Rome, Italy (yeah, I’m on vacation)
“Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?” (Jack Kerouac)
I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?”
Most folks never think about their legacy.
The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.
Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?
I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.
There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. Each of these eras are like separate John’s, completely different people.
Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.
I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).
I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.
The flip side: On the other hand, I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life.
I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.
It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.
It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge the juicy secrets.
And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do. But your reputation as a person capable of keeping secrets is solid. It has to be.
As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.
And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.
They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask bac. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.
But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.
Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.
It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives.
No one had ever asked before.
And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight…
… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.
It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly).
Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…
… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.
It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.
Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.
Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.
Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.
And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them.
For a marketer looking to succeed, this is the key to the kingdom.
P.S. If you’ve followed me for any length of time (here on the blog, in my books, or on social media) you know I frame my advice on being successful within stories.
I do it, because that’s how ideas stick. We’re hard-wired to listen to stories, and remember the good ones.
If you’re interested in the lessons I’ve learned about success and living large (from a very long career at the roiling edge of life and biz)…
… then you’ll be interested in this.
You can thank me later.
“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…” (Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”)
A lot of my social media focus lately has been on Facebook. As much as I distrust and mildly despise The Zuck, I have to hand it to the little sociopath for figuring out a dynamic that allows for real interaction with folks…
… which lasts, on average, around one to three days. Then, even the most viral post disappears down the social media rathole and is gone forever.
So I like to rescue some of the better posts I’ve carved into the FB newsfeed, and stack ’em up here on the blog… where they’ll survive in the archives for as long as this rickety thing exists. (We’re officially at the decade mark, by the way. Ten years of posting monthly… except for January of 2012, where I inadvertently didn’t publish an intended article in time, so the archives have that single hole in them. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.)
Anyway, no need for context here. If you’d enjoy seeing the comment threads on any of these posts, just hop over to my FB page (where you should already be following me, anyway, what are you thinking?). It’s www.facebook.com/john.carlton.
And, as always, I love to hear what you’re thinking in the comments here (where I often hang out and interact).
By the way… that photo up top is from the big damn AWAI seminar I was a featured speaker at, back in October. Everything about the photo (and yes, that’s Dan Kennedy sitting with us) is explained in the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast I link to below (in one of the posts) (and yes, this is a tease to get you to read this entire thing).
Enjoy the year-end Facebook roundup:
Take This To The Bank, Part 11: Most people’s daily actions (eating, buying, loving, hating, grooming, working, all of it) are based on beliefs… which they regard as “true”.
You better grok this, if you want to communicate with, sell to, or persuade folks in any way.
As irrational and unfounded in reality as these belief systems can be, they become unshakeable foundations for all behavior, thought and decisions.
Rookie copywriters like to bowl readers over with facts and data and science. Yawn. These are humans you’re writing to. Reality is very subjective, and by the time perception gets past the internal obstacle course of flawed senses, emotional distress, and knee-jerk denial… your facts will get ambushed and slaughtered as efficiently as a 30’s-era mob hit.
Real persuasion occurs in the murky soup of people’s ancient, mostly-unconscious belief systems. Timid efforts ain’t gonna cut it.
Bold, and even spectacularly whacky beliefs trump crunchy facts every time.
Just something to keep in mind as you explore persuasion expertise…
A life well-lived will be roiling with stories. Seems pretty obvious.
But it’s the same with a business well-run. And a career with lofty goals. Even a project you’ve thrown yourself into. Or a single day of enthusiastic productivity.
The world spins in the greased grooves of stories. All around you, and deeply intertwined with your very existence, are stories of romance, harrowing adventure, small and large heroic episodes, and the fascinating history of your impact on everything you touch. Yes, you.
Your stories swirl and crash into the stories of your friends, colleagues, lovers, clients, family, enemies and random encounters.
Recognizing these stories, and molding them into snarling tales with a set-up, a point, and a punchline or lesson, can kick you into a higher level of conscious living. The slumbering masses ignore, deny and deflate their stories… and yet, the hunger in all of us for well-told tales is never sated.
There’s no big secret to success. It’s not the moolah or power you accumulate… it’s the wealth of experience, feelings, brain stimulation, and your impact on others generated by living large.
It’s hard to become, and stay conscious. Your stories help you catalog the good stuff, and keep you enmeshed with all the other actors in your life’s movie.
The best marketing is alive with stories, because it’s all just an extension of life well-lived.
Go chew up some scenery. The only real crime in the universe is squandering this unique, scary and wonderful existence you woke up with today…
“I read the news today, oh boy…” (Lennon, “A Day In The Life”)
One of my favorite quotes from Gary Halbert: “There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by a man who refuses to face reality.”
You laugh, but he was dead serious. One of the reasons we became fast friends was our mutual outlook on life – whenever reality was inconvenient to our goals, we just ignored the facts, lowered our head, and bulled forward.
That photo, above, is me in high school (from the yearbook). I loved basketball, and was good enough to become the captain of the “B” squad my junior year…
… however, as should be evident in this photo, I ran into a brick wall trying out for the varsity a year later.
The guy guarding me as I took that jumper is taller than me by a foot. I was the smallest guy on the squad…
… and really, at some point a caring coach probably should have taken me aside and said “John, I know you love the game… but look at your family. No one is taller than 5’10”, and basketball is a sport for tall folks. You’re not going to magically grow into the size they want on the varsity team…”
I wouldn’t have listened, anyway. I’m like a Jack Russell terrier – a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body. Eventually, in sports, my poor eyesight and lack of height stopped me…
… but I had fun for a couple of years in the meantime.
Later on, as I was gathering my courage to try copywriting, an actual professional copywriter earnestly informed me that I should not even try.
“It’s too hard,” she said. “You’ll never be a pro writer.”
That was, of course, the BEST thing she could have ever told me. I doubt I could have survived the first years without that internal motivation of needing to prove her wrong.
I call it “negative motivation”… and it’s actually one of the most powerful forces available for getting stuff done. I never saw her again, and don’t even remember her name…
… so it wasn’t a need to flaunt my success in her face. It was all internal for me – I used her as the “face” of the obstacles in front of me, and I even laughed when I later realized I was in a position to tell her “Fuck you, I made it anyway.”
Yes, my internal ego is an immature twerp sometimes. Chip on the shoulder, snarling underdog attitude, and an almost stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face reality.
I am so grateful for it, too.
(By the way… I nailed that shot in the photo, above… and ended up with 20 points while also hitting the winning basket. Easily my finest moment in a futile, doomed effort to be a “real” basketball player. A has-been at 16.)
You do not need to be a belligerent rebel to be a good entrepreneur…
… but it can help sometimes.
Certainly, given the choice of sitting down to dinner with the business types in suits, who are uber-polite and careful in their conversations…
… or the rowdy crowd of rule-breaking ne’er-do-well whack job entrepreneurs who may easily get kicked OUT of the restaurant….
… well, you know which one I’d pick.
I was Halbert’s sidekick for a very long time, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the gig wasContinue reading
“I can’t seem to face up to the facts, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)
What’s the matter, Bunky?
The news got you down? The economy keeping you up at night? Are sales in the toilet, creditors stalking you, clients not returning calls, the sheer angst of living in a modern tech-drenched world chewing holes in your gut?
Would you like to hear how grizzled veterans handle the evils of stress?
It’s good stuff… because, as everyone should realize, you don’t get to BE a grizzled veteran if you can’t handle stress. Cuz that shit will eat your ass alive and send you to an early grave.
In fact, this is easily one of the fundamental tools for surviving the Bidness Never-Ending Cage Fight. I noticed, in the first years of my freelance career (when I was searching semi-desperately for clues on how to become successful), that there were biz owners who were having fun… and there were other owners not having any fun at all.
Age had nothing to do with it. Nor health (though the fun-havers consistently were in better shape). Nor gender, nor — and this is important — how successful they were.
The difference was simply how they handled stress.Continue reading
“Money, money, money, money, money, money…” (Cabaret)
Hope you enjoyed the last post, where I offered up 3 observations about moolah.
For this current post, I promised to reveal the 4th observation…
… which is so powerful, it can instantly change the way you move and get things done in the world.
… I’ve just had a sudden urge to get all Socratic here, and ask readers to do some critical thinking before I reveal that 4th observation.
It’s too easy to just toss the really hot wisdom in your lap… and the retention level when you don’t have to think about it first is abysmally low. I do you a grave disservice by not using the most powerful teaching methods available when I’m sharing the good stuff…
… and the Socratic method — which ignites critical thinking skills by asking questions (and never, ever just gives anything away) — is a proven way to juice up the ol’ brain cells, while being able to see what other folks come up with from their perspective.
In fact, let’s make it a real Quiz.
The first person to chime into the comments section here with the answer I’m looking for… Continue reading
Friday, 3 a.m.
“Is there gas in the car? Yeah, there’s gas in the car…” (Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne”)
… what are you doing up this early? Or late?
You need your beauty snooze, don’t you?
I know why I’m up, though.
It’s from excitement. I just cannot sleep.
Here’s why: Those of you in the loop know we’re launching the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again.
This is Number 7. We only offer this hand-holding, personalized, one-on-one mentoring rarely. The 6th one was all the way back in the Fall of last year. (They’ve all sold out, too, quick.)
No idea when Number 8 will come around… if it even does.
We take this one program at a time.
It’s extremely interactive. Perfect for anyone who knows that hands-on mentoring is the best way to learn the simplest possible system (crammed with short-cuts) for creating all the sales messages needed for a profitable business…
… including all your ads, websites, video scripts, emails, AdWords, blogs and other social media broadsides…Continue reading
“Please allow me to introduce myself…” (Stones, Sympathy For The Devil)
This is one of those lessons that arrived accidentally…
… and I had to stop and ruminate about it for a while before it made sense.
I’m lucky I learned it early, too.
It’s provided me with a home base of sanity when the chaos has reached shuddering crescendos and it was hard to think straight (let alone make snap decisions when crisis loomed).
You may find it obvious.
That’s fine. Just don’t go thinking it’s obvious to the rest of the mean ol’ world out there… cuz it ain’t.
Here’s the story: One of my first jobs working for Gary Halbert was to fly to Detroit… and interview a guy who’d just lost 750 pounds.
Yeah, you read that right.Continue reading
“It’s alive!” (Baron Von Frankenstein, kickstarting the Monster)
We’ve just fired up the Simple Writing System blog (www.simplewritingsystem.com/blog)…
… which means a stunning (and unprecedented) pile of free tools, tactics, advice and insight can be yours…
… just for the grabbing.
This is an all-out assault on reason and logic. We’re just GIVING AWAY stuff that — not too long ago — would have cost you a pretty penny just to get a quick glimpse of.
We’ve created a beast here, and it’s name is FREE.
Here’s just a small taste of what’s piling up over there (that you’re missing out on if you haven’t signed in):
What? You didn’t see that presentation?
It’s marketing theater at its finest… Continue reading
“A thief believes everybody steals.” (E.W. Howe)
For those of you bugging me about the next Quiz…
… it’s coming, it’s coming.
Tonight, though, I’ve gotta get something off my chest.
And so, a Rant. By little Johnny Carlton:
There seems to be a parasite bug infecting the brains of many marketers out there.
Let’s call this bug… “Theft“.
It’s not going away anytime soon.
In fact, the very word has been mutating for a long time now… so that what would have easily been labeled “stealing” in the bad-old pre-Web days…Continue reading
San Diego, CA
“First, learn your craft. It won’t stop you from being a genius later.”
Quick little note today, to take you through the weekend (while I’m down here in Baja La-La Land speaking at the star-studded “Paid For Life” seminar).
If you — like me in my mis-spent youth, and like the vast majority of folks out there who “can’t get started” — feel a sense of satisfaction over your ability to Think Deep on Big Thoughts…
… you’d be doing yourself a favor by murdering that satisfaction right now.
The best quote I’ve ever seen on this was by biz legend Peter Drucker:
“Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual. They fail to realize that the brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. They never have learned that insights become effectiveness only through hard systematic work.”
In other words…
… you will never get shit done — no matter how smart you are (or think you are) — until you get MOVING on your ideas.
I, too, was a lost and wandering soul… until I discovered (by accident) the concept of goal-setting and — just as important — the trick to actually putting your goal-achievement plans into action.
That trick?Continue reading