In the episode:
02:05 – A fond look back
04:40 – Why read biographies?
06:55 – Recording for posterity
08:30 – Lessons from elders
10:53 – When you have to text first
11:49 – Where all the bullsh*t subsides
13:24 – The hungry young punk
16:12 – What the old geezers have to offer
19:36 – Where lack of empathy shows
20:32 – John and the receptionist
23:47 – What trauma are they in?
25:16 – Empathy in sales
27:45 – It’s the tough guys…
31:19 – That’s just so wrong
33:49 – Why people fall for stuff
38:00 – Hanging with the old guys
40:09 – The thorn out of the paw
42:55 – What empathy does for marketers
51:49 – A new book in the works
57:33 – Podcasts and cooking
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 651. And we’re going to be talking about empathy today. And gee, I don’t know if I know anyone more empathetic than John Carlton, welcome to the call.
John: Always, always happy to talk to you, Schrak. Just before you hit record, we were reminiscing about how far back we go. And, you know, what an astonishing ride it’s been, and how our careers have kind of mimicked the growth of the web as a marketing vehicle. I’m not sure anybody is taking note, but we are historical figures, you know, still living in the era as it’s changing. I mean, it’s going to continue to evolve. You’re the big prognosticator, you know, you figure out what’s going to happen around the bend, and prepare for it and prepare your clients for it. I kind of just went on the ride, like, Wow, this looks like a good ride. Let’s hop in and see what happens.
And so there’s two different methods of doing it. Both are fun, and it’s just been a wild ride. It’s stunning that you’ve done so many podcasts, and that we’ve just come so far, and done so much. And the thing that us old dogs tend to do is get kind of blase about it and forget about all the stories that we have. But it’s not until I’m sitting in a bar at an event with one of the other old dogs and we start remembering what happened in 2002, 2003, you know, which was just a different world back then. It’s just stunning. So anyway, always, always happy to talk to you. Always, always fun.
A fond look back
James: Well, it’s because you are kind to me in the very first episode that I kept going, you know? If you had broken my nose in June 2009, when we sat down in that hotel room in Melbourne with the dictaphone and I recorded my first podcast episode – Episode Number one, June 2009, with John Carlton, and then…
John: Do you remember that device you used?
James: It was it was this little silver…
John: Square box. Yeah.
James: Yeah, like old school journalist. I spent about five or $600 to buy that device to interview a PPC marketer. I wanted to extract his secrets.
I recall listening to early experts, whether it was Brad Sugars, who was big in Australia, and gosh, there was even Tony Robbins, those sorts of people. I knew they’d sat down with recorders, and that audio was a big component of creating valuable information that had leverage. And I was a bit afraid to do it. I still don’t like the sound of my own voice. However, I knew that was the pathway to unlocking the game when it comes to the online world. I needed to figure out how to capture audio, and I needed to figure out how to put it on my website.
And I spent an ungodly number of hours trying to create players and stream and stuff. And it wasn’t until I started another podcast called Freedom Ocean, that was my first iTunes podcast. And once I figured out how that worked, I went back and retro cast all of the SuperFastBusiness podcasts onto iTunes, which at the time, it was actually called InternetMarketingSpeed. So I’ve had a niche change somewhere along the way. The original episodes were InternetMarketingSpeed, and I’m not sure but I think I had my team redo the intros and outros, but I’d have to go back and listen to the episode to figure out what we did do with that. But as you said, there’s been a few changes along the way.
But I also had you back in Episode Five. So you were my first repeat guest. And then I had you back in 2013, Episode 216 – you were talking about making your own Kindle. And given that was six years ago, I think you were ahead of the curve on that one. You know, Kindle outpaced real books now. I’ve even got my own Kindle out there. So you’re well and truly on a tear. And then, gosh, a year ago, we talked on Episode 566, we had a bit of a rant. Now you and I catch up occasionally, without recording. But the last time we did, we thought it’d be just great to catch up with the recorder. Because you’ve always got these gems, whether it’s being sitting in your driveway listening to a song before you go inside, because you’ve got less testosterone, through to your latest, insightful Facebook rant that’s captivating the Zucker world. You’ve always got something extraordinary. So I love our catch-ups very much.
Why read biographies?
John: Well, thanks. Yeah, one of the things that I urge people to do is read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, because it gives you a glimpse into other people’s lives. So read Churchill’s autobiography, and then read the biography of Churchill, and you got a little context and you can compare it. And, you know, read obscure biographies and autobiographies – Hunter S. Thompson, and anybody you want, it doesn’t much matter. You can almost walk blindly into a bookstore in the library and pull out three biographies or autobiographies and go read them. And it will be fascinating, because it’s how other humans who have done something to earn the right to write an autobiography, because there’s something going on there. It’s very interesting.
And one of the things that when people do biographies is they rely on letters that people wrote. And we don’t write letters anymore – we write emails, we do texts, we do posts that disappear in 30 seconds. And you know, we talk on Skype and stuff. And these are all lost gems. Back in the old days, the advantage of the pre-industrial age was that people wrote long, involved letters. And when you got a letter from someone, it could be 10, 12 pages long. And it was very involved.
And one of the things I did that delighted my father, who was actually somewhat tech savvy, but not a lot, but I used to write him an email every week. We talk on Skype every week; he was just dazzled by the idea of being able to see me, you know, a whole state away. But what he treasured more was the emails that I wrote to him. and I wrote them, they were just stream of consciousness. But he would print them out and read them as if he had just gotten it in the mail, it was like a letter. And he kept them and read them again. It was charming, actually. But I knew he liked it so much, and I did it.
And we have lost that. How much of the brilliance that all the guys we know, and we operate at the top of the world we’re in, and all of the things that we… we never gather our texts and then publish them, we never gather our emails and publish them.
I’m actually busy. My next books will be after I published Volume Two of the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together, which are collections of my newsletter that I had from, what, 2001 to 2010, I think. Anyway, those are collections. I’m also going to publish blog posts, so that you don’t have to go hunting for stuff on my blog posts, and I’m separating them in entrepreneur, copywriting and life in general, things like that.
Recording for posterity
So they just, you know, they’ll be cheap little books, a couple of bucks. But I want to get that out. Because if I pass, if I decide to fly a 737 Jet and it crashes into the ocean, you know, on my way to Hawaii, the blog will go down, it’ll be lost to history. There may be some people that may have captured, you know, there might be some screen captures here and there. But it’ll all vanish. And I don’t think particularly that I am worth having a library or something. But if I take the initiative to do that, then it’s out there, then we don’t lose that stuff.
And I can’t really publish my back and forth in email and text with other people without getting their permission, I wouldn’t do that. But, boy, just think about, if you think about ways in the future, recording or at least capturing some of the back and forth that we do…. That’s what’s so brilliant about podcasts, that you’re doing them so regularly. I had a podcast with Kevin Rogers for a while. But we were very sporadic. We’d do it maybe once a month, and we haven’t done one in a couple of years. What was it? It was Psych Insights for Modern Marketers, that was the name of it. And we’d just go off on topics. It was great. And even though they’re kind of old, they were timeless. They’re several years old right now, and people still go back and listen to them, because A, they’re timeless, and B, it’s fascinating to hear two people shucking and jiving over a common topic, and the back and forth. And that is what we enjoy as just in our regular relationships with the people. So when I call you just to chat, or you know, we hop on Skype just for the heck of it, we’re not recording it, but like you say, it’s always interesting. Because by the grace of God, we happen to be living interesting lives.
Lessons from elders
James: You know, one of the greatest powers I’ve discovered is learning from people who have been a bit seasoned in life. I lived with my grandfather for a while.
“One of the greatest powers is learning from people who have been a bit seasoned in life.”
John: Oh, that ust have been great.
James: Ah, it was unbelievable. I mean, we’d be out in the back garden (he worked from home). I mean, there’s a lot of parallels to my grandparents and my great grandparents to what I do now, but he actually was at timber broker. And he used to earn three percent brokerage by helping builders find timber deals from yards. And what he did, which was really clever, is he installed fax machines into the timber yards so that he could send off quotes. No one had fax machines when he did this. He was an innovator. And he basically had a pipeline, a conduit to be able to contact them. And he used to run a phone room effectively. And he was pretty much blind, like legally blind.
And when I lived with him for a while there, he’d come out and water the garden at like six in the morning. And then he’d spray the window like a shotgun to wake me up. We’d sit out there in the garden, and we’d look up, we’d see the moon and I’d say, “Hey…” (I used to call him Pardy. His name is Jim Edwards.) But I’d say, “Did you ever imagine that humans would actually go up to the moon?” He goes, “Couldn’t imagine it. Couldn’t even come close to thinking about that.” I mean, he was so short that he came down to Sydney when he was like 16, and he stood on top of his suitcase at the desk to get a job in a timber yard.
James: He taught me a lot of what I learned about telephone sales, and especially relating to this topic, empathy on the telephone. Because he couldn’t see so well, he could hear at an extraordinary level. He could hear the person on the phone to such an extent that he knew what they were thinking before they even knew what they were thinking.
John: Tapping their fingers on the desk, their sighs, their breathing…
James: Yeah, he could say, “Ah, is something not right today?” He could tell straight away if someone wasn’t there, or if they were bullshitting him about the price, or if they were pretending they had supply but didn’t. He was so canny. And he would work the phones.
And I took those skills into the next job that I had, which was debt collection, which started out in an office. It was a corporate debt collection firm, and it was phone based. And I had to call people up and ask them for their payments. And I could tell everything about them from just listening to them on the phone. And so when you talk about old school skills, that, you know, remember back when you had to turn the dials on the telephone? You had to hear people, you weren’t looking at them when you were talking to them, which is a relatively new phenomenon.
When you have to text first
And these days, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, you know you have to text people before you call them?
James: And it’s considered kind of rude if you….
John: “Are you around?”
James: Yeah, “Are you free to chat?” And the other thing is, you don’t just pop around to your friend’s house anymore. Like that would be an extraordinary thing to do, is to just turn up unannounced. I mean, that’d be outrageous.
John: Actually, as far as that texting thing goes, You know, I do call people, and of course, my name comes up on their caller ID. So if you enter that realm with a certain number of people who will pick up because they see your name, and they may pick up and say, “Hey, I can’t talk right now, can I call you back?” Or, “Can we talk in an hour or something?” You still, you’ve broken through that thing where they hit the automatic, can’t talk and you know, they’ll just get rid of the call. So there’s those levels.
It used to be, you get to walk past the secretary and go into the office. And that was a huge thing of a certain guy, because the secretary would shoot everyone else, but you got to go in because you had special privileges.
Where all the bullsh*t subsides
And part of the old-school thing where you were doing face-to-face sales or there was a lot of interaction was the advantage of being in what we call the back room. I’m not sure how many back rooms there are, it’s now back channels, I guess. You know, it’s digital. But when you’re in the back room, then all the bullsh*t subsides.
And sometimes when you’re in a back room with a bunch of people – and by back room, I mean, you’re with the movers and shakers, you are let into the inner sanctum, where the real stuff starts to happen, where decisions are made, where things of consequence are talked about. And I learned two lessons from there, two old-school lessons. One was, there was often some guy in there that everybody was waiting to leave, so they could get down and start talking. And this guy usually didn’t know that about himself. He was usually a blowhard, and he usually had very few social skills. He wasn’t very funny, and he was the guy that would be, like, negative. He’d say, we can’t do that, or you know, that will never work. So we’d wait till he’d leave or find an excuse to get him out of the room, like, send him on an errand or something. And once he’s out, then everybody settles down. They start swearing, and telling body jokes and, you know, just start having fun, and still getting the essential stuff done, happy they’re making those consequential decisions, and talking about the important stuff.
And, you know, being able to get in the back, what do you start to realize about people is stunning. It’s like, not categorically, but I’d say most of the rich people I’ve met are really not very bright. And a lot of them include the people who were born on third base and grew up thinking they hit a triple, but also, they aren’t challenged enough.
The hungry young punk
And when I got there, I used to be the hungry young punk at the table. And my job was to stick it to the old folks and make them uncomfortable and bring up the stuff they didn’t want to hear. But it wasn’t to upset them, it was, I spoke truth to power. And that’s something that Gary Halbert liked to do. And when he and I were together, we would go into these backroom meetings and just blow the place apart, you know, just for fun, but we’d always do it. And then we’d come up with the consequential ideas and decisions that would make this stuff work. But we had fun doing it.
And you couldn’t do that with everybody, you had to pick your audiences. And the guys who let us get away with that sh*t are the ones that did the best. They were very, very successful. But we found that a lot of those guys who are running companies and doing stuff, no imagination, no empathy, no sense of the luck that was required to get them there, no sense of really who they are, how they are perceived. And you know, when I would do jobs, I would interview the owner of the company. But that’s my first interview always, and I’d get the company line. But then I wanted to interview the secretary, the feet-on-the-street salesman, the guys who handle customer service and refunds and stuff, and I’d get a totally different story. Because nobody told truth to the guy who owned the company anymore, he’d be so removed – “Oh, people buy our stuff because it’s the best,” and the salesman would say, “No, our stuff’s the cheapest. It actually is a little bit inferior to other stuff.” And you get the real story, and you start hearing about why people refund and what kind of customer service issues come up and stuff like that.
So not to say that the owner is stupid, but they get removed from things. They are living in a, you know, almost like a castle above it all in a lot of ways. And so you know, the hungry young punks like me at the table, I brought street savvy and smarts and I wasn’t about to put up with any nonsense. And what’s funny about that, the punch line to that is that one day, about 10 years ago, I looked at the table I was talking at and I was older than the next oldest guy by 10 years at that point. Immediately, I went from being the young punk of the table to being the old geezer who’d been around the block so many times that I was the guy they were trying to speak truth to power to. So it just happened like that.
James: It does happen quickly. I was that young person. When I had my first kid, I was 24. You’ve met Jack, you put him on a music career. And I was a salesperson, I had to get a sales job to make the money. And I was also pretty much at the top of my sales game within that first year. And it was just sheer and utter panic and shock and awe. I had to go out and make the money, I was working near on seven days a week. And I was the young kid. In fact, I was so young, some customers would say, “You’re too young to be selling BMW.” That was my first job. I got more old man ties and I had glasses for years and sort of looked older.
What the old geezers have to offer
But now where I’m at, at this point, it’s like double that age again, like I’m 48 or near enough to it, somewhere in that region. And I am now a good decade older than most of the young guns that I’m coaching in the market that I’m in, and I bring to them that, you know, the sage old wisdom. And a lot of that has come because I still learn so much from people way further down the line than me. I’m reading my great grandfather’s diaries and journals. He was effectively…
John: Oh, you’re so lucky to have those.
James: Right. Somebody in my family, thankfully, got them all printed and bound into books. And he was more or less a blogger, but old school. Like, he’d go on boats, he’d write down his inventory, he put Japanese proverbs from Japan, he’d go to Russia and buy land and then go to America and sell it. And he had oil, he had also gold and silver mines in different places. So he was basically traveling and documenting and journaling. He discovered coconut water in Africa, all the natives were drinking this stuff that made them feel refreshed. Now you go to a yoga studio and reach into the refrigerator, you’re going to see it. So, like, this guy was a bit of a pioneer. He helped set up the stock exchange, or was a member of the stock exchange in Sydney.
“One of the slowest ways to figure stuff out is first person experience over the long haul.”
He was really quite amazing. But the fact is, by hanging around those people, even though they’re not here, same for all the business experts like Peter Drucker and Eli Goldratt, you can dig into all the stuff they left behind and documented and bring that along. So there’s just so much out there to learn and to gain and to glean if you look for it, rather than have to try and invent it all yourself, which is surely one of the slowest ways to figure stuff out, is first person experience over the long haul.
John: Yeah, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes that young people tend to make is they think old geezers are dumb or don’t get it or aren’t worth talking to because they’re not good at tech, or you know, you laugh at them because they don’t know what Instagram is or what an influencer is. And that’s a huge mistake. Because this stuff is all fluff. If you think that’s the end all of marketing and business, you’re going to look like an idiot in two years when all this stuff has gone by the wayside.
So the old guy, you know, the smartest guy alive right now today, take Bill Gates or Zuckerberg or whoever you want, is not smarter than a lot of random high-end humans you would pluck out in the 17th century. Or even you know, go back a couple of thousand years. Don’t confuse tech skill and knowledge of information with savvy, with intellectual vibrancy. I mean, when you start reading these biographies, these guys that just decided to go explore the South Pole or the North Pole, knowing that, half of us won’t come back, and we may all die in a storm and never reached it, it’s going to be months before we get there, we’re going to spend months there, we’re going to come back missing fingers from frostbite. You know, I don’t see a lot of Instagram influencers willing to lose limbs.
James: No, they’ll be bitching about how their flight got canceled, and they had to wait an extra 35 minutes or something.
John: Which is why the documentary on the Frye festival was just so damned entertaining. It’s all those rich people going in and there’s no festival.
James: Yeah, they got caught out by one of the things that is also the mechanism that get things done which is the deadline. They got caught out because people actually discovered it doesn’t work. Whereas a lot of other schemes and scams, it’s invisible, and it’s hidden and people don’t figure it out.
Where lack of empathy shows
You know, like what doesn’t change regardless of the year? I think where I’m seeing a lack of empathy from business owners is a couple of areas, but the two main areas, certainly lack of empathy for the customer. It’s like they they just call them buying units and they hardcore, just process them.
John: It’s just one step away from calling them suckers, really.
James: Well, in the car industry they do, they call them suckers and marks and heads. That’s a very derogatory way to look at it. Or ups, that’s an American expression. Or ducks on the pond, that’s someone walking on the car lot. That’s a duck on the pond.
The other area is team, the people who work in their business. They’re so disconnected from them. They treat them like cogs. I saw some guy tweeting the other day, you know, “Every week, you get to the meeting and tell your team members where they fall short, and you’ll soon have a high-performance machine.” I’m like, no, soon you’ll have no one working for you, you d*ck. You couldn’t get that more wrong if you tried.
John and the receptionist
John: Just a quick story on that. In one of my first jobs, so I’m 33 years old, and I get fired from yet another job and I just decide, you know what? I’m going to try this freelance copywriting thing. I haven’t written a lot of advertisements, but I’ve been in marketing and been around, so I think I can do this. So I get this job through the Los Angeles Times want ads. And I used to be able to get jobs that say, writer wanted, you know, to write brochures or whatever.
And I found this place, it was nearby in Los Angeles. I drove there and the receptionist is behind a circular desk in the lobby, alone, all day long. But she buzzes you in, she finds out if everybody’s in there and stuff. And I’m there to meet somebody, and I just stopped to chat. Before I even tell her who I’m here for and stuff, I stopped to chat. And I offered her a piece of gum, because I happened to have some gum. I said, “Would you like a piece of gum?” She said, “I’d love a piece of gum, my mouth’s so dry.” “Okay, would you like me to get you a glass of water?” Because she couldn’t leave her desk. She said “No, but thanks so much for the offer.”
And I go back, and every time I’d go back, I’d stop. And I’d say “Hi, Barbara, how’s things?” I got to know her son’s name, I’d ask how Bobby is doing in daycare, and just talk to her. And I didn’t do it really with any kind of idea in mind. It’s just, that was part of my empathy. I’m interested in people. So I was interested in her life out here alone in this big sparkly lobby, you know, with a lot of marble tile and stuff, but it must have been lonely, and I asked her about it. And we’d laugh. And then she would start buzzing me and I’d go “Hey, I’m here to see Bob, the VP of marketing”. You know, I forget the guy’s name. I said, “Is Joe Blow in?” And she’d go, “Just a minute. He’s in a meeting with so and so…” And she’d buzz him, And she’d say, “John Carlton’s here and you have a meeting with him.”
So the guy goes, and in the meeting, he’d sit down and the first thing he says is, “How the heck did you find me in here? And what am I doing sitting here talking to you? I was just talking to the President.” Then the next thing was, I would finish a job and they wanted me to wait 30 days before I get paid, because they wanted to put me on an invoice. And I go to her and I go, “Who writes the checks here? I actually need the cash.” She goes, “That would be Myron.” And she goes, “Let me get Myron.” And Myron came out and and Barbara introduced me to Myron, and Myron said, “I can get you paid right now.” So I would get paid that day that I brought the job in, and then they’d send me the invoice. And they’d go, “Wait a minute, how’d you get paid early?” And these guys had no idea who was doing this.
It was simple. It was the first use of empathy that I had. It was just, I actually cared. But there were actually rewards that came back from this. I got to understand stuff. And of course, when I made that “ding dong”, you know, the revelation came in, wait a minute, what if I apply this to the people we’re after? Because they wanted me to write some really bullsh*t stuff about insurance to this mob of people, they had no idea who they were and what was going on. I started thinking, Well, what state of mind is this guy in? He doesn’t want to read something that just brags about, “Hey, we’re the biggest insurance company in the world, and we got offices in Bangkok and Berlin and New York.” Who cares about any of this stuff?
I started writing stuff, and they resisted what I wrote. But then they ran it anyway, and the client was ecstatic because it actually got results. That’s when I became the guy that they started sneaking in the back door to write the stuff that their own staff writers couldn’t write. It was a simple act of empathy. It was just walking a mile in the other guy’s shoes, and what frame of mind is he in?
What trauma are they in?
And now I talk about the level of trauma that people are in. Most products that we sell, we forget that the person you’re talking to is going to become, first, your perfect prospect, and then a paying customer. Because you know, again, if you go to 100 people, maybe five will buy. A five percent return on a lot of lists is really huge, that’s a home run. What is different about these people is that they’re at some level of trauma. They have something going on that is screwing with their life.
It could be something simple, that you can solve really easily. And then it’s like, okay, you know, it doesn’t keep me up at night, but boy, now we can move along and build the swing set out back for the kids, because I was stuck at this certain thing. Or it may be a health crisis, and that’s a big trauma, and their life is just stuck until they start getting better information, or some alternative ways of, you know, of eating, to be able to start to heal. And in between those two extremes is everyone else. But it’s still trauma, a lot of them are waking up in the middle of the night freaked out about what’s going on. A lot of them, their lives are changing, it’s starting to ruin their marriages. It affects them every minute of every day when they stop and they think, Oh God, I still got that problem to deal with, or these things.
And you come on and you can be the white knight. “You got the problem, I have the solution. Let’s see how to make this thing work.” And then of course, the real salesman stuff comes in when you’re trying to close the deal. It’s really easy to get somebody to say, “Yeah, it’s a pretty good idea. Maybe down the road, I’ll do this,” to saying, “Okay, I want this now. What do I do? Now shut up, just tell me what I need to do now, because I want this really, really bad.” And that’s salesmanship.
Empathy in sales
One of the biggest pieces of empathy that street salesmen are taught is that, when you’ve made the sale, when the guy brings up the checkbook (metaphorically now because nobody writes checks), but when you bring out the checkbook, and he’s got the pen poised over the check to start writing, shut up. That is not the time for you to start bringing up more benefits and stuff, let him write that out and do that. Because he’s in a state, he’s in a froth, you’ve got him at that point. And one of the biggest rookie mistakes is you just keep talking, just keep doing it. Because pretty soon, the pen disappears and the checkbook disappears, and then you’ve lost the sale. That’s understanding where he’s at.
James: A really important thing to do after that point is on the hand over or the delivery of the service, because with the lesson to your sales people, you can detect a significant drop off in motivation and empathy levels. Once that check’s been written, they can be dusted in terms of deliveries, and you know, he’d never hear from them again. I would just ramp it up, I’d turn on the heat, I’d be making sure their delivery went very smoothly, that everything was perfect. To the point where if it was a hot day, I would actually be down in the car park in the basement under cover, getting the air conditioning nice and cool; I would set the radio station to the same station that was in the car that they’d just given me the keys for, that they’re trading in; and I would adjust the seat to the same height and length as what the driver would be, and approximate the mirrors, so that when they sat in, that first experience was absolutely perfect.
“The real money is in the back end, it’s in the referral.”
And I also argued for a budget for every customer, that we could use a little gift allocation, and I would go down and I would buy a gift that was just right for that customer. If they loved ABBA or whatever, I would go and get some CDs of ABBA, if they were a golfer, I’d get them some branded golf balls, so that it was tuned for that customer. And then I’d write a handwritten letter and post it with a stamp, following up. I’d ask them where are they going to take this vehicle on their first outing, who else are they going to show, and I’d get them really excited about them thinking about how they’re going to brag about this brand new car. And then I would follow up one day, one week, one month, and so on and continue that. And the real money, of course, is in the back end, it’s in the referral. It’s your next sale and the next sale. You know, sometimes a week or two later, they’d say, “You know, we’ve been thinking about maybe changing my wife’s car, have you got something in blah blah blah?” Like, you sustain that. I think too many people just drop off at the very first possibility, like as soon as the job’s done, they switch off. That’s the time to turn it up.
It’s the tough guys…
John: You know, empathy, being able to look into their heads and figure out what music they like and start listening to what they’re talking about, is just so massively huge. It can be misused. Gary Halbert and I used to joke about dealing with New Yorkers. New Yorkers are famous for thinking they can’t be bullsh*tted, because they live in a town where everything is in your face and upfront. There’s a lot of pushiness and stuff. And we used to laugh and say they’re the easiest ones to get around, because we just come in the side door. We wouldn’t push at all. We’d be very gentle, we come in and use a lot of takeaways. “Yeah, you’re a savvy New Yorker, you’re a smart guy. No way could you be ever be bullsh*tted. This probably isn’t for you, so I’ll probably be giving it to a guy in New Jersey, who will take it and run…” “Oh, wait, wait a minute. Wait. What is this again?” It’s like, “Well, it’s this thing that makes you really rich and wealthy and healthy, you know, later.” But you’re coming in through a side door. You don’t come in and hit right at them.
And one of the lessons I learned early on about empathy was, it was the toughest guys, not just New Yorkers, but the guys who everybody else said was a d*ck or had trouble working with, they were the easiest to turn around. Because if you would sit and just listen to them for five minutes and let them rant and not say, “Stop, you’re wrong,” or, “Oh, that’s not what I think,” you just stop and you go, “Wow, what an interesting thing. You must have led an interesting life.” “Well, yeah.” They don’t get to talk to anybody. Their wife doesn’t want to hear the stories (their wife left them, in fact) their partner stopped doing this. Nobody listens, nobody. And you’re just listening. You apply a little bit of that Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which used to be called the salesman Bible. That’s all empathy. Not sympathy, it’s empathy. It’s not saying, “Oh, you poor man.” It’s like, “Wow, you know, I understand completely how you feel that way.”
And it was funny, because these guys – it’s almost always guys, by the way – but these guys, the next thing I know… At scene one, I’m dealing with a guy who wants to kick me out of the office and wants to establish alpha position, who’s just being a d*ck. Scene two, we’re like, laughing and joking, and I got the gig, and I’m helping him out. Scene three is he invites me to his daughter’s wedding, or he tries to hook me up with his daughter, and I think, Oh, geez, I went overboard again, you know, I’m not your best friend. This is still a professional relationship we have.
But it was like the complete collapse of all of the defense mechanisms that he had, which were belligerence and that alpha male stuff and all this stuff going on. Once that’s broken down, you realize that underneath every human on the inside there’s a gooey nougat center. It’s almost the opposite. You know? It’s like in salesmanship, you know? If a guy says money’s no problem, then you know that money is damn well a big problem. If he says…
James: “Trust me.”
John: Yeah, yeah, trust, all that stuff. All that is, is protection. It’s like they’re a turtle building up multiple shells around them to try to repel. Door-to-door salesmen knew that the easiest marks on the block were the ones that had No Solicitor signs out there. You know, definitely no salesman, do not knock. They have that up there because they’re an easy flip. They want everything, they’re easy to convince.
Also, wasn’t it true that the two people you wanted to see walk onto a car lot when you were selling cars was a divorced woman, or a man, and another car salesman?
James: Well, I do say sales people are easier to sell to.
John: They get caught up in the enthusiasm. They want to finish your story, and they just get into it. “It’s just you and me. You wouldn’t bullshit me.” “Well, yeah…”
That’s just so wrong
James: I had a very different approach to pretty much everyone else. And it definitely started with the receptionist. You know, I was bringing in chocolates and flowers to that receptionist, because she could send that prospect through to any one of seven or eight sales people. And my phone tended to ring more than the others. Her justification was that she knew that I would look after the customer better than the other people, that she felt that they would get a better experience because I actually cared about the customer, or the others were just there to fleece the customer.
John: And you weren’t a sociopath who used charm and fake empathy to get into people’s good graces, and then, when they left, you turned around, you walk by and you might say right to the receptionist, what a sucker they are. A genuine person doesn’t do that.
James: It disgusted me, the approach they had. In fact, I remember, and I talk about it in my book, they’d sit down there with their spreadsheet. And it was on paper, printed out on paper. And it was the commission schedule, and they’d circle the highest commission. And whoever walked in next, they were going to try and stick them that car because it paid the biggest commission. I’m like, this is wrong on a fundamental human level. This is wrong. It’s like, you don’t care about the customer. I don’t get it.
And, you know, when I came online to the Wild West days you were talking about before, I didn’t get it either – these pushy, pushy, aggressive, red headline, direct response marketers jamming stuff down our throat with no recourse. Try and get them on the phone or any kind of support or response, forget about it, right? This is pre-social media. I didn’t understand why customers put up with that bullsh*t. And I didn’t understand why salespeople would be so appallingly selfish. Even these days. There are people out there trying to educate the market about segmentation and relevance and feigning a good sort of act of empathy. Yet, they send 16 emails a day, as if any human really needs 16 emails a day. It has to be a pure act of selfishness and greed. I don’t know why more people can’t see through it.
And then I came to a theory, this is my theory. If the average person out there is of average intelligence, then just by scientific definition, 50 percent of the population must be dumber than average.
James: And if you hang around smart people a lot, and I tend to, I’m coaching smart people, I’ve got really motivated, committed customers who want to be better off in life, then…
John: Tiny fraction of the population.
Why people fall for stuff
James: Yeah. I’m probably dwelling in the top percentage of the top part of the population and, you know, I have to drill back into my back catalogue of experiences and remember the times when I was repossessing and debt collecting, and I was dealing with the bottom margin of society. These people were taking out car loans, on cars, they couldn’t afford. Like, they would live in a rented place, and like, a tiny little shack, and out the front would be like, a fully kitted-up car that was way beyond their capacity to pay back. And they were doing it on like 27, 28 percent interest. And I’d have to go and collect the car and convince them that it was a good idea to make the payments or to give the car back. And I’d be out in the middle of like, it was pitch black dark, South Western Sydney, it’s a little bit of a lower class sort of area, lots of dodgy types, and it was dangerous. And I was like 22, 23. And I remember those characters. And then I think, okay, now I understand why people fall for this stuff, why they go along with it. Some people just aren’t armed to protect themselves.
John: Well, plus the opposite of empathy starts to touch on the sociopathy of people who have no sense of caring about other people. You are of worth to them only as long as you provide something for them. And as soon as you stop providing something of worth, they will turn on you, dump you, ghost you, whatever. I tell rookie writers, if you’re going to go out there and deal with a lot of different clients, learn to tell the sociopaths from the regular people as soon as possible. Because often the most charming, you think you’re good buddies, all of this stuff, these will be the people that are working you. So you got to find a way around it. You got to either give it some time, drop little tests. And again, that thing about, you know, as they turn around and walk back to their office, does the receptionist see them muttering under their breath or saying something disparaging?
And you know, we as marketers, we talked about the hunger of people, the people who are hungry for a product or solution or something that will help change their lives. The other side of that is the people who are selling stuff, who are hungry for other reasons. They’re emotionally starved, they had bad childhoods, they’re power freaks, they just want to control other people.
And it’s like, you know, I don’t know how it is in Australia, but in America, the average retiree has, I don’t know, 127 bucks in the bank or something. It’s just, they’re desperate because they’ve been kind of dumb. You know, they’ll have 127 bucks in the bank and a jet ski in the driveway, and a second home they’re paying for up in the mountains, and all this stuff. And it’s like, are you not thinking? What goes on there? And a lot of this has to do with that sense of power you get when you get a check for $1,000, and you spend $1,000, you get $1,000 worth of stuff, you’d rather have the thousand dollars’ worth of stuff, and you know, the nice suit and the better car and all of that, rather than the security of having the money.
That’s why the other thing I tell young writers, when they come to me about starting their careers, you know, get FU money. To get money enough to cover six months’ rent, and do whatever you need for six months, all of your expenses. Have that put away. Put it in a coffee can buried out back, you don’t ever touch it, you don’t invest it, it’s cash and it goes into a safety deposit box and you never get to it. And the reason you do that is because psychologically, then, you are now prepared to say the magic word to the sociopath, or whatever you deal with. Magic word, of course is No. “No, I’m not going to do that.” “I’ll fire you.” “Well, you don’t have any power over me because I’ve got six months of backup money behind me, so I am not desperate to have you as a client. I am not desperate to do this, and I won’t do it.” And you start drawing lines in the sand that will not be crossed.
That’s why I stopped doing diets back in the 80s. It was creepy at that time to me that a lot of these bad diets were out there. And I was dealing with clients who had “go to jail” in their business plan. They’d be like, you know, launch this product, buy all this media, go to jail because we don’t fulfill, come back, and you’ll put the money offshore and all… I don’t want to deal with those people. But they are some of the hungriest and savviest marketers out there. So it’s a dangerous world out there, James, the more savvy you get.
Hanging with the old guys
That’s why, getting back to your grandfather, and me hanging out with Halbert, who is what, 13 years older than me, I loved hanging out with these older guys. And I was still young enough to be able to take a lesson. I just took my arrogance, my natural youthful arrogance, and just set it aside. I’d say, not going to tap this. This thing goes away. And you know, I became an open vessel to learn new stuff. Boy, what a ride life becomes when you get over that nonsense that because you’re young and vital, and the guy you’re dealing with is old and a little doddery, that you are somehow superior in some way other than strength and health. It’s just nonsense.
I had an anthropology teacher in college – one last quick story – an anthropology teacher, and she did one of the best things that she ever did. To be able to pass her course (and I had to pass to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War), to do that, you had to go downtown, find old people and interview them. And yeah, I think you had do two or three people. And you could go to a senior center, you could go anywhere you wanted, and you’d talk to them, and you’d ask them for their life story. And you’d report back, like a four-page report. Good God, the stories they tell about what happened in World War Two, the things they experienced that they never talked about, because nobody wanted to hear it.
And they said, “Oh, I haven’t told that story in ages,” You know? “Well, what happened was blah blah blah?” “How did you meet your husband?” “How did you start your business?” And the stories were fascinating, and it really made a connection. You realize, this isn’t just an old person. This was once a young, vibrant, arrogant person on their own doing weird adventures and what were they after, and what did they want to do, and what they wanted to accomplish. And it just opened up the whole world to me, and this forgotten branch of the human race, which is the older people, which I’m getting older now myself. And I know what it’s like to be ignored now, which is kind of interesting, because that’s never happened to me before. “What do you know about it? You’re old.” Oh, you’re absolutely right, you know, and it’s just not true. However, there are, you know, a lot of old people get crotchety and they become d*cks and stuff. But again, if you just open them up, if you listen, if you ask them a good question and listen, it’s an unbelievable cornucopia of interesting and useful stuff will be revealed to you.
The thorn out of the paw
James: Yeah, like, as you said, they’ve got some kind of trauma or pain, if you can take the thorn out of their paw.
James: This customer of mine was, he was sending an email that seemed agitated about something that happened to him out there in business. And I can see also the markets driving some forces that could make his world a bit negative. So I just picked up the phone and I spoke to him, like right then and there I spoke to him and just let him get it all out, and vent it out. And he felt so much better, and we had an action plan. And like, one week later, he’s on fire, like, complete turnaround, because he just needed someone to understand what he’s going through.
And it’s interesting when you find roles where you get to support other people. You need to be strong emotionally to be able to do that. Otherwise, you could easily get filled up with poison and turn toxic, you know? You need to have ways to facilitate it. I think you’ve actually always said it’s good to have other people to talk to. You said, just talk it out. Talking to people is one of the remedies to bottling up pressure. And a lot of people in our world and the entrepreneurial world, they walk around with too much pressure. And I’ll tell you where one pressure comes from. Talking about your retirees with no money, it astounds me how many business owners don’t provide for tax. Like that’s the biggest expense they’re ever going to have.
John: Oh, yeah, in America it’s called payroll tax.
James: They get paid $1,000, and then they go buy the jet ski. Well, the government’s going to want to put their hand out for some of that. And I always see these fire sales. Like, you know, I-forgot-to-pay-my-tax-bill fire sale. What kind of professional are you? Like, that’s the first thing that has to come out, is provide for the tax. And the other thing that really disappoints me, and happens far too often, and I’m aware of this, especially because my wife runs a recruitment business, is how many employers don’t pay their people on time. That’s like cardinal sin number one. If you’re a business and you don’t pay your people, how could you possibly expect them to be excited to perform for you? Like, where’s your empathy? These people have committed their whole existence to serving you, and you don’t even pay them. What?
John: Yeah, people do that. That’s why when I was first talking about being behind the closed doors in the back rooms and talking, and a lot of the revelations I had about these people was a lot of them aren’t very bright, they have no empathy, they’re kind of professional d*cks. And how would they react in adverse situations? What if they lost their money? Would they still be valuable? What if, you know, they lost their health or something happened? And it’s like, okay, some of these guys, they’re using their wealth and their power as weapons. And they’re hurting other people, and they just don’t care. They see other people as tools to be used, and it’s just crazy.
What empathy does for marketers
So, you know, just being an empathetic marketer, and especially a writer, opens up a whole world of persuasion there. Because, you know, first of all, if your product sucks, and it’s kind of a scam, you shouldn’t be involved anyway. But if you have a good product, I’ve actually done this in speaking in front of an audience, I say, “How many people here have a shitty product?” And you know, every once in a while somebody’d raise their hand, and I’d be, “Okay, we’ll talk later, because you need a good reaming out.” But everybody else would be like, “Well, of course, my product’s good.” Well, is it? You know, is it really the best? You’re saying all this stuff about it.
So if you have an ethical good product at a good price, that you can deliver, and back up and have customer support, then shame on you if you don’t do everything in your toolkit to persuade this person to buy it. Because you’re going to change their life. You’re going to take the trauma they’re under, and you’re going to relieve them of a lot of pressure. You’re going to make their lives better.
So that opens up the floodgates, because then you can use every tactic out there, because you’re doing the right thing. You’re helping people make the decision they want to make. Because people don’t want to make those decisions. It’s like, you can tell somebody, “Okay, your life is at this point. If you make no decision here, then what’s happened the last five years is pretty much the way the next five years is going to go. Or five months, or five weeks. Or if you make this decision, you’re going off on an adventure. Now, you may think, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But let’s take a minute and look at what’s going to happen if you make this decision over the next five weeks or five years or whatever. This is going to happen. You can have this…” And that’s called forward pacing. You’re starting to look into the future; you’re painting pretty pictures in the prospect’s mind. And this is where you understand where they’re at, and how you’re helping them have future thinking.
So they can actually say, “Wow, that would be kind of cool. And having my life be the way it’s been not making this choice really sucks. I don’t want to be five years older and still in the position I’m in, even though it’s a little scary to go off on this other tactic.” So it’s like, you become. That’s what a good ad is, is people look back and they say, “My life was this way, until I saw that ad (or I heard it or I got this video). And then my life changed.” And it’s like, you know, up to this point, I was this way. And after this point, when I took action, I was this way. And it’s very clear to me where I want to go and what it’s going to be like, and how good it will be. And you know, pointing out how bad it will be if you don’t make the decision. It sounds complex, and it’s really not. It’s about just sitting down with a human and trying to get them to act in their own best self interest, which most will not do.
James: It’s a transformation story, isn’t it? It’s a transformation. And you have to show them that it will be a good one. I’ve wanted to point this one out. An exercise I did recently was to send out one question to all my current and previous buyers of one product and ask them what’s one thing they would change. And it’s really a technique of empathy to get into their mind and see how they’re viewing my product and what they would change. It’s very instructive for me as to how I can make innovations that will make my product better.
As someone who takes it personally, it’s hard to look into those answers. But I actually went and I copied the answers into a tool called TagCrowd. And it created a big word bubble of what the most common words were. And to my relief, the second biggest word was, “nothing”. I was like, phew! At least the product’s good. And then a couple of the other words were great. There were words like “training”, and some other words that when I dig deeper into the responses – and I got a good enough sample size to make it really worthwhile – I can now tune my product.
But sometimes when you face that, you know, when you tackle it head on, that product development, wanting to connect with the customer and really feel how they’re feeling about your product, it can be tough, that’s a tough exercise. And I think that might be another reason why some people get so disconnected from their customer, because it’s too confronting to actually have to deal with the fact. Like, I know people out there who have double digit refund rates on their products, and they have like, five, six, 10 complaints a day coming through there. Like, that must be a misery and you’d want to disconnect from that. You know, my advice to them, of course, is you need to have world-class product. Like, turn this dribble off. You’re not producing good stuff, you have to change. And they don’t want to hear it sometimes. And sometimes they hear it, but they’re not not able or connected enough to understand, really, what that means.
John: You know, just a quick add-on tale there. In the Simple Writing System is a very expensive buy, and you get involved. And what we invested in was customer service, actually one woman who has tons of empathy, and when people want a refund, we’d say we will absolutely refund your money. However, would you mind talking with so and so first? And they would talk to her, and she would just get in there with, what’s the problem? And often it was they didn’t know how to log in, they got frustrated logging in, or something happened and then it just kind of swelled up and they felt ignored. And suddenly they’re not being ignored. They actually got a human being on the phone, who cares about their thing. And I think the refund rate would have been kind of, let’s say, six or seven percent. It went down to zero, with one woman just hopping on the phone and spending a little time to see what was wrong, what was going on, hand-holding to get them through the first part. Because we had a good product, we knew that the reason they were upset was because something had happened that interfered with their enjoyment of the product, which is an online interactive coaching program.
And it wasn’t like this vast, you know, boiler room full of people with scripts to read. It was one person who understood what it was like to be… She was a single mother, she understood what was like to have a few problems, to be frustrated. She also knew the joy of having this stuff taken care of, when somebody finally hops on who cares about the results of this call and is invested in it. And we actually had one guy who if it got to that, we would actually assign this one guy as a permanent hand-holder throughout the course if they needed it. They usually didn’t need it for a long time. It was like, you know, you call this guy anytime you need help, and he’ll be on the line. He’ll help you with the technical aspects. Because we had some people who had trouble logging in and weren’t, you know, just getting their head around the interactive online part of that. And it was all solved with a couple of human contacts. It’s just stunning. And you know, it’s one bad person in your customer service can do the exact opposite. You know, when they start playing hardball right off the bat. It’s like, nobody wants to hear this.
James: Almost all of my team, I think, maybe all bar one worked in call centers and dealt with customer support, myself included. Like, we’ve all done phone work with customers, and my team are incredibly empathetic. And the number one conversion point for sales in our business is our help desk. That’s where the most sales move from a query to a sale, according to the Wicked Reports that I run. That’s our conversion point. And I think everyone bar me in my team is able to log in and answer support tickets. I don’t know how to log into it. I’d be the angry customer service one, I think.
“You have a duty of care to your client.”
But what I do, my responsibilities, I put, you know, “reply to me personally”. Anyone who unsubscribes or leaves, I’m going to be in touch with them, and I’m going to ask them how I can improve. And it’s hard to ask that question. But I want to know, I want to make my product more useful, and I want to make it easier to use. And to this day, I still send out, I’ve got right here next to me in a desk, a big lumpy envelope that I send out stuff to my clients. When they purchase stuff at a higher level, they’re going to immediately get something personal from me, that lets them know they’ve placed their trust in the right person. And all their anxiety is going to, you know, their cortisol is going to come right down, because they know they’re in good hands and that they’re cared about. That’s like what Jay Abraham talks about, isn’t it? That you have a duty of care to your client. If you actually show it and express it in a way that they can relate to, you’re on track.
John: Yeah. Sale doesn’t end at the exchange of money.
James: No, that’s when it starts, I actually used to say that to the client. I say, “Some people consider this the end of the relationship. I just want to let you know, from my perspective, this is the start, and I want to be…” back then, I said, “I want to be your car guy, I’m going to let you know when I think is a good time to change, when you can maximize the value in the car you’ve got, when the rates are different or the new model comes out. In many cases, you could actually be driving a new car each two or three years and pay less per month. So I’ll just be in touch with you, if that’s okay with you.” And they’d say, “Of course.” Because they’ve never heard from anyone they’d ever dealt with in the past. They’ve never heard from anyone they didn’t buy from, which is something I also used to do. I used to follow up everyone who didn’t buy from me, as well. And they’d never hear from the person they bought from. You know, it was like, handed over to the corporate, annual, golf day or whatever.
John: There’s nothing worse than being handed over, as a buyer.
James: Handed over, handed off, processed. People don’t like to be processed.
A new book in the works
So tell me about this new book that you’ve gotten?
John: Oh, well, actually, this is the first book. This was The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together. This is Volume One. And I just completed Volume Two. It’s a little thicker than this.
James: Wow, that’s pretty thick.
John: It’s a collection of, well, I had years and years and years of newsletters, I had a very exclusive newsletter that I had from the very beginning about 2001, I think I started it. And it was called the Marketing Rebel Rant. And I would just go off on topics. It was an eight-page letter, it went out every month. And for a lot of people, they carried it around with them for years. Guys like Perry Marshall, when they do a long trip overseas, they take those newsletters with them. But it was a very small group of people. These are all the movers and shakers. It was probably one of the few newsletters out there at the time. There’s a mail newsletter, they actually got it in the mail, and they actually opened it up and they were able to read.
And when I stopped it, and again, I’m not sure if it was somewhere between 2008 and 2010, I think I stopped, so there were 90 issues or something. And I put together a compilation for the first Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together. That was the, I think, 16 best newsletters, I thought. But there were so many others, it was impossible to choose the best. So I came up with Volume Two, and I’m just now getting this out, like five years later. And I don’t think there will be a Volume Three.
But Volume Two is about to come out, and it’s The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together Volume Two. It’s got a lot of the most fascinating stuff that I ever wrote to these high paying clients who I was having private conversations with through the newsletter. It was just me and this these few hundred people who paid a lot of money to get my thoughts on stuff. And it was good. It was really good stuff. And I didn’t want it to be lost in the annals of time. So it’s timeless stuff. Should be ready by just a few days, I have to hit the button on Amazon to publish it. So, you know, people will be hearing about it.
James: So the best place to get it, Amazon?
John: Yeah, it’s only on Amazon right now. I actually occasionally have some printed copy sent to me from Amazon, I think, where they charge five bucks a copy, and I’ll haul them around. But people, you know, if you buy one, you see me, I’ll definitely sign it. What I’m most proud of is that my books, when they go out, they don’t wind up on the shelf in people’s offices, they stay on the desk for months, and sometimes years at a time. And they’re dog-eared. And when people come up and want me to sign it, it’s just a big compliment that it’s dog-eared. It’s got markings, it’s got little, you know, sticky notes hanging out and they’ve marked it up, I’ll go through it. And that’s the biggest compliment I think a writer could ever have, is that it’s a useful tool that they’re using. It’s not something that they put up on their bookshelf and never touch again or see it occasionally when they’re cleaning the bookshelf. So when I wrote a book, I mean it to be a tool. I mean it to be something you will use, that it’ll get your mind racing, it’ll give you new ideas, it’ll give you tactics and actual checklists and things to do. So, you know, I think these two volumes are almost right off the bat, anybody getting into business is going to be a better businessman by having this stuff on their side.
James: You know, my Simple Writing System is within arm’s reach of where I’m sitting right now. Of all the resources I’ve got…
John: That’s great.
James: It’s sitting there like it’s the skill you have to have. I wanted to ask you, do you do the audiobook version?
John: What a compliment.
I didn’t do an Audible for the first, and I don’t think I’m going to do an Audible. I did do an Audible version of Kickass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel, which was my first book, in 2002, or 2001.
And I have trouble with my voice. As you can hear, I’m starting to lose my voice. So it’s not a simple thing for me to sit down and go through a 380-page book and read it out. It would be an investment of time. Everybody wants the Audible, and maybe I will.
James: My advice would be, do it. I sat down and recorded my book, and it’s only 139 pages. And it took five or six hours. I was in my Philippines house, I just locked the doors. I had to turn the air conditioner off each time I recorded, and then I’d turn it on again and drink some water, and then I do another. That’s six hours straight of recording. I sat on the couch with my podcasting mic, and sent it off to this guy called Paulie in New York City. And he edited it all up and formatted it…
John: Whipped it into shape?
James: Whipped it into shape and put it up there. I can tell you, it outsells the book like, five to one. Maybe because I have a podcasting audience. Definitely, I get feedback that it’s good to read your own book, but you could actually pay an artist to do it if you still didn’t want to do it.
John: Yeah, I’d do it.
James: It’d be great in your voice. That would be incredible.
John: And you’re absolutely right, I get more requests for the audio version of my stuff than anything else. And I think it’s just because people listen on their phones, they listen in the car.
John: And you know, a lot of people do that. I’m a reader. So talk about empathy. I’m not empathizing with the people who really learn best and get more out of it by having a pair of headphones on, listening.
James: I reckon it’ll be one of the most lucrative things you do. But also, it unlocks it for your customers who don’t read, which is a lot of people, as I’ve discovered. A lot of people, they’re on their bicycle or they’re on the bus or subway or airplane. You can listen to stuff very easily.
John: I listen to podcasts when I’m on the treadmill in the morning.
John: Time just zooms by. It’s great.
Podcasts and cooking
James: I listen to podcasts when I’m cooking, which is right behind where my office is. I just crank it up, and I’m learning while I’m feeding myself.
Thanks so much for hanging out today.
John: Yeah, if we do another call, James, we should probably do one on cooking. I’ve recently taken up cooking myself, and I like to invent stuff. But I’m also finding out that understanding how various ingredients react and work and what you can add and not add to change things is fascinating to me. I love to cook, and you have a result. You know, it takes an hour and a half to cook something, 10 minutes to eat it, but there’s some pride and there’s some sense that I’m feeding the people that I love.
James: It’s creative. It’s art. It’s amazing.
James: I cook probably two or three times a day.
John: It’s meditative. Yeah, it’s very meditative when you’re slicing onions, and you can’t wait to get this stuff in the pan. And it comes from a bunch of disparate ingredients into an actual meal that you can eat that actually tastes good. It’s great.
James: I’d love to talk about it.
John: It’s a metaphor for life.
James: It is, it’s amazing. And, you know, I’ve shocked myself at what I can produce with a little bit of help from good ingredients and some instructions.
John: And some fearless experimenting.
James: I did, a lot. But once I learned the basics, it’s like, well, everything. I’ve followed the instructions, followed the instructions, followed… Now, I’ve become automatic. Now, I can just freewheel. I can grab things at the supermarket and then put together a dish from scratch based on my memory bank of all the little components and how they make different recipes from the same ingredients. Some things are cousins of something else. Like, it’s amazing how a Bolognese pasta can be so different to a chili con carne, but they’re more or less the same bits. Like, 80 percent of the ingredients are the same.
John: That’s right. That’s right.
James: Well, this has been Episode 651. I’m so grateful always to be able to chat to an absolute legend of the field. Some people call you the greatest living copywriter. Other people call you frosty.
John: Yeah, stay frosty. Yeah.
James: So thank you so much, John.
John: Always a pleasure, James. Thanks so much for asking me, and we’ll talk again soon.
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