Tag Archives for " writing "

About That “Secret” Collection Of My Best Ads…


Saturday, 2:00pm
Reno, NV
Any writer who doesn’t write for money is an idiot.” (H.L. Mencken)

Howdy…

You know what real writers do?

They study other writers…

especially when those other writers have been successful.

And in direct response marketing, it’s easy to define “successful”: It’s the ads that brought home the bacon.

Well, I’ve got some good news for y’all here.

We just found a previously hidden cache of my best ads (meaning: the ones that worked like gangbusters)…

… complete with background stories (written exclusively by me) about how I created them.

(These stories include insider stuff about my pals Gary Halbert, Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy and others — stuff you simply won’t hear about elsewhere.)

You can spend a lot of time tracking these little beasts down online, but you’ve never find all of them…

and you’ll never find the stories behind them. So you won’t know which ones worked, how well they worked, or how they came to exist in the first place.

This little bundle includes lots of rare stuff.

You already know I developed the most hard-core copywriting style out there.

If you’re hot to find out how these legendary pieces came into existence (and how they did), you’re gonna swoon over this collection.

Just go here to grab access.

Enjoy.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The photo up top was snapped in Mexico during another round of writerly debauchery in my early career.

When your heroes are the hard drinking, hard partying writers who chewed up scenery and devoured life in huge gulps, you gotta work hard to keep up.

Live large. Be a good human. Love what you do. And hug the people closest to you.

Just be safe while this Plague rages…
 

Tribute To The Ink Stained Wretch

Flag

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

Howdy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, the opposite is true.

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

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

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

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

Much deeper than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.

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

Dangerous stuff.

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

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

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

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

Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.

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

But the restrictions should remain rare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free.

Fuckin’ A.

Play ball.

Stay frosty,

John

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

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

Here’s Your Damn Free Book

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

Howdy…

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

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

But then I thought, “screw that”.

Why not just give the book to you here?

For free?

And that’s what I’m gonna do.

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

Title:

Brain Farts, Psych Insights, Strange Tales
Goddamn Good Advice 

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

Table of Contents:

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

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

Chapter 3: Respect Brilliance, And Brilliance Will Respect You

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

Chapter 5: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Chapter 6: The Genius Of Operation Money$uck

Chapter 7: The Best Way To Learn From Mentors

Chapter 8: What’s Your Excuse?

Chapter 9: The Small Stories That Do The Most Work

Chapter 10: Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

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

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

Bonus Chapter 13: When Logic Sucks

Introduction

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

Well, fine.

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

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

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

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

Just enjoy…

 

Chapter 1

The Big Damn Jenga Game
That Is Your Future

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

The longer you live, the more it happens.

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

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

The occasional collapse is inevitable.

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

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

Lost, found, lost, found.

Lost.

Found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay frosty. Keep calm.

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

This is what your network is for.

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and carry on.

When you find love, cherish it.

When you stumble into chaos, fight.

Above all, keep moving

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And once I reached legal age…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And if you’re a writer…

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

and keep honing your story-telling chops.

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

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

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

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

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

So stay tuned if you’re at all interested.

Chapter 3

Respect Brilliance, And
Brilliance Will Respect You

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

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

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

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

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

The lovely lady I share the hovel with: Brilliant.

I’m fucking surrounded by brilliance.

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

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

And, gotta remember not to take anything for granted.

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

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

The people around you are your braintrust.

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

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

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

but it’s always worth it.

Always.

This is how stuff gets done in the world.

Brilliance will out.

Chapter 4

Wait — Does Carlton Still Consult 
With Regular People?

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

Uh… yeah.

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

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

I figure it’s my fault.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 5

No Good Deed
Goes Unpunished

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

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

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

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

You just stop expecting to be rewarded.

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

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

Be an agent of change and practice massive forgiveness.

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

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

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

Chapter 6

The Genius Of 
Operation Money$uck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

The Best Way To Learn
From Mentors

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

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

Too many dumb rules.

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

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

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

It was pearls before swine, I suspect.

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

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

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

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

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

Best advice for copywriters: Writers write

… and great writers write with consequences.

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

Chapter 8

What’s Your Excuse?

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

are the role of excuses in moving through life.

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

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

They’re the minority.

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

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

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

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

Life’s hard, right?

Okay, fine. Cuddle up with your excuses.

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

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

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

You may actually HAVE a good excuse this time…

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

… then consider WHY it’s a habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 9

The Small Stories 
That Do The Most Work

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

Ignore the politically-charged stuff. Too obvious.

Instead, note the smaller tales.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We loathe blanks.

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

God help us.

Chapter 10

Becoming Mr. Persuasion Expert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So she simply refuses to acknowledge it.

The downside of trying non-surgical alternatives?

Zero.

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

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

Chapter 11

Where To Find The Eternal Truths
Of Great Copywriting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 12

The Simple Tactic That
Opens Doors For You Every Time

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

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

… but just be very, very polite.

Say “please” and mean it.

Say “thanks” and mean it.

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

Meet their eyes.

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

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

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

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

Stop posturing.

If you’re good…

… or successful…

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

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

It doesn’t matter.

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

And remain committed to your goals.

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

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

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

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

Breathe deeper. Reach higher. Live bigger.

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

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

Thanks.

Just sayin’…

Chapter 13

When Logic Sucks

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

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

He was not a persuader.

The Voice Of Reason seldom is.

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

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

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

Great salesmen know this, and proceed accordingly.

That’s it, Bucko.

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

My gift to you.

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

Stay frosty,

John

Photo courtesy of Ms Significant Other

 

How To Weasel Out Of A Deadline (When You Seriously Must)

Saturday 3:08pm
Reno, NV
Do the least damage possible to the client.” (Me.)

Howdy.

Recently, a good pal (and damn fine copywriter) had a bit of a meltdown…

… because Life inserted some truly cruel and unusual shit into his day, and he was in danger of missing a deadline. (That’s a photo of a deadline, above. Nasty thing.)

This is a no-no among most top professionals of all persuasions. You don’t miss deadlines.

People are counting on you. As a freelancer, entire businesses may be counting on you.

Back when I wrote for the largest direct mailing outfits in the world, a missed deadline might mean tens of thousands of bucks wasted, as printing presses sat idle. If my piece was meant for a print ad, even more money could potentially go down the tubes — my deadline was attached to a publication deadline, and no magazine or newspaper waits for you to get your shit together.

You don’t get your ad in on time, you don’t go into the publication. And you still have to pay (at least a penalty, and maybe the whole ad cost).

It’s serious stuff.

Still…

… because we’re all humans living in an essentially hostile world (full of danger, unpredictable risks, and lots of other gruesome horrors)…

you need a plan.

A plan for that day (which hopefully never comes) when… shudder… you may be forced to miss a deadline.

My colleague is a true pro. He understands that clients and printing presses and budgets and biz plans are counting on him to meet his deadlines…

… and over a decade as a freelance copywriter, has never to my knowledge missed one.

And yet, here he was…

… cornered by Life, and needing some advice on what to do.

So, I whipped out a short list of options.

And it was so good, I thought I’d share it here.

For you to use NEVER… unless there is absolutely no other choice.

So, ONLY for your deep Bag O’ Tricks-Maybe-Needed-Down-The-Line (and never for regular use), here’s that advice:

How to get out of a deadline…

… when you absolutely have to (cuz you’re faint from loss of blood, or space aliens kept you locked up all night doing anal probes, or your eyes fell out…

… which, by the way, are the ONLY real excuses a true professional would ever let get in the way of a deadline. Other than life-or-death emergencies.)

Let’s begin with the stark fact that I, for one, have never missed a deadline. Never. In a 30-year writing career.

A few colleagues have expressed shock over that. Cuz, from the complaints I’ve fielded over the years about my cohorts, the average copywriter misses approximately half his deadlines. From rookie to top dog. It’s appalling.

But it also opens up a huge opportunity for writers who want to stand out (as all the “A Listers” do). One of the reasons I earned the global reputation I enjoy, in fact… is by meeting my deadlines.

Deadlines are sacred. I made a vow early in my career, “biz before pleasure”, and I stuck to it.

Without that attitude, I would be just another run-of-the-mill copywriter. No fame. No fortune. Not worth much.

In fact, the whole notion of meeting ALL your deadlines caused me to create what I call “The Professional’s Code”. It’s good for anyone in any kind of job where people count on you.

Here’s that code: You are where you said you’d be… when you said you’d be there… having done what you said you’d do.

It’s just that simple. In biz, romance, hobbies, getting your hair cut, everything you do… you follow the code.

If you crave the respect (and rewards) of BEING a true pro…

… you move heaven and earth to make this code REAL in your life.

You become That Guy who can be counted on. Who follows through. Who you can trust with your life. Or the life of your business.

Still…

… nevertheless, there may come a time in your career when life interferes so drastically…

… that you are forced to miss a deadline.

If that happens, here are your options:

Option #1: Arrange for an extension. You do not reveal details of your emergency. You’re not looking for sympathy. You’re a professional who is admitting that you cannot meet the current deadline…

… and something else needs to be arranged.

If they refuse your request for an extension, then: (a) return whatever fee you’ve already been paid, and deal with the professional shame of missing a deadline…

… or (b) hand in whatever you’ve completed up to this moment (if it’s even close to being what the client needs)…

… or (c) combine (a) and (b).

You may lose the client if what you give them isn’t something they can use… but then, who needs clients who don’t respect the fact that — once in a while — life hands you a bummer? (And, to be fair, what client needs a writer who misses deadlines?)

This is assuming you haven’t made a habit of missing deadlines. You may have earned some slack, IF your rep is clean up to now.

If missing the deadline causes a huge problem for the client, then your reputation has taken a massive hit…

… and your job, for the next few years, will be to try to repair your reputation. It will be hard. And dependent on you never missing another deadline.

If you take the hit, face up to it. It’s a setback. You’ll have to work to fix it.

It is what is. (Good Zen advice for living imperfectly in a rough world.)

Getting an extension is the best possible option.

But it only works if it works for your client, too. 

If you must face the reality that you will not meet the deadline…

then own up to it as soon as possible. Do not try to keep a fee you haven’t earned.

And — most important — do not vanish on the client.

The WORST thing you can do is go radio silent, leaving your client in the dark… just because you’re too embarrassed to admit you’re missing a deadline.

This compounds the error, essentially tossing your reputation into the toilet.

Own up to the situation. Again, you do not need to share details — what’s important to the client is not what’s happening to you, but what’s to become of his campaign. He paid you to do a job, and you’re not doing it. There are no “good” excuses for missing a deadline…

… but there are missed deadlines, even the most perfect of worlds.

Option #2: Gear up, do the best job possible in the time you can give to the gig, working overnight if you must, and meet the deadline with something resembling a complete ad. Meet the deadline despite the crises. 

Schedule time to get at least some sleep, and to deal with the interfering emergency…

… but give the rest of your available time to the job. Make it happen.

I’ve even resorted to jamming out an ad in a couple of hours, to meet a deadline. Normally, I want weeks to carefully craft an ad… to research it, edit it, come up with multiple headlines, carefully craft the whole thing. However, I’m also capable of writing quickly, without the days of obsession and editing.

I prefer to have time to do it right.

But when time is not available, I do the best job I can inside of the small block of time I do have.

When you jam stuff out… what you end up with is what it is.

Just know that a top writer working at 70% is worth a lesser writer at peak output — which means, if you’re a veteran writer, this rushing to meet the deadline at the last minute can still produce “good enough” copy.

If you’re not a veteran writer… then you’ve got to make the call: Can you craft a complete ad — even an inferior one — in the time you do have available?

If you can’t, then this isn’t a good option for you.

Side note: The great Gary Halbert used to routinely finish ads, writing by hand on a legal pad, in the passenger seat of a car speeding to the client’s office. I’ve written speeches in the airplane, flying to the event I’d be speaking at. I know writers who’ve recorded themselves talking out copy while in the shower, and editing the transcription in the lobby of the client’s biz.

And I’ve written ads (and made major biz decisions on the phone) in hospitals, taking a break from attending to the loved one I was there to see. I never neglected my duties as part of the support team. But there was always time to break away for 20 minutes or an hour (when they were sleeping).

You do NOT need your usual “safe space” to create good copy, once you become a true professional. You use what you have.

Especially today, with modern technology. I’ve written ads on my iPhone, typing with thumbs.

No excuses.

Option #3: If you have even a day to spare, hire a ghost writer, and meet the deadline.

If the emergency forcing you to miss the deadline is also taking you away from your ability to do ANY work at all…

… but there is still time for SOMEONE to do it…

… then this is the best option.

Early in my career, I worked for copywriting legends like Jim Rutz (inventor of the magalog), Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert in these exact situations. Sometimes, even for my very first jobs with them…

… so we had no history, and they had no idea of I could deliver quality or not. But they hired me, because I was willing to throw myself into the fire, work all night (for several nights, if needed), and move heaven and earth to help them meet their sacred deadline. And they’d heard from other marketers that I met my deadlines…

… even when they were unreasonably short.

It was a great way to kickstart my reputation as a writer you could count on. And it got me inside their operations, where I soon held high-status positions.

If you need to hire a ghost writer, hit up your network and pay what you need to pay to meet the deadline. It might be all of your fee…

… which is acceptable, because this is an emergency situation.

Oh, wait. You don’t have a network yet?

Well, why not?

One of your priorities in life should be to cultivate and nurture a network of colleagues who are in your biz. If you’re a writer, then that network should be full of your writing peers — the sort of professionals you can hit up when you’re forced to hire a ghost writer.

And those are your options.

Bottom line: Do not be bullied or guilt-tripped by the client — for your own peace of mind. Rest on your laurels if you have to — if your reputation is clean (because you’ve made meeting deadlines a professional habit), then this one time missing a deadline or returning the fee won’t harm you much.

Recite: “It is what it is. Under normal conditions, meeting this deadline wouldn’t be an issue. It is an issue, however, this time.”

Then make your decision on the best option, and engage the client in conversation if you’re backing out of the gig. The sooner he knows, the more he can mitigate the problems you’ve caused.

Seek the least damage to the client.

Side note: The best way to AVOID this travesty, of course, is to avoid agreeing to hard deadlines in the first place. Smart clients pad their deadlines, so they’re not actually “hard”, in the sense that missing it creates a disaster.

A “soft” deadline means there is still time after you turn in your manuscript before the ad runs, or gets printed, or the project starts. You’re not turning in your copy the day before the launch or the print date.

That doesn’t mean you can miss soft deadlines with impunity, though. The extra time is usually reserved for your copy being reviewed, fact-checked, and proofed. All very necessary stuff.

Top pro’s who’ve had experiences with deadlines prefer this arrangement. If there’s a problem — especially one in miscommunication between client and writer (including bad info, incorrect facts, and totally misunderstanding some essential part) — it can be caught early, during one of the multiple soft deadlines in the funnel.

It gets complicated, when writers don’t want early drafts of their work seen by the client. I certainly do not want this.

However, it’s very smart to insert soft deadlines where the client must get all info to you (so you can start writing)… where all facts (from phone numbers to links to research info) are double-checked… and where you float your hook (especially if it’s outrageous) or sale-closing angles (including guarantees).

This saves everyone a lot of problems.

It also forces the writer not to wait until the last minute to start writing (which is why sudden emergencies cause such havoc). If you’ve got all the info double-checked, and you’re sure of the facts you’re working with, AND you’ve cleared your hook with the client…

… then having to finish up in a hurry (when unexpected shit hits your fan) becomes much, much easier.

Top writers know how to navigate life and business at a level far above how regular civilians operate.

Because people are counting on you.

Hope this helps.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Want more good advice like this, specifically for copywriters and consultants?

The “Freelance Course” is crammed with it.

Go here to check it out.

Many top working writers used this course to break away from the pack, and start earning the Big Bucks as their reputation grew by leaps and bounds.

Take your career seriously. This is a great place to start.

Bad John, Good John

Amazon Best Sellers - Marketing - Direct copy 2

Sunday, 11:59am
Reno, NV
You’re so vain…” (Carly Simon, dissing Warren Beatty)

Howdy…

I’ve been meaning to explain some things to y’all for a while, and there’s no better time than now to do it.

Cuz, huzzah, my latest ebook just zoomed to the top of the pile in multiple categories on Amazon last week. “Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About” is the first (of several) “best of” compilations from the archives of this blog… and anyone who’s enjoyed reading my drivel should probably pony up the $2.99 and grab it. (Here’s the link.)

Great for you brain. Great for your motivation. Great for your bottom line (if you’re after wealth and happiness). Great all the way around, I gotta say.

However…

I still feel the need to warn folks that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Long-time readers of my rantings know what to expect, of course — deliberately mangled grammar, lots of cussing and outrageousness, and absolutely no quarter given to bullshit at any time. This is hard-core biz and living-well advice, tactics and solutions.

Plus…

… most of my stories revolve around my misadventures out there in the cold, cruel world.

This is not because I’m some rabid egomaniac. (I actually advocate murdering your ego, because it does more harm than good in anyone’s life. Including mine. At the beginning of my seminars, I always spend some time theatrically having people “toss” their ego, so the event can progress without folks getting offended, feeling personally attacked, or just getting their panties in a twist because their ox got gored. Ego sucks.)

No. The reason my books and lessons usually feature a look inside my head is simply because that’s how I learned everything I know about life and business. Since the very first days of my career, I have tried to live an “examined life”, just like Aristotle advised. (Or was it Socrates? Never mind.) I reconsidered my life as an ongoing movie, and I had input to how the script played out…

… so I strove to understand what happened to me each day. And then I deconstructed each event — what the facts were, how I reacted, what I did that was okay, what I did that was clearly a dumb-ass blunder, and what the other “actors” did or didn’t do to contribute to the scene.

This is how I managed to find the great lessons of life and biz. You do something, things cook or explode or simmer, and consequences ensue. And then you study every shred of it. 

I was a one-man living laboratory for testing out the theories and advice and tactics I encountered. Because my freelance career kept me busy with a now-uncountable number of fresh clients (all with unique businesses and situations and neuroses and problems), I had a front-row seat for the biggest show around: How things get either done or botched-up in reality.

If I read a biz book that offered advice on negotiating with clients, for example, I could often put it to use the very next day. If it worked, I used it again and kept refining it. If it didn’t work, I tried to see how I could have screwed it up… or how it was bullshit advice in the first place. (This happened a lot, by the way. Books are essential to learning, but theories that do not actually WORK in the real world are useless. And yet, maybe half the biz books out there are just spring-loaded bullshit dispensers.)

Same with all the tactics I picked up from other writers and mentors, or observed during biz transactions. And also with all the advice for how to prosper, or live healthier, or reduce stress, or a thousand other nuggets of insight (or drivel) that could affect the quality of my life.

I was relentless, too. I wanted to figure out what created success, and what triggered failure. There were HUGE lessons no matter what happened — in fact, I learned more from failing than I ever did from accidentally doing anything correctly…

… as long as I dissected what happened, and learned from it.

I’ve often said that — because I was so freakin’ clueless when I started out — I made most of the mistakes possible in the first decade of my career (and throughout my private life). And… I learned SO MUCH from those mistakes, that I’m sorry I didn’t make EVERY mistake possible. It simply would have expanded my self-education even further.

So…

… when I write about a lesson in biz or life in general… it’s a lesson I’ve learned personally. Usually by making a mess, and immediately cleaning it up, examining every detail of what went down, deconstructing the good and bad points… and figuring out what I could have done differently.

THEN… and this is important… I went back out (often the very next day) and DID IT RIGHT. Whether it was negotiating with a client, using naps to organize my thoughts (like David Ogilvy), writing better bullets, dealing with a disgruntled customer on the phone, finding the best lists to mail, or whatever…

… I learned my lesson, and re-engaged with the world to see if what I learned was spot-on, or needed refinement, or was part of that “nuanced” arsenal of biz tactics that require focus, new skills and multiple decision points to put into action.

So, yes, I’m the dude in the center of the story. I’m not discussing theory here, or something I’ve heard about from some wonderful source.

Nope. My stories are about me, out there in the jungle, chewing up scenery and knocking stuff over and making huge messes…

… and then figuring out how to do better, and then DOING better almost immediately.

The charge I sometimes hear –that I’m an egomaniac who is arrogant about giving advice –is just pure bullshit. I’m a total introvert, and prefer to spend the majority of my life away from crowds. My books seem autobiographical simply because sharing the best lessons require giving you a peek into my life… and so that’s what I do. I share what I’ve learned (the hard way) as a copywriter, as a business owner, as a consultant, as a regular person just trying to do the right thing out there.

I’ve lived a great life, crammed with adventure, heartache, stark terror, love, and more success than I’ve ever felt I deserved. I’m humbled that others consider me a resource for learning, and proud that my career of blunders and missteps can serve as a shortcut for others. So you don’t have to spend decades making every mistake out there, just to figure out what the good lessons are. I’ve already done that. I’m bruised, scarred, and grizzled from the process, but happy to share.

In truth, you’ll still want to learn some of the really juicy lessons yourself anyway. Like “money doesn’t buy happiness”. It’s just more effective (and often more fun) to discover that for your own bad self… though, having a little foreknowledge from a trusted dude like me will at least prepare you when Reality smacks you in the face (and wallet, and soul, and heart) later.

I knew NONE of the essential lessons when I started out. I was like a babe in the forest, blundering along with nothing but a small amount of skills, a huge amount of chutzpah, and a raw determination to get it right (based on my flimsy plan, which didn’t have an alternative to making freelancing work as a new career.) I literally had no idea what I’d do if I failed — a situation I do NOT advise anyone else to attempt, though the motivation was pretty spectacular (if scary as hell).

There is plenty of real arrogance and “full of yourself” attitudes in the biz world. I’ve dealt with a vast mob of clients, colleagues, customers, prospects, looky-loo’s, rubber-neckers, jerks, heroes, lovers, haters, n’eer-do-well’s and basket cases…

… and I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out what makes them tick. And buy. And flee, and get mad, and go off the deep end, and melt down, and everything else this crazy human race is capable of.

I love it all. And I love my fans and readers dearly, and really care about making this process of learning fun, funny and memorable.

So that’s why I write my stories from a personal point-of-view.

And it’s why those tales are so vivid, and crammed with twists and turns. It’s real life. I want the freakin’ pain I experienced getting educated to have had a purpose.

Again — I’m honored that you find my blog, my books, my courses and speeches worthwhile. I get chills when I hear from someone who had a breakthrough, or a sudden success, or even just started on a better path because of a lesson I shared.

Get the latest ebook, or don’t. (Just click on the icon at the top of the right hand column here.) You can wander through the archives on this blog for free, of course, and track the posts down in their original form. That’s why we priced this ebook so low (it’s just $2.99), because it’s all from the blog. But it’s edited, and organized, and in a pretty awesome presentation. Easy to read, nice to have on your Kindle or iPad or whatever, a damn good kick in the butt for any entrepreneur or freelancer wanting to take your game up a few levels.

If you don’t mind, if you DO purchase the ebook, go back to the Amazon page (here) and leave a review. No matter what you thought of the stories and advice, other potential readers rely on reviews like yours to help decide whether to invest some time in the ebook or not.

Some of the reviews I’ve had for other books have been outraged at my language, at the raw honesty, and at what they perceive as my “arrogance” in writing from a personal point of view.

Doesn’t matter. For every person who is insulted or angered, I know that multiple other folks were relieved to have found a nutcase like me who tells it like it is, and has the experience, savvy and track record to help out.

Stay frosty, my friend.

John

P.S. Love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments section. I’ll wander in there to see what kind of ruckus you’re causing.

 

 

 

 

 

.

Tribute To The Ink-Stained Wretch

Flag

Saturday, 12:42pm
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. 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 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

Year-End Roundup Of Good Stuff

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Saturday, 1:10pm
Reno, NV
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…” (Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”)

Howdy…

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…

Read more…

Mr. Fix-It

Wednesday, 12:53pm
Reno, NV
I’m busy 24 hours a day, I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can…” (Del Shannon, “Handyman”)

Howdy.

Today, I want to share with y’all a simple pro-level tactic that just might change your career path forever… if, like most entrepreneurs out there, you’re laboring under a huge and common misunderstanding of how things work in the real world.

Here’s the problem: Most folks only see the surface of the culture, and seldom get to peek behind the curtain to see the infrastructure that supports everything.

Now, if you’re stumbling through life as a slacker or a follower… just bobbing to and fro like flotsam… then learning how stuff gets created isn’t important.

But entrepreneurs do not have that luxury. Once you take responsibility for the survival of a business, you better get hip to the Big Picture.

This means understanding the process of arriving at a finished product. Which requires rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty (or virtually dirty, in the digital world).

Here’s the quick tale of how I was introduced to this realization: Back in school, I was that doodling kid who just kept getting better at it… until one day the journalism teacher found one of the endless homemade comic books I was pumping out, and insisted I create a weekly cartoon for the high school newspaper.

Now, I loved the comics page in the local rag (the LA Times). The idea of drawing a comic strip of my own, however, was terrifying. I didn’t have a clue how they were actually made. Up to that point, I drew only in pencil, on big sheets of scrap paper, with no limits to sizing or length. Now, suddenly, I had to work in ink, inside a 3-inch by 4-column format.

And meet a deadline.

In retrospect, I should have just hit up the art teacher for tips on producing a cartoon in a publication. Or called up the local “real” newspaper and ask a production artist how it’s done.

But I had never had to research anything before. Like most American kids, I had spent my youth tearing things apart, not building them. I’d never asked anyone how something was done, ever. I just figured it all out for myself, in my own idiosyncratic way, thinking that’s how it had to happen. You “should” be able to figure everything out.

It’s a flaw in our brains.

Back then, the hard part of doing a weekly cartoon was coming up with jokes that fit into a four-panel format. But what consumed the most time was producing the final strip. I bought a double-aught nib in a wooden holder at the crafts store, plus a big bottle of India ink. And I drew veeeeeeery carefully…

… because I believed that published cartoons were drawn that way. You know, that Charles Schultz just sat down and inked out a Peanuts strip from left to right.

And if I made a mistake…Read more…

The Reality Check Mom Never Gave You

Monday, 3:32pm
Visalia, CA
“Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.” (Sicilian proverb)

Howdy…

I’m handing the blog over to our good buddy Jimbo Curley again this week.  He’s done several guest posts, all hilarious, all excellent insight and info for marketers, writers and anyone in biz.

Jim and I go back a looooooooong time.  And my favorite story of how we became brawling colleagues is included here — this tale sends grown men into gasping fits of laughter whenever Jimbo re-tells it in the bar (where, during seminars, all the REAL networking and professional bonding takes place).  Last week, it was the Phoenix Hilton, for Joe Polish’s and Dean Jackson’s shockingly-good “I Love Marketing” event.

So this is fresh stuff.

Jim’s the real thing.  A top, consistently smokin’ hot copywriter and a keen observer of human behavior (and buying psychology).  He’s an original teacher in the Simple Writing System, and one of the very few writers I’ve personally asked to write FOR me.

This post is must-reading for anyone wondering how their latest and greatest ad is gonna do in the real world.

Warning: Do NOT drink coffee while reading this.  Or you’ll snort it through your nose during the funny parts.  Which is funny in itself, the image of hundreds of readers all over the globe spitting up coffee at their desks at the same time, courtesy of a master storyteller.

Okay, you’ve been warned.

Here’s Jimbo:

Thanks for the intro John.

I’ll dive right in.

Today I want to talk about a Street-Marketing lesson I call “How to take it in the shorts… and love it”.

It’s about how to get qualified critiques for your writing.

First, I’ll hit you with the big setup statement.

Here it is: Read more…

How To Murder Stress, Part 1

Tuesday, 3:29pm
Reno, NV
I can’t seem to face up to the facts, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)

Howdy…

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.Read more…

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