North of Jewfish Creek

Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.

Dear Friend & Subscriber,

  Years ago, in what now seems another life, Jay Abraham asked me to read a sales letter written to sell a subscription to a financial newsletter.

  He then asked me, "Do you think you can do better than this?" I replied, "Yes, I could beat this letter if I was in a coma."

  So, I wrote a sales letter to compete against the one he had shown me. My letter did exponentially better than the other one. But to me, it wasn't much of an accomplishment. You see, the letter Jay had shown me was poorly written, thematically flawed, and in general, what I considered to be a very amateurish, clumsy effort.

  After writing that first letter, I started writing sales letters for financial products on an almost assembly-line basis. I wrote them for coin dealers, Agora Publishing, KCI Publishing, Phillips Publishing, and others. These were companies that mailed tens of millions of sales letters a year.

  It was such an easy gig for me, I could almost sleep through all of the "work" I was doing.

But That Was Soon To Change!

  One day (when I was living in Oakwood Garden Apartments in Burbank, California) I read a sales letter (it would turn out to be the first of many) written by a man named Gary Bencivenga. As I read that letter, my heart sank.

  His sales letter was so well crafted, so impactful from a sales point of view, I knew if I had to compete against this guy, it would no longer be like shooting fish in a barrel.

  This guy was good! In fact, he wasn't just good, he was unbelievably good!

  Throughout the years, Gary created a steady stream of some of the best sales messages ever written. But I think even beyond his outstanding writing ability, his understanding of human psychology is truly exceptional.

  Gary recently sent a Christmas message to all of his subscribers and it touched my heart so much, I am (with his permission) reproducing it here. Don't start reading it thinking it is simply a "holiday message" (it WILL lift the heart of everyone who reads it)... but... do pay special attention because it also contains a very valuable marketing lesson.

  Anyway, without further ado, here's a very special message from my friend, Gary Bencivenga:

This story is about another father of a disabled child, in his case, a son named Shaya.

This story was originally reported in the New York newspapers. It was so touching, it spread like wildfire across the internet, and many began to question, "Did this really happen, or is it just another urban legend?"

Well, that's the amazing part of this story. It is true. In fact, because of all the buzz, a web site called "" investigated and has reported that, yes, the story is indeed true. It has also been confirmed by no less an authority than the highly respected Rabbi and author, Paysach Krohn of Brooklyn, who says that he personally knows the participants and that every word of the story is true as originally reported. As I said, the story is about Shaya, a learning disabled boy in Brooklyn.

On weekends, Shaya and his dad like to go for walks. As they do, they like to stop and watch the neighborhood boys play baseball.

On this one Sunday afternoon, as they approached the ball field, Shaya looked up at his father and asked, "Dad, do you think they would let me play?"

Now, this gave Dad a dilemma. He knows his son is learning disabled, very uncoordinated, and has never played baseball before. But Dad also knows the neighborhood boys have always treated Shaya with kindness. And he feels that if he, his father, doesn't speak up for Shaya, who will?

So he walked over to one of the boys and asked, "What do you think about letting Shaya in the game?"

The boy didn't know what to say, and looked around to his teammates for guidance. Not getting any, he took matters into his own hands. He said, "Well, we're about to start the 8th inning, and we're losing by six runs. I don't think we're going to win this game, so what's the difference? Get him a glove and he can play behind second base, in short center field," which Shaya did with a big smile on his face.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, Shaya's team rallied and scored three runs. But they were still losing by three.

In the bottom of the 9th, they rallied again. They had three runners on base, two out, and it was Shaya's turn to bat.

Dad wondered, will they even let him bat? But without hesitation, one of the boys shouted, "Shaya, you're up!," and he was handed a bat. But as he stood at home plate, it was obvious to all that Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat, let alone hit with it.

So the pitcher moved in a couple of feet and lobbed the ball very softly so Shaya could at least make contact.

Shaya swung and missed by a wide margin. Before the second pitch, one of Shaya's teammates called out, "Hold on, let me help him. Let me show him how to bat." This boy came and stood behind Shaya, and put his arms around him so the two boys were now holding the bat together.

The pitcher moved in a couple more feet and again lobbed the ball as softly as he could.

The two boys swung the bat together and managed to tap a soft grounder right back toward the pitcher. Shaya's teammates yelled, "Run, Shaya! Run to first!" And he took off for first base.

But the pitcher pounced on the ball in an instant and could easily have thrown Shaya out at first, ending the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and, with obvious intention, threw it on a high arc way over the first baseman's head, all the way into the outfield.

Shaya was safe at first. The first baseman turned him toward second and said, "Run, Shaya, run to second!"

But by then, the right fielder had chased down the ball and he, too, could have easily thrown Shaya out, at second. But he understood what the pitcher had done. So he threw the ball not just over second base, but way over the third baseman's head, so far that nobody was going to retrieve that ball.

As Shaya chugged into second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him towards third base and shouted, "Run, Shaya, run to third!"

Of course, by now the three runners who had been on base had scored. The game was tied, Shaya represented the winning run, and his teammates were screaming with excitement.

As Shaya rounded third base, every boy from his team... and several from the opposing team on the field... were all running behind him, cheering him home.

And as he put his foot on home plate, both teams gathered around him, lifted him on their shoulders and cheered him as the hero of the game. He had just hit a home run and won the game. These boys gave Shaya the thrill of his life. Of course, they gave him something even more precious--their acceptance.

Obviously, these boys had either been taught, or perhaps had discovered on their own, the greatest secret of human happiness. And that is . . . .

We Experience Our Moments Of Purest Joy At Precisely Those Moments When We Are Causing It In Others.

It is a truism of life--whatever we give out comes back to us, multiplied. Which brings me back to the beginning of this message . . . .

In the hurly burly of the holiday crush, if you want to experience some genuine joy, all you need do is take a few moments to spread some joy around yourself.

Maybe it's time to call an old friend who needs calling. Or to forgive what needs forgiving. To let a family member hear some healing words. Perhaps write that note that needs writing. Smile an accepting smile at the next disabled person you encounter. Or maybe to just relax in the moment with someone older who'd love your undivided attention for a few minutes, as all living things thrive on attention.

Of course, you may ask, what does all this have to do with effective marketing, the usual subject of these Bullets?

Nothing, really.

And everything.

As Malcolm Forbes was fond of saying, "In all thy getting, get understanding."

It's vital for all of us to understand that our prospects and customers are people, too . . . and people like to connect with others who are unafraid of showing a little humanity, of taking some time now and then to share a laugh, feel some warmth, express some sympathy, do a favor, help a charity, be a friend. Whatever your product, however impressive your expertise, people will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Every now and then, toss a few pebbles of caring into your pond of contacts. Those ripples of friendship will spread and unfailingly return to you in waves of appreciation and loyalty.

Especially at this time of year, we all need to rediscover, like Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," the giddy delight of perpetrating on unsuspecting humanity some random acts of kindness, some senseless acts of joy.

* * * * *

If you would like to share Shaya's story of joy with anyone you know, you certainly have my permission to forward this e-mail to as many people as you wish, to spread a little cheer yourself and honor the spirit of the season.


  I'd like to tell you something else that's very special about Gary. Every Thanksgiving he sends a large, solid gold coin to someone who has affected his life in a positive way.

  And one of the things of which I am most proud is... Gary sent me one of these coins back in the 90's. Unfortunately, due to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the other discombobulations of my life, I no longer have that coin. But, to me, that doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is the memory of knowing a man such as Gary Bencivenga held me in enough esteem to bestow me with that gold coin. That's about as high an honor to which a person like me can aspire.

  Anyway, he publishes a monthly newsletter on the Internet called "Bencivenga Bullets" and everybody in marketing should be reading them (and printing them for their fodder file). Even though Gary's "Bullets" are free... they are truly invaluable. You can find them at

  Next year (2005) Gary is hosting a seminar in New York City. John Carlton will be there. So will Scott "Mongo" Haines. And yes, I will be there too. (Along with many other "celebrity" marketers.) But, each of us will be there as attendees... not as participants. So don't bother asking any of us questions. We'll be too busy ourselves taking notes and learning from one of the handful of true living legends of copywriting and marketing.

  There is no seminar on earth I can think of that would be more worth attending than the one going to be given by Gary Bencivenga in 2005. You can be certain (barring some sort of (tragedy) every sane marketing genius in the world will be there to sit at his feet and learn from him.

  You know, as you walk through life you cannot help but be aware of all the corrupt business men, thieves, sex offenders, crooked politicians, war lords, murderers, greedy religious leaders, lying CEO's, and just plain jerks. But, every once in a while on this path through life, you come across "a Gary Bencivenga". A person...

Who Restores Your Faith In The Decency Of Mankind!

  On a personal level, I would like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season (whichever is appropriate) and I pledge in 2005 I will redouble my efforts to provide value for you, my newsletter readers.

   Gary C. Halbert



P.S.   I'm feeling especially grateful for all the blessings I have in my personal life... but...

 Don't Expect That To Continue!

Unlike Gary Bencivenga, I am unable to sustain kindness, integrity and decency over any prolonged period of time. Therefore, I can pretty much assure you that in the almost immediate future I will, once again, be obnoxious, rude, chauvinistic and 100% politically incorrect. I'm sorry. I just can't help it!


Copyright Gary C. Halbert.  All Rights Reserved.