“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.
No, really, thanks.
P.S. Make sure you check out all the goodies available in the right hand column here. My books and courses make excellent Christmas gifts, you know…
“My social life’s a dud, my name is really Mud…” (“Talk Talk”, Music Machine)
Quick story: If you’re in business, you’ve got problems.
Problems are just front-loaded into the game.
Sales surge, then disappear.
Results vary, seemingly at random.
Once-reliable resources flake out, easy gigs turns into time-sucking nightmares, and things can just go south without warning.
Shit has a tendency to hit the fan.
Entrepreneurs love the freedom of owning our own biz, but when problems hold us back and relentlessly harsh our mood…
… it ain’t fun no more.
Well, guess what?
Savvy biz owners and professional copywriters
have a secret weapon.
It’s called “getting some freaking help when needed.”
Or, in more polite terms, “tapping into the solutions, resources and brilliance of a trusted network”.
You know. The almost voodoo-like magic of being in a high-end mastermind.
I’ve been hosting (along with my biz partner Stan Dahl) an intense, “get things done and in motion” mastermind for around 10 years now.
It’s exclusive to entrepreneurs and the folks who support them (like copywriters)… and it’s VERY INTIMATE.
We only allow a maximum of 16 members to attend any meeting… because of the personal attention paid to everyone.
It’s not your usual casual gathering, either.
Nope. The whole operation is run “hot seat” style…
… which means the entire group digs into everyone’s (including yours) situation and gets busy with real solutions, breakthrough plans, and the kind of resource help that only happens when you’re playing with the Big Kids (who have the experience, reach and success history to know something about biz).
We actually get things done. As in outlining specific steps to take the next day to get moving on your goals. With accountability to the group.
And results ensue.
This is serious masterminding, for folks serious about putting their life and biz on the fast track to happiness and wealth.
The group I host has heavy hitters in it, and also folks just now emerging from their “rookie” period as a pro or entrepreneur.
They all get answers to questions that have held them up, solutions to problems that plague their bottom line, fresh alternatives to living the best life with the best business practices possible, and more.
Just to drop names, some of the guests who’ve visited during past meetings include Joe Sugarman, Jay Abraham, Dean Jackson, Joe Polish, Bond and Kevin Halbert, Jon Benson, Brian Kurtz and a hall-of-fame lineup of “A List” copywriters like David Deutsch, Kevin Rogers, Harlan Kilstein and David Garfinkel.
Plus, of course, I personally moderate each and every single session. You’re in the hands of some of the best (and most successful) marketing minds alive.
We’ve got a meeting coming up soon. (We host one every four months, like clockwork, and have for the past decade.)
It’s easy (and painless) to find out if you’re a candidate for joining.
Just go here to get the details. (Click on “Platinum Mastermind Group”.)
Then, simply click on the single link there, and we’ll guide you through the no-obligation process of helping you decide if the group’s right for you.
And yes, you’re in charge.
No pressure, no BS…
… and if you choose to come along, you’ll get a personal call with me before your first meeting…
… just to make sure you’re comfy and hitting the ground running the minute you enter the room.
There are other masterminds out there.
Some are pretty darned good.
This one, however, is unique, with a years-long track record of transforming people’s lives and businesses…
… because we don’t dabble in theory or casual networking or elaborate presentations or any of that time-wasting stuff.
We just get down to the business of making your biz work.
Using all the experience, knowledge, skills and resources we have to share.
Again, no pressure.
You’ll enjoy the process of discovering whether you’re a good candidate or not.
And you get our full attention the moment you join.
Go get started, already.
Maybe I’ll see you at the next meeting.
P.S. The above photo was taken after one of our meetings in Las Vegas, just a couple of years ago. That’s Brian Kurtz (the guy who turned Boardroom, Inc into the powerhouse it is today) across from my old pal and marketing legend Joe Sugarman… with Big Jason Henderson (the email expert we go to when we run into problems) across from my dear, late buddy and A-List copywriter Scott Haines (who we all miss terribly). Stan and I are at the end of the table.
Just an example of the over-the-top talent you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with at the meetings.
See if you’re ready for a spot at the table with us… by going here to fill out the quick survey.
We’ll get right back to you.
“Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoooooooon…” (The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon”)
File this little piece of consulting advice under the “WTF Were You Thinking?” Department: I frequently encounter entrepreneurs (usually the struggling kind) who confuse “working” with activity.
When they finish a project, for example, the sudden evidence of fresh free time startles them — somehow, inside their head, they feel they “should” be devoting every waking moment to the gig.
So they dive immediately into the next job.
This is so wrong.
You’re not a machine.
You need downtime, and lots of it — that’s where the creative process flourishes, and your overall energy levels recuperate.
The top performers in all niches jealously guard their free time, and greedily devour it with gusto.
Here’s what they know that you keep forgetting: The harder you work, the more down time you require regeneration and recovery from the stress.
However, (and here’s the real trick), the more PRODUCTIVE you yearn to become…
… the more you have to respect, guard and cash-in your time AWAY from the work.
One hour of writing after a 20-minute walk and an hour-long nap will be HUGELY more productive than six (or ten, or 100) hours of sleep-deprived “forcing it” work.
Every writer I know has tried to force copy during an overnighter at least once…
… and ended up tossing ALL of it in editing, and starting over.
Forcing it is an excellent way to miss a deadline and ruin your career.
You simply cannot cheat on the biological bill that comes due each day — nutrition, zzz’s, plumbing maintenance, exercise and brain stimulation.
Maybe in the future, you can have your head put in a glass dome and keep it fed with tubes so you can skip some of the physiological requirements of being human…
… but I’ll still put my hour’s worth of writing (after the walk and nap) up against whatever crap you produce in that state.
You’re a complex organism.
Stop pretending being a workaholic is some kind of heroic adventure.
It’s slow suicide and a waste of life-force.
The equation is very simple: Nurtured productivity > forced effort.
Got it? Good.
Now go take a nap, and order my book when you wake up and get back to pursuing your dreams…
P.S. No, seriously, order my book. It’s just to the right of this column, a nice big icon to click that will take you instantly to the correct Amazon page.
Okay, you lazy ass. Here’s the link, so you don’t have to scroll to the right…
P.P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo. Mid-fifties, back when naps were NOT to be missed, no matter how urgent is was to play another song on the guitar as your horse ambled off into the sunset…
“Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…” (David Bowie)
Let’s have an uncomfortable discussion, what d’ya say?
Let’s talk about the dirtiest word most adults know: Change.
Here’s the thing about change: Learning how to become a functioning adult is hard, as in requiring every shred of skill, talent, brain power and ability you possess.
And when you “arrive” (however you define it — get a job, get hitched, get pregnant, get out of jail, make a fortune, whatever) you’re kind of exhausted from the effort…
… and you really don’t want to go through all that crap again.
And then the world changes around you.
In our lifetime, that change has been dramatic, jarring, frequent and brutal. Very little of what worked for you even 5 years ago is still viable. The music on the radio sounds like static, people stare at you when you dance, and your job can be done faster and better by machines.
You think I’m talking about the generation just ahead of you, don’t you? All those clueless old fucks slowing you down and mucking up the vibe.
But here’s the truth: No matter how hip you are right now…
… in a very, very short time (much too soon to be fair), YOU will be the one desperately grasping for a clue (and holding up the line because you’re slow).
I marvel at my Pop’s life (he was vivacious and awesome until finally checking out at 95). Born in the Industrial Age, dug foxholes in Belgium saving the world from the Hun, witnessed the birth of the Nuclear Age, tried to ignore the Cold War while keeping his head low and raising a family, and we spoke via Skype every week for years. On his PC.
He was impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), read every page of the newspaper every day (but fact-checked the editorials on Google, the lying bastards)…
… and if we all had to go live in caves for awhile after the space aliens bombed us back to the Stone Age, he would have been the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knew how make stuff and fix machines).
Mostly, though, I now sympathize (finally) with his sense of wonder of how the details of life keep changing, making his prior assumptions and habits almost criminal (though he tried to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He was never bitter, and revealed a enviable patience with punk tailgaters, ESL customer support, and rude clerks.
And, following his example, I actually relish the way my former talents and abilities become obsolete (and even mocked) as things change, and change again.
There’s a core sense of “self” that includes a Zen attitude of living well no matter what Life hoists on your ass, and working on what you do well…
… that only seems to become evident as you get really old and decrepit.
You shrug off the bad shit (like modern pop music, which just objectively sucks the big one, I mean, c’mon, people), and adjust your own groove as you go (so you aren’t in the way of the punks in Daddy’s Beemer determined to die on the highway in a flaming pile-up).
The key: Don’t fight change. It’s gonna happen, and you’re gonna get grazed at best, wounded and left behind at worst.
You are not required, however, to change your “core” self…
… unless you’re a bigot or so dangerously stupid that you need to shut up and listen more.
Change is a bugger. It’s like that rogue wave that even the most experienced surfer can’t handle — it arrives without warning, defies the natural laws you’ve learned to navigate, and seems to have it out for you personally.
The universe is wired to fuck with old animals in unpleasant ways.
Accept that, and do your best, and cultivate your sense of wonder and joy.
Everybody’s ticket gets punched sooner than they’d like. The ride may seem long and never-ending at times, but it ain’t.
Hope you’re enjoying this bitchin’ autumn weather.
Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?
P.S. If you haven’t devoured my two books on Amazon, you’re just cheating your bad self of a stone-cold advantage in life and biz that your competitors are probably using to beat you over the head with.
They’re both fast yet exhilarating reads…
… and if you bother to read the reviews about them, you’ll see that the benefits pile up fast.
Stop missing out already.
P.P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo…
… just after I’d taken over the Big Desk at Gary Halbert’s office on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. Like 30 years ago.
For me, looking at that smiling nutball with the out-of-control hair reminds me of the radical changes that have happened since. Both glorious and heartbreaking.
But I embraced change, and even sought it out, even back then.
What a great ride so far…
“Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)
I’m republishing this off-beat rant, cuz it’s been one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written over the years.
And it’s a totally counter-intuitive take on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss.
Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.
So, enjoy another nugget from the archives:
Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?
Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?
Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?
Well, then step right up…
Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing. The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches“…
… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.
And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty. I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.
Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great. We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko. Rooted for ya. Got yer back.
I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility. And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.
But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast. Whoa, there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?
And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.
Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.
This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.
The lucky creep.
I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…
And so on.
I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it. Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.
Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself. Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before. Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)
I like that tactic.
However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.
It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.
Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept. And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.
Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.
Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category. Fame, skill, wealth…
… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.
Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail.
I mean, why them and not me yet?
The bastards were too big for their britches…
But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.
Because the better way to look at things…
… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.
There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game…
… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.
In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out.
It was win-win, all the way.
… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…
And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.
I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere…
… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else. Maybe I really did invent it.
At any rate… it works.
Wanna know what it is?
Okay. Here is my…
Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…
… just imagine being inside their skin — really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes.
Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.
And then see if their life still looks so good.
Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real. When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner. When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel. When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.
This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in. (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 13 years here in the blog.)
Great salesmen lead better lives. Not because they sell lots of stuff…
… but because they live in the real world.
You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.
Naw. You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.
So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.
This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more…
… while also helping you understand why they do what they do.
You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.
And while you love your fellow beasts…
… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…
… you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.
Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.
I love to read autobiographies and biographies. (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)
It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.
Wow, does it ever change your outlook. Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.
The novelists loathed themselves. The movie stars craved adulation like junkies. The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths. The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.
Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention. Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity. Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.
Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.
They’re also boring as hell. And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin. (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires. In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons. See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)
You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?
I do, too. But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.
In fact, I embrace it. I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.
It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.
You’re alive. You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later). You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…
… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.
It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there. But it’s worth it.
You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”.
Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…
… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.
I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business). I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see underneath the mask.
And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever.
I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity. I fit well inside my own skin.
And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world. Really earned it.
Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.
Naw. I blundered my way into the Feast of Life. Utterly fucked things up along the ride…
… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.
That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.
We’re all pathetically flawed. All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).
Nobody gets out of here unscathed. You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.
And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto. When it happens, buy new ones.
Stay frosty (and true to yourself),
P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens. Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself. Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.
The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better. Screw that nonsense.
The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly. Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses.
And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail. You lived it, dude. I wasn’t there.
P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?
And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life. Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…
VERY Special P.P.P.S. While not exactly an autobiography, my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” reveals a ton of behind-the-scenes adventures and insider advice aimed straight at the tender beating heart of the struggling entrepreneur.
Get your copy now, either as an ebook or in paperback. For a few measly bucks, you’ll be ushered into a front-row seat to see how I stumbled upon the amazing result-getting lessons of great marketing…
… and I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off along the way.
Get it here: “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“.
Rome, Italy (yeah, I’m on vacation)
“Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?” (Jack Kerouac)
I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?”
Most folks never think about their legacy.
The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.
Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?
I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.
There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. Each of these eras are like separate John’s, completely different people.
Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.
I have a cousin who married his high school sweetheart, and they have that kind of relationship — total lifetime knowledge of each other. Maybe, at one time, that wasn’t so rare. Now, it seems almost quaint (at least among the circles I run in).
I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who could pen a relatively factual obituary for you, today.
The flip side: On the other hand, I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People” for most of my life.
I ask questions, and then follow up with more questions. I’m interested in how people live, how they make decisions and how they handle the consequences. What their happiest memories are, what their darkest days were like, how they got here from there.
It’s not magic. It’s empathy, combined with a genuine interest in other people. It’s easy to get someone to tell their life story, when you simply ask them.
It’s not done all at one shot, either. You need to spend some time together, share some history, earn the trust required to divulge the juicy secrets.
And, because you don’t betray confidence, you never share what you hear capriciously. You simply know more about certain folks than even their other trusted pals do. But your reputation as a person capable of keeping secrets is solid. It has to be.
As a writer who needs to understand how people operate, this is a main tool. Empathy, plus interviewing.
And here’s the Big Secret: So few people know my entire story… because they never ask.
They’ll wax prolific on their own tales, when asked. But they never ask bac. Most are just too overwhelmed with living their own lives to care about anyone else’s, and it’s understandable. Others are genuinely uninterested in how others live.
But most just don’t know how to ask. They confuse respect for privacy with refusing to go deep.
Back in college, I had a great prof who forced us to go into the community and get an old person to tell their tale. It was an anthropology class, and we would have flunked without doing it.
It was freaking great. These oldsters — ignored, forgotten, in the way — lit up when asked about their lives.
No one had ever asked before.
And the tales told were fascinating, like the best novels you’ve ever encountered. War, loss, love, discovery, travel, horror, insight…
… all the rough and tumble intricacies of a long life were there.
It opened my eyes, tell you what. I was young, full of myself, obsessed with the now-relics of a Boomer existence (sex, drugs and rock and roll, mostly).
Yet, these folks who came before me went through similar periods (swing, prohibited booze, flappers, illicit sex)…
… and then entered new chapters, usually family, job and generational upheaval. It all made sense.
It was like glimpsing my own future, told from the past.
Just saying. We get so deep into ourselves, we forget to pop our heads out of our ass ever so often to see what’s going on with everyone else.
Life is a gorgeous, horror-filled wonderland, relentlessly bombarding us with incoming drama, tragedy and comedy.
Those who get to enjoy/endure it for many years are the lucky ones.
And the tales told are never boring, when you know how to translate them.
For a marketer looking to succeed, this is the key to the kingdom.
P.S. If you’ve followed me for any length of time (here on the blog, in my books, or on social media) you know I frame my advice on being successful within stories.
I do it, because that’s how ideas stick. We’re hard-wired to listen to stories, and remember the good ones.
If you’re interested in the lessons I’ve learned about success and living large (from a very long career at the roiling edge of life and biz)…
… then you’ll be interested in this.
You can thank me later.
“It’s game over, man, game over!” (Corporeal Hudson, “Aliens”)
Folks who’ve followed my ramblings and rants for a while know that I’ve had a healthy, life-long love of psychology. Both the academic discoveries, and the street-level revelations that only savvy, old school salesmen ever discover.
And that’s the useable stuff. The insights and tactics that work in marketing, for example. And in dealing with people (who, as you well know, can be whacky and illogical at the worse times).
So here’s one piece of what I call Psych Insights that may help you at a very fundamental level.
Dig: I’ve hung out with — and learned a lot from — a number of professional psychologists.
Most are whacked (with personal lives in complete disarray)…
… but it’s like knowing an insane plumber who can nevertheless fix any pipe problem you have.
You don’t judge the guy you let into your brain’s plumbing by his whackiness, but by his ability to help you.
Anyway, Gary Halbert also shared my fascination with shrinks, and even had one in his inner circle for a few years. (We tried, and tried, and tried to help him get an entrepreneurial project going… but, you know, he was just too caught up in the academic mindset to “get” marketing.)
This particular shrink really understood the territory of human behavior and belief, though. (He’d spent so much time inside people’s heads, he could recognize your particular neuroses before you opened your mouth.) (Yes, you’re neurotic. Get over it. We all are.)
What I learned from him (and other shrinks, both the good ones and the close-to-being-committed-themselves ones) gave me awesome persuasion tools to work with in ads.
But I also learned a lot about living well, too.
Here’s just one example: Generally, you can divide everyone you meet into two main camps:
This seems obvious until you start realizing how this belief is the foundation of just about every decision people make in their lives.
Experience will affect your outlook over time, of course…
… but that fundamental belief usually remains.
I grew up considering the world mostly safe… with lots of caveats.
This meant we were fearless about getting ourselves into tough spots as kids, as we tested and retested our boundaries and abilities to deal with dangerous (and often idiotic) situations. I discovered there really are lots of unsafe corners in the world…
… but I also discovered that you can build new skill sets that help you deal with the danger.
The kids who were too terrified to follow us into adventures never learned much about avoiding getting hurt. They missed out on both the skinned knees and the confidence of having survived yet another brouhaha.
The bruised-but-better-equipped kids went off in one direction in life, and the scaredy cats went off in the other direction. Forever.
In marketing, there are many audiences who fall into one or the other of these two camps…
… and realizing this can make your communication with them massively more effective.
The self-defense market loves paranoia, for example. Golfers who buy lessons are often positive the game hates them and course designers personally created sand traps to gobble up their shots. (Seriously.) And the “find romance” markets are full of folks who, usually out of fear, delayed their entry into the mating game.
Some markets — like guitar lessons — don’t fall into either camp.
Other markets may need a bit of research first to figure out this “first step” in understanding them…
… but knowing where the majority are helps you start your copywriting journey off in the right direction. (Diet markets, for example — most prospects have been burned over and over again by fads and BS, which makes them distrustful. However, workout markets are inherently more positive about change.)
You don’t bully the fearful, and you don’t coddle the fearless, basically. Just this insight alone will help you go deep into closing pitches that work shockingly better, simply because you’re speaking directly to your prospect’s main belief system.
Never assume anything about your market, without researching and garnering enough real info so you would bet your ass on being correct.
Two completely different directions in attitude, communication and influence.
Hope you’re having a great summer…
P.S. Most of my books are filled with insight on how to deal with your fellow humans out there in the gnarly biz world.
“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together” is an excellent place to start. Grab your copy here.
“I’m handy with the love and I’m no fool, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can…” (“Handyman”, Jimmy Jones)
There’s a lesson here somewhere: I use a certain well-known phone company for my Interwebs access, and over the years I’ve learned…
… not to trust them.
Their customer service is all talk and no action. Everything I’ve wanted done has required multiple calls to agents who sound nice, promise immediate action, apologize profusely for past transgressions…
… and who then proceed to fuck up the simplest of transactions.
I gotta believe some of them are doing it for spite, just because they’re bored.
The others are simply incompetent fools.
Anyway, the better customer I prove to be, the worst it gets.
I pay my bills on time, and never bother to try gaming the system. Which means I occasionally get mired into obsolete billing models, where I’m paying more for less.
And when it’s discovered by some agent while she’s trying to un-fuck whatever the most recent mess is, they act like it’s my fault I’ve been ignored and abused.
In their world, any customer who does not obsess over their phone bill, constantly fussing with the options and sucking up the deals, is complicit in any bad deal that develops.
I just want the phones and Web to work.
So, you know, I can do my job, and help civilization progress another iota along the slow crawl to oblivion.
I don’t buy things on sale, because that’s a sucker’s game — I buy what I need, when I need it, and happily pay more for a fair value.
In other words…
… I’m a high-end, diamond-plated, near perfect customer.
Which, in the phone company’s eyes, makes me a chump to be exploited, over and over.
Shame on me, I know.
I toss everything they send me, except the bill. I don’t trust them to do the right thing in any deal they offer, and I will bolt for the first hint of a competitor who has better customer service…
… when and if such a competitor arrives. No luck so far.
I went through this in the 90s with first Gateway computers, and then Dell. I’ve bought a couple dozen computers in my time, and I always get the most hot-rodded model possible. Add on every gewgaw and dangling option they’ve got (and then add some of my own).
But I require good customer service. At first, Gateway rocked. Nurtured me through every new computer buy, and were there for me when the occasional problem rose.
Then they did some finagling with their model, and thought “Hey, why are we paying so much to staff the customer service division? Let’s cut ’em all loose. That’s the FIRST place to save real money.” And they ditched their super-excellent customer service department. Sent it all overseas, where non-English-speaking folks struggled to even answer the damn phone when you called.
After a lengthy battle to get them to fix the shoddy-ass new computer I’d purchased, I was done.
Went over to Dell, their main competitor. And, for a few years, I got great service again.
Then, some shit-for-brains MBA weaseled his way into the hierarchy and gutted their customer service.
Not “cost effective”, you know.
With a monopoly — like the cable company (which I hope is swallowed up by a passing black hole soon) — you can get away with Soviet-style customer service (or lack thereof). At least, until other options appear (like abandoning cable altogether and just finding shows elsewhere online) (or, God forbid, finding something better to do with your limited time on earth, and eschew TV altogether).
Meanwhile, don’t you DARE treat your customers like the Big Dogs do. Entrepreneurs are closer to the action, and should know that finding ways to keep that sliver of a percentage of your best customers happy can bring in a fortune.
Chasing the mobs of looky-lou’s who are dead broke and prefer stealing your content anyway is a fool’s errand (which is all too common in biz today).
Know where your real wealth comes from. Hint: It’s quality, not quantity.
Some of the more successful entrepreneurs I know have the tiniest lists imaginable…
… but those lists are stuffed with the best customers any biz could wish for.
And they trust each other.
They’ve earned it.
Just think about it, as you ignore customer service for another day.
That sudden draft of cold wind is another opportunity leaving your world for better prospects elsewhere…
P.S. For more insight to making customers get all excited about giving you money…
… be sure you’re armed with the right info. Start here…
P.P.S. Yeah, the photo above is me, back at the beginning of my freelance career. First big computer buy. This was in the mid-80s, way before Gateway or Dell’s computer-shipping concept was even viable.
I had this computer put together piece by piece — a bulky monitor (orange dots on a black screen only as the interface), two IBM floppy disc drives stacked (and we’re talking REAL floppy discs, 5-1/4″), and a slooooooow dot matrix printer. I had to load DOS, then load the word processing software (MultiMate, now extinct)…
… and then load up a blank floppy to work on.
It was like being on the flight deck of the starship Enterprise, though. Just amazing technology. The prior day, I’d been writing my ads on an IBM Selectric typewriter. If I wanted copies made, I had to drive to the “copy making place”, usually a small printer. Nobody had Xeroxes in their home office at that time.
You laugh, now — but back then, this was the height of computerized entrepreneurialism.
I’ve been around the block a few times. It’s been a blast, but also very disorienting at times. I mean, my iPhone has more computing power than NASA used for the moon shots in ’69. Stunning…
“I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)
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.
“Momma’s all right, Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird...” (Cheap Trick, Surrender)
I sure hope you were in Cleveland last night, and caught the “Old Dogs Bark” show that Dan Kennedy and I did onstage at his huge event.
If you were… congrats. You witnessed something people should be talking about for years to come.
And if you didn’t…
… well, shame on you for missing it. How often do you think the geezers of the marketing world (the guys with all the best stories, and most reality-based profitable advice) are going to be around to share this stuff?
Time to make the effort to gobble up the great advice and golden stories while we’re here to tell ’em.
This blog is a great place to start, too.
And hey — I’ve got a little gift for everyone.
If you’re new to the this blog, you’re in for a treat. Twelve years of free archives, for your education and enlightenment, are available 24/7. Jump down two posts below, and you’ll find an article entitled “How to give this blog a good ‘test drive’… in just 3 minutes”. Blow through that post, and you’ll be totally hip to everything this blog has to offer.
And even better…
… if you sign up right now, you’ll not only get notices for new posts (and other cool stuff I’ve got going on you should be interested in)…
… but you also get a free gift. A free report called “11 Really Stupid Blunders You’re Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now”.
It’s a brilliant short-course reality check that should help you avoid murdering your future, quickly and efficiently.
All the common mistakes I see entrepreneurs and freelance copywriters make are in there…
… identified, deconstructed, and solved.
Best damn special report I’ve ever written. Killer stuff. All the best angles and solutions I use in my lucrative consulting biz.
… it’s free. Just for signing in.
And if you’re already a sign-in fan of the blog, just sign in again to get that free report. We’ll take care of duplicate sign-ins easily enough. No hassles.
Here’s how to get your free report: Just fill in the box below…
… and you’ll get your free report emailed to you post haste.
Meanwhile, check out everything else here. The posts below are a great intro to what you’ll find in the 12-year-deep archives. And if you don’t have my books, well, get on that right now (in the right hand column). Plus, lots of other goodies.
Have fun. Don’t hurt yourself in the archives — I’ve seen people get obsessed with reading everything all at once, and it can lead to brain-freeze.
Pace your bad self.
I’ll be back here with a fresh post soon…
P.S. We just switched hosting companies, so all the comments here were left in the dust.
Please feel free to comment on any post — I hang out enough to usually answer every one, if you have questions or just want to share something.
We had a great, long run with Host Gator as our blog hosting company, but they’re gone way downhill lately, to a dangerous place where the site was down a lot. So we’ve moved to Liquid Web, which so far is a totally bitchin’ outfit. Very professional, very much on top of making sites like this work smoothly. I’m happy now…