot.
Something to think about, the next time you absolutely have to get attention for your copy. Don’t you think?
What TV shows do you remember fondly? (I’d watch MTV for hours in the first years, when it was all video, all the time… and I still consider The Larry Sanders Show to be one of the best ever written. Entourage ain’t bad, though it’s occasionally infuriatingly stupid. The Simpsons, yeah. Seinfeld, I guess. What else am I missing here?)
P.S. Do you really want to know how to write ads that “burn down the house?” People are still ripping off my ads from decades ago, and you can find out more about my secrets right here.
“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.
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.
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…
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…
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 www.carltoncoaching.com, while you’re contemplating your future.
Might be a great fit there, you know.
“…and you’re working for nobody but me…” George Harrison
Just plowed through the old tax grind here. Spent several hours chasing down documents, digging through files, double-checking my math.
Cuz I suck at math, you know. How I got through trig in high school is a mystery (let alone statistics and matrix theory in college).
In fact, I’m only half-joking when I say I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the ability to multiply by 8. That entire synapse has just dried up and fluffed away. (I still have vivid memories of squirming in my third grade class during the vicious head-to-head multiplication games the teacher forced us to play. I got tricked more than once with “five times zero”, blurting “FIVE!” before realizing my blunder. Argh!)
This is why one of my first splurges when my career got going was hiring an accountant.
Accountants like numbers. Watching their hands fly across a calculator is something to behold. Looky there — all my money vanishing like dots on a digital screen…
But here’s the thing: The first time I wrote a check to the IRS for an estimated payment… I was actually thrilled to death.
This first quarterly payment was proof that I was — finally — my own man. In my own biz. Paying my own taxes.
No withholding. No payroll check. No timing my bills to The Man’s schedule for doling out my hard-earned dough.
But I enjoyed that thrill alone.
Many of my early gigs as a freelancer were with business owners who considered taxes to be evil, evil, evil. Reagan encouraged them in this hatred — it was a time when government was seen as the problem, and unfettered free enterprise the solution.
The only solution.
I’m not gonna get into it… but after last month’s bailing out of Bear Stearns with taxpayer money (mine!) — because deregulation allowed them to act like four-year-olds with someone else’s piggy bank — I’m gonna slug the next guy who spouts ideological bullshit about the free market being able to regulate itself and fix any problem.
Economics has never been easy to understand, no matter what anyone else tells you. It’s a complex mix of theory, emotion, psychology, greed. con-man tactics, and lots and lots of wishing and hoping.
Oh, and gambling. The entire financial infrastructure of our civilization is essentially a big damn roll of the dice. If everybody woke up tomorrow and decided that paper money was worthless… it would be. Same with gold. And IOUs, and everything else of “value” you can’t eat, use for fuel, or build anything with.
…I was damn proud to start paying my taxes as a rookie freelancer.
This confused nearly everyone I worked with at the time. Especially since I was hip to Ayn Rand and Robert Ringer and a small bit of economic theory…
It was like, I should know better or something.
Back then, it was almost heresy to like paying taxes. A few of my colleagues even became tax rebels, refusing to pay anything under the hazy notion that income tax wasn’t “in” the constitution, and so… blah, blah, blah.
They got in trouble. Ayn couldn’t save ’em.
I kept my thoughts mostly to myself. As a vandal in my formative years, I destroyed lots of stuff. We were removed from the creation of bridges, street lighting systems, even stop signs. So we burned, blew up, cut down and defaced public property like it was a game.
Seriously. It seemed like a game.
I’ve had this idea for a “basic lesson” I’d like to deliver to “pre-vandal” kids in grade school and junior high. In this lesson, I would explain to kids where they “fit” in the culture, and where stuff like street lights and earth-moving equipment came from. Cuz no one ever did it for me.
My theory is that kids are too removed from the creation of the stuff around us. Strangers arrive in uniforms, build and fix shit, and vanish. In earlier times, you may have known the folks who put up the lights (“Hi, Mr. Edison!”), ran the tractors, painted the walls, dug the holes for power lines, etc. (Heck, you may have even been involved — I doubt a kid who helped raise a barn would later vandalize it.)
I got a taste of this when my little town formed a Little League. Parents got together, pooled scarce resources and money, sought out sponsors… and my Pop helped build the freaking baseball field. From scratch. Went out there and leveled the field, cleared the debris and rocks (big rocks in the dirt, too), erected the stands and concession, wired the microphones, poured concrete for the dugouts… all of it.
We treated that diamond like church, too. It was sacred ground.
Slowly, it was dawning on me that anarchy was dumb, and could harsh your mellow.
Building stuff… and (gasp!) even taking care of it… could make life better.
Once I became an entrepreneur, I was ready to step up and be an “owner” of the civilization I was living in. Taxes weren’t “taken out” of my paycheck anymore. Instead, I wrote quarterly checks to do my part in funding the upkeep and creation of local and national crap.
Crap we needed. Like roads, sewers, firehouses, power lines, the whole interconnected mess that kept the lights on, the beer cold, and garbage picked up.
Yep. I’m a proud taxpayer.
I have never forgotten listening in on a heated conversation between a couple of advanced businessmen, back when I first weaseled my way into those kinds of meetings. (Literally smoky back rooms.)
Most of the guys were all pissed off about taxes, hated the thought of paying even a single penny to “the gummit”, and considered the whole thing extortion.
But there was this one guy… the wealthiest and most Zen-centered dude in the group… who just shrugged.
He said — and I remember the sound of his voice — that he made his millions, and paid every penny he owed in tax, when it was due. And slept like a baby, and went about earning another million.
The other guys grumbled and bitched and moaned and agreed with each other that this was the wrong way to go about being a success. You fought with the taxman over everything, smuggled money into hidey holes whenever possible, lied, cheated, played dumb and dumped vast sums into off-shore accounts.
Over the years, I paid attention to who led the better life. No contest.
Off-shore money vanished (“Oops!”)… years were spent wrangling with attorneys and IRS agents… and many sleepless nights ensued.
And I slept like a baby, having taken the rich guy’s advice. And got busy with my career.
No one understands my joy at being able to say I pay for the upkeep of my quirky little town and my staggeringly-big nation. And though the checks I write are pretty damn huge (I quickly got used to paying more in quarterly’s than I used to earn in a year), I do not begrudge Caesar a single coin.
Sure, lots of it is wasted, misspent, stolen and worse.
The world’s a messy place. Choose your battles.
I focus on the never-ceasing wonder of living in a joint where a guy like me — lowly, formerly-clueless, working class me — had the opportunity to grab a seat at the Feast… simply by getting busy and setting goals.
This is an astonishing playground we live in here. Most of the rest of world is agog at our freedoms, and would happily pay twice the tax we dole out just for the privilege of being able to bitch about paying it… and not being jailed or shot in the process.
So pay ’em and forget about it until the next quarter.
You really should be too busy making hay to even notice the money’s gone…
P.S. Important note to anyone who’s been gazing longingly at any of the offers over at www.marketingrebel.com: Every single package there is on the front burner for being taken OFF that site (probably forever).
In particular, the mega-popular “Bag of Tricks” package is about to be retired.
It’s just too good a deal (especially with the personal attention from me included).
We’re not getting greedy, mind you. We’re just getting hip to the structure our new biz model is becoming. And that killer offer needs serious revamping (and higher prices).
However, as long as it’s there on the site, we’ll honor the deal. I’m heading down to San Diego this week to speak at Frank Kern’s spectacular seminar, and I’m kinda focused on the upcoming “17 points of copywriting” workshop just around the corner.
Still, we’ve got geeks scrambling… and as soon as we can, the entire current set of deals at www.marketingrebel.com vanishes. I can’t tell you, right now, what will replace them… but I CAN tell you this: You will never see an amazingly hyper-generous deal exactly like the “Bag of Tricks” again.
So pop over and check it out while you can. This particular “menu” of essential info and tools and skills is what fueled so many of the top marketers now doing their thang online. Just check the testimonials.
We’re not shelving the “Bag of Tricks” to be mean… it’s just time to grow into a new model. Changes online demand it.
Don’t dally. I know you’ve been lusting after that package. I’m announcing it’s demise at the Kern event, and we’ll follow through soon after…
P.P.S. By the way… all incoming comments were disabled last night, due to a technical glitch while our server was upgraded. I know at least a few people emailed me, privately, to tell me they were denied.
Anyway, it’s all working fine now. Fire away, if you like…
“When we remember we are all nuts, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” Mark Twain (sorta)
Have you seen my partner Stan’s first information video?
I think you need to see it, if you’re interested in mastering communication (which is the life-blood of selling lots and lots of stuff).
Personally, I find his video fascinating. He’s getting a ton of feedback on it, and we just spent an hour on the phone talking about it. One guy sent him such a personal email that Stan called him… not to argue, but to get the background story on why the guy had the opinion he had.
It was a calm conversation, Stan tells me… yet, at first, it was like sharing a bench on the fourth floor of the Tower of Babel. Each person was saying something important, but mere words didn’t seem to be able to get any points across.
I’m laughing my ass off over this as Stan tells the tale.
Cuz this is all about communication… and for the 25 years I’ve known Stan, we are constantly bickering about who said (or didn’t say) what, and who’s right and who’s a miserable toad for being so wrong.
It’s the foundation of our friendship.
Remember Star Trek? Stan’s like Spock, only with a sense of humor (and a taste for jazz and good beer). Very, VERY logical, and impatient with people who process info in illogical ways.
Like, oh… me, for instance.
Drives him frigging bonkers.
And I’d have to say I’m like Captain Kirk… not a Read more…
“Things will have to get more clear before I can even say I’m confused…”
I’m gonna need your feedback on this.
See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude, because I have to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).
This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.
And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, most of the time.
It can get spooky, climbing into the psyche of your market.
Still, though, it is, ultimately, exquisite fun. This gig — figuring out how to Read more…
Sunday, 9:17 pm
Methinks she doth protest too much…
Without the insights of good pop psychology, I cannot fathom how my neighbor isn’t wracked with shame every second of his miserable life.
Because he truly is a Grade A asshole.
It’s not just me. Six other neighbors, on all sides, hate this guy’s guts with varying levels of passion (cuz he harshes everyone’s mellow and disrupts the groove of the cul-de-sac). The Homeowner’s Association regularly slams him with fines (cuz he thinks he’s above the rules). And I’m never surprised to see cop cars parked in his driveway.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
The dude’s obviously a low-life scum, living among people who just want peace and quiet.
If I was him, I’d immediately sign up for industrial-strength therapy, and maybe start a brisk program of frequent self-flagellation as punishment.
But I’m not him.
I’m someone else, looking at him with utter bafflement, because I cannot understand how he can live with himself, being such an asshole.
Yet, using the simplest basics of psychology… I “get” it.
And “getting” it makes me both a better story-teller, and a better marketer.
It’s really very straightforward: In Mr. A-hole’s mind, he’s a great guy. Misunderstood, prone to accidents that could happen to anyone, a smidgen too quick to get angry about stuff that anyone would get pissed off about.
He has a whole menu of excellent reasons that — in his mind — explain everything he does in a way that makes him either totally forgiven and excused… or the victim of unpreventable circumstances.
He has rationalized his behavior so that he’s the good guy at the center of his world.
And no amount of incoming data that challenges that rationalization will change anything.
The dude is bottled up tight. Certain of his own righteousness.
Serial killers think like this. Politicians, too. Also thieves, social outcasts, actors, perverts and scamsters.
And you, too. And me. And everyone you market to.
It’s part of being human.
Now, you and I may also have some redeeming traits, like a code of behavior that prevents us from hurting other people or avoiding doing the right thing (or parking half on a neighbor’s lawn).
We are, in fact, a roiling pot of conflicting and battling emotions, urges, habits, learned behaviors and unconscious drives.
Every day, if we’re lucky, the mixture remains mostly balanced and doesn’t explode or morph into something toxic.
But it’s all in there. And it’s all fighting for supremacy.
The book ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People”, by Dale Carnegie, is called the salesman’s bible because of a simple tactic that works like crazy.
That tactic: Learn to walk a mile in another man’s shoes before judging him.
Or sizing him up.
This tactic does NOT come with our default settings as humans. You gotta learn it.
Once you’ve been around very small children, you realize how deeply ingrained our selfish desires are. We excuse them in kids, but strive to civilize the little terrors by corraling those desires into submission.
Takes a while.
People who grow up without that kind of mentoring can be hard to deal with. Some special cases — those blessed with an endless supply of sociopathic charm — can still make it work, and live lives of selfish abandon. Good for them.
But most of us realize that we gotta share the sandbox with others, and that means sublimating our greedy ape-urges most of the time.
Still, if you’re gonna be a great salesman, you gotta become a great student of human nature… and notice, catalog, understand, and USE insights like this.
So when you tell a story, it’s easy to figure out what the listener needs to hear to stay interested. When you sell something, it’s easy to know how to incite desire, because you know what people want (which is almost always NOT what you want them to want).
And when you’re approaching prospects cold — cuz they don’t know who you are — you are able to quickly discern who THEY are, and adjust your tactics accordingly.
But you cannot attain this state of understanding human behavior… without experiencing all the different parts of human behavior out there.
Okay, you don’t want to experience everything. People do some truly disgusting and repulsive stuff that is beyond the boudaries of acceptable experience for the rest of us.
But within reason, you at least need to learn how to walk in another person’s shoes for a mile. (That’s supposed to be an old American-Indian saying, a take-off on the Judeo-Christian “golden rule” of treating others as you would be treated yourself.)
It helps to understand basic psychology. It’s probably out of print, but the old best seller “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” (which is about transactional psychology, but never mind that part) lays out a pretty good start for rookies. Once you see a few examples of how your thinking on a matter may not jive with the other guy’s thinking… you’ll have the seeds of understanding how to delineate what those differences are, and how they affect your relationship.
It’s really not that tough, once you get wet.
Basically, the bottom line of understanding human behavior is all about accepting the reality of the situation.
Yes, he’s an asshole, according to your rules. But in his rule book, you’re probably the asshole. If you insist on not allowing his viewpoint to exist, there will be blood.
In marketing, if you don’t learn to understand how other people see you and your efforts to sell, there will be no sale.
It’s tough to walk in another dude’s shoes even if you LIKE him. Think of your best friend. His taste in clothes is abysmal, he insists on wearing his hair in a stupid style, he watches bad television shows, and eats horrible crap.
Yet, somehow you overlook these things, and get along.
The challenge, as a marketer, is to suck up your distaste for people who don’t share your worldview… and be a chameleon. That’s the lizard that blends in with any background (except plaid — we used to try to make the little lizards explode by placing psychedelic prints on the bottom of their cage). (Doesn’t work, in case you’re wondering.)
You don’t have to compromise your cherished beliefs, or alter your own worldview. (Unless you discover you should.)
Just understand that there are more complex personality tweaks in the people around you than there are stars in the sky.
And your job, as a marketer, is to understand that the person you’re selling stuff to may need all sorts of weird, twisted info or soothing advice or whatever to make a buying decision.
It’s not hard, once you learn how to walk a mile in other people’s shoes… and then DO it, on a regular basis.
And you gotta do it even with the assholes around you.
I still loathe my neighbor, but I can’t really hate him. He’s infuriating, but the real reason he pisses everyone off… is that he’s just not good at social interaction. HE cannot walk three feet in someone else’s shoes, has no clue what that would accomplish anyway, and lives in such a tight little box that he’s really just a walking prison of discomfort and exitential anguish.
I still wish he’d move, though.
Here’s a little task for you: Identify a trait in someone around you… that irks you no end. (Maybe humming off-key, or always being late, or telling boring stories.)
And spend a few minutes seeing that behavior from the inside.
Become, for a moment, that guy. Walk a mile in his shoes, and rationalize how you feel.
You don’t need to adopt the trait, or learn to “like” it.
Just understand it. Get hip to the way the other guy has come to terms with himself.
This is powerful knowledge.
This is how top marketers move through the world, with deep personal insight to how other humans get through their day.
I’d love to hear, in the comments section, what you discover when you do this task.
The street’s become one big damn dirt-flavored slushie…
Hey — great job on the stories, guys (and gals).
I just grabbed a few, totally at random, for comment here:
Ian, one of the last to post, nailed it. As a dog lover, I laughed out loud about his short, vivid tale of the dog who didn’t know what to do with the squirrel — after a lifetime of chasing them, she’d never caught one before. And so it got away.
Weak segue into a product, but definitely the right idea. Nice work, Ian.
Karen, Dean, Jason — nice work. Especially Karen — vivid, funny, poignant finish.
Bill went long with his story about slacking his way into college while his poor brother struggled for good grades and failed… but it’s just damn good storytelling. Human interest, compelling narrative, an opening wide enough to begin a truly killer sales pitch. Kudos.
There were two very short posts, by Kris and Udo, that illustrate the lesson. I suggest everyone dig in and read them.
Kris relayed the old “3 men went out, only 2 came back” saw. I appreciate the thinking behind it, but it’s not a story. An opening line for a story, perhaps…but it’s totally unmoored, with no plot elements, no punch line, no action.
This is best illustrated by Udo’s submission about the 300 Trojans stopping 200,000 at Thermopylae (subject of the recent movie based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel), coupled with the modern idea of a single “Trojan” now stopping half a million. I’ll let you, the reader, fill in the details… but I “got” it immediately. Maybe a little too cute, but good — set up, plot elements, coy twist, punch line.
Two extremely sparse submissions, both trying for pithy delivery. One connected, the other fell into the trap of not completing the process of set-up/action/punch-line.
This is not a knock on you, Kris. Thousands of people read this blog, and you had the guts to sit down and give the task a whirl. You are already ahead of everyone else who didn’t lock into “think hard” mode… and your next effort (if you take the lesson to heart) will put you even further ahead.
This is how writers get good.
I’ve been studying writing since I was a kid (when I tried to figure out how Bradbury and Asimov were able to suck me into their novellas). And, as an adult, I’ve dug deep into the “art”, shelling out big bucks to attend fancy-ass writer’s workshops in various states (like the famous annual events in Swannee, TN, and Squaw Valley, CA).
And I discovered two very important things:
1) Writer’s write. It’s that simple.
Almost every accomplished writer I have ever met started out struggling…. and even after becoming successful, continued to drive to get even better.
Not a single one was “born” into it. Their early stories were garbled garbage… but they kept after it, learning the craft by making mistakes, and then absorbing the lesson.
2) Most of the people running around those workshops were not writers… nor did they ever intend to become one.
No. They shelled out the thousands and thousands of bucks required to attend these week-long workshops… because they wanted to have already written something, and enjoy the imagined self-respect and glory of “being” a writer.
The one thing they had in common: They seldom actually sat down and wrote.
They complained of “writer’s block” (which doesn’t exist), they knew how to talk a good game, they even set up meetings with publishers.
But since the only way to get a book written is to… um, excuse me if I shock you here… is to WRITE IT, these pathetic wannabe’s were just shit outa luck in their desire to be seen as writers.
They are the worst kind of poseur. (Unfortunately, the workshops can’t survive without them. The “real” writers — a definite, tiny minority — need the wannabe’s to fund the events.) (Though, after attending five or six, I’ve concluded they’re mostly a waste of time. If you want to become a writer, write. And find successful writers to study. Oh, and take advantage of free blogs like this one.)
I’m relaying this tale specifically because many people who posted their stories here did something that a HUGE part of the population simply cannot bring themselves to do: Face the blank screen, and then write.
For every marketer out there writing his own copy — and learning from his mistakes and testing and inter-acting with guys like me — there are a hundred more who are frozen just by the thought of putting their fingers on a keyboard and engaging their brains.
The invention of email — which wasn’t all that long ago — has been a godsend for many people… simply because it forces you to grab a coherent thought, wiggle it down through your body from brain to fingers, and type it out.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this same situation: My father (who, at 86, may be one of the oldest dudes alive who knows how to surf online), at first could barely peck out a single sentence in an email. He was so terse, it was hardly communication at all.
Quickly, however, by repetition, he got the hang of it. And now pens emails easily and unself-consciously.
He got better… by doing it.
Believe it or not… the essentials of killer storytelling require nothing more than the few specifics I handed out in the past few blog posts… combined with your continued effort to see the world around you, and translate it into a pithy, concise, well-told tale that meets the simple requirements of set-up/action/punch line.
If you’re doing it badly now, you soon won’t be. Just keep after it.
Here’s another challenge for y’all.
It ties in neatly with the idea of keeping after it.
Harken: Most folks know the “science” behind forming a habit.
I can’t quote you the research, but the standard anecdote is that it takes 21 days to create a habit… whether it’s a good habit, or a bad one.
You gotta get up every day, for three weeks in a row, uninterrupted… and do your thing in a proscribed way that eventually gets set into muscle memory and into your brain.
The bad habits are easy.
The good ones… not so much.
My trainer, Bryan, reminded of how important it is to focus on creating good habits last week. He’s forcing all his clients — he’s a sadist, the man is — to think about a good habit they want to cultivate… and he’s not shutting up about it once you make the committment.
This is great stuff.
Think how quickly your life could change if you had a slave standing behind you at your desk… and every time you did whatever it is you’re trying to change (like slouching in your chair, or obsessively checking email, or downloading porn) the slave would whack you upside the head until you stopped.
Well, what Bryan’s doing is pretty close. I see him three times a week for punishment (okay, for a workout)… and he is relentless about getting into my face about my goals.
Heck — I PAY him to do this to me.
I highly recommend it.
But even if you’re on your own right now… the whole 21-day challenge thing is worthwhile.
Just pick a single good habit you want to instill. And use the next 3 weeks as your “forge” to make it stick.
At the recent Altitude “check up” event, there were dozens of rich marketers who talked about this very thing — changing your life in increments, habit by habit. (The necessity for “being a good animal” ranks up there with “earn another million bucks” for the most successful guys in the game. Often enough, it ranks even higher.)
What could you accomplish in your life by, say… getting up an hour earlier every day?
Or forming a morning ritual that allows you to efficiently meet the day pumped full of good nutrients, clean, alert and already exercised?
Or setting up a single day each week to take the phone off the hook, and just write all day long without interruption?
Or, heck, even the old standby’s: Is it time to quit smoking? Time to get serious about mentoring your kids? Time to start reading a novel every month?
As humans, we are all woefully inept at creating our “movies” in any perfect way. I would never strive for perfection, anyway — sounds boring to me.
Still, there are ways I want to live that I cannot access until I create better habits. Incremental changes, made permanent, can quickly form the foundation for amazing transformation.
I’ll tell you what my little 21-day challenge is. I’m addicted to carbohydrates — bread, cereal, chips, all that good stuff. And so, despite being in excellent over-all shape and health (cuz, you know, I work out)… my cholesterol isn’t cooperating.
So I’m simply jettisoning all the crap from my diet. (The beer stays, though. I’m not a monk.)
It’s not tough. I’ve done it before. In fact, last year I got into the habit of NOT eating so many carbs… but over the holidays, I dedicated myself to perversely destroying that habit.
Such is life. Constant vigilance is required.
However, without an actual deadline, it might take me years to even attempt to readjust my diet. (I swear, I bought a big damn bag of tortilla chips in a trance last week. I told myself “Don’t do it, man” as I watched my hand reach out and toss the bag into the grocery cart. Carbs are great zombie fuel.)
So here I am, a week into it. And already thinking twice every time I walk into the kitchen. And just waving hello to the Cheeto’s at the deli when I grab a sandwich, and not buying them.
Because I set a simple, very reachable goal: Just do it for 21 days, and see what happens.
It’s cheating, of course. I know full well that, after 21 days, I will have replaced the old habits with a new one: Eating healthy.
Wanna come along?
Pick a goal. For the next 21 days, engage in your chosen new behavior. Just 3 short weeks.
A cakewalk. (Unless it’s cake you’re trying to get away from.)
If you’ve done this before, then you know how powerful it is. If you’ve never done it, you’re in for a treat.
Start simple, if you like. Take a long walk every day. Start brushing your teeth more effectively. Meditate for twenty minutes in the afternoon. Be nice to your mate, no matter how aggravating they are to you.
Or… keep a journal, and every evening, write down a short story of what you observed during your day. Take ten minutes, and tell yourself a little tale.
Heck… post your new goal here in the comments section, if you like. It’ll be there for God and everybody to see… and that will help you breeze through the 3 weeks.
Twenty-one days is not an eternity (unless you’re quitting smoking, which is one of those big damn deal goals) (which you need to get to at some point).
It goes quick. (Think back to your New Year’s Even celebrating. That was FOUR weeks ago. A mere blink.)
And, at the end of your 21 days, you’ll have your new good habit.
C’mon, let us know what you’re eager to instill. We all need good ideas for the next challenge, you know. And I’ll remind you, each time I blog, about it. I’ll keep you aprised of my progress, and you can post yours.
This could be the year for you. The big breakthrough year, where it all comes together.
And it can start with just a little focus and dedication to change…
Don’t be a putz. Let’s change things around…
P.S. Speaking of turning things around, the Simple Writing System has changed the life of thousands of marketers, business owners and copywriters and has helped launch countless careers.
Could it do the same for you?
It wouldn’t hurt to check things out now, would it?