Seven Pledges

What’s the best thing you can do when you’re unsure of what comes next? According to billionaire Warren Buffet, you should work on — get ready for it — yourself. Constant renewal, in other words.

Just in case you need some career-related pledges to help you along the way, try these:

 1. Around the clock, make curiosity a habit.  Ask questions.

2. Every morning, read one piece of direct mail.

3. Every day, have a set time for writing.  Never deviate from it.
4. At least twice a week, study the latest marketing results.
5. By the end of this month, teach yourself the basics of good story-telling.
6. Within six months, do everything you can to get a mentor.
7. Always seek out your critics.  They’ll teach you much more than your fans ever could.

Naturally, the list could be longer.

But even those seven, you might find daunting.

If that’s the case just take them on one at a time.

Whatever you do, though, don’t wait to get started.

Best of luck!



  1. Interesting … point 6 … get a mentor.

    How would I do that? Are you in that business (cos I might be interested)?

    Noticed you are AWAI 2008 copywriter of the year. Congrats.

    Cheers from Oz

    Warwick Foster

  2. Hi Warwick…

    Thanks for the congrats! Alas, I’m not in the mentor biz. Not to the general public, anyway. I do it for some close friends and colleagues on a limited basis only. Only because it takes an enormous amount of time (and patience) to do it right. There are, however, some copywriters who will take on “cubs”… and have arrangements worked out to make it lucrative for both the cub and coach. Clayton Makepeace comes to mind. Also, I believe, Parris Lampropoulos (but I’m not sure on that one). Bob Bly, possibly, though I know he’s very busy.

    You might also look into the programs offered by Chris Marlow. She’s in the business of coaching. There’s a link to her copy coach eletter on the side of this page and I know she has various programs described on her website.

    The absolute best way is insisting on being in the right place at the right time… which takes putting yourself in a lot of wrong places until something clicks… and working inside of a direct marketing business as an understudy, until you hone your chops. This, of course, isn’t practical for everyone. Either because of location, age, or the economy… or all three. But I’d be cheating you if I didn’t praise this route the highest.

    What else? Oh, also check over at AWAI. It might be inside of their Circle of Success program. Or it might be in some other capacity. But if you poke around on their site (also a link to the right of this page), you’ll find opportunities for long-distance one-on-one mentorship. I’d go look to get you the exact details, but as I type this… the kids are getting ready for bed and my laptop is aching to power down!

    Hope all that helps… and best wishes back at ya, from Paris.


  3. Great advice John!

    I will definitely make those my own resolutions 🙂

    Do you have any suggested reading material for learning story telling?


  4. Hi Phil,


    As for reading suggestions on learning storytelling… I know I’ve written more than one CR issue on it in the past, but I don’t recall which books I’ve mentioned. I’ll dig it up and make it a post on the site sometime in the near future (I try to keep the site and the issue content different, week to week).

    You can, of course, Google “how to tell good stories” and you’ll be flooded with great stuff. There are groups online dedicated solely to storytelling. Very useful material. Also, check out Stephen King’s bio and a book by Lawrence Block called “How to Tell Lies for Fun and Profit.” (No, it’s not about telling lies… it’s about writing fiction.)

    Both write page-turners. And that’s the kind of storytelling insight you want. Really though, there are lots of creative ways to tell stories better. Read joke websites and practice retelling them. Jokes are just good stories, tightly told (or they flop). Read Reader’s Digest, which almost always leads articles with personal stories. See blockbuster movies (a favorite recommendation of top copywriter, Gene Schwartz).

    Story-telling is powerful if done right. Done wrong, though, it can be a copy killer. Imagine the audience… as you tell, are eyes glazing over? Or are people leaning in to hear how it ends? All stories need a beginning, middle, and end. All stories need to have relevance to the listener or reader. All stories need both specific detail to make them feel real, and tightness and speed to make sure they only stick to the points that matter… i.e. the points that will connect to the sales pitch in your letter that will follow.

    Hope that helps!

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