“Knowledge is Good.” (Farber College, “Animal House”)
As a public service, I like to occasionally collect the best of the insane/brilliant/outrageous/decent advice and observations I spread around Facebook, and post it here for your frenzied and happy consumption.
It’s the least I can do, since a few of you have absolutely refused to join us in Zuck’s digital playground. I don’t blame you — Facebook can suck enormous quantities of time from your life, and take you down dark holes to the fever swamps of the worst of human thinking…
… but then again, some of the crap there is really cool.
So, at any rate, here’s a round up of the last month or so, in no particular order. I promise, no cat videos…
Friday Mentoring Session #33: One of the small advantages I had when I started my career as a freelance copywriter was having my then-soon-to-to-be-ex-girlfriend throw a lamp at me as I ducked out the door for the last time.
She was mad that I was devoting so much time to the gig, and I realized I needed to fly solo for a while if I was gonna successfully navigate the rocky early-career months.
Now, I’ve helped many a married-with-kids rookie get their mojo going in this same career — there’s no requirement to live like a monk (and I didn’t, either).
But any sweetie who wants to come along needs to be VERY clear on the time/energy/focus commitment that IS required. A rookie has an enormous amount of reading, video-watching and audio-listening to do for many months (I took a year to feel I’d “arrived”, but I had zero help and was inventing the entire process as I went)…
… and if you’re also juggling a “real” job, there just ain’t gonna be much time for lovey-dovey and relationship nurturing.
It’s not a permanent status, though… and any couple that has gone through military deployment, for example, will understand that during crunch time, you just gotta buck up.
Becoming an entrepreneur requires an entirely different mindset than “normal” living — and you need to understand this as you commit to deadlines (which you can NEVER miss) while your family/significant-other/new-squeeze needs to have the self-confidence and respect for your career that gives you room to move through the early months.
Cuz you’re gonna be frustrated, you’re gonna fuck up, you’re gonna be obsessed to distraction with problems, and you’re gonna be used and abused by clients.
After a period of self-hazing and chaos, if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the hang of the gig, and your productivity will zoom while time-commitments drop…
… and you can start planning deadlines and time-boxing projects so you again have plenty of time to get busy with your sweetie(s).
Just sayin’ — this isn’t a normal kind of job. Your entire brain chemistry is going to transform and your lifestyle will be obliterated (so you can rebuild it how you choose).
My first breakthrough was making “business before pleasure” my mantra (which completely harshed my former partying/slacker habits).
I’ve since counseled many writers and entrepreneurs through the burn-out and destroyed relationships that occur from miscommunication, selfishness and narrow-minded/short-sighted thinking (which is rampant in our culture, btw).
Fore-warned is fore-armed. For someone with entrepreneur’s blood in their veins and a writer’s soul, there isn’t a better gig in the universe.
But you seldom travel solo. With the right partners, it’s a dream ride. With the wrong ones, it’s like hacking through jungle with a butter knife.
Be sensible. Communicate. Prepare yourself and everyone around you, and enjoy the pleasant exhaustion of moving into the world of success and goal-attainment.
Observations From The Sludge Days Of Summer: My energy levels fluctuate like crazy — mostly, I’m a total sloth, following the great “dog wisdom”: Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never just lie there when you can snooze.
However, when I get moving, I go from Neutral straight into fifth gear, with a natural walking pace somewhere between a meth addict and a New York hedge fund asshole with bidniz to get to.
Yesterday, though, the heat woulda killed me at that pace. So I purposely slid it on back to cruise levels while bopping around on errands. And you know what? There’s something truly luxurious and wonderful about moving slow.
I mean, little old ladies fresh from eye surgery passed me in their Caddy behemoths. A squirrel mocked me by running faster across a lawn than I was driving. I made sure not to hold anyone up, even pulling over when a wild eyed guy in a thrashed Buick tail-gated my ass for four feet. And I walked with a slow-mo pace that felt languorous.
Y’all just get on your way, don’t mind me. I’m cruising today, thanks. Just truckin’ through the ether, moseying on down the line.
It was great. It was really great.
I’m gonna be that guy who pisses off everyone else by taking things slow now, as much as possible.
Happy Fourth, folks.
Remember: Light, then TOSS the firework. Don’t hold on.
Work Hack #47: Did you know that many top writers use sleep as a productivity tool?
You’ll get more done, at a higher quality level, in one hour after a power nap… than you’ll ever drag out of your brain in five hours of exhausted effort.
Plus, you can easily teach your subconscious to write FOR you. Some of my best headlines burbled up after a nap. I just asked my brain to distill all the info and ideas I’d crammed into it while I snoozed, and deliver a good headline when I woke up. Voila!
Cool part: Once you get hip to this hack, naps are technically “work”.
So you can toss the guilt, and legitimately tell folks you’re working while hitting the couch.
I love my job.
Department Of STFU, memo #24: Can you keep a secret?
Can any of your friends, family or colleagues?
Of course YOU can keep a secret. You’re a totally trustworthy dude… except maybe for that one time you let a secret slip. But it was just that one time. And it was SUCH a good secret, you know what I mean?
Okay, maybe a few other times, too… but no more than a dozen. Or so.
Okay, fine. You’re a freaking slack-jawed sieve. A virtual walking tabloid of juicy info.
Relax. You’re not necessarily a “bad person” if you occasionally blurt out shit that should remain buried. Humans are social animals, and keeping good info to ourselves isn’t standard equipment in our emotional makeup.
Still, if you’re gonna be successful, you’ve got to get a handle on this.
One of the vows I made when I started my freelance career was to BE that guy you could trust. It just seemed natural. In the “real” jobs I’ve had, approximately none of the working stiffs around me could be trusted with anything.
Heck, untrue (and hard to believe) rumors spread like wildfire. The true stuff was treated like first draft ideas that required embellishment to meet the fundamental requirements of being whispered about at lunch.
Your secret wasn’t just spread around like cheap mulch. It was was dressed up like a French streetwalker and highlighted with fireworks.
I discovered that actually keeping a secret was kinda empowering. I enjoyed locking away a Big Story. It changed my own opinion of myself.
Plus, when my rep spread, it helped me slip into inner circles and behind closed doors. A trustworthy dude is hard to find.
Still, the urge to share is almost overwhelming.
People tell you things when you’re perceived as someone who can keep a secret. Especially in those inner circles and behind those closed doors.
Folks in powerful positions are eager to talk… but seldom have anyone around they can safely spill to. They’re forever waiting for the blabbers to leave the room, so they can relax their guard. Hopefully with a trusted fellow insider around, who they can dish with in confidence (often like 7th grade girls on the playground).
It’s lonely at the top.
You want to rise in your chosen profession? You crave the excitement of being on the inside? The thrill of moving and shaking with the movers and shakers?
Then learn to shut the fuck up. Love and trust your close friends with all your might…
… but KEEP the secrets entrusted to you.
It’s part of the job description when you start being a responsible, trustworthy dude or dudette.
Yes, I know it’s hard.
If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.
Extra Bonus Lesson: It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one slip-up to destroy it forever. Never forget that.
As Close As I’ll Get To Politics: I have no answers for the current sad state of affairs in the world (and especially here in the States)…
… and you don’t, either.
Nobody does. The ideologues, the idealists, the conspiracy nuts, the whack jobs and the serious elites all have their fave theories (and bones to pick).
But it’s all futile. It’s not comforting to know this isn’t new shit going on, but at least it helps with a bit of perspective.
First, this current upheaval doesn’t even begin to match the turbulence of the sixties. Just in ’68 alone, we had the police riot at the Chi-town Dem convention (and no one was ever held accountable)… the assignations of Kennedy and King, within months of each other… the Tet offensive in Viet Nam (which signaled the end of illusion about “winning” the war, and the start of the 7-year grind to get the hell out)…
… and an encyclopedia’s worth of other gruesome shit that just went on and on and on.
Cities burned — Watts, near LA. ‘Lanta. Detroit. NYC was becoming a wasteland. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered, always. Jim Crow wasn’t letting go without a lethal fight.
We could be entering another period of chaos like that. Or not. It’s a brave new world, with one superpower and a whole new kind of battlefield (virtual, digital, grid-wide). No one knows what’s gonna happen.
That floating anxiety you feel? Get used to it. Knock it down by tending to your own garden, affecting the things you have some control over. For the Big Picture stuff, you’ve just got to breathe deep and hope our luck holds out.
Second: There are no special factors creating the messes we’re now seeing daily. A lot of it is biology — we’re still essentially shaved apes, fresh from the primordial jungle, inventing wonders with our advanced cerebral cortexes and mis-using them with our lizard brains.
Eat, fuck, defend territory, fear change and The Other. That’s the subliminal message sent through your system, undetected unless you work hard to raise your self-awareness.
Sure, you look nice in your new duds, drinking expensive wine and all caught up on the latest gossip. But beneath the groomed, clean, perfumed surface lurks a survival-minded eco-system of biological imperatives that care not a whit about civility or fairness.
We aren’t doomed to succumb. The history that brought Americans to this high stage of civilization is a gore-strewn mess, and we may never be done with the bloodshed. Cuz that’s our nature — to fight when oppressed, to protect what’s “ours” against all threats, to huddle up in tribes that require real power to thrive.
It’s really kind of stunning we’ve lasted this long, especially with the nukes, chemical weapons, and grid-destroying computer viruses now available. And the way sociopaths tend to rise to leadership positions in all political systems.
No answers. But lots of hope.
We’ve worked our way through similar shit before. We may pull it off again. Beneath the nihilism, there remains the strong urge to survive, to make better choices that help rather than destroy.
I’m betting on good beating evil right now. I’ve been through this crap before, and seen how time can heal and rancid politics can swing back to rational governance.
Meanwhile, choose your battles carefully. There are a lot of us on the planet right now, and you may be in a minority more than you think. We’re not living “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet.
Reality can suck, big time. But calmly being proactive can work at solving horrendous problems. You gotta give it time, though. There’s no magic. You keep your head down, choose your goals wisely, and do the right thing.
Above all, do not give in to panic, or that withering fear the assholes like to exploit for drastic moves that are not conducive to a good solution.
Never let the bastards win. But never expect them to stop trying, either.
Good night, and good luck.
(Side note: Don’t post anything overtly political here. I don’t agree with your cultural spin, don’t wanna hear your fever-swamp conspiracy theories, and will delete all trolls. This is NOT the time to thrash togetherness.)
Nice little “how did I get here?” exercise: Quick now, recall your ten favorite summer memories.
Good stuff, I’ll bet.
Now, chart where most of them came from. Certain time frame, certain group of people, particular place frequently visited, particular recurring state of mind, perhaps.
Whatever you discover… whether it was youthful indiscretions on vacation, mid-life crises gone well, a period of discovery, whatever…
… it is a clue to who you are today, and how you got here. Your bad memories also count, but this is more fun.
Most people never question who they are. Top creative minds are forever consumed with it. If you crave maximum wealth with happiness (not just one or the other), such critical thinking about your past is essential.
I’ve never agreed with folks who insist on no regrets and no nostalgia. Screw that. A life well lived is a long-form tale worth sharing, and those stories take shape through the retellings.
Embrace moments of recalling good times. You’ll still have plenty of time left each day to get your shit done…
Wait — how did you not know we’ve put up a brand new Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast?
You fools! It’s being shoved into Insiders’ ear-holes at this very moment all over the globe… causing all kinds of awesome havoc amongst entrepreneurs who thought they were doomed to be uninteresting people for the rest of their days.
Not so, it turns out. We actually deliver a FORMULA for murdering your boring tendencies…
… which opens huge opportunities to up your game (and results) with more interesting copy, hooks, stories and offers.
Plus, you’ll be sought after at parties, instead of avoided.
I’m telling you, this is life altering stuff.
Go listen now at www.pi4mm.com. And accept the burdens of being an awesome storyteller…
Lifestylin’ Question #14: What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent living out of a backpack?
I lived out of my car for several months while homeless… hitchhiked with just a canvas pack for over a week at a time for a few years (after reading “On The Road” at 19)… logged a fortnight in Boy Scouts out in the hinderlands… and spent a good part of my career living out of suitcases in hotels (which doesn’t count).
Absolutely loved it all. Though occasionally scary, often a bit desperate, and always unpredictable, low-rent travel really does shave off the idealistic crap in your brain.
Seeking out adventure as a young, broke, and enthusiastic hormone-drenched young person used to be a requirement for growing up. Live by your wits, see some of the world from street level, meet whacky characters and have no clue where you’ll be tomorrow…
… there’s something to be said for that kind of dramatic journey.
I’m hearing, though, that it’s becoming rare with the new crop of kids. I hope it’s just another bullshit meme by the snarky press…
… cuz, if true, it would be a damn shame.
What’s your story?
Get Your Shit Together Memo #15: Did you know we completely revamped the Simple Writing System “at home” course? Reshot it in HD, updated every detail, made it just more awesome than it already was all the way around.
And this SWS 2.0 version has just been released… in a very limited amount, while we make triple-sure all the glitches are ironed out in the delivery system. (You get to watch the videos online, on any device, at your convenience… plus you get some serious time in the Marketing Rebel membership site, where I have a permanent virtual office.)
I’m a bit older in the videos (yes, I’m personally delivering every lesson), but wiser. As good as the SWS was (and we’ve put thousands of entrepreneurs, writers and biz owners through it), each of the simple steps is now even more powerful…
… because we’ve learned a few things in the 8 years since first launching it (including all the feedback from students and celebrity teachers — like David Garfinkel, Harlan Kilstein, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, David L. Deutsch and so many others).
Plus: Bonuses up the yin-yang.
Anyway, if (like every breathing marketer on the planet) you need to up your game with the written parts of your biz… including email, ads, VSLs, social media, speeches, and everything else… then here’s your first stop.
It’s a permanent resource, once you get it. A freakin’ bargain, too, considering the way these simple skills can immediately change your life (as they have so many others).
Just check it out: www.simplewritingsystem.com.
Dept. Of Political Standoffs, Memo #17: What’s the matter, Bunky? All this political discord infesting the media got you down?
One of the best things to ever happen to me in college was taking a debate class. I thought “Oh, boy, I’m gonna demolish my opponents with totally bitchin’ arguments that cannot be refuted!”
But the teacher had other plans.
The entire semester, she forced me to present the opposite side of any issue we debated. Total WTF moments for me. To prep, I had to get into the head of people I despised, disagreed with, and never wanted to hang with.
But I also wanted to win the debate. So I bucked up and crawled into the mindset of the opposite side.
Result: An awesome jolt of empathy powers. Equal to the mind-expanding acid trip I’d taken earlier that month. (Relax, it was the seventies.) Completely opened up my mind.
And I totally destroyed my opponents with bitchin’ arguments that could not be refuted.
Did it change my politics? Nope.
But I saw the other side with stunning clarity… including the humanity and sincerity of their positions.
My sense of a black-and-white world of easy decisions, obliterated. My compassion for people who thought differently, massively expanded.
And my ability to persuade… multiplied by a factor of a gazillion.
Shouting at each other accomplishes nothing. Refusing to entertain the thought you may be wrong and (shudder) the other guy is right is a habit of dunces. (See: Dunning-Kruger effect.)
The world is full of subtlety and nuance, whether you recognize it or not.
Being open minded ain’t a handicap, Bunky. It’s the only way for thinking folks to live well.
Okay, now back to the blood-sport shouting on the tube…
Jeez, almost forgot it’s “Piss Somebody Off” Monday!
Here’s my contribution: Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies. And one of my fave quotes from it:
“Jim, you’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
Now, I grew up in both the West and the South — the tiny town of Cucamonga in southern California — and my extended family and neighborhood was rife with Oakies, hillbillies, Texans and some of the most aggressively-naive blowhards you’ve ever met.
But they were, at heart, good people, most of them. Casual bigots, sure. And suspicious of anyone who got “too big for their britches” or acted snooty (whatever that was).
Now, I’m no genius, but I’m damn proud of every neuron I’ve managed to squeeze some IQ units out of, and I’ve worked hard to get myself all educated and shit.
And I’ll tell you that it’s awful lonely out there in the real world sometimes… cuz if you value intelligence and critical thinking at all, you’ll be in the minority in most groups outside of your silo.
And it pays to remember that, often. Blazing Saddles was offensive, outrageous, puerile and gut-wrenchingly funny. It was also stuffed with observational truisms about life in these United States that you don’t get from Reader’s Digest.
If you can at all handle it, try not to be a total maroon. More than ever, we need to stop disrespecting intelligence and thoughtfulness. I know it’s hard, folks, but “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”… (guess that quote, and you can sit at the bar with us next time we’re at the same seminar)…
Busy day. I just trashed the dry cleaner who ruined some of my new shirts, on Yelp.
Lakeridge cleaners, here in Reno, if you want to see how a pro writer eviscerates someone.
I used them for years. They told me go screw myself after they botched a job badly. Good call — lose a great customer, be a total jerk was about it, and irritate a writer who knows how Yelp works.
My main job in life is to help good entrepreneurs and biz owners. Part of that includes helping to rid the joint of bad businesses. Like Batman, if he understood marketing.
Though, from the other reviews, I see they’re doing pretty good at committing biz suicide all by their lonesomes…
Uncomfortable Discussion #8: 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, 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. 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’s 94 and still kickin’). 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 I’m gonna do a Skype video call with him later this afternoon. On his PC. He’s impressed with his new HD teevee (you can see the blades of grass in the outfield!), still reads the entire newspaper every day (but fact-checks 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’d be the guy you’d want in your tribe (cuz he knows how make stuff and fix machines).
Mostly, though, I 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 tries to keep up, separating his recyclables and watering on odd days). He’s not bitter, and reveals 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, 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.
It doesn’t. 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 your weekend. Go tell someone who deserves it you love them, will ya?
I’m seeing a lot of fear in the news lately — some of it real, lots of it imagined, most of it overplayed. The battle for eyeballs and clicks has turned the entire media circus into a rabid dog fight.
Couple of rules for staying sane:
Remember that the news story you’re reading has been written by a single person (or, at most, two people). Maybe an editor did some fact checking (increasingly not, though, as staffs get trimmed to bare bones everywhere).
God did not write the article. Neither did Satan. Nor was it penned by a genius, or even a particularly bright individual in many cases. It’s a regular dude or dudette with biases, neuroses and an overwhelming fear of being disliked, fired or (worse, for a writer) ignored.
So take it all with a grain of salt. If the topic interests you, go find several other takes on it by other writers in other venues. (Yes, even the dreaded “other side” of the political spectrum.)
(This all goes double for TV talking heads, by the way.)
The idea of “aggregate” info gathering has real merit in today’s confusing environment of instant news and sensationalism-posing-as-journalism. With opinion polls, for example, it’s best to never take a single poll as meaningful — get the aggregate of multiple polls (like Nate Silver and several other sources do), which will present a more nuanced view of what “the truth of the matter” is.
The same idea goes for understanding statistics that get thrown around to bolster or shoot down arguments. Any savvy disruptor can cherry-pick stats to fit his narrative. Much better to see what the context is, and learn how stats about “real life” work.
Just remember that the talking heads on TV, and the bloviators on the radio, and the writers for online and tree-killing news sources are TRYING to punch your buttons. Dog fight.
Best tip: Figure out what is beyond your control, and what is within your control. No, your vote, nor your angry letter to the editor, nor your heated argument with the guy on the barstool next to you will change anything about world events.
Unless you’re a player on the world stage.
However, you can be a player in LOCAL events quite easily. If you truly believe you have answers and solutions, then the school board, the city council, and even the neighborhood watch program needs you.
Reality has a way of weeding out the big talkers, cuz when it’s time for action they tend to wander off, bored.
Movement solves problems that sitting around being scared creates.
Literally, you can walk off a lot of stress. Put on your sneakers, get out and chug up some hills. Have those internal conversations while you’re burning up calories.
You’ll feel better later, I promise.
Paranoia is like a leach on your mojo. Once it gets its claws into you, it won’t easily let go. You’ll need to spend twice the time murdering it, than you spent acquiring it.
But that’s the game. You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sitting around wishing you had a better one is useless. Learning how to maneuver with what you have available in resources, skill and savvy is the ONLY way to win consistently.
Stop whining. We’re all in this together. However it goes (and I admit, the news looks pretty anxiety-provoking… as it has since I was a kid), we’ll either muddle through or die trying.
Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards win.
Shh. Big Brother is listening: Back in the old days (before the turn of the century), the standard advice was never to write anything in a letter you didn’t want to see in a headline in the next day’s newspaper.
Then those new-fangled voice message machines appeared, and you had to add that to the list: Don’t leave a voice trail, either.
Also good advice.
Then we added email. Common sense, right? Then, with the NSA gaining muscle in the Grid, we added phone calls.
Now, with video cameras covering most of the public (and much of the private) spaces in the modern world, you should probably be careful about your actions, too. Don’t write, say, or do anything you wouldn’t want blasted across the Web tomorrow. Or in an hour from now.
All good advice.
Which leaves me with one question: Are we already in a world where you cannot exchange ideas with someone else… without the risk of that conversation becoming public? And not through hearsay, but through paper, voice, digital and video trails?
Are we really there already?
Disturbing Reality Check #4: For the most part…
… baring true interventions of nature (such as trees falling on you or zombies assaulting you unawares)…
… you are exactly where you’ve designed your life to be at this point. That may be hard to swallow, if where you’re at sucks right now.
Still, when you stop fighting the reality of how you got here, and accept that you’re responsible for much (or all) of the damage currently roiling in your life…
… you can finally stop blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and get busy fixing what’s broken.
To really get in a primo Zen groove, you should also get busy cleaning up whatever messes you’ve made, while filling in the gaps (in knowledge and skills) that will eventually round you out as a Dude (or Dudette) To Be Reckoned With.
The first rule of Reality Checks is: Reality checks suck. They bitch-slap your ego, demolish the excuses that have been propping you up, and rub your nose in the stark fact that your choices are now “change or rot in place” if you truly lust for a better life.
But the pain of exiting your former deluded self is brief… and the rewards so outweigh the inconveniences… that once you get in the habit, you’ll continue to morph and become a better and better person for the rest of your days.
One ticket. That’s all we get, folks. No do-overs, no replay buttons, no time machines. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve got decades left ahead of you, or only a few seasons… if YOU don’t seize the day and gobble up the opportunities around you, nobody else is gonna do it for you.
Heads Up Alert #13: Your world is crammed with fools, tools, and drooling Neanderthals who, at best, are merely amusing characters in your life’s movie…
… but who can also be, at worst, the agents of your destruction.
Not everyone likes you, remember. You have close friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues secretly rooting for you to fail. (Sometimes not-so-secretly.) There are folks out there who can muster alarming rage and target it directly (and very personally) at you… for crimes they’ve only imagined you’ve committed.
And, there are charming bastards out to harsh your mellow because that’s the game they need to play in life.
Humans are constantly conflicted over the existence of others in their world. Heck, a good percentage of folks are in constant conflict with themselves — they don’t even need someone to play with. (My favorites, though, remain people who get mad at things like machines and objects. Like, that toaster is in league with his pitching wedge and the starter in his car, out to get him. So, destroy them!)
When you poke your head above the general fray — by becoming an entrepreneur, volunteering to help the PTA, run for office, whatever — your first lesson about surviving as a more public person will be to thicken your skin. Cuz you’re gonna be attacked, no matter how sweet and lovable you are.
Your motives will be questioned, your history will be combed through for gossip-ammo, your looks will be mocked… and it can escalate fast if you engage. Cuz that’s what the worst of the haters need to do — find a wall to bounce their rage off of. When you respond, or even pay polite attention to the trolls who will come after you (and they will come in droves, relentlessly)…
… you are playing a game where you are guaranteed to lose. Cuz there are no rules for the troll, and no “winning” the argument or setting the facts straight — they just want to jumpstart drama and destruction, and the more casualties the better.
Here are 3 very simple rules to help you out:
Pay as little attention to critics and haters as possible. In biz, hand off complaints to your customer support person or team, and have specific tactics for handling all situations. Often, the best response will be to simply apologize, refund and blacklist the troublemakers. Yes, even if they’re wrong.
Key: YOU should get away from dealing with trolls early in your career. All legit complaints should have an easy path to get past your assistant, because you need to know how good people are being affected by your stuff. But the trolls should be caught and released back into the wild without the chance to inflame your sense of decency and optimism.
Learn to quickly reframe incoming assaults on your integrity and worth, so you halt any adrenaline dumps before they knock you off your game. Consider the source, remember who you are, remind yourself that the brave new digital world is wired to give trolls cover while they sow grief. (Comments, reviews, Yelp, etc.)
And know that legitimate complaints can help you become better… and any initial burst of anger or aggression can easily be turned around with some good old listening and calm response. (Some of my most rabidly-loyal customers started out hating my guts over something we easily clarified. Seriously. It’s like 3rd graders getting in a fistfight, only to become best friends for life afterwards.) (Okay, maybe that’s a male thing…)
Remember: You’re writing the script of your movie, as much as the universe will allow. And you really do have near-total control over your emotions, your fight-or-flight responses, your decisions to hate, love or just see what happens later.
Good reframing is just editing your script, so instead of losing control, you re-shoot the scene in your head so you’re the understanding, water-off-a-duck’s-back Adult In The Room who can remain in a state of Zen calm even while everyone else is freaking out.
Lastly… whenever I’m tempted to engage with trolls and critics (how DARE anyone give me a bad review on Amazon!), I just remember my favorite quote: “Never wrestle with a pig in shit. You both get filthy, but the pig likes it.”
Give the trolls in your life enough rope to hang themselves. When you’re living a good life, doing the right thing as often as possible, don’t get all hung up on what the critics and nay-sayers are demanding. Your fans, happy customers and reputation will balance things out.
Sorry for the long post. It’s hard to explain some of this crap without needing extra paper…
Stress-busting tip: Life got you down? Sales tanking, creditors swarming, job going south, angst bubbling up in your gut?
Worse, is your brain locked in a hellish loop, obsessing and freaking out?
Time to intervene. Write yourself a letter, outlining all your troubles & all your immediate plans. Be specific, just get it all out of your head (where it’s causing trouble) & onto the written page (where you know it can found, so you can forget about it).
Then take a break. Hide the letter for 24 hrs. Let your unconscious work on solutions. When the loop starts, remind yourself that it’s all safely written down, so you don’t need to memorize details.
Your unconscious has a remarkable talent at organizing things and getting perspective on what’s important and what’s fluff. But you gotta give it elbow room to maneuver.
So back off for a day. Or even a few hours, if deadlines are approaching.
You’ll be stunned at how sensible and efficient your brain can be, when you stop fussing and awfullizing everything.
Hey, did you know I’ve got a book on Amazon?
Yeah, you can order it and read it and use it as a doorstop or throw it at the mice in your closet. Or use it as kindling for the fireplace (what with winter only 5 months away and all).
I mention this only because, if you do NOT own this book, your life will be one long miserable slide into horror and boredom. And I don’t wanna be responsible for something like that.
Anyway, after more than a year on the charts, it’s still bubbling up in the best-seller lists (for starting a biz, entrepreneurs, etc). This makes me happy. And a happy John is a productive John.
Go here to get it.
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. They’re 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: I could write the biography of MANY friends…
… because I’ve practiced the simple tactics from “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 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.
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 back. 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…
Psych Insight #439: The one consistently shocking piece of advice I give rookie freelancers is… if a prospective client says “money is no problem”, then you can be sure it very much IS a problem. Larger lesson: We are creatures of denial & masks. Deconstructing “who” a man is reveals what he fears and desires most. Heavy, but essential to great salesmanship.
Really Petty (But Important) Pet Peeve: People who have no sense of time when they say “just one second”, or “give me two minutes”, or a dozen other random time periods…
… who then get mad when called on it in one second, or two minutes, or whatever.
I know they’re just really saying “I need an indeterminate amount of time here before I can deal with you”…
… but what they’re actually doing is making their lack of awareness MY problem. Cuz now I gotta cool my heels for some multiple of the time period they want — it’s never a second or two minutes — and that’s fucking irritating. Especially when it gets into half-hour territory.
Top pro’s respect other people’s time. Even back before cell phones, Gary Halbert and I would pull over and call a client from a pay phone if we were gonna be ten minutes late from traffic…
… a significant hassle that could add five minutes. But it stemmed from the knowledge that being late was one thing, but eating up someone else’s time by keeping them waiting in the dark was quite another.
Being purposely late is a power game tactic, a whole different lesson. It’s a move you better be prepared to handle the consequences of. (It can ruin a reputation fast when misused.)
Even if you’re always the first person to arrive by being on-time, DO it if you want to be considered a pro. And learn to judge time, for crying out loud. Don’t say “just a sec” when it will actually be ten minutes. You’re just setting up resentment and arguments, and you gain NOTHING.
Grow up. Learn how time works.
And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope you enjoyed the short articles, pieces of advice, and other crap collected here. I’ll be back in a few months with another round up. Meanwhile, you can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/john.carlton.