Show 3 – Psych Insight #48: Faint Screams Of Frustration


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Psych Insight #48 (Show 3)

Here’s John’s Rant this show is based on:

Everyone has dreams of glory growing up. The vast majority crush them early and maintain a steady diet of intellectual white noise to cover the faint screams of frustration from their locked away desires.

A small percentage pursue their dreams but never ever allow the curtain to come up on their show. They plan, they flirt with starting something, then retreat at the first sign of resistance from the universe. The tiny slice of entrepreneurs who actually get moving have levels too, from skittish, low info, shallow-pond-treaders who probably got into this business accidentally… through the struggling folks bulging in the middle of the curve… to the few who force success to happen by never admitting defeat. 

Your lists are rife with all of these categories. Most profit will come from a minority. Understand who’s populating your list and lots of marketing problems suddenly makes sense. 


Kevin’s Discussion Highlights:

It’s a Bachelors Degree from the University of California and almost everything I learned back then has been proven wrong.

A lot of this gets back to me being a kid growing up without that special uncle who would take me aside and tell me things, “John, this is how the world really is. People will lie to your face.”

It may be that most humans are just built to be relatively unhappy, and the happiness part is the thing you have to fight for.

It was like for a lot of guys in the ‘60s, that was defined as the Playboy Mansion. Hugh Hefner was having a party and you weren’t invited, but you could get glimpses into it, you could see how they live, so people are looking for ways, ideas, models of how they might live or what they might aspire to, or what may make them happy

The patina of happiness that people present to the rest of the world, the happy face we present to the rest of the world is okay for most people to be able to look at and say, “Okay. I live in a world and people are okay and that’s how you want to live.”

As a marketer, you can’t do that. You got to look deeper.

There are some people whose first response is hostility, “You can’t sell me. I don’t care what you have. I’m not going to get it.” So you have to be very direct. You have to bring them in through that hook in the headline.

That’s why so many of us try to find those problems in ourselves … the best copywriters … if you take their body of work, you lay it out in the end, it’s kind of a confessional.

19 thoughts on “Show 3 – Psych Insight #48: Faint Screams Of Frustration

  1. Kevin

    This one really got me:

    “That’s why so many of us try to find those problems in ourselves … the best copywriters … if you take their body of work, you lay it out in the end, it’s kind of a confessional.”

    We’ve all lived, loved, lost, and every time I have to write about anything, especially something dry, I pull from my life.

    For example I recently wrote a sales letter for accounting software. Talk about fucking boring.

    But I barely mentioned the software. I focused on how badly entrepreneurs want to succeed and how too many fail due to mismanaging their money. Why? Because I’ve done exactly that…

    It’s like my sales letters are the better version of myself compelling the actual me to get his shit together.

    Anyhow… Great stuff, and thank you guys for taking the time to record my new favorite podcast.



    1. John Carlton

      Yeah, we’re starting modestly here, with a small target audience… but it’s getting wider every day. The idea that we really can connect with the hipper/smarter part of the market out there is exciting… and we’re getting great feedback on what are, after all, fairly deep and brain-squeezing subjects.

      Let us know if there’s any subject you’d like to see covered in future shows…

    2. Kevin Rogers

      Kev… this rings the bell so hard:

      “It’s like my sales letters are the better version of myself compelling the actual me to get his shit together.”

      Sometimes to get going on a piece, I’ll write out a conversation between the “author” of the letter and the world’s most cynical prospect. It’s works wonders as a gut check on how well formed (or not) my argument is at the time. But what I’m essentially doing is exactly what you said. Exorcising the demons within.

      Great stuff. Thanks for your feedback.


      1. John Carlton

        Agree, totally. There are several versions of us inside our mind (sometimes quarreling like siblings, more often oblivious of each other), and we cheat ourselves by believing otherwise. Writing remains the ONLY way to examine the rich world of internal wonder seething behind our bloodshot eyes…

  2. James Clouser

    I resonate with your conversation about quiet desperation despite success. Out of music school, I gained national recognition as a rising star classical musician, but I was miserable. A breakthrough happened when I got clear about what I actually wanted in life, which wasn’t a career in music.

    I’ve been in the habit of assuming that I need to offer overwhelming value for prospects to become customers. John, your reminder that small hinges swing big doors is something to take to heart.

    Have a great weekend, guys.

    1. John Carlton

      Hey, nice insight, James. Money really can’t buy happiness, but most of us need to find that out for ourselves… and the lesson doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s just the first session of a life-long lesson. But, once you climb inside, it’s fun…

      1. Kevin Rogers


        Years ago, standing at a car wash on Ventura Blvd, a very wise woman told me… “sometimes in order to find out what you want in life, you’ve got to start with what you don’t want.”

        Simplest thought, but it shook me to the core. I’d been struggling – broke and miserable – trying to break into television as a writer. Worst part was, the closer I got the more miserable I was. The gig sucked. The industry sucked. And the town really sucked.

        Forty-eight hours later I was cruising east through the desert, the ass end of my Crown Victoria drooping from the weight of my every possession. And SMILING.

        I can relate to your penchant for overpromising on jobs, too. What helped me was writing every deliverable out in a work order before naming the price. Then factor in the time and frustration to create all that stuff… and what more lucrative endeavors that energy will keep you from.

        Freelancers tend to be people pleasers who put our needs last. This might help to get that in perspective.

        Thanks for listening.


  3. Troy Clark

    Hey, thanks for the brain-squeeze! I’m still listening to the podcast as I comment, but so far, this is terrific stuff—not that I expect anything less.


  4. Mary Rose Maguire

    Just saw this podcast mentioned on John Carlton’s Facebook update. Can’t wait to tune in! Finding quality podcasts on marketing and copywriting is not easy.

    I’m not sure if you covered this on a past episode, but lately I’ve been running into B2B cleints who want a more “sophisticated tone” for their copy. Gack! I understand that there needs to be some industry terms but most “formal” copy is boring as hell and I can’t imagine it really converting much. Plus, too many of them don’t even use the word “you” in their copy. Ever.

    It would be great if somehow this could be covered in an episode. Something like “How To Convince A Client That His ‘Formal’ Copy Is Like A Cyber-shot of Nyquil And Is In Dire Need Of Shock Copy That Brings His Comatose Readers Back To Life.”

    I know. Too long of a title…

    1. Kevin Rogers

      I feel your pain, Mary Rose.

      I’ve tried to remind biz clients that the people reading their copy are human beings, with real working part and fears and desires (like looking smarter for buying something that makes the boss look smart).

      And if your copy can penetrate beyond the fluorescent hum of “office brain” with a message that actually strikes a nerve, then maybe you can actually get them to go sell your offer to a decision maker.

      It never works.

      Good news is, there are plenty of direct marketing entrepreneurs who “get it” and need good copy. I say stick with them.

      Glad to have you with us.


  5. Angela

    I just want to thank you, John, and Kevin, for this amazing podcast!!!!!!

    A lot of what you said resonated with me (I’m trying to break into Kindle publishing, and want to use as many copywriting techniques as possible – using psychology, meeting people burning desires, and genuinely helping them)
    I’ve been having a hard time really figuring out what people want and getting into their heads, but I think, like you said today, that a big part of the problem is that I still don’t know what I want.

    You gave me a lot to think about today….

    Thanks Muchly!!!!!!!!

    1. John Carlton

      We’re trying to prep you enough so that — when you do descend into the heads of your prospects — you’re not shocked at what you discover, and instead are totally primed and ready to bond, persuade and perhaps move folks to action. It’s a little like flying into a strange city where you aren’t sure about local customs, or even local language usage (or the rules of behavior to keep you out of trouble) — the more you know before going in, the more you’re gonna get done.

      One of the keys, of course, is being genuine (as you note). It’s critical to start from a good place, with good product and honest sales messages… and then use every hard-core tactic possible to cut past the psychological clutter and make your point.

      Glad this show resonated with you, Angela.

  6. Daniel

    Brilliant stuff as usual, guys. Thanks a lot.

    John, I just finished reading your Kindle ebook and thought it was great! When’s volume 2 coming out?

    1. John Carlton

      Soon, man. We’ve had to spent an unbelievable amount of time getting the print version of Volume One ready — just a long, boring tale of Amazon’s software screwing up, of slow responses to fixing things, etc. I’ve got the outline, need a few weeks to edit Volume Two. (There is actually enough content from that trove of newsletters I wrote to fill SIX volumes, though I doubt we’ll go that deep…)

      Thanks for the note, Daniel.

  7. Umzugsfirma Zürich

    Hey, thanks for the brain-squeeze! I’m still listening to the podcast as I comment, but so far, this is terrific stuff—not that I expect anything less.
    UBR UMZUG Zürich
    Regensbergstrasse 3, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland
    +41 44 505 17 74


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