PI4MM25: Why Talented People Suck At Selling Themselves

In this episode…

02:11 – Why people who boast and display extreme confidence are often the same people who screw things up beyond repair…

08:25 – The bizarre reason why many of the world’s greatest performers are painfully shy and fall to pieces in social situations.

12:10 – John’s “Hierarchy of Confidence” and the one category that truly pisses him off…

17:33 – Why entrepreneurs are practically guaranteed to screw up their second business venture…

21:33 – How to adopt a “growth mindset” that puts you on the path to a happier life…

24:00 – How copy legend Gary Bencivenga pioneered success as a process, not an event. And the reason most big mailers are too stubborn to follow his lead…

28:00 – Confidence is the result of a healthy “self-worth”, and how a good shrink exposes your invisible feelings of unworthiness (so you can release them for good)…

33:30 – How to get used to saying bigger numbers when asked for your price…

46:00 – Why hand-copying classic ads for 10,000 hours won’t make you a great copywriter, and what you should be doing instead…

50:16 – The greatest secret to confidence, and the “magic shield” tactic the pick-up artist community cashes in on…

Bullets written by: Karl Henkell

PI4MM25 Show Resources:

Dunning-Kruger Effect:

Mindset by Carol Dweck:

John’s Hierarchy of Confidence:

  1. Confidence without chops.
  2. Confidence with chops.
  3. With chops and experience.
  4. With chops, experience and chutzpah.
  5. With chops, experience, chutzpah and self-knowledge.

Every self-respecting Psych Insights listener should also…

Read deeply at John’s blog, “The Rant”.

Visit Kevin’s bustling new Community of Copywriters at CopyChief.com

Get signed up for news from show producer Brian McLeod’s ProductSpeed.com

17 thoughts on “PI4MM25: Why Talented People Suck At Selling Themselves

  1. Henry Bingaman

    I think the the self-awareness and confidence combination is really key. If you’re not aware of your weaknesses and shortcomings, you’re walking into a minefield of reality wearing a blindfold. But if you lack the confidence to bet on your strengths, you’ll spend so much time trying to fix your weaknesses that you’ll never start anything worth doing.

    Great episode guys.

  2. Joel Gali

    This was another good one one thing i like the most is how you go in depth on a psychological level in each pod cast I know it’s a bit early but happy early birthday can’t tell you how much marketing rebel changed my life

  3. Percy

    Hi John,

    Enjoyed the last ten minutes of that podcast (that’s as long as my work breaks are I’m afraid). Skipped to 46:00 because I’m writing out the sales letter by hand at the moment.

    John, you’d know better than anyone, is there anything you’d change about Gary’s hands on experience task? Also what does he mean by getting a sales letter ‘typed and comped up’?

    Gonna be saving up for your SWS next year, I think what i need is immersion more than anything. Until I get a paycheck from a project I’ve done all this isn’t going to be ‘real’ to me if you know what I mean.

    Ever read ‘The Art of Learning’ by Josh Waitzkin? Considering your interest in teaching I thought it might be worth a read. I suppose referring it is my way of trying to give you some value in exchange for all the free stuff.

    Thanks John,

    Percy MacDonald.

    1. John Carlton

      Thanks. Haven’t read that book. In truth, I’m so stuffed with info and learned lessons, I haven’t found a book in years that actually taught me anything new. Not because I’m anything special, but because I spend 4 decades cramming stuff into my head. This podcast is kind of “download” project for me, just to get some of the lesser-discussed material into the mix.

      Re: Gary’s handwriting tactic. It’s not something he made up — this tactic has been around for a long time. But most people ignore it — Gary insisted students do it, and that was a breakthrough. “Typed and comped” is old school language — he would write his copy by hand, and have his assistant Teri type it up. “Comping” is typesetter language for getting copy arranged into an actual camera-ready ad so it can be inserted into a newspaper or magazine (or mailed). “Camera-ready” just means pasting up the various parts of an ad so it can photographically transferred to a printable page.

      Lots to know about the ways print and mail ads are created. All irrelevant if you only work online.

  4. Ioan

    Hey John,

    I am reading your book “Simple Success Secrets No One Told You”.

    When I read it I heard so many very delicate and fine distinctions. I said to myself, this guy got a lot of therapy.

    When I heard your podcast I just confirmed myself.

    Therapy helped me grow my confidence.
    And it helps me “hear” my internal dialogue, my inspiration…

    Sometimes I just put the conversation in my head on paper…

    But still am reserved with regards of my results.

    Confidence is a lifetime work to me.

    What makes you confident?

    1. John Carlton

      My entire output as a guru has been about revealing my process of learning (by making mistakes first, then figuring out how to fix it) and succeeding (never giving up). I got a BA in psych from the University of California almost by accident, but it fired up my life-long study of human behavior. I was convinced, as a kid, that everyone else knew shit they were hiding from me (like how to be an effective, competent human being)… and one day it just dawned on me that they weren’t hiding anything. They were actually ineffective and incompetent, but never admitting it.

      That alone jacked my confidence through the roof. I realized that — while I didn’t have a perfect life, and was riddled with flaws — I was actually pretty happy with who I was… and, even more important, that I wouldn’t want to spend a minute inside the skin of the people around me who seemed to have more than I did of anything. Studying humans allows to see the flaws in everyone, the secrets they think they’re hiding, the dank self-loathing so many alpha types have, the angry shallowness of the beautiful and privileged.

      It’s all very Zen, and can take a while to figure out for yourself, but totally worth it. You only get one ticket in life, and all the worrying and wishing that things were different won’t change a thing about the hand you were dealt. Just do the best you can with what you have, and never let anyone else tell you “no, you can’t” — they’re operating from a bad space, and while you need to understand the evil that men do, you do not need to do evil yourself.

      Know thyself. That changes everything. Self confidence waxes and wanes for the thoughtful, critical-thinking person… as it should. Only sociopaths never question themselves.

      Being human is a gas. We’re living in strange times, and there are no guarantees about anything. So live well. Prosper if you want, but not at the expense of your soul. Find that sweet spot where you are fulfilled, doing something useful, and not being an ass.

      That, for most of the guys I’ve worked with, brings out the confidence.

  5. Judy Priddy

    I think I am of the growth mindset, improvement is always welcomed. I am 69 and have succeeded at many things, failed at few. I always suffered the Imposter Syndrome, waiting for someone to come along, tap me on the shoulder and reveal that I am a fraud. I have taken many courses and attended seminars for many issues but have never seen a psychologist. I think I would enjoy it, just can’t afford it. I am launching my third big career in my life (Copywriting) and working at rebuilding my confidence. Thank you for all of this information. I read your blog often and really enjoy it. I didn’t know you did podcasts. What a find!

    Thank you

  6. Henry

    In my opinion, I think it’s important (ultimately) to focus on what we want to achieve, to focus on the end goal – and from there, to decide what are the most important skills to master in order for us to achieve those most desired goals (and not to worry about whether they are currently our weaknesses or not).

    For example, if the biggest weakness of yours is the ability to outsource tasks to other people, to apply the minds of other people to make something happen, if that’s your biggest weakness, perhaps it might be well to eliminate that weakness.

    Similarly, if the biggest weakness is to make something happen in the world, to go for big things in life, to work hard and smart, perhaps it might be great to turn that weakness into your strength.

  7. catherine

    Great show. 8:25 section was a surprise actually.
    (Generally speaking) Do you think a psy is better than a coach to help someone with confidence? If yes, why?
    Also, confidence is key to achieve any goal or success really. Is it something that has to be present in a copy (in a way or another; directly or indirectly)?
    Talent Is Overrated; Human are underrated; Geoff Colvin
    A lack of confidence has tremendous costs. Not only because it has a freezing effect and people don’t trust or respect you, but also because it shows an habit of surrendering. Ambitious goals have enemies. If you surrender, you won’t make it. The good news is that confidence can be learnt, at any age. As well as patience and perseverance.

  8. Brian

    Hold up, hand copy FOUR ads?! That’s it?

    After hearing Kevin’s TAM podcast with Dan Meredith I got all pumped up and signed up for copy hour planning to hand copy an ad every day.

    I remember a Gary Halbert letter where he talks about his secretary whipping up a good sales letter in Gary’s voice after years of typing up his stuff. Based on that, Dan Meredith’s story, and my own experience hand copying dozens of ads I thought it was a useful thing to keep doing.

    Now I’m wondering if I’m deluding myself and it’s not actually that helpful? If we do it with Bencivenga’s advice in mind, thinking how we’d make it better, is this a good practice to continually do throughout your career? Or just something for beginners?

    (P.S John I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for the SWS course I took last year, with the great Robert Gibson as my coach. Gave me a huge leg up and boosted my confidence as a rookie. I might still be broke and working a job I hated had I never stumbled across your stuff and discovered the wonderful world of copywriting, so thank you.)

    1. John Carlton

      Congrats on graduating the SWS course and starting a real career, Brian.

      To answer your first question: You do it until it “takes”. For some, that may be a handful of letters. For others, several dozen. And doing it again and again throughout the years isn’t a bad idea, if it helps you. At some point, through, you develop your own “voice”, and it isn’t productive to copy another writer’s style. You know you’ve got your own voice when it happens. The market will also tell you, in results.

      Continued good luck on your career. I know some of our answers aren’t what you were hoping for, but sometimes you really do gotta figure out what’s right for you.

      1. Brian

        Thank, John. I loved that answer.

        I figured that “I’ll just have to figure it out” would be a big part of the solution. Appreciate your insight into when hand-copying is no longer productive.

  9. Steve Kehler

    Killer episode John and Kevin. Thank you so much. Spoke volumes to me. Coming from a paycheck to paycheck rural Mennonite background, I grew up believeing success was possible for anyone, so long as you first sold your soul to the devil. In terms of confidence and valuing my work, I feel at times that I still have that 40 year old man-child inside of me. His demise is inevitable but he’s a frickin stubborn bugger.

    Your speaking of having a shrink to share frankly with and to keep you straight, i’d assume this is along the lines of having a coach. Fair comparison? Not totally, but in that sense, how important would you say it is to have coach in the same line of business as you operate in? Any criteria you’d insist upon when finding that person?

    Thanks again. Seriously. Love having you guys in the corner of my ring.

  10. Lynn Swayze

    I have binged this show… and I don’t binge podcasts. This is an excellent, not-nearly-updated-enough show.

    And this episode in particular is one I sorely needed. I’m consistently surprised when someone sends me a comment about my blog, copy skills, or insights. Most days I’m running on the notion that I’m a terrible n00b. It’s difficult to have perspective at how far you’ve come when your only goal is “better, clearer, more results”. It seems like those with the least skill are the ones running around claiming seven figures.

    Anyway, great show as always. They’re all gems.


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