4 Lessons From The Boron Letters
I’ve started the 30 Day Copywriting Challenge, and as promised, I’m using the experience to give you some of the lessons I’ve learned from its undertaking.
I’m going to start by writing down some of the lessons I’ve learned from one of the books on the list: The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert himself.
Because most of this site is dedicated to copywriting information, I’ve picked a few lessons that are something new.
Let’s get to it.
Lessons From Gary Halbert’s The Boron Letters
The first few lessons aren’t specifically copywriting related, or even business related. Because there’s already a lot of copywriting and business stuff on this site, let’s go into some of those lessons first.
1. It starts off with health.
You might not think your writing and business skills have much to do with your health. I certainly didn’t, but I’m finding out recently that that’s an incorrect belief.
Eventually, your health catches up to your behaviour.
Gary Halbert recommends eating fresh fruit and vegetables, going running every day and skipping back on the bad stuff in favour of healthy living. There’s no bro-fitness rocket science here, just the basics.
The basics are all you need to succeed in business from a health perspective, and here’s why you need to pay attention to them.
If you don’t pay attention to your health, it gets worse. This means your ability to write decreases. I’ve personally found that it’s very hard to sit at a desk and type when you suffer from backache. It’s also hard to muster the enthusiasm to work in the morning when you’re not sleeping well and your brain is still fried.
Added to that all the technical body stuff like poorer health leading to weaker circulation leading to less blood flow to your brain, and not only is not looking after your health stupid, but it also makes you more stupid.
Let’s move on.
2. Don’t rely on other’s to make excuses. Start from a place of self-reliance.
This is a pretty interesting lesson, and it contains a pretty harsh truth; both about our own perception and the reality of the world around us.
If you don’t want to succeed then you don’t have to. There are a million-and-more reasons for you not to succeed. Some of those reasons are made up, some are true.
You might have “health issues” that are the result of not looking after yourself – easily fixable but for your own willpower.
On the other hand, you might be born in a ghetto neighbourhood with alcoholics for parents and an older brother who beats you every day until you’re forced to move into a hostel at the age of fifteen. Obviously, this hypothetical person’s problems aren’t a case of “overcome yourself” or whatever motivation gurus like to spout.
The point is though, that if you’re looking for excuses not to succeed, you’re always going to find them. The news will tell you the economy is looking bleak, house prices in your area might be unaffordable, you might not have time to juggle your kids and your career… you name it.
There’ll always be an excuse.
The best thing you can do is rise above that. If you make it a personal mission to be as strong as you need to be and always find a way to make your own way, then you greet a world full of hardship from a position of strength.
People will treat you differently. More importantly, you’ll treat yourself differently.
With that profound life advice, let’s move onto some business talk.
3. Money is a product of enthusiasm
In copywriting and sales in general, there are tips, tricks and systems that are designed to get people to part with their cash.
Gary Halbert distils all of these things into a simple idea: Money comes when you can generate enthusiasm.
When you’re writing sales material, your natural inclination will be to address a problem and then give a bullet point list of all the features of the product and the way they add up to a solution to the problem. That’s all very logical and it’s the trap most copywriters fall into without proper insight.
What you really want to do is generate enthusiasm for your solution. That means appealing to the emotions of your target market. It means that you need to be able to take a reader and with your writing overcome their inertia – all the years of training that have gotten them into the problem-filled situation they find themselves in – and create something so powerful they’ll abandon that inertia in favour of trying out the new reality you present them with.
In short, you need to convince your reader to change their life – regardless of whether you’re selling a £10,000 life-coaching session or a $2 bottle of carpet cleaner.
You aren’t going to be able to do this without knowing a lot about your target market.
4. Learn About Your Target Market (PLUS: What Trips Up a LOT Of Consumers and Salesmen Alike)
The last point on this list is one where most would-be copywriters and entrepreneurs fall down.
We’re all subjective creatures. Our experiences and ideas are unique to us. However, we don’t think of them as such.
We think that our views are objective and that the world operates in exactly the way we think it does.
Needless to say, we’re wrong. (Except you of course… you’re right!)
People’s perception of themselves, of you and of the world isn’t the whole story. It’s a part of the story.
Aside from the existential rant, why am I telling you this?
Because what people buy isn’t what they say they’re going to buy.
Also, what people buy isn’t what they think they’ll buy.
If you were to poll people about their favourite type of food, they’d tell you that their favourite food was something exotic, expensive and unique-sounding.
Even if you read their thoughts, they’d probably tell you the same. They’d like some Italian pasta – delivered directly from Rome itself, lined with only the rarest herbs and spices, and accompanied by meatballs made from prized Kobe beef and cooked in only the purest and healthiest of oils.
In reality, there’s a reason that McDonalds is one of the world’s biggest companies, there are five kebab shops on every high street in Britain and seemingly everyone in the West has a mysterious case of expanding gut-line.
… It isn’t because we’re all eating too much of the perfect Italian pasta dish every day.
Your job as a copywriter, businessperson and problem solver in general is to look beyond what people say they want and what they’d like to think they’d do. If you want results, money and the ability to solve problems, then you need to find what actually makes people tick.
“Find” is the operative word because if you read all that and thought, “I know exactly what people need” without actually thinking about it, then you’ve missed the point.
Those are the first four lessons I gained from re-reading The Boron Letters recently. At the moment, the above comprises about 25% of all the notes I’ve written from reading it. Reading books on copywriting will teach you more than you need to get started and be successful.
They’re also the first few thoughts I gained from doing the Gary Halbert Challenge. The challenge is really tough.
I’m about 4 books into it, and so for the next few days, I’ll be writing articles like the above. I’m currently reading the Robert Collier Letter Book, and let me tell you, if you’re looking for an easy intro to copywriting, The Boron Letters is a much nicer read.
It’s easy, fun and not 400+ pages.
If you want a paperback edition, Get It Here.