"A resolution," says a quote from somebody I don't
recall, "is a thing that goes in one year and out the
I don't know if you make New Year's resolutions.
I do. And true to the above quote, I don't manage to
keep all of them. That doesn't mean it's a wasted
As my friend Mike Masterson points out, if you ever
want to succeed in anything, specific written goals do a lot to guarantee your success.
Ben Franklin taught that.
Steven Covey teaches that.
And Mike himself teaches that, in his free "Early To
And indeed, in past years...
I've shared lists of specific resolutions --
professional and personal -- not only for myself but
also for any copywriter who wanted to follow them.
This year however, no list.
Instead just one single, valuable resolution. But
possibly the most profitable pledge you'll make for
this year or any year to come.
It's easy to follow, requires almost no discipline, and it will make you gain more and feel better about
everything you do.
What is it?
First, some background...
WHAT I LEARNED A LONG TIME AGO ABOUT CYNICISM
I used to be a cynic.
A master of the sneer, a rapier swordsman of the
sarcastic. Heck, I still indulge now and again.
But I can remember one afternoon, early in my
copywriting career, a ham-fisted attempt at cynicism
was almost my undoing.
I was six months into my training.
I was a young protégé to one of the best copywriters in the business, Bill Bonner. Review time had come and I was up for a raise.
So far, everything had gone well.
I had already written a couple of control packages.
I'd also assisted on a blockbuster promo that was, at that moment, already $300,000+ up in sales.
Before I could name an amount I'd hoped for, Bill had named one even higher. We were just wrapping up the conversation with pleasantries.
Then I said, in an effort to sound smart, "Of course, I don't really believe all this stuff... "
The 'stuff' to which I referred was nothing less than
the message we were purveying in some of our best promos.
Actually, I sympathized with a lot of it. And I knew
the products in question to be solid, deserving of
loyalty from their fans.
But cynicism, I thought, was the cloak of the wise. A
way to look smart despite my lack of experience. It
was only posturing. It was also a mistake.
"Oh now... wait a minute... " said Bill who looked
taken aback, "you HAVE to believe. How can you write about it if you don't believe in it?"
I don't remember, dear reader, how I changed the
subject. I regretted the comment and reevaluated on the spot. That was about eleven or twelve years ago. I haven't looked back since.
Now fast forward to about a month ago...
THE LOST SECRETS OF THE GREAT BRUCE BARTON
Just recently, I did an interview with well-known
copywriter Joe Vitale. We talked about a few of his
books (he's written several).
One of them was something he had written back in 1992, a book about advertising genius Bruce Barton called, "The Seven Lost Secrets of Su ccess."
(You can find it listed on Joe's website, with his
other books: http://www.mrfire.com/books.html)
I found a lot in Barton's story that was inspirational.
In particular, though, there was one insight that was
especially valuable. It reminded me of my come-uppance that afternoon early in my career.
It was, simply, this: "Be genuine."
Barton, as you might know, was the second 'B' in the famous BBDO ad agency (Batten, Barton, Dursine, and Osborn).
He was a journalist who only wanted to dabble in
copywriting. Yet managed, in the end, to make BBDO one of the most successful agencies in history.
Joe Vitale did some deep research into Barton's career and his writings for the book. Some of the best parts of the text were quotes direct from Barton himself.
Rather than try to paraphrase, here's Barton talking in 1925:
"Do not venture into the sunlight unless you are
willing first to put your house in order... no
dyspeptic can write convincingly of the joys of mince
meat. No woman-hater can write convincingly of love... unless you have a real respect for people, a real affection for people, a real belief that you are
equipped to serve them, and that by your growth and prosperity they will likewise grow and prosper, unless you have this deep-down conviction, gentleman, do not attempt advertising. For somehow it will return to plague you."
In that same year, Barton again:
"I believe the public has a sixth sense of detecting
insincerity. We run a tremendous risk if we try to
make other people believe in something we don't believe in. Somehow our sin will find us out."
And once more:
"The advertisements which persuade people to act are written by men who have an abiding respect for the intelligence of their readers, and a deep sincerity regarding the merits of the goods they have to sell."
Naïve? A doe-eyed sheep, overdue for shearing?
Not at all. Barton retired and died, in 1960, a
millionaire. And a confidant of some of the biggest
names in business.
It was Barton, in fact, who handled the advertising
strategies that helped build empires for Carnegie and Ford.
I am, of course, grateful to Joe for sending the book.
Do take a look at it, from the link above, if you get
I'm also grateful to Barton for just being Barton.
So what's the one extremely profitable,
not-to-be-foregone resolution for 2004?
Very simple, and as specific as it can possibly be,
it's this: Be genuine. As often and as much as you
Nothing could make a bigger difference in your career.