The Ultimate Formula for Success

The Ultimate Formula for Success

Reader Comments (124)

  1. I could not have said it better myself. Since chasing the American dream can become an addiction for people, I think that it’s very responsible of you to pull back the curtain a little.

    I think that it’s also the responsible thing to do for all of us in marketing. It’s one thing to con somone into believing they can use a can of magic spray and then become instantly beautiful overnight, but it’s a whole different kettle of fish when you actually help someone.

    Let’s all take it from Jonny and show our customers how to attain what we are selling them, but at the same time explain that it’s not going to be a walk in the park to get there. The most successful people are the ones that don’t believe they will fail in the long run. If you know in your heart that you will attain your goal, then the goal is what you get.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  2. Johnny, I hope you’re happy now that you’ve dashed the hopes of countless online opportunity seekers. What about “push-button profits” and “an ATM in my inbox”? Is there nothing I can believe in anymore? 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story of how you got to where you are. A little dose of reality online is a really good thing!

    And it seems that this is also a feature of the emerging “Third Tribe”: a willingness to be real about the challenges involved in building any business, including an online one. It’s really a valuable conversation, and I’m glad to be part of it.

  3. Loved this, and I hear you about the reader hate, blowback and stirring it up. Funny how we can get a long thread of appreciation, then along comes one schmuck to has to make you wrong (nothing wrong with challenging us, I guess, but it’s the personal attack stuff that’s puzzling). I think anytime we use a title like “ulitmate” or “best ever” that hangs out a sign saying “please attack me.” One reader called me a “prick” because I suggested there really are principles that guide our writing, and that you can’t just sit down and do any damn thing you please, as she liked to to. Then I had a guy just yesterday (got it via pingback) who actually told his readers he really likes the content on my site, but thought I looked “cheesy” in my jeans and leather coat. Yeah, that’s my radical fashion sense alright… me and Lady Gaga.

    So keep fighting the good fight, and thanks for the good stuff this morning.

  4. @Larry, I know how that goes. Sometimes I just shake my head. Some people seem determined to spend most of their limited time here on earth making themselves a pain in the ass for other people, instead of making something good and useful of their own. Seems like a weird way to make yourself happy, but what do I know.

    I like this post a lot, because even though the title seems ironic, I don’t believe that it is. Plain old stubbornness combined with some creativity will get you further than any system. (Not to say systems are bad. But without stubbornness at a minimum, they’re almost useless.) It really is the ultimate secret, no kidding.

    There’s a saying for writers who want to get published: You need to be talented, lucky, and persistent. Pick two. I’ve found that applies to starting a business as well, except the “persistent” part, as long as you can also adapt, trumps the first two.

  5. And the truth shall set you free! As a Inbound Marketing consultant I have been very frustrated for 2 years now about the potential clients who come to me wanting instant success. When I engage in conversation with them I soon find out there is no solid business built behind what they are trying to sell. You can have the greatest product or service in the world and even enjoy some initial success, but without the business foundation it will all fall apart sooner or later.

    When I tell some clients they must either have, or work with me to create a marketing strategy they leave quickly. Do you know how many people can’t answer the simple question “Who do you sell too” They usually say “Everyone”

    Inbound marketing, social media, online marketing is all shiny and new, but traditional marketing best practices is what will allow businesses to take these opportunities and turn them into success.

  6. ” 1. Try.
    2. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved.”

    Man, that’s classic.

    The things that have been stretching me lately are:

    1a. Stop worrying about what other people think.
    1b. Stop listening to that little self-deflating f—-er in your own head.
    1.c Measure so you don’t repeat the same idiot mistakes more than 3 or 4 times (what can I say, I’m thick.)
    1d. Remember to love yourself/others and be good to yourself/others no matter what happens.

    Then step 2 becomes a fun adventure and joy, rather than an 18-hour-a-day grinding of your axe 🙂

    Great post!

    Peace to you…

  7. Do you know how many people can’t answer the simple question “Who do you sell too” They usually say “Everyone”

    Absolutely. It’s funny, sometimes the fundamentals are all the “magic bullet” people need. But they’re still no guarantee, of course.

  8. Thank you for being so honest (and friendly and funny). It’s great that you write about the process as the means to the end. So many people are looking for the quickest route to get somewhere without doing the actual work that is needed. Kudos.

  9. A lot of these kids would be better off marrying a footballer than trying to run a business. Johnny, I looked at the pic of your gaff, mmm nice, but when you gonna get something a little roomy?

    BB 🙂

  10. I have to say that this is the first post on this subject that I felt said things honestly. I come from old school, but have always been willing to try new things. I have been trying this so-called and impossible to define “social media marketing” for going on two years. Obviously, I do not know how to do it, because despite writing what I consider useful articles … to date I have generated exactly zero clients from my efforts. And whenever I question anyone who represents themselves as an “expert” in this, I have yet to receive a definitive answer to my questions.

  11. Way to stir up the pot and get those hornets buzzing. You mean there’s no work-at-home and earn $15,000 a day deal out there? Wow am I bummed. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to tell my clients the truth now. Actually, it would help if they would all read your post and wake up so I don’t have to keep pounding on them about this nonsense. Thanks for the reality check.

  12. Hey Sonia – I LOVE this site…you guys are always real and interesting.

    Michael – me too! I’ve had much more success with direct marketing than social media. Trying to figure out how to get them hooked together. I can get lots of readers, but it’s converting them to buyers that I can’t master yet (at least not in the ‘social media’ marketing realm.)

    Maybe ‘direct marketing’ vs. ‘social media’ is a false comparison? What do you experts say?

  13. Dude. Supermodels are soooo not fluffy.

    So basically, just keep doing and keep doing and keep trying and keep trying and eventually something oughta work? Sigh. Unfortunately that makes all too much sense. Thanks a lot.

  14. Scott, that is such a good question. I think I may do a follow-up post on that. IMO you definitely want to hook them up. If you think about traditional marketing, social media is largely a tool for lead gen, and it also works to handle some objections and build rapport. But I always try to move people to a more direct medium (my favorite is email), where I can do more traditional direct marketing combined with a lot of relationship & trust building. If you haven’t signed up for the CB newsletter yet, I talk a lot about that there.

  15. Great post,

    I’d add step 1.5: Learn from your mistakes.

    Classic marketing rears it’s ugly head again. Test it out, see what works, adapt your strategy, repeat until you can have an “About the Author” that’s similar to Johnny’s.

  16. Johnny:
    That was great, and so very true. You wouldn’t believe how often I get asked for “the answer to online riches” every day over at About Home Business. And, no matter how many times I respond with the fact that if you buy into someone else’s answer, all you do is make them rich, the question keeps coming. I guess I’ll have to start using your “Try, Rinse and Repeat” response in the future.

    BTW – love the image alt tag – maybe with your new success you can move up and get out of your starter home!

  17. Hi Johnny!
    There are indeed 500 times better ways to generate income then AdSense! It is very easy to become confused by all the opportunities on the net! The truth is that all these opportunities are not worth anything if there is no long term strategy and plan!

  18. You absolutely hit it out of the park! I added one thing borrowed from Albert Einstein’s definition of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    My personal formula:
    1. Try
    3. Review results, make necessary changes
    2. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved

  19. Touché

    We North Americans have become a people in compulsive search of a magic pill …to get rich, to have our problems, to get better, yada, yada, yada.

    I’m in the human growth & development business and I can’t tell you how we waste billions of dollars each year signing up for courses that promise ‘3 easy steps to the perfect life’, books that offer ‘guaranteed formula to make your problems disappear’, etc., etc.

    Like business success, there is no formula, no ‘one size fits all’, no magic pill to take. And yet most live the illusion (delusion?) that investing in a search for the elusive pill is easier/faster/more certain than investing in creating our own success through diligence and effort. Sigh.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep trying. In my coaching certification program I talk to my clients about the phenomenon of ’20 year overnight success’. I think I’ll add your blog post to my manual (full credits, of course) to emphasize the message.

    Gwen McCauley

  20. lol, and sometimes I still hope… oh never mind.

    Try, try again, failure or seeming failure ain’t the end of the world, when it doesn’t work, try something else.

    Know that you’re more than your business etc. etc. etc.

    Thanks … I get the young writers who are looking for instant success… seems to be part of being human in the western world.

  21. Oops, correction:
    My personal formula:
    1. Try
    2. Review results, make necessary changes
    3. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved

    Look at that, I’ve already put the formula into action!

  22. Hey Johnny, nice post. I agree that the formula for success is try until you get the desired result you want. But also not just trying the same things over and over again, try different ways of doing the method that you’re using. If you keep at it, eventually you’ll find a way to breakthrough.

  23. Excellent “But it’s a lie. It’s all a big lie”
    The parallels to the Diet & Fitness disinformation all over the internet is mindboggling.

    Same Rule applies…..There is no MAGIC BULLETT, its knowledgeable hard work based upon proven, sound principles applied over time that work.

    You didn’t just wake up one morning; look in the mirror and say “holy crap I’m a fat bastard”, what happened? It took time to get that way… will also take time to get back into shape too.

  24. I just wanna write stuff about things I like. I don’t really care about money but if it comes along, well and good.

    But I’m gonna try and try again.

    I like the “About The Author” text. Haha

  25. Things are not the same. Yes, people are on Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Facebook, and posting on forums, and blogs, yada yada yada. Every day, every single day, a HUNDRED times a day, we see headlines like “The 12 Ways to (whatever)” and “Increase your AdSense Profits by 50 Times!”

    After seeing these and similar TEMPLATE headlines every day, every single day, a hundred times a day, it’s been my experience that these headlines don’t work as well as they did two years ago – or even one year ago or even six months ago.

    Many people have become tired and IMMUNE to the standard cookie-cutter headlines.

    They don’t work. Yes, people are twittering and facebooking blogging and on forums. But after someone clicks on a YouTube video titled “Absolutely the Best (subject) video EVER!” and they click on it and the video sucks, and after being disappointed the 10th time, they become immune to that headline.


    I live in Boston where we elected Scott Brown. As an impartial analyst I can tell you what got him elected was that his opponent used tired old slogans and template headlines that might have worked the previous year, but do not work now. I work with politicians, and they are scrambling for new ways to promote their message, because THE OLD HEADLINES DO NOT WORK ANYMORE!


    When I watch politician says to a packed room “It’s clear that we must (insert cause here)”, and five people from the audience want to know “why is it clear?” “what’s clear about it”, “it’s not clear to me so explain why it’s clear to you”, and the politician looks back at his handlers in a stupified panic, that’s a signal that last year’s slogans and headlines don’t work anymore.

    And when someone promises that you will do “500 Times Better”, we want to see your literal metric, or your headline is a waste of time.

    I used to really enjoy Copyblogger, but honestly, about one-third of the posts are two years out of date.


    • I take it all back. I was projecting. Based on what I have learned since this post, I know I was wrong.


      I was wrong. Copyblogger is the best.

  26. It seems that i have asked some of the best seo copywriters in North America this question and know one has a straight answer. What is the correct way to map keywords to content (actual content not meta description, title tag,) Please don’t answer with keyword density stuff and first and last paragraph stuff. Example i have 3-5 keywords that i want to map to a content page what is the most effective strategy to get conversion results.

  27. When something new hits the marketplace people immediately jump to say make millions like I did. Sounds great but too good to be true. There is no instant success. It takes years of hard work and even harder work and a whole lotta trying.

    Social media is not different. If I get a profile and write a few articles people will flock to hire me and within a few weeks, I will have done 2 things and the hard work is over. That is why businesses fail. Social media is not a short term venture – it is a long term commitment that is contained in your overall marketing strategy. Some work harder than others and generate sales within 9 months were others it takes longer.

    What worked for Johnny Truant is not going to necessarily work for Suzanne Vara/Kherize5. Some ideas may spark something that would allow me to make it my own but to take what you did and think it will work me is a red flag that I will fail. Find what works for you and your company best and work harder than anyone out there and when that starts to have a profitable gain, work harder than you once were.

    Always a pleasure to read your guest posts!


  28. Hi guys

    i like adsense as something to bring in a small income stream but i will never see it as a major just like i wont with affiliates. They can all play a small part in your business and then if you lose a small income stream it wont effect you too much.

    kind regards


  29. I was fortunate enough to recently interview Johnny B Truant. So I got to hear these ideas from him directly. It’s really easy to get caught up in formulas and nonsense for what works. But the reality is that what worked for one person might not work for you. One of the reasons we read blogs and connect with people is because we’re interested in how authentic they are. I love how how the ultimate formula for success is that there is no formula.

  30. Loved this post. Some of us are still trying to make sense of how to monetize our site. With so many options out there (affiliate ads, AdSense, etc.) my head is spinning. Thanks for de-exorcising me. I needed it!

  31. I tried really hard to find something awesome to say but honestly nothing came to mind. So I’ll just explain what happened after reading the post.

    I stood up from my reasonably comfy chair and began to clap my hands with gusto. I let out a quick – WOO! and a YEAH! I then composed myself, sat back down in my reasonably comfy chair, wiped the tear from my eye, and went back to trying.

    Excellent post – Thank you Johnny B.

  32. Hey, just read through all of the comments. Thanks for the love on the ideas, everyone.

    To add to this concept, I actively discourage people from working with me if I think they have a magic bullet mindset. To that end, I try to be clear up front that nothing guarantees immediate results, and I don’t try to persuade with promises of those results.

    I told one recent client (I hope he reads this; he seems to enjoy the story) these exact words on the phone: “I really don’t give a shit if you work with me.” Another potential client (who says he does want to work with me) told me that I wasn’t make it easy for him to buy from me.

    I find that people appreciate the honesty up front, and so my clients tend to be really kick-ass people. They understand that no one thing I tell them will make a rocket car appear in their driveway, yet are determined enough to try to make it happen anyway.

  33. I think the reason so many people may have posted bad comments looking for the formula is because they are lazy. Why should they work hard and try different things when they can just take your formula and replicate it and make money. Unless you win the lottery, I don’t know how else to make a lot of money without working hard and trying and making mistakes. I think that the more mistakes I’ve made the more money I have made because I learned from them all.

  34. At the end of the day, you’ll make it in whatever you try if you follow a simple rule: Think everything through in your business, sport, friendships, hobby. Also apply marketing which I’m trying to do myself. Make the most of your talents and apply them to everything and think positively, saying you’re the best.
    Kind Regards,
    John for Denis Maguire

  35. I can’t believe Sonia edited out the line in my bio about how Brian Clark has been ripping off my tendency to tweet about zombies. I smell conspiracy.

    Saw Zombieland last weekend. I’ll be tweeting lines from it until further notice. Heh.

  36. Chris Stocker – It isn’t being “lazy” to want to know answers to questions. A person reading a headline has a reasonable expectation of finding in the article the answer promised (or at least implied). When a person takes the time to read it and the headline seemed misleading – you’ll get that reaction. And I go back to my point earlier – this whole “social media” marketing seems best suited for those who write about it or who already have their business operating and its just another method of keeping their name out there. But as for generating leads? Two years of posting and working at something 10 hours a week is not being lazy – when you get zero response its safe to say you are either doing it wrong or the entire idea of generating leads from “social media” marketing is a myth.

  37. the entire idea of generating leads from “social media” marketing is a myth.

    It’s definitely not a myth. Social media is about people, people buy stuff. Simple as that.

    It seems like your content is not getting found or not connecting with the right people. Feel free to ask a specific question and I’ll try to help you.

    Or (and this is not a pitch), you should consider joining Third Tribe. We just did an entire seminar series about building a business around a blog. I think we revealed some really good stuff.

  38. Michael Myers – in that situation, you’re right it is not being lazy and that is not the situation that I am speaking about. You at least tried and that is exactly what I meant by that. You tried and it didn’t work, but you tried, maybe there could have been thing done a little different, but you put in the work to try and find a formula that works for you. The “lazy” type that I am speaking of are the ones that don’t want to find out how the formula works for them.

    They just want to read an e-book or blog post that says, do these 3 things today exactly the same way that I did it, and you will make exactly the same amount of money as me. That’s not going to happen because every industry, product is different. There is a formula out there and these tips are basic factors, but you still need to try and make it work, and I commend you on your time spent doing it.

  39. This one really made me laugh Johnny, absolutely brilliant writing and yet it’s so damn true.

    The huge problem these days: we don’t even want to try any more. We want instant success without all the hard work involved with trying, especially with trying again which is so damn draining..

    So what is your instant millions-making secret, Confess! You have a secret you’re not telling us. A golden apple tree perhaps?

    …and now back to business.. here we go, again…. and again.. and…

  40. @Mike – Yeah, I’ve pretty much generated 100% of my business through social media and the referrals that followed. I agree with Brian; it’s not a myth. It’s just a learned skill, and the Third Tribe way to do it pretty much sums up my stance on social media lead generation.

  41. Johnny:

    Sorry I got here a bit late and hope I have not missed the bus. Thanks to you for a really great post, as usual.

    You write with a self-deprecating humor, which endears you to your readers. Plus, you remind me of an old cowboy named John Wayne, who also shot straight from the hip.

    Your no-nonsense, down-to-earth style is refreshing in a world that seems to be dominated by get-rich-quick schemes. Your refusal to suffer such fools gladly, however, marks you as a wanted man in the wild west.

    And you make it a point to be honest up-front and let it be known that your sage counsel is not prescriptive. In other words, there is no magic formula for success and wealth.

    “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again,” is what you advocate. And that mirrors your struggles too. This is the way you have lived your own life, writing articles for peanuts and having to abandon the PhD.
    We appreciate your authenticity and honesty. Cheers!

  42. I disagree Johnny. You can become successful with any guru’s program.

    Don’t believe their promise! Scrutinize the program. If it feels right go ahead and subscribe.

    It’s become easy to bash any one program or system. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon with the “Yeah those scheisters” comments. But programs do work.

    It may not work for you, but it works for someone. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be selling!

  43. Thanks for this post, Johnny. On a personal level, it’s nice to hear someone else has ended up in a place other than where they started (like your genetics studies, I started out in nursing and switched to the ever-so-lucrative major of English).

    On a professional level, I commend your patience with and response to those readers for whom “try” seems to have no place in their vocabulary. Just wondering, how do you deal with clients or prospects with that attitude? Or do you decide not to do business with them in the first place?

  44. All make money online business coarse have the same formula. And here it is:

    1. Create an Aweber account
    2. Create a website with opt-in form
    3. Write 365 emails stuffed with affiliate programs
    4. Drive traffic to your website
    5. When somebody signs up, AWeber will start sending emails everyday.

    Out of sheer frustration of being inundated daily dose of useless emails, somebody will buy some thing.

    Keep repeating Step 1 to Step 5. Improve all aspects of steps 2, 3, 4

    A few variations:
    1. Sell clean colon or tooth whitening or similar products to financially challenged people.
    2. As soon as one of your campaign becomes successful, take lots of account screen shot as proof of success.
    3. Develop a course and teach it to others to make big money.

  45. I have three sources of all my income. 1. Inbound marketing (and this includes, but is not limited to social media) 2. My speaking engagements and 3. word of mouth.

    I have found with clients coming to me, they are pre-set to want to concentrate on one thing. For example, I worked with a client who wanted to use this “whole social media thing” to sell her books, but refused to look critically at her awful website. Within 1 month I had tripled her traffic and the traffic I was getting her was very targeted to her niche, however, no sales because the website offered nothing of value, did nothing to build trust or a relationship and was downright confusing.

    So, the moral of the story, no one things is the answer, finding the right combination for your particular goals is a must.

  46. Hey Johnny, great post. I’m sure it’s disappointing to many people that there’s no turnkey-money-machine solutions.

    My best advice, if that’s not silly from someone who has made a ginormous $151 from her business, is to gather as much free and paid learning as possible, and read it all. See what EVERYONE says and decide that you have to do that stuff. See what opinions differ on, and choose the option you like best – or make a new one.

    What I like most about that is there ISN’T one formula. I want to do things my way!


  47. So wait, you’re telling me you don’t have the “turn key” “get rich quick” equation that you promoted in your last blog post?


    I want my money back.

    I thought this would be EASY.

    I thought I could just set up 500 blogs, put them on auto pilot, and kick it with my homies on the beach in Malibu.

    I thought the money would fall from the sky.

    I thought I wouldn’t need a website to make money online.

    I thought Google would just start paying me.

    I thought Twitter was the key to cash in 2010.

    LOL – just kidding (but I really have heard these specific questions and statements).

    This post was AWESOME! I plan to share this with EVERY client I work with who is starting an online business.

  48. I believe it was Tony Robbins who first coined the Ultimate Success Formula in his book “Unlimited Power”. Here it is:

    1. Know your outcome.
    2. Take massive action.
    3. Notice what’s working and what isn’t.
    4. Be flexible and change your approach until you get what you want.

    Most people are very vague about what they want: more money; better relationships; lose some weight. Fuzzy goals lead to a lack of focus and to vague results. Specific, measurable goals are like a laser beam, and lead to specific, measurable outcomes.

    Some people talk the talk but aren’t willing to walk the walk. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you don’t take action, nothing is going to change.

    Do or not do, said Yoda. There’s no try!

    Trial and error are part of the process. You have to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. You need to be aware of the results of your approach, and be willing to change course if you’re not getting closer to your goals.

    There’s one important shortcut to this formula: find someone who has already achieved your outcome, and study this role model as best as you can. Then, take it to the next level!

    That’s the Ultimate Success Formula. Of course one could debate the definition of success. It means different things to different people.

    Deepak Chopra once put it this way: “Success is the continuous realization of goals that are worthwhile pursuing.”

  49. @Ryan – I think you’ve described a strategy that might be described as 1) Try one method and then 2) be persistent. So yeah, I agree.

    @Jessie – I won’t work with those folks. Godspeed to them, but they’re just going to get pissed at me, and I don’t want that, for either of us.

  50. We all know you just want to keep the magic formula for yourself, Truant. If only I had enough money to pay you, I’m sure you’d crack and spill the beans. I understand you don’t want to let it out to everyone for fear of diluting its effectiveness. That’s alright, buddy, you can tell me. Let’s talk.

  51. Johnny, great post as always. I never trust/buy from those who say “it’s easy,” “do it my way.” I DO trust (and sometimes buy from) those who say, “Hey, this is work! But worth it.” So people like Dan Kennedy, Chris Brogan,
    Gary Vaynerchuck, and now YOU are a trustworthy bunch!

    And I also vet my clients to make sure they are ready to do some work and not just sit there and whine. One guy I spoke to last week said he wanted to do SM marketing, “but I don’t want to have to actually DO it. Can you do the work for me?” Ah, no.

    Keep on…

  52. Thank you for going through your list of failures – No, I’m not happy that you failed that many times, but that’s the only way real success ever happens…or at least I’m hoping, and your testimonials seems to confirm it 🙂
    Anyway, that’s what I live by – if one thing fails try another, if that doesn’t work, find something else – It gives me courage knowing that each failure puts me one step closer to success, because I’m not giving up. And I don’t need a formula for that. Thanks, Johnny!

  53. I agree with Mike. Adding Step 1.5 – Learn from your mistakes – is very important. Whether you are retrying at the same business or starting a new business, if you don’t learn from your failures your chances of failing again certainly increase.

  54. I think it was Armand Morin who wrote something about internet marketing amnesia.There are universal principles of success,and few of us have met people who got rich from”autopilot” systems.But,I think most of us really want an easy life-we are indolent,and that is why we fall again and again for the “Gurus”.We deliberately forget what we know offline,we really want to believe in magic pills.On a logical level,most of us can see through some of those claims,but there is this little voice saying”but what if…”

  55. Dan Kennedy, in his usual brutal style, had a great take on this at his most recent Info Summit conference. “If you want a business where all the rules and instructions are laid out for you, where someone will tell you exactly what to do and when to do it, that does exist. It’s called a Quizno’s.” And even he had to admit that there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not a route to the golden rocket car, and no one should kid themselves that it is.

  56. Johnny, when does your book 9 Months to 5 Figures come out?

    I couldn’t be arsed to read the post or the comments so if you could just e-mail me that would be great.

  57. @Timmy – I have told some people about your suggestion to write an e-book called “How to Become an Internet Celebrity in Six Months.” I like giving you credit because then it’s closer to you coaching me than me being pompous.

    Blatantly disregarding your instructions not to reply in the comments,

  58. I’m going to have you for that Truant, letting other people know about my cunning idea.

    Expect a rather large law suit coming your way. Well, either that or a dark menacing glare.

  59. You didn’t see my year in a genetics lab, working toward a PhD, which I gave up when the work started giving me panic attacks.

    Never had panic attacks, but have lingering computer-screen-staring syndrome that I am working to overcome.

  60. You’ve hit it on the head; definitely people who think there’s a “secret formula” will never succeed. Because copy-writing is not in black and white, there is no formula (if only there was!).

    Everything’s path is different, and there is no specific one to follow, but CopyBlogger certainly does a great job of guiding us on that path :).

    I have to disagree a little, though, with your general formula of 1. Try. 2. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved.

    There will often be mistakes in what people do, so here is my personal revision:

    1. Give value.
    2. Keep giving value until desired result is achieved.

    I know I’m nitpicking, but as you said, people can be literal.

    In my niche (action/adventure writing), many people want to write a great book like the ones you see on the bestseller list, but they want a formula to come up with ideas, writing style, etc. and there is only so much you can say. I used to try really hard to write like my favorite author, and I still did very well, but as soon as I switched to my own personal style, my writing flowed more and it was better (copying someone else’s style is a very bad idea).

    If only everyone would realize they have to go their own way and it’s mainly about creating value; Pat Flynn is a good example of that.

  61. Nice post!!!! i agree 100% with you…there is now quick fix in life….You have to work at your goals and keep trying. Thats my philosophy in life as well.

  62. Totally well said. We should stop trying to find that secret formula, you need to just work your butt off and keep trying! I don’t know what else to say, peace out.

  63. One thing I’ve learned about trying and then trying again is that it can become another job until something clicks. Never give up!

  64. The just keep trying attitude is a good one, but I have to point something out. Earlier in my life I stayed way too long at the fair, flogging away at a business that was just a bad idea, because I was stubborn and hated to be thought of as a quitter. If I had quit as soon as I knew it was a goner, I could have gotten on to my next adventure a lot sooner.

    So yes, keep trying, but know when you are beating a dead horse.

  65. This is my favorite thing you’ve written. I want to take this post to some members of the new business coaching group I belong to and bash in their heads with it.
    Cheers, Susan

  66. I think the thing that most people fail to realize is success is not an overnight event. It takes a lot of hard and dedicated work ( unless you are damn lucky) to be a success at anything.

    Making money online is one of the most crowed races on the planet, so anyone thinking it is easy either has had to much to drink or that crack pipe is dangling from their lips.

    Sure, I would love to rub some snake oil on my belly and wake up with a pile of cash on my stomach in the am, but alas it is not the case.

    Each and everyone of us has got to chart our own path, for a blessed few there are some shortcuts, however for the rest of us it is trial and error, hopefully you wood catches fire before the rain of despondency ends the night.

  67. @Lynda, I think that’s a good point, that was touched on a couple of times in the comments. You can’t just be stubborn, you also have to be willing to change your approach, and to observe what looks like it’s working and what doesn’t. And even that isn’t subject to a formula. There’s no perfect way to know when to stick with the same approach and when to try something totally different.

  68. haha! This is a very good response post. It’s also a good example of how it’s good to upset the balance.

    I personally hate adsense and adwords. If a site has them installed, I tend to categorize it instantly as of no value and move on.

    Maybe some people click it, and some people make a lot of money from it. Great for them. I always feel like adsense is just lazy advertising. It’s not really creative at all, it’s only personalized because of code that makes it personal.

    I want to make money without it, I’m trying to build a great (and sustainable) business. See what happens over the next year. 🙂

  69. I enjoyed this a lot. It has a similar ring to something I wrote just a couple days ago about where talent comes from. As I watched the Olympics, it really got me to thinking about all of the trial and error required to become talented at a particular skill.

    I found that I can usually read and write my way out of nearly any jam. I am a marketing guy, and I have been for a couple decades. If you ask me what I am really great at, it is driving cars … fast. I can drive a lap at most tracks to make people wonder what planet I fell from. If you ask me how I came to learn it, the story is long and brutal. It took years of hard work, countless thousands of hours, and squillions of dollars to drive like I do.

    I teach others how to drive like the devil is chasing them, but the first thing I tell them is to never under any circumstances try to impress me. Talent comes from practice. Passion is great, and natural ability can help. Where these things really help is that they are what get you off your butt to practice more.

    The same goes for business. If you try to shortcut the practice with a miracle fix, you are likely to crash.

  70. I enjoyed this.

    There is ahuge perception of overnight success, particularly with online businesses, but I bet that 90% of those successful ventures have years of plugging away behind the scenes before the right formula (for them) happened.

    Keep believing.

  71. Hmm, maybe you should have simply compared adsense to other forms of revenue earning ventures to demonstrate why it wasn’t any good and say…affiliate sales are so much better.

    Otherwise this is just a bit of a ramble.

  72. I especially liked the dose of realism you put in this post (while mixing it with your presumably fictional golden rocket car). The internet has farrr to many people with “the answer”.

    Really liked the two steps of success too 😉

  73. Hi there, GREAT post. A reality check as inspiring as this one is hard to get by on the online marketing world.

    I sincerily hope you’ll achieve the numbers you are seeking and keep sharing your ideas with us from your vulcano island 🙂


  74. Fascinating post, I have carefully read the comments and I wouldn’t call anything posted in the comments even remotely “reader hate” in fact there is nothing here that even strongly rebuffs your post outright saying you are wrong and here is why, almost all the comments just agree with you.

    I understand that negative feedback comes in shades and the most extreme may not be fit for approval but you seem to be disapproving post that don’t agree with you or sing your praises ?

    Is that normal when a blog gets popular ? I would be interested in follow up on where the line is that blog operators deny a comment that disagrees with the author

  75. Great post. I completely agree. It takes a lot of work to be successful on the web. I always laugh when I hear ads proclaiming “fast riches”… if the product was that good, you would not be selling it to everyone else. Thanks for another inspiring post.

  76. “where supermodels would line the halls like a hairspray-and-silicone gauntlet”…that’s your business model, focus there. Seriously, a very cogent post – I enjoy your writing style.

  77. @Red Rope, one reason Johnny’s posts do so well is that he puts things in a strong, vivid, interesting way. 🙂 Saying “some people were a bit cranky with me” is, well, not very interesting. There also may have been some posts elsewhere on the web referring back to his. This is, in fact, a topic that generates some very strong feelings.

    FYI, Johnny doesn’t moderate comments for his posts, Brian and I do. So he wouldn’t have even seen comments that we didn’t approve. We don’t deny comments for dissenting viewpoints; we do deny comments that we feel are simply unconstructive, particularly if they’re anonymous (no web site given). I have to say, we don’t get many, but every site gets a few.

  78. What Sonia said. I don’t mind when people disagree with me, but that post got more disagreement than usual, and some who disagreed did so strongly. In the strict, literal definition, it was not actually HATE.

  79. I enjoyed this post. Thanks.

    I read Copyblogger religiously as I too am one of the many trying to generate an income over the net. I am also a relative novice in this game.

    People forget that our purpose for doing what we do is to primarily communicate, build relationships and connect with our audience — that cannot happen overnight as it takes an audience a while before they “know-trust-like” you.

    There are no short cuts here and what may work well for some may not work at all for others. It’s all a matter of trying different avenues and focusing on what works well for you.

  80. Excellent article. My parents taught us kids, and this may be trite, “Can’t can never do anything, but try can always do something.”
    Again, great formula.

  81. Here, here. I definitely agree with your comments.

    And, from where I stand, I think your angst is well placed. I’ve been in marketing management for over 20 years, and I am amazed by how many non-marketers think they could do my job—even though they don’t have the training, knowledge, or expertise to do.

    I think it’s becoming commonplace to observe the end result and greatly underestimate what it took to make it happen. Maybe that’s because we make it look easy—whether we’re talking about traditional marketing or social media marketing. No one cares what it took to make it successful. Hard work and effort aren’t very sexy. But that’s what it takes.

    I recently started subscribing to your blog; I admire your spirit and your honesty. It’s obvious you’ve earned your success. There is no reason to apologize for that. I’m sorry that you’ve gotten enough negative comments that you thought you had to.

    I like your formula for success. Here’s mine. Try Plan A. If Plan A doesn’t work, figure out why. Go to Plan B. If Plan B doesn’t work, go to Plan C. Keep doing it until you’re successful. Don’t waste time finding fault or placing blame. Focus on solving the problem at hand.

  82. Meh, this really wasn’t an angsty “reply” post… I just found it interesting how some folks really wanted a formula. It’s all good… I get 99% great stuff and very little real negativity. Cool stuff.

  83. @Lori Philo-Cook
    Great comment. Eventually what will happen is a marrying of old and new. Everyone got caught in the new “jump right in and play around with the new social media” notion without having a clue of basic marketing skills. Nothing wrong with jumping right in, unless you actually expect to get anywhere with it. It’s like jumping into your car, closing your eyes, pointing the car in a direction, and then getting mad you didn’t drive straight to Miami.

    The other side of the coin, I meet many traditional marketers who have dismissed the new ways to communicate, either because they are unwilling to learn, or have convinced themselves it’s just a fad.

  84. @Lynda, that, or they think that the old rules of TV and radio advertising are going to work online the same way they do with mass media. Um, no.

  85. Oooh, I love this post. I had started to feel that I was the only one who was trying and failing time and again. Now I know that I’m not alone.

    PS: I identify totally about panic attacks at the genetics lab. I used to have that a lot when I was doing my Masters in Molecular Biology and learnt that lab research wasn’t for me, but medical writing was!

  86. Maybe I’m hopelessly naive (or irredeemably British in assuming everything is a piss-take), but I can’t understand why anyone would imagine that a title like “How to do 500 times better than Adsense” WASN’T tongue-in-cheek?! Do people really believe that kind of thing? Johnny, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that the people who attacked you have either had their common sense or their funny bone surgically removed.

  87. Some times you just need to be blunt. When I was just starting out after college I had a wise and very successful business mentor tell me “If it was easy, anyone could do it.” His point being that building a successful business takes hard work and has to provide a product that the customer values and is willing to pay for.

    That is the problem with formula programs. If it was so easy to make buckets of money why would they share the magic with you? Unless of course they want to sell you the secret formula.

  88. Johnny,

    This might be one of the most fun and true-to-heart blog posts ever. I loved it, and I love how you underlined the failure process before the success. honesty and experience make a great blog post, when combined with a sense of humor.

  89. Hi JT,
    All I can say is this post holds the secret to success!!! I come from an extended family of entrepreneurial successes in business, and each one of those successes is cloaked in a plethora of failures and set backs!!
    PS Love the website you set up for me last week. It looks beautiful!

  90. I once taught the son of an actor.

    In the years that I was teaching his son, he secured a prominent part in a series that then went ‘big time’ here in the UK.

    Chatting with him one day after school, when he came to pick up his son, I congratulated him on his new found fame.

    With great comic timing, and not an ounce of bitterness (which does him great credit) he responded:

    “Yes, its only taken me 20 years to become an overnight success.”

    Different story, same principle and so true.

    I’m off to go and try your formula!

    Thanks for the post.


  91. This blog post I believe was written just for me today, because I was on the verge of giving up again, but I have to keep trying. I know that only be trying will I eventually find success. Great article

  92. You’re so right. Success comes from hard work. What we think of as “talent” is really the result of years of hard work. Recent studies show that what makes a good teacher is not some inherent personality trait, but hard work: persistence, perseverance, sticking with it until you get it right.
    Of course, there are exceptions. And the opposite is not always true (lots of people work hard and don’t achieve the type of success they’re after). But for the most part, you’ve got it. There’s a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” that talks about the concept of “10,000 hours.” That’s a lot of hours, and it’s a good estimate of the amount of practice and hard work it takes to learn to do something very, very well.

  93. Thanks for such a sincere article. Most people don’t have the guts to spew out the things you have said here. If people were to read this post, they would experience a lot less disappointment and frustration about building an online business or blog.

  94. I think in getting people’s attention, you have that formula of success. You’re articles got the best headlines every people will be curious to read. But in the case of the formula to success, I believe that “TRY” isn’t ultimate. It should be more specific. Trying without a vision is a little bit of risky. We know that risk can be calculated. But kudos for this article and the formula of making an intriguing post.

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