Tag Archives for " life lessons "

Rejoice! Volume 2 Of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” Is Now Available On Amazon…

Monday, 8:15pm
Reno, NV
“Everything changes once you have John Carlton roaming around inside your head…” (Perry Marshall, from the forward)

Howdy…

If you loved the first volume of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Sh*t Together”…

… you’re gonna swoon over the just-now released Volume 2.

You can grab it now on Amazon, here.

I’ve filled this book with timeless advice, insight and tales from the front trenches of the marketing and advertising world…

… dipping heavily into the same well as the first book.

That would be the super-exclusive monthly newsletter I physically mailed out to a “hot list” of now-famous marketers and copywriters and entrepreneurs. (For a pretty penny, too — each year of receiving this newsletter, dubbed “The Marketing Rebel Rant”, set you back a thousand bucks. And still, the mailing list was a “who’s who” of the best and the brightest in the game.)

I mean, the forward is by my good friend Perry Marshall, for starters.

Inside, you’ll find tons of rollicking stories starring my longtime mentor and best pal Gary Halbert

as well as “behind the scenes” revelations from my 30-year career as the guy top marketers snuck in the back door to do the direct response magic required to earn the Big Bucks.

It’s not simply a “tell all”, though.

Not by a long shot.

The newsletter I wrote was being devoured by the Top Dogs in our industry…

so I had to deliver on my promise to wow them with every issue.

That meant pulling out the big guns in every chapter, and going deep into the details of earning a seat at The Feast (my term for living the best life possible for a happy, rich, and super-productive biz owner).

You can grab a digital version for your Kindle, or a printed book. (I know most of the entrepreneurs I hear from keep a printed copy of Volume One close to their desk, dogeared and messy with notes.)

It’s riveting reading, and right up your alley (if becoming the most successful biz owner or copywriter possible is your goal).

Again: Here’s the Amazon page.

Go get your copy now.

Stay frosty,

John

That’s Not Funny, Part One

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Tuesday, 7:59 pm
Reno, NV
What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” (Nick Lowe)

Howdy…

One of the first things you hear, when you’re learning about fundamental copywriting and ad creation…

… is to avoid humor like the plague.

The great David Ogilvy said “People do not buy from clowns.

This pre-dated Jack-In-The-Box’s latest commercial model (where they’re so obviously going after the stoner market with late-night “Munchie Meal” take-out boxes that it’s funny on multiple levels)…

… yet, overall, most high-end marketers still agree with it.

Even the funniest copywriters I know (and let me assure you that many of the best bust-your-gut-laughing humans alive are, indeed, copywriters) (weirdo bunch, totally) almost never insert humor into their sales copy. Almost.

Occasionally, when it’s absolutely safe (like writing to your own house list, full of folks proven to have the EXACT same sense of humor you have, right down to the Animal House reruns and Adult Swim shows you all watch)… they may go off the reservation and aim for making readers spit up their morning coffee over an email.

But it’s rare.

More likely, the funny-guy guru’s you follow have a “meta-text personality” that includes some risky guffaw moments here and there, just to position them in their market as too-cool-for-school (and thus intellectually superior to their competition)…

… which they’ll jettison at the point of closing any sale.

Cuz money is serious biz. And most buyers (not looky-loo’s, but buyers) aren’t keen on being the butt of a joke, and tend to distrust salesmen who seem a bit too… funny. (Even the word “funny” means both being humorous, and also being weird, brain-damaged and untrustworthy.)


Yep, trying to be funny is one massive blunder that can blow your chances of a sale. To learn what else to avoid, RUN–do not walk–and get your copy of “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now“.


Now, I’m a fairly humorous fella. (And any brain damage I’ve sustained is all better now.)

I’ve made a colleague snort coffee through their nose as recently as… well, yesterday, on the phone. Other writers collect my private emails, and read them to family and friends. (Part of that may be a self-defense strategy against their spouse’s assessment of a life in advertising as being “boring”.) I’ve also caused entire ballrooms to laugh so hard, some attendees almost wet themselves.

And I’ve even used “okay, you got me” sarcasm to get my point across to a reluctant client during consulting.

Of all the things I value the most in life… laughter and humor rank in the top five. (Just below sex, In ‘N Out hamburgers, craft IPA beer, and the NBA.) (Oh, and my Jack Russell terrorist dog. Sorry, girl. Almost forgot you…) (And my ’64 Stratocaster. And Turner Classic Movies. And…)

Okay, whatever. It ranks high, anyway. It’s a big part of who I am, and what I bring to the table as a friend, colleague, writer and consultant.

And yet, when a sales process gets down to the shorthairs…

… I’m as serious as a mortician.

Losing a sale because you screwed around is NOT funny. 

It is, rather, a fucking tragedy.

So all the top writers I know have a strict rule against tickling the funny bone of a prospect… at least, when things get to “that point”.

However, we also really, really, really want to find exceptions to this rule.

We figure there’s GOT to be an exception, somewhere.

Which means we’ve all become minor experts on the topic of humor. Because, it turns out, while everyone believes they own a “great” sense of humor…

… the truth is, few (if any) civilians understand humor at all.


Understanding your buyer’s mindset is everything when building a connection and making a sale. For a FREE crash course, take the Pint Of Beer Ad Challenge today.


So, I thought I’d share some of the research I (and some of my colleagues) (including writers like Kevin Rogers, who spent a decade as a stand-up comic before getting into advertising) have dug up…

… in no particular order…

… just as a starter guide to why we mostly don’t (but sometimes do) use humor in our marketing:

The Joke’s On Us #1:

In the last few decades, Ivy League universities have started studying humor, trying to get a baseline understanding of what’s funny to most people, and why.

And their first biggest discovery was that many people have no sense of humor at all.

None.

However, while these funny-challenged folks have no idea why you’re bent over laughing at a certain joke or situation…

… they are often very astute to the social cues of humor, and will be holding their bellies right along with you, laughing out loud.

They’re faking it. Or, more precisely, they wait a beat after observing other people laughing, and join in as a social “bonding” routine. They’re supporting the good vibes that mass laughter brings to any social setting… kinda like nodding in agreement, or applauding.

Researchers figured this out by tricking people in studies — seeding a small crowd with actors who laughed on cue at non-funny things, and recording the actions of study participants. Folks with actual senses of humor would smile in a bewildered way, wondering why they weren’t getting the joke.

But the fakers had no such objective judgments — the crowd laughed, so they laughed, too.

Reading about these findings blew my mind. I’d suspected something like this was going on, because I had friends who laughed a bit too hard, or who seemed to mainly use loud guffaws as a way to show dominance in a conversation. So I did some of my own testing, watching closely when fakers actually began laughing (a beat behind everyone else).

If you ask, most people will say they have a great sense of humor.

Inside their world, they do. Whatever they find funny (or socially acceptable to laugh at, as a bonding process) is what’s funny. This is how humans operate. All measurements of behavior begin with what you’re doing as the universal standard for normal, or moral, or just “the right way”… and if others don’t agree, then they’re just wrong.

Marketer’s Insight: While no one is sure what percentage of the population is actually humor-challenged, it IS a large chunk of your fellow citizens. So when you’re creating marketing aimed at a large group of prospects, you cannot assume that ANY of them will grok your sense of humor.

Just like half or more will reject your politics (and yes, I know you have a superior understanding of politics to everyone else on the planet). And your religious views.

The rule in bars is “no talking about politics or religion”… because it leads to fights.

For marketers, you can add “no funny stuff” to that list. You simply cannot predict what any list will find funny, or not find funny, or be offended or baffled.

The Joke’s On Us #2:

One of the first challenges the researchers found was agreeing on how to “measure” what’s funny.

Turns out it’s not a simple thing at all. In fact, the commercial uses of humor is relatively recent — the stand-up comic was invented during vaudeville, which required between-act ring-leaders to keep the audience happy.

Shakespeare and Mozart and other post-Enlightenment entertainers made liberal use of what we now call slap-stick (the term literally refers to Medieval clowns using a paddle on each other) and “low brow” humor to delight certain audiences… and more intellectual mockery and sarcasm to make the sophisticated elites titter.

So the people creating entertainment, or trying to influence public opinion or sway a vote, might know how to get a response… but it was an inexact science. Making one part of the audience laugh might offend another part.

The researchers have gotten lost in the weeds trying to define humor. (Some studies have claimed to be able to determine your socio-economic status by what you laugh at, in fact.

Fart jokes and pratfalls for the working class, existential stories based on willful misinterpretations of esoteric knowledge for the elites.) (The flaw in this kind of study, of course, is that semi-illiterate yahoo entrepreneur’s can make buckets of moolah with a good biz, and over-educated snobs may be dead-broke slackers.)

It’s gonna take a while for researchers to get it all straight (if they ever do).

The thing is, humor is complicated.

But it’s also a major element of business and social life, so thinking critically about it gives you an edge.

Here’s how I’ve broken it down (through a long life of observing):

  • There are two basic “professional” uses of humor (in biz settings) — as a weapon to establish a better status position… or as a bonding tool (which can be an innocent way of forming friendships, which may later become alliances). All of my close longtime friends have wicked senses of humor, for example. Others who I consider good people, but whose funny-bone isn’t so funny to me, never penetrate the Inner Circle. This has not been done consciously — it’s just the way things sift out. But it’s very interesting to note, isn’t it?
  • The weaponized use of humor employs mockery, sarcasm, and crude jokes that seek to identify “winners” and “losers” (or “The Other”). It’s very risky when you don’t know your audience (and that political or racist joke falls flat), but it can be nastily effective when dealing with the home crowd (so your insinuation that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals goes over big in Boston every time). (It’s true, by the way, that all Yankee fans are slobbering Neanderthals, but that’s another issue.)
  • There are a few broad divisions in the way humor is used that matter to marketers. The first is shock vs. bonding — you get a laugh by purposely violating some social norm (which can delight or offend, depending on your audience)… or you cozy up to everyone’s comfort zone, and we all laugh while agreeing on what’s being discussed. Do not try to use shock humor unless you are very, very experienced with it. Backfires are common. On the other hand, mild bonding humor can go a long way to establishing relationships… or bore the bejesus out of everyone.
  • The second main division is wit vs. jokes. Have you ever been with a group of folks who just toss zingers at each other, piling up the wit like stacking wood? It’s a joy to behold, if you’re witty. There is no preparation beforehand — you’ve got to live by your ability to quickly counter, support or twist whatever is said. It’s freeform funny conversation… which is the opposite of telling memorized jokes. Someone with an arsenal of jokes can quickly take over a conversation (often with the support of the less witty folks who prefer a more stable environment). I’ve seen many high-flying conversations completely gutted by a series of jokes (which require, by design, that everyone remain quiet and respectful while the joke is told).
  • Don’t get me wrong — I like jokes. But I have none memorized, because I prefer free-form wit. I used to know a lot of jokes, though — so many that a couple of friends and I can simply smile at each other and mention a portion of the punch line (not even the whole line), say “Joke number 37”, and get the SAME laugh that telling the entire joke would have generated. (Example: “Well, maybe it’s not like a river…”. Funny, right?)

Marketer’s Insight: Just understanding the fundamentals of how humor is delivered and consumed can help you immensely. If you’re not a witty dude, don’t try to fake it. You can’t. If you like jokes, go ahead and memorize some… and use them when you’re in a situation where everyone is yukking it up over memorized jokes.

But consider the audience, always.

Don’t shock when it will offend. Never assume your audience shares your religious or political views (and triple-check your perception of this before wandering down the very dark alley of potentially-offensive jokes). And it’s fine to just be part of the audience, to laugh and enjoy the wit or the prepared humor — you’re actually bonding with your supporting laughter.

Quick Story: A well-known colleague of mine — a really nice guy, liked by everyone, and a killer marketer — once took me aside and asked how he could develop a more interesting personality. He was lost in witty conversations, had no jokes memorized, and didn’t understand why some folks found some stuff so fucking funny.

I took the challenge, and with my pal Kevin Rogers (the former stand-up-turned-copywriter), we gave him a list of things that might help (which included watching George Carlin routines critically — figuring out how each story unwound, and when the laugh points popped up… memorizing a handful of jokes from the Playboy jokes page and also from Reader’s Digest — so he had something a tad ribald, and something very middle-of-the-road… and critically reading witty authors like P.J. O’Rourke or Molly Ivins — one conservative, one liberal.)

It didn’t work. I know you can develop real wit, because I’ve progressed myself from a joke-telling kid (sharing stuff from Mad magazine or jokes my drunk uncles used to shock the aunts), to a rookie good conversationalist, to a high-end witty dude who can hold his own in any crowd. On any subject.

But I think you need to start with a basis sense of humor…

…which we’ve discovered is not default equipment with all humans.

Still, by all means, learn how to tell a joke properly. Find them written out, and memorize them, right down to the exact words used. It’s like memorizing scripted lines for a play. Some advanced actors may wing it occasionally… but if you can’t do that, don’t wreck the scene by trying. Study the process, if it interests you, but otherwise just follow the path already laid out.

Another Quick Story: Gary Halbert and I loved to mess with each other’s minds on stage at seminars. The ultimate prize was getting the other guy to lose his cool by laughing too hard to speak (or come back with a wittier line). Spitting coffee through your nose was a bonus point.

We’d get vicious, too… using insults, practical jokes, rumors, everything was fair play. It kept us loose and happy during long weekends of Hot Seats.

But it also taught us a good lesson in the limits of humor.

During one break, Gary and I were chatting at the side of the stage… and an attendee walked up and leveled a gross, tasteless insult my way. Then he laughed heartily. In his mind, he was inserting himself in the Inner Circle — he’d thought, “Hey, I’m a funny guy, too”, and figured insulting me was an easy way to get special attention.

Cuz, you know, Gary and I were so vicious with each other.

It doesn’t work that way, of course. Neither Gary nor I laughed. We just stared at the guy until he slinked away, humiliated.

Hey — I can call my friend a fuckhead and get away with it. Because that’s how we roll.

But YOU call him a fuckhead, and I’m in your face in a heartbeat. You’re not allowed that privilege.

If you have to ask whether you’re in the Inner Circle or not… you’re not in it.

This is pretty much universal in human experience. You can loudly berate your bowling buddies and get a laugh back… but that goofy yahoo on the other team says the same thing, and them’s fighting words.

It’s stunning how often people don’t grok how this simple social paradigm works. And it can ruin business situations for you, handled poorly.

Just a word to the wise…

The Joke’s On Us #3:

Finally, for this primer on the subject, never underestimate how much some people value humor…

… while an equal number are threatened by it.

Look critically at long Facebook threads for evidence. You’ll find in-jokes that you cannot possibly understand, because you’re aren’t privy to the back story. You’ll find other people gleefully trying to keep up with the witty back-and-forth’s, who miss the point entirely. (You can get real-world examples of how different people find different stuff funny… and keep in mind the research claiming to predict status by what you laugh at.)

And you’ll find many examples of people trying desperately to disrupt funny threads.

Every time someone inserts comments like “First-world problems”, they’re trying to kill the conversation.

Ask yourself why they’d want to do that. Often, it’s simply being uncomfortable with the discussion, and yet feeling desperate to comment. Just as often, though, it’s a crude attempt to establish dominance. (It’s the same with comments like “Bang! for the win”, which attempts to control through judgment.)

I consider these kinds of disruption offensive, because they can murder a good thread.

Hard to continue laughing about some modern situation when reminded that kids are starving in India.

It’s Debbie Downer on steroids.

It’s the same with sarcasm. Shielding cynical comments by claiming “you’re just joking” is a blatant cop-out, and a failure to take responsibility for the consequences of your statements. It works, unfortunately, in politics and personal grievance. “Can’t you take a joke” is the icing on the insult.

Humor evolves on a society-wide level.

What was hilarious a decade ago in a movie is now a cringe-inducing example of obliviousness.

Outside the US and Britain, stand-up tends to be joke-oriented… whereas our comics and cartoons careen toward the absurd, employing more long-form stories than standard punch-lines.

Humor is very important to some people. It’s my main defense against a heartless universe obviously out to get me.

And at the same time, humor is a very foreign and scary thing to others.

This is why it doesn’t mix well (usually) with serious sales pitches, where money is on the line.

Make sense?

I may do another post on this, if folks are still wanting more.

Meanwhile, love to hear your take and experience with humor in biz situations, in the comments section below…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One last tactic: If you’re going to use humor in biz settings… it’s a good idea to make yourself the butt of any joke. It’s called “self-deprecating” humor, and it allows you to use every shred of your wit, sarcasm and sharp humor to make a point… you simply make yourself the target, rather than risk offending or insulting anyone else.

I make sure my audiences at events understand that I know the answers to so many problems… because I personally failed or got waylaid by nearly every problem possible in life and biz myself. It’s absolutely true… but a less forthright speaker might avoid spoiling his reputation with confessions like that.

If I nail an attendee with some shocking assessments (like calling him an idiot)… I make sure he understands, first, that I’ve been the biggest idiot in the universe myself. Many times. And making mistakes, learning my lessons, and then using those lessons the next time is how I became successful.

In fact, I don’t know of any other way to progress in life and biz.

Do you?

P.P.S. By the way…

… if you’re a victim of what my colleague David Garfinkel calls “intellectual loneliness” (where you’re withering away because you lack witty, funny, smart-as-whips pals… who also happen to share your passion for business, copywriting, marketing and the entrepreneurial lifestyle)…

… then it might be time for you to seriously explore our Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club.

No vague philosophy here. Just hard-core, detailed, specific brainstorming and sharing of experience that leads to actual things you can do to unclog the moolah spigot, and get your biz and life back on the fast track.

Just see what’s up, for cryin’ out loud. The site won’t bite you: Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club.

Oh, yes. This could be the day you remember forever, where everything changed for you…

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…

Basic Consulting 101a

Monday, 1:38pm
St. Petersburg, FL
Now the zombie is on your tail…” (“Lover Of The Bayou”, the Byrds)

Howdy…

I’ve been a high-paid, much-respected consultant for something like 30 years.

High paid, cuz my advice will rock your world (no matter where you’re at in your lifelong adventure in biz and life).

Much respected, cuz the results I squeeze out of entrepreneurs (including the most stubborn, irascible and bent-on-self-destruction types in the game) will make your jaw drop.

However…

the “secret” behind my consulting success is very, very simple. 

For example, easily half the advice I give out regards living a better life…

… cuz by the time a biz owner realizes he needs a guy like me to intervene, he’s in some really deep shyte.

And after we deal with his bottom line, we quickly pivot to his private life. The burn-out, the lack of coherent long-term goals, the inability to answer simple questions like “what do you want from life now?

Thus, we enter into classic “self-help” territory.

And most self-help stuff can be mulched into some version of “Calm the fuck down, keep moving, and have good goals“. (Though, of course, I explain that in fancier terms, so folks think they’re getting high-end psychologically sound advice. There’s a small bit of theater in any good consulting session.)

That’s not “band aid” advice, either.

Nope. Don’t let the folksiness fool you — this is deep stuff.

Whether you meditate, pray or just stare at the wall and veg out, if it calms you down, it’s a good tactic. (I like sitting in the old swing out back with the dog, staring at the mountains.)

But you gotta make it a habit.

Movement can be physical or mental or emotional…

… because whatever you require to progress from the bummer state you’re in to someplace nicer is exactly what you need to be doing. (When younger, I actually moved around a lot. Nowadays, I expand intellectually, because the bad grooves are in my head, not around me.) Exercise everything every day — your body, your brain, your tear ducts.

And you should get comfy with the rigors of goal setting and attainment asap in life — instilling it in kids is not too soon, if you’re a parent.

It’s as simple as it’s always been (no matter how much the rest of the culture ignores or distorts the process): Figure out what you want, make a plan to go get it… and then implement that plan.

The hard part (which you cannot begin to grok until you get deep into the process) is setting your sights.

Most of what you think you want, you really don’t. (But you gotta go through the process to realize it. Most common example: After covering your basic needs and having some to spare… more money will NOT make you happier. It’s been true since the dawn of civilization, but most folks need to experience this to believe it. So, I help people become successful… but with plenty of awareness that their happiness will come from other sources.)

True happiness can also be so much simpler to attain than most of us believe, at first.

Happiness is not a place you “arrive” at, and remain forever in joy.

Rather, it’s a process of engaging with life, navigating the good with the bad, and murdering your ego. And enjoying the occasional moments of true happiness that accompany a well-lived existence.

Most of the stuff that actually makes you blissed-out happy, you’re taking for granted…

and it’s only when you lose it that you realize the truth of it all.

Loss is built into life, but learning lessons from it isn’t standard operating equipment in your head.

You gotta work at recognizing the lessons when they appear, and learning from them.

The happiest folks I’ve known in my long ride keep things simple.

Sometimes, the rich man and the not-so-rich man share the same blissed out moments — sitting in a comfy chair, stomach full, petting the dog and feeling alive.

Different parts of town, same sky.

Different bank accounts, same volume of love flowing through their hearts.

Same dog.

Hope you’re having some fun this fine autumn weekend…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Now is a great time to grab “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel”, if you’ve never allowed yourself the pure, undiluted ecstasy of diving into that tome.

Go here and just marvel at the famous names who name it as the starting point for their grand adventure in biz and life…

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.


 You know the best way to beat the trolls and haters?
Find a like-minded group of people to support you and bounce your best ideas off of. No one becomes success all on their own. Everyone has help, and you get a whopping generous supply of it by joining the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club right here.


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 now available.

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

Never Let Incompetence Sneak Up Behind You

Friday, 12:35pm
Las Vegas, NV
Hey, watch this…” (Famous last words of a drunk redneck)

Howdy…

Quick lesson in competence and incompetence.

Which are about a hair’s width apart in your brain, even if you refuse to admit it.

Here’s the lesson:

Just because you rock at one thing does NOT mean you are competent in everything (or anything) else.

Sounds obvious, right?

Isn’t, to most of your fellow humans.

Examples abound: Doctors (who got through years of freakin’ medical school) are well-known chumps when it comes to financial matters, falling for the worst-designed scams imaginable. High school jocks who figure their on-field athletic skills are preparing them for a wonderful adult life often have a rude awakening headed their way. Marriage counselors (especially the good ones) are typically already divorced a few times.

And entrepreneurs who conquer one marketing medium (say, Clickbank) assume they’re bulletproof…

… and gleefully murder their wealth by cluelessly wandering into a new biz model (where they’re quickly eaten alive).


You can avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches and wasted time by getting on my list and devouring my free report so you don’t make these blunders in the first place. Might as well do it now while you’re thinking about it.


And yet people never stop assigning all kinds of savvy and skills to experts who have shown absolutely zero competence to support such laurels.

(Looking at you, TV political pundits.) (And you, Mr. Marketing Guru with a nice smile but nil real-world experience.)

Why do we do this?

Mostly because we crave real experts, honest heroes, and genuine leaders so much, we’re willing to overlook little things (like reality) and cross our fingers over outcomes.

The alternative is to, you know, become competent yourself and — ick — take responsibility for your decisions and actions.

The very best biz owners are like the best stand-up comics…

 

…they become self-aware, know their weak areas, and laugh about them.

And never pretend they’re something they’re not.

I am very, very good at what I’m good at, for example.

And what I’m not good at, I absolutely suck at.

Which is why I surround myself with folks who are good at what I’m not good at.

Your network of pals, colleagues, friendly enemies, experts, and partners should be diverse, self-aware themselves, and deeply experienced. You don’t have to become BFFs with your tech guy, but you do need to “connect” on a real level…

so your values, ethics, lifestyle preferences and long-term goals are aligned and headed in the same direction. (Not surprisingly, this often does result in lifelong friendships… but it’s incidental.)

This Is Rule #1:

NEVER try to “go it alone” for the long run.

The more successful you become, the more you’ll need a network to support you.

And the more successful you DESIRE to become…

… the more your network needs to be truly competent and front-loaded with massive experience (which they’ve learned from, not merely gone through).

Most of the folks you’ll meet in your journey through life will be incompetent at most of what they do.

And oblivious of it.

As an entrepreneur, you are no longer “one of the crowd”.

Your needs change immediately, your exposure to risk skyrockets, and the degree of “adventure” you experience goes off the charts.

If you do it right, that is.

Learn to judge your colleagues by what they do, not what they SAY they’ll do.

Arrogant, cynical braggarts are hiding something.

Shake off your natural inclination to assign competence to them (cuz they’re demanding you do so), and instead, take responsibility for your decisions by knowing your limits, and surrounding yourself with real experts who fill in the gaps.

Okay?

Okay.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Have you ever glanced at the testimonials piled up on Amazon about my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“?

Some of the most famous folks in marketing and advertising give the book a solid thumb’s up. Looky some of the more recent ones from regular entrepreneurs, too:

Amazon Customer

Crapp crap crap crap crap crap waste of time.

No substance just a greedy marketer slash advertiser trying to get your money

LARRY ELKAN

Don’t miss out on this great read by John Carlton!
Whether you’re a Copywriter, an aspiring Copywriter or just a member of the human race you’ll be a better person having…
Read more

Okay, so one miserable dude gave it one star (but left a very funny note!).

If I ever start pleasing everyone, I’m gonna hang it up.

My stuff is very much NOT for people with language hang-ups (fuck ’em, anyway), or deep confusion about what they think an entrepreneur does, or who are just plain old bat-shit crazy (about 20% of the population, at last count).

However…

… my books ARE very much for anyone looking to move up a level in life and career.

Especially this book.

If you haven’t already read it, get it here.

If you have bought it, then buy it again and give it to someone you love.
It’s just seriously good stuff for anyone needing a mentor in their corner.

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…

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…

The Foibles Of Being Human (Part 12)

Friday, 10:25am
Reno, NV
I can’t sleep, cuz my bed’s on fire…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)

Howdy…

I’ve been studying happiness just as long as I’ve obsessed on becoming successful in biz…

… and you know what?

The two barely intersect at all.

I wouldn’t want to spend two seconds inside the skin of most of the richest people I know. They’re miserable. They never have enough to fill the bottomless need that fuels their quest for “more”.

But I’m not smug about it.

We all share the same basic malfunctioning default system bug — when we’re sad, we crave happiness…

… and when we’re happy, we’re either unconsciously looking for ways to fuck it up, so we’ll be sad again…

… or we’re terrified that we’re missing something that will take it all away.

Silly humans.

Pure happiness is unsustainable. It’s an outlier emotional state, requiring some fairly substantial hormone dumps from glands that simply can’t supply vast amounts.

Zen thinking tries to get us into a more reasonable contented mode.

Moderation is sustainable pretty much forever, with the right mental tools and a little breath training.

But the human brain loathes moderation, and craves excess.

It’s a bug in the system.

I’m leery of anyone who promises too much joy, especially if they’re selling it.

And yet, the suckers line up to quaff the nasty brew in endless lines.

Being human is hard, in this concrete jungle.

But given the choice between wealth and contentment, I’d choose the latter every time.

Now, that is. As a young man, busy chewing up scenery and consumed with lust, I danced near the edges of bliss and despair as much as possible, and sneered at those who would harsh my wild swings.

Life blows by in a blink, folks.

You’ll never quite figure out the meaning.

But it for sure ain’t unbridled wealth.

Beyond accumulating what you can spend in a hot-blooded lifetime, you’re mostly wasting your time.

You disagree, of course…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. That blurry photo up top is me, in my arrogant twenties, mocking death. It was Halloween, somewhere in the murky depths of the seventies.

Fun times. We thought they’d last forever, as life continued to lavish energy, fun and health upon our undeserving heads.

Now, the photo is just a reminder to watch my diet, exercise more, and avoid dying as best I can.

Take care of yourself, you.

Here’s Your Damn Free Book

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: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Chapter 5: The Genius Of Operation Money$uck

Chapter 6: The Best Way To Learn From Mentors

Chapter 7: What’s Your Excuse?

Chapter 8: The Small Stories That Do The Most Work

Chapter 9: Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

Chapter 10: Where To Find The Eternal Truths Of Great Copywriting

Chapter 11: The Simple Tactic That Opens Doors For You Every Time

Bonus Chapter 12: 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.


(What do ya mean you don’t have a network yet? Well then get over here immediately! Sheesh!)


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.


Did you know that a lot of top copywriters refer to storytelling as the million dollar step? It’s quite simple. Stories sell. Want to get my inside secrets for crafting a riveting tale? Here’s a great place to start that’s also free.


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 — there may be a few spots left in the SWS Coaching Program if you want to get hands on help from an A-List copywriter.

There are never many spots available, cuz we keep classes small so we can offer personalized coaching customized to your particular needs.

It’s one of the best ways to jumpstart your marketing prowess, so check it out here if 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.

Chapter 4

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 5

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 was 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.


Need help launching your own ‘Op$uck?’ This here might just be the fastest & easiest way to get going.”


Chapter 6

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 book.)

Chapter 7

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…


Also, make sure you’re taking full advantage of all the high-value resources you can get your hands on. Like my free report “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now.” You have signed up already, right?


Chapter 8

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 9

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 10

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 11

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 12

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…

Still not sure where to start? Then read this…

Stay frosty,

John

Photo courtesy of Ms Significant Other

 

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