Writing is hard business

He dropped out of college. He was a cook, salesman, diplomatist and a farmer. The guy knew absolutely nothing about marketing, and not a lick of copy writing experience. He was unemployed at 38 when he tried to get an adverting agency to hire him.

Image Credit: Ogilvy on Advertising

No American agency would hire this guy, and then, a London agency picked him up and gave him a chance. Three years later, he became the most famous copywriter in the world, and in due course built the tenth biggest agency in the world.

Who am I talking about? One of the most respected and sought after wizards in the advertising industry, british-born David Ogilvy. In 1948 he started what would eventually be Ogilvy & Mather, a Manhattan-based advertising agency that has since been responsible for some of the worlds most recognized ad campaigns.

So, what makes a guy like this put out some of the best work in the world? It’s not what you would think. Read the letter below written by Ogilvy in 1955 to a Mr. Ray Calt to find out.

April 19, 1955

Dear Mr. Calt:

On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:

1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.

4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.

5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every concievable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.

6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)

8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)

12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.

Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.

Yours sincerely,

D.O.

(Source: The Unpublished David Ogilvy: A Selection of His Writings from the Files of His Partners

Face it, your idea sucks, and it’s time to move on

I have a message for you: Face it, your idea sucks, and it’s time to move on.

Stop placing ideas in the same class as relationships. Relationships are things that are built to last forever, ideas, they just come and go.

If you’re holding onto your idea to tightly, and it’s serious failing, it’s time to let it go. It’s time to move on and put it behind you – the facts are right there. Get over it. The idea probably wasn’t that cool anyways.

See, things like relationships and marriages you stick out forever. No matter what, you stick them out. Yes, the good times, the bad times, and all the time. You make a commitment and you fight to stay together – thick and thin baby.

Ideas on the other hand, you don’t stick them out. If an idea is failing, you bag it and move onto a new idea.

Don’t let your fear of moving on hold you back from pursuing a new idea. You will find another idea and it will be way sexier than the last one. If it was your first one, that’s cool, just remember it that way. Learn from  it, figure out what you can do better, and get pumped up about the next idea!

Please, for your own sake, don’t sit there any longer weeping like a damn baby. Get over it and move on.

——

How about you?

Do you have trouble moving on with new ideas?

 

Epically failing on purpose

Are you afraid to epically fail? Not me, I epic fail on purpose. We need more people willing to take risks and epic fail on purpose. Well, epic fails that don’t totally wipe us out, but that make us bolder and more confident in our abilities. Epic fails that teach us lessons about what works and what doesn’t.

Epic failure is something I enjoy very much. Why? Because, each time I fall down and scrape up my knees I learn something very valuable that I wouldn’t have learned before. I learn how far I can go, how high I can jump, and how much money it’s going to cost!

When I fail, it moves me away from what doesn’t work and closer to what does. I like the sound of that – moving closer to what works. We all want to know and understand the things that work, right? But, how can you learn the things that work until we’ve tried and epically failed at the things that don’t work.

Think experiments. We may try hundreds, if not thousands of experiments until we find a solution. The same is true with projects, ideas, startups, dating, and the million other things we try to figure out in life. But, we have to be willing to epically fail at these things.

Parents don’t always teach us this, schools screw it up, and so do your bosses. Don’t listen to these safe boring people, they are going nowhere. You need to epically fail at things, it’s part of the learning experience. You can do it, epic fail. Just don’t wipe yourself out!

 

Why realistic optimism?

Over the years I’ve been an overly optimistic person not always looking at the reality of the situation – it got me into trouble more than once. If you know me personally, you can probably appreciate the above statement. This has since changed (In the last year or so) and it’s treating me very well.

I was the fired up dude drinking the Kool aid not willing to face and embrace that which was real. Why? I don’t know why, really. Maybe  the thought of failure scared the shit out of me. So, instead of focusing on that, I would just focus on being optimistic and hoping and wishing for the best.

I was also raised that way. My mom is probably one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet. And, she was the one making the Kool aid!!! Haha.

Looking back, I use to say things like this, “Everything is going to be fine, we just need to keep going!”. Not taking the time to analyze the problem or challenge and build “several” plans that could be executed. This was so stupid of me to say these kind of things. Idiotic. If I would have only been more realistic with a dash of optimism. Not to drown on that though. There is a fix.

I haven’t given up on optimism, I’ve just decided to lean on the side of realistic optimism where today I say things like, “We are up against some serious challenges and here is how we propose to overcome them. We are not sure any of this will work, these are just the plans we’ve come up with thus far to address them. And, I do believe that together, as a team, as passionate warriors, (You need to be a warrior if you want to be in business today) we will meet these obstacles and challenges and find a way over them. I don’t doubt it for a second.”

This is what it looks like to express realistic optimism. Feels just as good, and, it is realistic!

Have fun and keep it real friends!

 

7 Random Thursday Thoughts

I’ve traveled a lot over the last few weeks and it has given me plenty of time to be by myself and do some deep thinking. As part of this deep thinking, I put together 7 random thoughts that I wanted to share with you. Let me know what you think.

1. Don’t go and start a friggin’ company unless you are going to be absolutely addicted to it. Are you willing to work on it day and night? What about when your friends call you and want you to go out and grab a few drinks? Are you willing to turn them down to work all night to meet a deadline or get an order out? If you’re not willing to do these things, then don’t go and start a company. Keep your job. Seriously.

2. If you want to build a company fast, go alone ( keep in mind companies that are built fast and alone don’t last long…I’ve been there). If you want to build a company that can go far, go together. This means you build a team that can carry the company to places that you only dreamed of.

3. Hire people who are just as fired-up about your idea and your company as you are. If they’re not just as fired-up as you are, then keep searching for the right team members….they are out there.

4. Be intentional about putting together a group of friends who are there for you no matter what. When times are good, they are there for you. When times are bad, they are there for you. No matter the circumstances these friends are there for you. They will drop anything to come along side you.

5. Sell, sell, sell, or watch your company go to hell. If you can’t get sales coming in, you will watch your company be cast into a fiery place of torment.

6. Get out their and G&G (Grip and Grin). Attend events, go to conferences, setup lunch meetings, do whatever you need to do to meet people and share your company story with them. Don’t expect people to come knocking on your door – people have no clue who the heck you are.

7. Don’t be lazy, do your own PR. You are the best one to tell your story. Why would you hire a company to follow-up with the people you read and see in the publications? Those people publish their emails. Next time your reading or watching something, capture the person’s name and their email address. Once you have that info, follow-up, introduce yourself, and tell them your story. It is their job to find great stories. And if your story sucks, it would be a waste of time either which way.

 

Two thumbs up to a happy and prosperous year!

I just wanted to give you two thumbs up to a happy and prosperous year! I don’t know what it is. Maybe the fresh Southern California air (yeah right), maybe my ultimate fitness class, Trader Joe’s, or something else, but I’m fired up this year and you should be too!

Things are really coming together. Projects are gaining good traction, people are positive and making things happen, and I’m loving every second of it! Good stuff!

If you’re not fired up, here is a kick in the ass. Get going.

This year you’ll set new milestones, climb over obstacles that you thought were impossible, take care of your customers, invest in your team and get them more involved, and finally, you will wake up everyday ready to hustle.

If you don’t do these things, you failed yourself.

 

Make your own way and own it

Is there a right or wrong way? No. It’s your way and you have to own it. Yeah, you can learn from others and take that and build it into your way, but it doesn’t mean that there is a right or wrong way to do it.

I might brush my teeth before I shower, you might brush your teeth after. I shave before I get into the shower, you shave after. There isn’t a right or wrong way, just as long as you reach your destination.

I see people all the time that think there is this “right way” to reach their destination. And because of this, never end getting anywhere but depressed and lonely. Why? Because they sat around waiting for this right way to come along and it never did. You can’t wait for the right way to come along. You have to make a way and own it.

Maybe you want to start a company. Do it now. Get crazy and go figure it out. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. Maybe you want to go to school or maybe you want to wait and travel the world. It doesn’t matter. As Nike would say, “Just do it”.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what: starting a company, marriage, dating, whatever. There isn’t a right or wrong way, there is your way and I urge you to go figure it out. It will be blast…I promise.

——-

What about you? 

Are you making your own way and owning it?

 

Your Inner Persistence

Ever since I was youngster, my Dad trained me to be persistent. To never give up. To fight for what I believe in. And to go for it. I’m very thankful he drove these points home and I carry them with me today. Persistence is a big part of my life and it should be a big part of yours as well.

The days of racing and crashing in the first corner and my Dad screaming, “Get up boy and get going, you can fight to the front”, are all part of my inner persistence being developed and honed.

All while he was screaming, I was thinking in my head, “How am I going to fight to the front when I’m in dead last place?”. It’s possible. I won several races by getting right back up and fighting to the front and I have the trophies and stories to prove it.

This inner persistence remains with me today and it’s stronger than ever. It’s what wakes me up everyday to pursue my dreams, my relationships, my companies, my investments, my projects, and all the things I wholeheartedly believe in.

My mentality is this: never give up on anything….no matter what. And, do the things that others aren’t willing to do so that one day you can wake up and appreciate that you did it.

Do the right thing and stay at it. Don’t give up, don’t back down, and don’t take no for answer.

———-

How about you? 

Are you developing your inner persistence?

 

GOD, YOUR GUT, AND SLOWING DOWN

You’ve heard it, “listen to God,” right? You’ve probably also heard, “listen to your gut”. These are very common. If you listen closely, you can hear these phrases being used several times a day. You probably say them yourself – I use them daily.

As I was writing this, I started having flash backs to just this past week of my wife saying these things to me. I can’t remember if I listened to her, I was probably going to fast. Sad but true.

Listening to God and your gut isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes time. Especially today with the pace at which our society moves. I’m actually in a plane writing this now (that is packed) and people are actively doing a million things.

At a hundred miles per hour, how can we slow down enough to listen to God and our gut? Can it really be done? The answer is yes. It just takes a serious commitment, disciple, and a daily pursuit to slow down and listen.

Who wants to do that? I mean, we have a hundred and one things to do today. We have kids to run, homework to do, dogs to walk, and houses to clean. When would we have time? We need to be making time. I’m trying to make time daily to slow down and listen to God and my gut.

The fact is, we have to many people moving to fast that we’ve lost the importance of listening to God and our gut? And because of this, we have horrible decisions being made. I am guilty of it and so are you. I am also working on it. Are you?

When you stop and actually tap into listening to God and your gut, you start to make better decisions. Decisions that benefit you, your family, your companies, your team, and your country. You want that right?

Slow down and listen to God and your gut.