• Books
  • On cracking the code of your life

    If you want to strengthen your emotional intelligence, then Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success by Chip Conley will give you many practical steps to accomplish that.

    In addition to drawing on stories of his own difficult experiences as a CEO, he includes stories about Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Victor Frankel, Andre Agassi, Oprah Winfrey, Charles Darwin, and many others.

    The equations seem a bit dry at first but I appreciate the pithiness of them. They appeal to the left brained part of me.

    He lists many questions throughout the first half of the book to help you dig deeper to solve your problems. Questions such as “If pondering whether to do something or not ask yourself: Is it repeatable? Can it be repaired if something goes wrong?”

    He provides an unique exercise for working through fear: create a series of training steps that would help someone else understand how you obsess about a particular issue that gives you fear, such as financial issues.

    Don’t overlook the notes section at the end of the book. He suggests more books to read and additional insights.

    I like this Zen parable that he shares on page 226:

    My friend Sandeep reminded me of the parable of a rich man, fond of felines, who asked a famous Zen ink painter to draw him a cat. The master agreed and asked the man to come back in three months. When the man returned, he was put off, again and again, until a year had passed. Finallly, at the man’s request, the master drew out a brush, and with grace and ease, in a single fluid motion, drew a picture of a cat, the most marvelous image the man had ever seen. First he was stoned. Then he grew angry. “That drawing took you only thirty seconds! Why did you make me wait a year?” he demanded. Without a word, the master opened a cabinet, and out fell thousands of good, bad, and ugly drawings of cats. How can you become th Zen master who cracks the code of your life?

    Are you active on Goodreads? If so, please follow my reviews there. I will continue to post my reviews of business books here on my blog. Sign up below for my newsletter on email copywriting.

    Free Email Updates
    My best content on email copywriting delivered to your inbox each week.
    100% Privacy. We don't spam.
  • Books
  • A copywriter’s “third ear”


    This week on Facebook I came across yet another long list of must-read copywriting books.

    It’s a great list, and I’m pleased to see Herschell Gordon Lewis on it. He’s one of my favorites.

    There’s one huge oversight though: on this four page list there is only one book written by a woman.

    To not even list Bernice Fitz-Gibbon’s book, the copywriter David Oglivy said is the best retail copywriter of the 20th century? I mean c’mon.

    Also, I don’t see enough lists for copywriters of books NOT about copywriting that make you a better copywriter.

    The whole reason to become an entrepreneur is to become a better person.

    A skill that improves your copywriting skills and your life is the sweet spot.

    One of my favorite books like this is Win Your Case by Gerry Spence.

    Half the book is about how to use storytelling in a courtroom, or at work, in the boardroom, or in any situation where you need to make your case about something.

    The other half is about how to listen and prepare yourself for telling a story.

    In this section he talks about how to hear with your “third ear.” He also calls it “nonhearing.”

    He gives a listening exercise that every copywritier – and anyone who wants to improve in their relationships – should do regularly.

    I talk more about that exercise, and other tips from this book, inside A Year of Copywriting.

    It’s a weekly email that will give you practical exercises to do to improve your copywriting.

    We will also rap about more books that will improve your copywriting that aren’t specifically about copywriting

    There will also be discussion of Bernice’s book too, of course (so there).

    Unlike most copywriting courses, this isn’t one-way communication – you can interact with me by email. No noisy forum or FB group.

    Click here to sign up.



    Photo: Anne Elliott

  • Books
  • Don’t follow your passion – let it follow you

    “Don’t follow your passion, rather let it follow you in your quest to become ‘so good they can’t ignore you.’


    Working right trumps finding the right work – it’s a simple idea, but its also incredibly subversive, as it overturns decades of folk career advice all focused on the mystical value of passion. It wrenches us away from our daydreams of an overnight transformation into instant job bliss and provides instead a more sober way toward fulfillment.”

    – Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

    Photo by Painted Works by KB

    See also Mark Cuban’s blog post Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort

  • Books
  • Getting over certainty in your business

    In my 5+years of working with entrepreneurs it has become increasingly clear that getting over certainty is central to running a business. Uncertainty is where the real action happens.

    In the book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking author Oliver Burkeman cites a study of 45 entrepreneurs who had at least 15 years experience in starting businesses and had taken at least one company public.

    The recommendations of these entrepreneurs  run counter to many business maxims out there:

    Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release. (‘I don’t believe in market research,’ one anonymous participant told Sarasvanthy. ‘Somebody once told me the only thing you need is a customer. Instead of asking all the questions, I’d try to make some sales.’)

    The entrepreneurs didn’t think like high-end chefs, concocting a vision of a dish and then hunting for the perfect ingredients. They behaved more like ordinary, time-pressed home cooks, checking what was in the fridge and the cupboards, then figuring out, n the fly, what they could make and how.

    ‘I always live by the motto of, “Ready, fire, aim” said one. ‘I think that if you spend too much time doing, “ready, aim, aim, aim,” you’re never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it. I think business plans are interesting, but they have no real meaning, because you can’t put in all the positive things that will occur.’

    The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur, Chris Kayes is convinced, isn’t ‘vision’ or ‘passion’ or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.

    This anti-goal approach is also referred to as being “effectually” minded instead of “causally minded” (i.e. taking steps to achieve a goal). The two principles of effectuation are as follows:

    1. Start with your means – Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action based on what you have readily available: what you are, what you know, and who you know.

    2. Affordable loss – Don’t be guided by thoughts of how wonderful the rewards might be if you were spectacularly successful at any given next step. Instead ask how big the loss would be if you failed. So long as the loss would be tolerable, that’s all you need to know. Take that next step, and see what happens.