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A Dire Warning For Your Biz… And A Simple, Elegant Solution

Friday, 1:35pm
Reno, NV
“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.” (Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot)

Howdy…

Let’s get right to the Dire Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive.

Because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world.

This included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abby), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).

So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades.

I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.

The discussions are critical…

because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture.

It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns, and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.

My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary.

We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.

So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…

… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.

Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials.

The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…

… when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.

I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh.

They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.

And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.

As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.

That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.

Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this.

I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…

and host my own very elite mastermind 3 times a year. (If you think you’d enjoy being locked in a room with me and a small group of focused entrepreneurs just like you, then go here to see how you might join.)

The arrival of the Web, and all the vast access to data and info it’s brought, has NOT delivered “truth” to your door.

Just the opposite — it’s piled up the BS so high that you need, more than ever, some serious resources to help you navigate the nonsense.

Humans like to believe we’re able to conquer worlds and markets all on our lonesome, like Hollywood insists.

However, I know of ZERO top marketers (and I know a ton) who operate alone.

They seek out, and USE, the advice and brainstorming of colleagues whenever possible.

Their decisions (especially the really important ones) are laced with facts, intuition, gut feelings, facts, input from peers, facts and more facts.

Not “common wisdom” derived from the cultural wasteland out there.

You wanna swim in the wealthy ponds, you best get hip to this.

Find colleagues you trust, from all age groups and as far from your usual intellectual echo chamber as possible, and never stop challenging every thought that enters your brain.

Alone, entrepreneurs are vulnerable to idiotic decisions.

Together, you may still go with the idiocy, but at least you’ll go into it knowing all the alternative data and opinion and advice...

Just sayin’.

Stay frosty,

John

The Fools, Tools and Neanderthals Who Are Shaping Your Life

Saturday, 1:55pm
Reno, NV
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” (Stealer’s Wheel)

Howdy.

Thought I’d share Heads Up Alert #13 with you today: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…

… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.

Not everyone likes you, remember.

You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.)

There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you…

… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.

And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.

Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world.

Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)

When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin.

Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.

Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked…

… and it can escalate fast if you engage.

Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of.

When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…

… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose.

Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.

Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:

Rule #1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations.

Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers.

Yes, even if they’re wrong.

Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career.

All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff.

But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.

Rule #2. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game.

Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)

And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better…

… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)

Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.

Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.

Rule #3. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”

Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Volume 2 of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is out and a copy is eagerly awaiting your eyeballs.

So when you’re ready for more wisdom and cool advice, it’s time to catch up here.

Tribute To The Ink-Stained Wretch

Flag

Tuesday, 11:22pm
Reno, NV
I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)

Howdy…

For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.

Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…

… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.

For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.

Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…

particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.

For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…

… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.

We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.

Yet, the opposite is true.

Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet.

Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries.

I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.

It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.

Much deeper than that.

The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship.

All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.

It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges.

The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it.

Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions.

And I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art.

But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all have been banned or censored at some point in our history).

And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.

We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades…

… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.

So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today.

This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.

The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box.

Dangerous stuff.

I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine…

… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.

For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about…

… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks.

Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.

Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm).

But the restrictions should remain rare.

Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it.

Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology.

And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.

I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life.

It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.

For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence…

… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory.

Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being.

Free.

Fuckin’ A.

Play ball.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Hey — make sure you’ve got my books with you when you go off on holiday.

You can order them right now, in the right-hand column here. The digital versions will be in your digital hands immediately, too… no waiting…

Here’s Your Damn FREE Book, Already…

Monday, 7:01pm
Reno, NV
There is nothing that cannot be achieved by a man who refuses to listen to reason” (Gary Halbert)

Howdy…

I was going to slap a quickie book on Amazon for you…

… stuffed with all the advice, shared wisdom, tactics and strange asides I’ve been assaulting folks with lately on my Facebook page.

But then I thought, “screw that”.

Why not just give the book to you here?

For free?

And that’s what I’m gonna do.

Hey, it saves me a ton of editing and detail work (which I loathe).

Title:

Brain Farts, Psych Insights, Strange Tales
Goddamn Good Advice 

The “bad Uncle” rantings of the most ripped-off and respected copywriter alive.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: The Big Damn Jenga Game That Is Your Future

Chapter 2: The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You Your Entire Life

Chapter 3: Respect Brilliance, And Brilliance Will Respect You

Chapter 4: Wait — Does Carlton Still Consult With Regular People?

Chapter 5: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Chapter 6: The Genius Of Operation Money$uck

Chapter 7: The Best Way To Learn From Mentors

Chapter 8: What’s Your Excuse?

Chapter 9: The Small Stories That Do The Most Work

Chapter 10: Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

Chapter 11: Where To Find The Eternal Truths Of Great Copywriting

Chapter 12: The Simple Tactic That Opens Doors For You Every Time

Bonus Chapter 13: When Logic Sucks

Introduction

Folks complain to me all the time about the length of many of my posts (especially here in the blog).

Well, fine.

Here’s a nice quickie book full of very short chapters...

… all of which nevertheless pack a vicious punch of insight and savvy.

You can read it in 11 minutes, unless you’re a plodding reader (like me). (I like to dawdle along, savoring the writing.)

Anyway, it’s free, so you don’t get a big, deep introduction.

Just enjoy…

 

Chapter 1

The Big Damn Jenga Game
That Is Your Future

Today’s Brain Fart Lesson: We all get lost sometimes. 

The longer you live, the more it happens.

Even after you’ve succeeded, and nailed down your spot in the hierarchy (whatever it is, biz, family, team), you will never stay in one place.

The universe likes to screw with us, treating our plans and lives like a big Jenga game.

The occasional collapse is inevitable.

So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to wake up one day and realize you’re all lost again. It happens.

The only constant will be yourself, smack in the middle of all the melodrama, tragedy and chaos of a normal life. (You can ramp up the intensity of everything once you become an entrepreneur, too, so be prepared for a more jolting ride.)

Lost, found, lost, found.

Lost.

Found.

For me, a nice Zen approach to the ebbs and flows of life works.

It’s only when you freak out and panic that you get REALLY lost.

Remember who you are, and what you’ve survived… and why you’re here in the first place.

You have a purpose. It will sometimes shimmer just out of easy reach…

… and it will sometimes be in your face, like a flash bulb.

When you’re lost, it’s barely a dot on the horizon, and you’re not sure you even know what it is anymore.

Stay frosty. Keep calm.

No one gets out of here alive, but during the ride (however long or short it is) you’ve got control of the script.

This is what your network is for.

When you’re feeling lost, reach out. Don’t curl up and suck your thumb.

You’re normal. This shit happens. There is a way out (there’s ALWAYS a way around a bad spot…

… even if it’s not the solution you’ve hoped for). If you have medicine to take, take it. If you have to limp back to the beginning and start over, limp back and get going.

The universe, as capricious as it can be at times, respects movement.

Good luck, and carry on.

When you find love, cherish it.

When you stumble into chaos, fight.

Above all, keep moving

Chapter 2

The 3 Types Of People Who Will Be Fucking With You
For Your Entire Life

Dept. of Adventure Junkies United, memo #38: I’ve lived long enough to realize there are basically 3 distinct types of people:

  1. Those who crave living through adventures, like crack addicts seeking peak thrills.
  2. Those who love adventure, but get as much enjoyment out of reliving them as they do going through them.
  3. And those who avoid adventure at all costs.

We call that last group “Safes”, meaning they play life safe, seldom straying anywhere near The Edge (and never, if they can help it, peeking over into the abyss).

I don’t have many acquaintances who are Safes. They don’t do well in my world.

I’ve spent most of my youth in the first camp. As kids, we dared Life to actually kill us as we fell out of trees, explored dangerous caves, jumped across roofs and rode bikes at speeds that drove our eyeballs back into our brains.

As a teen, it just got ridiculous. I have yet to see a “kids go crazy” movie that comes close to the wild-ass stunts and death-defying idiocy we performed on a regular basis (and that includes Animal House, Porky’s, Dazed And Confused, and any other one you can name).

And once I reached legal age…

… well, I’m not gonna discuss it here. Let your imagination run wild. It won’t come close to what we pulled off.

However, as I’ve mellowed a bit, I’ve backed off of experiencing adventure first hand. I just don’t heal like I used to.

Plus, it’s now as much fun to kick back and relive those memories with old pals as it was to generate the memories in the first place.

The top writers of the world all fuel their existence with raw adventure while young…

and then write about it as they totter away from The Edge, glad for the experiences, ecstatic to have survived, and happy to have some pals around to share the tale with.

I feel sorry for the adrenaline junkies I’ve known — those poor souls who live fast, but never seem to have a story to tell. It’s all about the hormone dump, the internal chemical rush.

I get it. I know that flush of excitement over physical feats of insane boundary-testing very well…

… but it was just a side perk of the experience.

Mostly, I was after the STORY — the essence of doing something outrageous, living to tell the tale…

… and then TELLING the tale. And telling it with skill.

It’s important to understand these starkly different categories of people. You shouldn’t trick Safes into crawling up the side of a tall building downtown after a night of boozing. That’s not nice, and they won’t appreciate it.

The story they’ll tell is what a total asshole sociopath you are for making them do that shit.

And be wary of wandering off with the adrenaline junkies, if you’re not part of that tribe. They tend to die young.

And if you’re a writer…

… well, cherish the adventures you’ve had, make your bucket lists of adventures not yet realized and go after it…

and keep honing your story-telling chops.

There’s nothing worse than sitting through a poorly-told tale, no matter how rousing the story COULD have been if shared with some pizzazz and skill.

One of the first things I reveal in the Simple Writing System is how to tell a story. It’s critical for anyone wanting to reach the next level up in biz (where all the Big Bucks and true happiness lives).

And — big treat — I’m going to personally teach a very special SWS class that begins the first of May, this year.

There won’t be very many spots available, cuz I like to keep my classes small (so I can really get to know you and offer personalized coaching customized to your particular needs).

I’ve only handled one class like this a year, and this may be the last one I personally teach.

So stay tuned if you’re at all interested.

Chapter 3

Respect Brilliance, And
Brilliance Will Respect You

Dept. Of Shiny Objects: I’ve been thinking about all the brilliant people I get to hang out with.

My biz partner, brilliant. The staggeringly long line of mentors throughout my career, all brilliant. The folks I share stages with at events…

… brilliant. (Well, okay, not all of them. Some duds in there. But mostly, by the time you reach a major stage, you’ve honed your brilliance to a sparkly sheen.)

My colleagues, especially the writers: Brilliant. My old college pals (who I still hang with regularly, and dangerously): Brilliant.

A good subset of the neighbors in this somewhat exclusive enclave I call home: Brilliant.

The lovely lady I share the hovel with: Brilliant.

I’m fucking surrounded by brilliance.

You’d think it’d get boring, after a while.

Naw. Just gotta remember to be patient with the less-than-brilliant people who populate most of the rest of the joint.

And, gotta remember not to take anything for granted.

You cannot imagine what it’s actually like to sit at a bar telling war stories with my writer friends. Or going on long road-dog adventures with my long-gone pal Gary Halbert (or his kid Bond).

Or going deep in one of our mastermind meetings…

…surrounded by the likes of David L. DeutschKevin RogersDavid Garfinkel, the various guest experts I invite in, and most of the members.

The people around you are your braintrust.

It can take half a lifetime to gather a good group — especially if (like me) you’re a little weird and introverted.

But when you find the right folks, you hold on tight.

The world is filled with aggressive stupidity. It can be annoying hanging out with brilliant people (who ALL have bizarre behavior disorders, usually undiagnosed)…

but it’s always worth it.

Always.

This is how stuff gets done in the world.

Brilliance will out.

(To find out more about the amazing Platinum mastermind I’ve hosted with my biz partner Stan Dahl for the last 10 years, go here.)

Chapter 4

Wait — Does Carlton Still Consult 
With Regular People?

Just had a colleague (a colleague!) ask me if I do personal consultations.

Uh… yeah.

How in the world does a guy who’s known me, and flogged my stuff, for years…

… not know I’m still a hot commodity in the consultation game?

I figure it’s my fault.

I don’t flaunt it, cuz I can only take on a couple of clients each month. (Yes, I restrict my personal calls to just a couple a week. I love you guys, but only up to a point.)

So, flaunting: Yes, you can get me on the phone (or on Skype, or Zoom, or whatever new freakin’ app you’re now using)…

… to personally discuss your biz or situation, dissect and solve problems, critique copy, and generally access the decades of deep front-line experience I offer as The Dude Who Knows A Fuck-Ton About Making The Big Bucks.

In fact, there’s a blog post up about this very subject, right now, here.

It’s so easy to grab a spot in the line-up. Especially now, while so many folks are still in the dark on whether I even offer private consulting anymore.

Chapter 5

No Good Deed
Goes Unpunished

Today’s Hard Knock: One of the first rules I learned, while climbing the career ladder, is “No good deed goes unpunished.”

It only makes sense after you’ve seen it in action, and you’ve taken the time to reflect on the way it plays out in real life.

But many folks take the wrong lesson from this sad realization of human frailty.

The thing is, just because you will be punished for your good deeds, you don’t stop doing them.

You just stop expecting to be rewarded.

This is why it can get lonely at the top. If you harshly judge people by their as-yet-unenlightened actions, you are soon left as a solo act.

So learn your Hard Knock lessons, but don’t feel superior about it.

Be an agent of change and practice massive forgiveness.

Perhaps, by tending your own garden well, you will influence the world.

Or, hell, just go ahead and blow the joint up. It’s what humans do when frustrated and impatient.

A few will continue doing the right thing, against the tide…

Chapter 6

The Genius Of 
Operation Money$uck

Operation Money$uck Rule #1: If money can fix a problem, don’t waste time trying to fix it yourself.

Instead, use your time to make enough money to pay your way out of the problem.

If a problem requires time, measure the cost vs benefit of YOU handling it (cuz your time is very valuable), vs delegating it to someone else.

If you’re the dude or dudette responsible for bringing in the moolah, then that’s your primary job.

I’m always astonished at busy entrepreneurs who do their own laundry, shopping and chores when it takes them away from the biz.

Then, I’m absolutely floored when I discover they also handle every detail in the biz. Right down to fixing the printer when it goes wonky.

First thing I did when I started my biz was hire an assistant. She’s still with me, 15 years later, and her worth cannot be calculated. She multiplied the amount of time I had available for doing the Op$uck stuff.

Your time is your most important resource. Every second you rob your biz of your cash-generating efforts is a loss on the bottom line.

Chapter 7

The Best Way To Learn
From Mentors

Some hard advice: Mentors active and successful in the real world are essential for anyone serious about leading in any part of life or business.

And it’s very difficult to find good mentors in academia. At least, that’s my experience.

Too many dumb rules.

You must venture into the “real world” to find the good ones.

I taught a single evening’s class each at both Exeter and the Missouri school of journalism, via Skype. It was a great little adventure, really glad I did it…

… but the students were not happy about being challenged. And I was lobbing softballs.

It was pearls before swine, I suspect.

In my first day with every real mentor I’ve ever had (notably Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert) I had my teeth metaphorically kicked in.

In my long experience, tough love is the best way to learn, with no second-best method in the running.

Academia has its place, and I learned a lot getting my BA (though very little in actual class).

But for entrepreneurs, it’s real world all the way.

Read copiously, but put what you learn to the test immediately.

Best advice for copywriters: Writers write

… and great writers write with consequences.

Get busy. (And for crying out loud, go read my freaking blog.)

Chapter 8

What’s Your Excuse?

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

are the role of excuses in moving through life.

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

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

They’re the minority.

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

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

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

At some point, most civilians will be on their death-bed, looking back on their failures and crushed dreams, and have to find cold comfort in the idea that at least they had good excuses. They tried, sort of, and had their feelings hurt or their efforts rebuffed, and what can you do?

Life’s hard, right?

Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.

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

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

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

You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…

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

… then consider WHY it’s a habit.

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

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

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

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

Top clients won’t put up with sloppy non-professional behavior. Self-respecting potential romantic partners will avoid committing to you. And a whole bunch of cool life experiences will vanish…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 9

The Small Stories 
That Do The Most Work

Rumor Control, memo 34b: Here’s a fun exercise — for the next few days, pay attention to the stories people near you toss around as settled truth.

Ignore the politically-charged stuff. Too obvious.

Instead, note the smaller tales.

It’s easy, within an extended family, to spot foundational “facts” that are actually just shared assumptions with little or no evidence behind them.

Auntie Flo is just an eccentric, innocent old lady (not a dangerous self-medicating bipolar nutbar who keeps loaded guns in the silverware drawer).

Cousin Farquar’s sexual offender status is just a simple misunderstanding with the cops (and his 3 exes).

And your neighbors have concocted scripts about each and every household in the area (including yours).

Often, they won’t use names to identify a house, but plot lines. “Did you see the cop car parked over at the drug den yesterday?” says Mr. Perfect Lawn, while talking with That Hippie Couple across the street.

Noticing these smaller stories is how top ad writers become legendary.

It’s this kind of detail, plucked from real experience, that breathes life into a sales message.

I’ve been peppering my copy with snatches of observed reality since I first realized the potency of bringing the “truth” of human interaction to the selling game.

We are a whacky species, fueled by assumption, rumor, believable bullshit and tall tales invented out of thin air.

We all routinely just make stuff up to fill in the blanks.

We loathe blanks.

Understanding the mechanics of social interaction — with all its nonsense, silliness and fluff — is key to communicating effectively.

God help us.

Chapter 10

Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

The Spectacular Failure of Human Rationality, Part 5: I’ve been gleefully collecting stories of bizarre decision-making by my fellow humans for decades.

As a marketer, these tales are sobering revelations about what I’m up against trying to persuade prospects to do something.

As a caring friend, they’re a reminder not to beat my head against the wall when stubborn resistance makes efforts to help futile.

Top example: A medical doctor friend refuses to entertain even the idea that I solved my migraine problems through diet, massage and chiropractic.

She’s old-school medicine, educated in the days when the AMA taught that masseuses were hookers, vitamins were bullshit, and chiro’s were quacks (and she just ignores the fact the AMA long ago apologized, and now many modern docs work closely with chiro’s cuz, you know, the shit works).

No, somehow HER migraines (which are interferring with her life big-time) require drastic brain surgery. No amount of empirical evidence from pals can dent her resistance to an alternative.

This is cognitive dissonance on a major-league scale — she doesn’t think I’m evil or lying, yet she just cannot allow my story to be “real” in her mind.

So she simply refuses to acknowledge it.

The downside of trying non-surgical alternatives?

Zero.

No matter, she’s headed for the scalpel, to treat something other folks routinely beat with simple measures that don’t involve blood and removal of brain tissue.

You realize that this kind of stubbornness exists up and down the human decision-making process (from choosing what shoes to wear today, to who to marry and what car to buy) and you’re on the way to becoming Mr Persuasion Expert, for whom no objection is too weird or difficult to deal with.

Chapter 11

Where To Find The Eternal Truths
Of Great Copywriting

Just posted this in a damn good thread about finding the best copywriters to follow for advice and tactics (crowd’s ultimate decision: look for the gray-hairs)… thought you’d dig it:

“In truth, any copywriter who’s had sustained success for several years can help you with the basics.

IF they’ve written for multiple markets, weathered massive economic disasters, and gone up against other seasoned pros in hyper-competitive niches and won.

Too many writers luck out by exploiting rare conditions and early adoption of hot tech changes. Which is great for making money, but doesn’t mean they can thrive outside of those rare conditions.

Google slaps and Zuckerberg tantrums tend to frustrate writers who lack deep knowledge of advertising history.

To learn the eternal truths, yes, find the grizzled pros. But only those who aren’t bitter about how shit keeps changing.

There will always be massive and unfair upheaval in biz. The true grownups have learned how to adjust.

Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters…”

Chapter 12

The Simple Tactic That
Opens Doors For You Every Time

You want a simple tactic that will open doors for you?

Can’t believe I have to keep reminding folks of this…

… but just be very, very polite.

Say “please” and mean it.

Say “thanks” and mean it.

Call men “sir” (even if they’re younger than you), call women “m’am” (even when they’re younger than you), and listen intently when anyone is speaking to you.

Meet their eyes.

Do not argue, unless that is the dark alley you want to go down (and say goodbye to any doors that may have opened for you).

You know who the most polite people on the planet are?

Sociopaths, and folks who can kick your ass. They don’t give a ratfuck about the social “score” of who feels dominant in any given situation…

… and they want to get to their goals (which never, ever include arguing) as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Stop posturing.

If you’re good…

… or successful…

… or smart, experienced, talented, or can kick ass…

… folks will either find out soon enough, or they won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

Use the simple tools available to us socially to get people in rapport with you quickly, use charm to be non-threatening (when you can), and give others your total focus during conversations.

And remain committed to your goals.

I mean, Jeez Louise — you’re a nice person, who deserves more…

yet the sociopaths and ass-kickers are waltzing through doors into opportunities that should have been YOURS.

Because they’re charming and polite and know how to move through social situations without an attitude.

Caring about the small shit is a sucker’s game.

Breathe deeper. Reach higher. Live bigger.

And please get my books. All of them, immediately. Devour them with gusto, and start moving up a couple of levels in life and biz.

You can find everything on the blog, right there in plain sight: john-carlton dot com.

Thanks.

Just sayin’…

Chapter 13

When Logic Sucks

Psych Insight #233: The idea that “logic” enters into buying decisions is ludicrous.

A super-rational Vulcan like Mr Spock may accidentally hit on the right way to sell something to a market, but it would only be coincidence if it was actually logical.

He was not a persuader.

The Voice Of Reason seldom is.

Humans operate in this roiling soup of emotion, confusion, delusion, excuses, denial, and wishful thinking…

… it’s what makes us so charming and fun.

The universe may work under gorgeously-precise rules of physics, but our brains are big clumps of chaos.

Great salesmen know this, and proceed accordingly.

That’s it, Bucko.

Nice, short book, crammed with wisdom, advice and insight to moving your slacker butt up another level in life and biz.

My gift to you.

Now go rummage through the books and courses for sale in the right-hand column, and buy something to fill in the blanks of your skill set and biz mojo…

And be sure to sign up for blog notifications, up top. You get another free book when you do that, you know.

It’s Freebie City here today…

Stay frosty,

John

Photo courtesy of Ms Significant Other

 

Gratitude, Schmatitude

Friday, 1:08pm
Reno, NV
Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)

Howdy…

Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.

Like it’s magic or something.

It ain’t.

Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).

Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me.

I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work.

Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.

So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.

But a little perspective, please.

For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude.

They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.

So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.

Which is, of course, pure bullshit.

The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit.

I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.

So why do they even say it?

Sometimes it’s just habit, from the old scripts they used to read. The job requirements included big smiles, friendly demeanor even in the face of rudeness, and a steady stream of patter to calm folks down while the jet screamed through the heavens eight miles high.

So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT.

And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.

And AT&T robots love to drone while you’re on hold, about how grateful they are to have you as a customer. It’s all please and thank you and yes, sir. The gratitude practically drips from the phone…

but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint.

I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned…

… to cull the mob down.

Just part of the biz strategy created by evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.

Yeah, get real.

Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases.

Get Real Truth #1: Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.

The worst are businesses that hire some PR firm to write up a “mission statement“. This is all the rage every so often, as the MBA schools recycle old tropes on doing biz. Not understanding what a USP is, and possessing no clue on how to actually deal with a prospect or customer, dazed biz owners will spend a lot of time and money positioning a statement out that is supposed to “define” the “culture” of the joint.

So we get lots of vague “the customer is king” and “you’re the boss” crap… which sounds great, but is just blabbering babble if not put into action.

Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it…

… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back.

Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.

Get Real Truth #2: If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT.

Don’t talk about it.

Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises.

Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

Yes, you’re VERY thankful to the grubby dude from the garage who drove out to fix your car in the rain. At the time he’s getting things done, and you’re sensing you’re gonna get out of this ordeal after all, you want to hug him. And you say, over and over again, how grateful you are that he exists.

Yeah, yeah, whatever.

You’re not grateful enough to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner, are you? You gonna help him move to a new apartment next weekend? Go watch the big game with him at the garage?

No, you’re not.

Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over.

But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.

A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake.

He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.

On the other hand, he may demure and not come at all, if he’s all creeped out over your slobbering hugs of impotent gratitude.

Get Real Truth #3: Lying is lying.

The small lies in life set up the big ones.

Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time.

You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.

In fact, one of the old street maxims is: Take whatever the guy says, and figure the opposite is true.

In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem.

The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse.

The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling.

The joint is filled with liars.

This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there.

Just be honest, without making a big damn deal about it.

In fact, don’t even bring it up.

Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.

Your audience will let you know what your “real world” reputation is, soon enough.

Don’t be like that pilot blabbing about choices when there aren’t any. He is announcing to everyone that he is, at best, a mindless corporate shill. And if he wanders into the cabin during the flight and tells you something about not worrying, everything’s just dandy…

… you will be excused if your next act is to look for a parachute.

Get Real Truth #4: Consequences matter.

Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business.

Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.

Don’t turn yourself into a lying shit-heel, just because you want to sound all corporate-like.

It matters.

Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.

Thanks.

No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Make sure you check out all the goodies available on this page. My books and courses make excellent Christmas gifts, you know…

The Game You’re Guaranteed To Lose

Saturday, 1:55pm
Reno, NV
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” (Stealer’s Wheel)

Howdy.

Thought I’d share Heads Up Alert #13 with you today: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…

… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.

Not everyone likes you, remember.

You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.)

There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you…

… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.

And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.

Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world.

Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)

When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin.

Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.

Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked…

… and it can escalate fast if you engage.

Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of.

When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…

… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose.

Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.

Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:

Rule #1. Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations.

Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers.

Yes, even if they’re wrong.

Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career.

All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff.

But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.

Rule #2. Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game.

Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)

And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better…

… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)

Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.

Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.

Rule #3. Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”

Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Volume 2 of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is heading to the printers soon. Should be available in November.

So if you haven’t Volume 1 yet, it’s time to catch up here.

Playing In The Big Kids’ Sandbox

Friday, 11:35pm
Reno, NV
Tell your mama and your papa, I’m a little schoolboy, too…” (“Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”, Sonny Boy Williamson)

Howdy…

Eventually, the main concerns of an entrepreneur become:

Concern #1. How does all the hard work fit into a lifestyle you enjoy having?

Nobody minds slaving away in the early stages of a biz adventure, cuz it’s fun.

And nobody wants to get locked into forced labor indefinitely, with no end in sight.

That old “work-life balance” thing can be a pesky bugger.

So this lifestyle stuff quickly becomes something you need to pay serious attention to. It’s interesting that so many “get rich quick” schemes feature (as bait) someone supposedly living a great life, on a beach somewhere, drenched in wealth and sex and fun…

but the folks who fall for the pitch never quite seem to attain the same action. 

That’s because, while it looks easy enough to do, it’s actually a royal bitch to put together a great lifestyle.

You gotta sample lots of things (like, for example: Do you even LIKE the beach?), test out different kinds of fulfillment (a huge mansion isn’t so much fun if you can’t afford to maintain it, or it’s far from your friends and you slowly waste away from loneliness), and figure out what you actually want (pretty Ms Suzy Q, the beauty queen, might turn out to be a nightmare to live with).

The trick to knowing how to set and achieve goals involves much guesswork at first…

… because almost no one really knows what will make them happy, at first.

In fact, I’ve discovered that MOST folks don’t actually want what they achieve, in their first efforts at implementing goal-attaining behavior.

They underestimate income, what makes them happy, and how fulfilled they will be with the first batch of stuff they go after. (I’m certainly in that camp. I was so broke and lost when I discovered the magic of goal-setting-and-attainment, that I was way too modest about moolah, love, and lifestyle. Took me years of attaining and discarding to figure it out.)

It’s a process.

Just like business.

The trick is to start right now, no matter where you’re at in life.

And use critical thinking to examine what you’re after, and what it means to you after you’ve attained it.

And adjust accordingly for the next round of goals.

Concern #2. Are you maximizing the easier ways to bring in money through multiple streams (so your cash register is pounding away even when you’re asleep, on vacation, or missing in action)?

Most entrepreneurs and freelancers leave massive piles of moolah on the table, never realizing the potential windfall just itching to fall into their laps.

You’d be shocked to know how many veteran business owners come to me for consulting…

… with a main problem of “not enough sales”…

who actually just need to implement simple things like a good back-end.

A good back-end is just creating a product or service (or a menu of such) that you immediately offer customers…

… right after they’ve bought whatever you sell that took so much marketing and effort to close.

You spend 90% of your time and marketing money on making that first sale.

Then, you got nothing else to offer?

After earning all that trust, and getting them to open their wallet?

Right when the first sale is made, that wallet is still open, you know.

And the customer is still glowing with his new-found trust in you and your business.

So, you ignore that opportunity?

Stop. Offer him something else. Right away.

It will cost you ZERO in marketing. You simply make the offer, while you’ve still got his attention.

Such a deal.

And then offer him something else, again, throughout your future communications with him.

Of course…

… most marketers forget to continue communications at all.

Or they’re ridiculously stingy about it (as in, sending out one or two emails a month).

No, no, no. Simple way to double your income next year: Email your happy customers, and your still-doubtful prospects, OFTEN. At least a couple of times a week.

The most successful marketers I know email their list every freaking day.

And no, it doesn’t alienate their list…

… because they take pains to keep those daily emails interesting and valuable.

Simple ways to keep interested customers buying, over and over, after the initial sale: That’s the key to kicking your bottom line into the stratosphere.

(And that’s just ONE way to maximize profit. For freelance copywriters, for another example, royalties can produce income for years after the work is done. I’m still receiving checks for ads I wrote TWENTY YEARS AGO. And the tactics just go on and on. Not exploring the simple ways of boosting your income is just asking for a lifestyle of relentless hard work and burnout.)

3. When do you decide to chuck the original model, and grow?

To complicate the hell out of everything, bringing in new staff or putting yourself in debt to investors, just because you think that’s how “growth” happens…

… is silly.

When you’re ready to play in the Big Kids’ Sandbox, you often just need a better game plan, higher quality skills, more powerful network connections, and a much, much deeper bag of tricks if you intend to thrive.

Becoming, and remaining, successful is an ongoing process that requires constant vigilance…

… and a commitment to doing what needs to be done to sustain your enthusiasm, your motivation, your ability to “read” your market, and the resources needed to stay relevant and vital.

Think of all this as your “toolkit”.

In there are the tools, tactics, strategies, techniques, skills…

… and the human side of your resources: Your networks, colleagues and mentors you trust to keep you focused on the right goals.

We all need someone to confide in, share ideas with, and confess our fears and troubles to. (I’ll be on the phone today with multiple colleagues, talking shop. And I’ll come away from every single call more energized, bursting with fresh ideas, and full of new tactics to put things into motion.) (After 30+ years in this biz, I’m one phone call away from the best possible answer to EVERY SINGLE QUESTION in business today. That’s a luxury you need to aim for, too.)

For some, that confidant is a spouse. For others, a biz partner.

For most, though, it often comes down to bringing in outside consultants who can give your situation a cold appraisal…

… and deliver the truth in ways your close friends and lovers may not be able to muster.

The top entrepreneurs all have a bulging toolkit, along with a vast network of human resources they rely on to grow, to recover from failure, and to help keep their eyes on the prize.

Just sayin’… all this is the key to a happy, wealthy life as an entrepreneur.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. You don’t get into the Big Kids’ Sandbox with stuff you learn from a book.

No. You get there by tapping into the experience and savvy of mentors and experts and colleagues willing to share (while you’re building your own foundation of experience).

That’s where knowing where to turn comes in.

It’s good to have a one-stop resource for all the idea vetting, implementation strategies, skill-set expansion, and high-end reality checks you need to goose your mojo (and bring in the Major Bucks).

Here’s an excellent one-stop resource like that, sitting right under your nose…

How Not To Make Dumb-Ass Decisions Ever Again

Friday, 4:49pm
Reno, NV
See if you can guess what I am now?” (Bluto, “Animal House”)

Howdy.

Public service announcement here:

Do you have mostly-level-headed friends who always seem to make dumb-ass decisions?

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

Well, gather ’round.

I believe I’ve stumbled upon a solution.

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

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

Then, go do that.

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

… and then go do that.

No, no, no.

This is your self-intervention moment.

Don’t be the blithering idiot.

Do be the smart person.

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

Stunningly, it works.

Pass it around.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One of the keys to good decision-making has always been knowing how things actually work in the real world of biz…

… and not trying to get by on the wimpy, delusion-filled nonsense most civilians think is how things get done.

Good place to find out which is which is right here

How To Win An Argument In 3 Easy Steps

Sunday, 3:45pm
Reno, NV
Mongo just pawn in game of life.” (Blazing Saddles.)

Howdy…

A while back, I published a series of posts on Facebook under the theme “How To Win An Argument”.

I started to repost them on FB…

… but then thought: Why not just bundle them up into one blog post?

Plus, include the updated insights (and comments) I’ve had since then.

What a great idea!

Below is a mildly-edited collection of that series on winning an argument. I didn’t save the dozens and dozens of comments from the first time I ran the series on Facebook…

… and that’s a shame, because it was a great thread, full of other lessons.

For example: The easiest way to get a whole bunch of folks frothing is to talk about (a) sex, or (b) their belief systems.

They go nuts when you challenge their crusted-over, nailed-down-tight beliefs on how things ought to be.

As you’ll see below, I just laid out my views on how to handle people who want to argue and how to define “winning” for yourself…

… and that just pissed off some folks.

Even discussing arguing inflamed their knee-jerk need to argue.

They argued about arguing. 

They just refused to accept my premise that most folks see arguing as a form of fisticuffs, with only winners and losers.

It’s humorous, ironic, and illustrative of how whacko (and vindictive) human beings can be.

Also, as a marketer, it’s informative — especially if you want or need to introduce some form of argument or alternative view into your advertising.

And, yes, this entire series is very much aimed at marketers.

Great ads seldom argue, though they may be pushing buttons right and left. The psychology is subtle, but awesome.

Just remember: For most folks, arguing isn’t about persuading. And that’s just a waste of time.

So, without further ado, here’s that series. Love to hear your comments… even if you wanna argue:

How To Win An Argument, Step 1: The primary rule is simple — never argue back, when your goal is persuasion.

No one, in the history of humankind, has ever changed their mind because of an argument.

When cornered (logically or physically), humans dig in and will sacrifice wealth, health and dignity before admitting they’re wrong.

They WILL occasionally change their minds, if they’re just plain wrong…

… but not because you demolished their belief system with crap like logic and debate moves.

They change because of an internal epiphany that is akin to death/rebirth.

As in, waking up in the middle of the night realizing what a doofus they’ve been, defending the undefendable. The cognitive dissonance just catches up with you, and you no longer want to expend energy

So, Rule #1: If you want to “win”, never engage in an argument.

[My comment, mid-way through the fray in the Facebook comment section, after being lectured by some rage-a-holics on how to properly (and sometimes physically) demolish a debate opponent: “Interesting that several comments here reveal a complete misunderstanding of how to WIN an argument — not just humiliate your opponent (and create a new enemy).”

“It’s a big difference. I guess this little tutorial is needed, badly. Negotiation and persuasion are NOT part of our default equipment, folks.”]

How To Win An Argument, Step 2: Now you need to DEFINE what “win” means to you.

Is it to persuade the person you’re up against? That’s gonna require some deft moves (which we’ll discuss later).

Often, however, there may be an audience you want to persuade — so you’re actually playing to the crowd. (Give your opponent enough rope to hang himself, in that situation, to win the meta-discussion.)

Or, you may be genuinely interested in other points of view (or acquiring intel on how the opposition operates).

Traditional, undisciplined arguing is just a shouting match with childish rules (first one to cry or leave flustered loses). The goal isn’t to persuade, but to spill blood either emotionally, intellectually or physically.

And no one’s mind is changed.

Not engaging the argument doesn’t necessarily mean splitting, though.

You just need to clearly understand WHY you’re in this situation, and WHAT you want out of it.

This simple moment of defining your goal will help you with every single subsequent decision. (“Art Of War” aficionados — and chess players — will happily lose every single battle up to the last one, for the victory. But you need to know what “victory” means for you. Being stubborn — the first clue you’re dealing with a rookie — may win the immediate round, but ruin all future moves.)

[My comments in the fray for Step 2, after being mocked for bringing up the book “Art Of War” (an ancient Chinese treatise on conducting warfare to win): “Once you get your Zen game on, coming up against someone who uses stubbornness as their main tactic will become a moment of joy (and easy, quick victory).”

“BTW: If just shutting him up is your goal, mockery works best. I don’t recommend this, cuz it can lead to fisticuffs. You ‘win’ by shutting him down, but ‘lose’ by having your teeth knocked out.”

“Mockery works as a reframing tool — you discern the ape-brain fear behind his anger, and turn the conversation on that. The focus instantly becomes his fear and his reaction to being mocked over it. Few humans can avoid sputtering and regressing to infantile states when their deepest shame is publicly ridiculed. Very, very dirty trick, and probably you deserve whatever happens next if you use it.”

Important: Being ‘armed’ with tactics that win without persuading is a huge responsibility. It’s like becoming skilled at martial arts, and you ARE responsible for the consequences of superior firepower. This is why knowing your goal is so critical.”

“Don’t get distracted by recent situations you’ve been in, guys. This is all pretty simple — for an easier life, and better marketing tactics, don’t argue

… and get clear on what you consider a ‘win’. It can be win-win, win-lose, or no-play (or any of many other results). The keys are (a) to be conscious, not get sucked into mindless time/energy-wasting exercises in futility, and (b) to further your own goals.”]

How To Win An Argument, Final Step: Okay, you realize that arguing isn’t persuasion, and you’ve defined what you want out of the situation. This is equal to (a) a reality check (so you stop doing what doesn’t work)…

… and (b) goal setting — the fundamentals of growth.

Next, you use the tools that DO work — which just happen to be the same tools great salesmen use to persuade skeptics to buy.

You disarm anger, reframe the context (so you’re not wallowing in the stuck-in-one-place psychological wastelands that stubborn people like to fight in)…

… and “come in through a side door” (as old school salesmen like to say).

You don’t engage head-on, you ignore irrationality, and because you’re so clear on your goal, you take your ego out of it.

Use the old improvisational theater tactic of never being negative yourself: Say “Yes, AND…” while relentlessly moving things toward the discussion you actually want to have.

(That improv trick keeps live, unrehearsed comedy sessions from ending in a sputtering mess. If your partner says, “Oh, look — a UFO just landed”, you don’t say “I don’t see anything. What the fuck are you talking about?”… because by responding that way, the improv ship has crashed. You’ve killed the session, leaving both of you with no place to go. The correct response is “Yes, and look who’s getting out — it’s your grandma and dog Manfred!” or something that keeps the flow going, allowing both of you to remain engaged.)

If you’ve ever been in the presence of a master negotiator, break down what happened.

Probably: Resistance was soothed, bonding occurred, and you likely found yourself moving off your position and agreeing with him…

even if you began on opposite sides.

In short… you “win” an argument by reframing what “win” means, so that you exit the nobody-wins context of belligerence (keeping your ego out of it), using your salesmanship chops to find common ground, bond, navigate the mostly-unconscious landscape of your opponent (to avoid hot buttons while simultaneously teasing his positive emotional needs)…

while relentlessly and patiently move toward your goal (whatever that is).

This is why great salesmen live better lives. They understand human behavior, so they always know what’s “really” going on, and they have skills to consciously persuade or redirect even irrational, emotionally-discordant folks to a better place. Where good things can occur.

At the very worst, you will never feel the angst of having gone through a useless shouting match (cuz you have self-permission to disengage at any time, since a “win” for you should include not feeling your blood pressure go up a single notch).

And by realizing that a classic argument is almost never about what it looks like it’s about on the surface, you can control where the situation ends up.

So, take your ego out of it, define your desired results in terms of reality, and be a good salesman.

Make sense?

You can disagree with me on any or all of these points.

Just know that this is insider tips from a veteran sales pro who learned it all the hard way, and honed the skill of persuasion in the front trenches of the real world. My client list has included some of the most stubborn and argumentative bastards to ever walk the earth.

Learning to wrangle them to where I needed conversations to go was essential, and these lessons saved my butt many times.

Love to hear your take on the matter, of course, in the comments section below.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be personally mentored by me?

I take on a few folks every so often for mentoring through private phone calls (or Skype). It’s pretty stunning how quickly you can move up a few notches in your field by having all your questions answered and your biggest problems solved. It happens fast.

Best place to find out if one the 3 simple mentoring opportunities I offer might be right for you…

… is right here: www.carltoncoaching.com.

Go check it out.

And while you’re readying…

imagine what your life might be like with a guy like me on your side…

Here’s that old book I recommend…

Tuesday, 12:36pm
Reno, NV
“… and succeed in changing the world.” (Dale himself)

Howdy…

I’m about to reveal that book I taunted you with in our recent email exchange.

But first, I want to really lay it on thick how important this is.

I’ve made a habit to practice what I learned in this book ever since I first read it some 30 years ago.

And it’s never failed to work.

I’ll go to parties where I don’t know anyone, and within minutes have someone sharing secrets about themselves they’ve never told anyone before. 

And they’ll consider me of such high quality, that they are almost desperate to become my close friend.

Yet, they don’t know a thing about me. I haven’t shared anything about what I do, who I am, what I have to offer.

I simply practiced the tactics I learned from this book…

and let the magic unwind. 

And frankly, I see the LACK of these simple skills a serious reason why so many entrepreneurs fail. 

They simply do not understand the fundamentals of good salesmanship…

… which do NOT start with you lecturing to your prospect. Or sharing details of your life, or your desires and goals.

Nope.

The magic starts, and ends (with a sale), inside your prospect’s head. 

It’s incredibly important to the sales process…

… and even more so now that we do so much biz online.

In person, these skills work like crazy.

Digitally, they STILL work like crazy. My emails, blog posts, Skype calls and everything else is front-loaded with them.

Okay, time to share:

The book (again, called The Salesman’s Bible by savvy insiders) is Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People.”

You’ve heard of it. Maybe you even read a bit of it.

Certainly, you’re heard jokes about it. People have been mocking it since it was first published. The headline alone (suggested, I believe, by ad legend John Caples) has spawned a thousand mimics, both seriously and satirically.

Doesn’t matter.

All books are TOOLS. You use them, to absorb the info and strategies and tactics. They are your hammer and nails, the most fundamental tools in your kit.

Keep the book hidden, if you like, if you’re afraid someone might laugh at you.

But read it, several times.

And get the oldest edition you can find. As I mentioned in the email, Dale’s heirs have decided they know more than he did (despite not living the life of a salesman), and screwed around with the copy.

I prefer the older editions. The one I first read was from the 1930s.

I just checked on Amazon. You can buy a 1981 version (pre-heir screwing up) for around $40. Or get one of the new digital versions for a few bucks — do that, if you must.

But get hip, regardless. 

Oh… and there’s a FREE book here for you, too.

Next post down…

Stay frosty,

John

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