The Head Shitweasel
I'm almost certain that Gary never wrote about…
… and yet it's critically
important to every effort you (or anyone else) make to learn
something. Anything. Especially the stuff that causes money
to be hurled at you in great gleaming piles.
I believe that's
why Kevin Halbert asked me to post on it tonight.
Let me set this
story up for you:
First, you need
to understand just how tight Gary and I were.
of this site should already know this part of the tale.
I first met Gary
at Jay Abraham's divorce party in the mid-80s, soon after his
Boron vacation and while he was still wooing Paulette. (Yes,
this was a freaking long time ago.)
I'd heard of him
(copies of his newsletter had been smuggled to my inbox), but
we had never crossed paths. So I went up to introduce myself.
He was rude, obnoxious
… and I liked him
Within a few months
he hired me to come work with him. I have a novel's-worth of
adventures stemming just from that first year in the cluttered
offices on Sunset Blvd in North Hollywood (across from the Roxy,
a block from the Playboy building).
We soon became friends,
as well as business colleagues… and we didn't go more than a
few days between long talks for the next 20 years. (I last spoke
to him the Friday before he left us for that big Algonquin Table
In The Sky.)
Being thick as thieves
like that, we settled into a friendship with clearly defined
Me: Road-dog, ghostwriter,
sidekick and confidant. Him: Silver-backed 800-pound alpha gorilla,
chaos-instigator, trouble-magnet… and confidant.
We shared secrets
that, even now, I choose not to reveal.
When Life sucker-punched
me with massive family problems… Gary was the only friend who
called me every day, willing to soak up some of the grief and
share my load. He watched my back, and I watched his.
Once, during perhaps
the darkest hours of his career, I hauled out the tough-love,
and said "Goddamit, you're Gary Halbert." Cuz he was.
He just forgot,
That became one
his favorite sayings, both in jest, and in deadly seriousness
as the road grew rocky and he needed a reminder of just how
big a force of nature he truly was.
Basically, we relied
on each other for no-bullshit reality checks.
However, it was
easily the most unique relationship I've ever been in, heard
about, or know of. We had very little in common, really, in
our backgrounds except for growing up poor and clueless, and
being pissed off about it.
He was an Eisenhower
kid from the 1950s, and my outlook was tempered in the swinging
sixties. I played school dances with cocky garage bands and
grew my hair long, while he hustled pool for date money, did
a tour in the Army and got married young.
But we clicked where
it counted -- in critical thinking, in loving rock & roll
and advertising, and in possessing truly sick and evil senses
And -- here's the
point of all this -- in our approach to learning and teaching.
See, we both had
radically different styles that required some hard work to reconcile.
He clearly wanted
to teach me what he knew, and I clearly craved learning it.
But at first, it
was like we were from different planets. He wrote everything
out longhand, and I worked on a keyboard and computer.
He obsessed on USPs,
offers and headlines for days… often doing something I called
"looping": He would have the same conversation with
you, sometimes a dozen times… as if a tape loop were going around
in his brain.
(On more than a
few occasions, I had to take aside a client or new member of
our little circle, and tell him that, no, he wasn't going crazy
-- he really did just listen to the same exact conversation
with Gary he'd heard an hour earlier, and probably the evening
(However, if you
paid very close attention, the loop would mutate subtly each
time around. The changes were almost imperceptible, but this
was Gary's very exacting and very precise way of working out
the perfect angle, headline or USP.)
(Once I realized
the process, I never interrupted him. Nearly all of the famous
stuff he produced while I knew him was created through this
laborious repetition and minute manipulation.)
Me? I used checklists,
based on my front-line experience in advertising and marketing.
My "gun to the head" philosophy supported well-thought-out
decisions, but they were made much faster. (That philosophy:
With a gun to my head that would go off if the piece didn't
become the control… would I use that word? That USP? That headline?
And so on, through every choice in the writing process. That
attitude helped me rocket up the ranks of "A List"
freelancers before I met Gary.)
We were like the
hare and tortoise.
So, at first, Gary
was extremely frustrated trying to teach me stuff. And I was
just as frustrated, because his methods didn't jive with my
style of learning.
And yet… we worked
He learned how to
adapt to my learning style, and I met him halfway by being a
chameleon, and pondering more obsessively.
And vice versa.
We learned from, and taught stuff to, each other for the next
What's this got
to do with you?
Everything, if you're
still learning stuff. (And only fools and idiots believe the
learning ever stops in life or business. The best continue to
learn and absorb and experience right up to the point their
ticket is punched.)
See, Gary and I
taught each other… how to teach outside of our boxes.
This is not a small
Back during the
hey-day of our marketing seminars -- when we hosting those circus-like
spectaculars almost monthly, and there was almost zero competition
from other guru's -- we plunged eagerly into the task of forcing,
tricking, cajoling and bribing people to "get" what
we wanted them to learn.
We did this for
years. And we challenged ourselves at every turn…
… because the stark
evidence of our own differences in learning proved that there
truly was more than one way to skin a cat.
Today, in the Brave
New World of the Web, you can't spit into the virtual mob of
marketers online without hitting multiple folks who present
themselves as a "teacher".
Hey, for the most
part, this is a great development. The world needs more teachers.
It's a noble profession. The need for mentoring is vast and
… like walking onto
a used car lot, you need to be aware of the pitfalls before
deciding to hand your brain over to someone who claims they
can teach you something.
It is freaking HARD
to teach well. And I'm not talking about stuff like being patient,
or knowing Eriksonian information-absorption models, either.
Teaching is hard
because -- to be a worthwhile teacher -- you need to have gorged
on experience, had your ass kicked by Hard Knocks, and seen
all sides and heard all arguments through trial-and-error.
For years. Decades,
Many of the "teachers"
I see online are like someone who faced a single pitch from
Roger Clemens, closed their eyes, and somehow made contact with
a fastball for a hit.
Then, they laid
down their bat, never again to face another pitch…
… and instead proclaimed
themselves one of the greatest batters in history (batting average
of 1,000!), suddenly qualified to teach others how to play baseball.
I wish this metaphor
was at least a little bit ridiculous.
But it's not.
out in the marketing, advertising and copywriting world… are
nothing more than glorified rookies, trying to substitute book-learning
for actual experience.
Gary loved to teach.
He had a style when he began his newsletter, and it was a damn
good one… but it evolved through the years.
I wish he was still
around for many selfish reasons… but also because as a teacher
he was just getting better and better… because he brought more
and more experience to the table every time.
I do not put myself
in the same class as Halbert.
God broke the mold
after Gary was born, and we will not see another man even remotely
like him again. Anyone pretending to ascend to the position
Gary held in the world of wisdom and knowledge is a phony, and
deserves scorn and exile.
I have, however,
continued to follow my love of teaching. I no longer have The
Big Ugly Guy around to encourage me, or back me up, or share
All I offer anyone
is my battle scars from 25 years in the front-line trenches
of business… and the 20 accompanying years of teaching, studying
teaching, and (thanks to Gary's influence) obsessing and looping
There are not an
infinite number of different learning "styles". I
may come up with a more precise number at some point… but I
can assure you there are over a dozen. This includes folks who
learn best by audio… or by visual stuff like video… or strictly
by the written word… or through lectures (with and without note
taking)… and all the subtle and not-so-subtle combinations of
This is why I still
click with so many people who have run into brick walls trying
to learn how to write killer sales copy from other sources.
It's not about raw
multi-media presentations. Or about the guru's career highlights.
Good teaching only
happens when the guy you allow inside your head knows what the
hell he's talking about… and has the chops, the experience,
the instinct, and the OBSESSIONS that create a good teacher.
I've been told, translates as "teacher".
When I was coming
up through the ranks, no one dared refer to themselves as a
guru. You earned the title only after your reputation and your
ability to actually teach reached critical mass. Other people
called you a guru. You never took on the handle yourself.
I'm not putting
anyone down here. Times change. As a musician who spent 10,000
hours getting good at playing rock, I'm more than a little peeved
at phenomenons like "Guitar Hero" and karaoke… where
you just pretend you know what you're doing, and people are
astounded and applaud and think it's just great.
God, the bullshit
just piles up deeper and deeper, doesn't it.
No, if you find
a self-annointed guru you can actually learn from, go for it.
And good luck to
And I'll just shake
my head, and continue on as a proud shitweasel, channeling Gary's
love of doing the job right.
You can sample what
I'm talking about, you know, right now, at my site.
Here To Go There Now
That's the blog
where we're giving away all this free teaching material for
hungry entrepreneurs and business owners, while my staff gears
up for another round of serious mentoring through my Simple
As always, there
is no obligation for grabbing this free information, and I urge
you to put it to use in your life and your business… and enjoy
the major bucks and happiness it has been proven to provide.
When it's done right.
Copyright © 2009 Nomax Publishing Inc. All Rights