11 Personal Development Lessons From Direct Marketing Part II

By Jamie McSloy / September 15, 2017
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11 Personal Development Lessons From Direct Marketing Part II

Yesterday I posted an article about personal development lessons you can take from direct marketing as a discipline.

That article turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, so I split it in two. Here’s the second half, and I’ll get straight into it.

You Can Start From Nothing And End Up Anywhere

After the dystopian view of humanity presented above, let’s swing it back around.

Direct marketing is full of awesome stories of one-man takes-on-the-world stories that, when you read them, seem unreal.

We’re living in a time where general social mobility is lower than it has been for previous generations. There’s a collecting pool of wealth at the top and a corresponding pit at the bottom.

So any set of techniques which allow you to tip the odds in your favour are to be welcomed, and direct marketing is full of them.

In very few other industries can you go from choosing between having the lights on and having the heating on to having to hire people just to deal with your incoming cheques, but that’s happened to multiple people in copywriting.

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It’s because direct marketing is the scientific art of giving people what they want which is a universal win-win industry.

What’s the personal development lesson here? Orthodoxy isn’t the total of reality. Massive economic factors are less important than having a good idea and pushing forward with it.

If A Formula Works, It Works – Direct Marketing Principles Apply 100 Years On In Completely Different World

Don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

When I did the Gary Halbert 30 Day Challenge, the biggest thing that struck me (other than the fact that nobody apart from me has ever mentioned the small fact that completing the challenge is impossible) is that you can read a book from 100 years ago and directly apply that knowledge today.

Even though nobody really mails anything and the language we use is totally different, you can get a copy of Scientific Advertising and apply it to emails and it’ll work just as well.

What this means is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can push the art and science of direct marketing forward.

Take what works do more of it and do it better. You should aim to do this in every aspect of your life.

Most Solutions Are Simpler Than You Think – Direct Marketing Strips Out Everything

Let’s continue from that last point.

Everything in our lives is more complex than it has to be.

You’ve got fitness and good health as an example. The fitness industry is beyond ridiculous. Thousands of supplements, hundreds of different workout programs and a billion gurus and certified experts giving you basically every possible iteration of things that could possibly work.

In direct marketing, everything is stripped down. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Sure, you can build on something simple and eventually have quite a complex beast, but theory is extraneous and there’s literally no point in going A to C to D to E and back around when you can just go from A to B.

In a sales funnel, doing the former is absurd because you lose people along the way. So you go for the highest conversion rate by making everything simple.

In life, the same is true, but think in terms of energy and attention as opposed to sales and conversions.

You Cannot Automate Person-to-Person Interaction; But You Can Automate Everything Else

In direct marketing, the whole idea is to make your message come across as though it’s one guy (or girl) speaking to another guy (or girl.)

This involves some psychological awareness, a certain linguistic style and a whole bunch of research. Despite my best efforts, there isn’t really a way to guarantee with any huge certainty how an audience will respond. (Some marketing campaigns just don’t work.)

This is the hard bit; the human connection and relationship thing.

For everything else though, technology is your friend. With direct marketing, you send out to your list, and with the internet you can have huge opt-ins with automation, segmentation and over time you can create a huge architecture that makes everything seems seamless.

Back to real life and personal development.

There are things which you can’t outsource, automate or neglect. Things like personal relationships require your presence and connection.

It’s very important to separate those things from things which don’t require your attention.

(Well outside the scope of this article. Check back in the future.)

You Have Buttons That Can Be Pushed. So Does Everyone Else.

A lot of people talk about eliminating temptations and weaknesses as though that’s a goal to achieve.

In reality, everyone has that aspirational self – nobody thinks they’ll make stupid decisions in the future, nobody thinks they’ll get addicted to drugs and nobody thinks they fall for silver-tongued sales speak; whether it’s delivered by a copywriter or some guy trying to get you hooked on drugs.

Everyone thinks, “Sales stuff doesn’t work on me” and then it does. Reliably.

The only way to be safe from those sorts of things is to understand yourself – accept the fact that you’re a flawed and potentially malleable human being like the rest of us – and then create an environment where either temptation doesn’t exist or it’s not as tempting to you.

So the takeaway is not “develop away your weaknesses” or whatever a guru will tell you – it’s manage your life so that you’re less tempted when temptation comes along.

Nothing Matters As Much As What You Want – People find a way to pay if they need to. They’ll justify objections. Etc.

This follows on from the last point: people are more malleable than they think.

What you want is what you continually get. This is an important yet pretty controversial self-development point.

If you’re fat, then chances are you want to eat too much. You probably don’t want to be fat, but the consequences follow the action.

Nobody looks at a slice of pizza and weighs up the options. They think they do, but they don’t. If in the moment you look at that slice of pizza and you’re not hungry, you’ll “avoid temptation.” If, on the other hand, you’re hungry, you’re going to eat the pizza.

People can come up with all the arguments they want for an anti-consumerism lifestyle. We don’t need practically any of the stuff we buy. But we want it – and we’ll overcome all kinds of objections – both real and false – to get it.

Whenever you do any copywriting, you address a person’s objections. Now, to a logical-minded person, that might evoke images of lengthy debate about the merits of long-term thinking or sacrifice in the short term for a better future.

In reality, it’s more like, “If you think $147 for a workout program is a lot… just think: what price do you put on not being a fat, ugly gremlin who girls cry when they see and guys point and laugh at?”

People want what they want, and they’ll go for it.

If you’re not getting what you think you want, then look at your actions and see why they take you where you’re going.

Reality Is KING

Let’s conclude this two-set of articles with something sorely lacking from a lot of modern thought.

Reality is king.

People think that they can override everything, that there’s a subconscious and unconscious and whatever. It’s all mostly wrong. Post-modernism – the idea that everything is about perspective and can be argued – is the dominant train of thought underlying most of the West’s construction.

It’s not correct though.

It can all be hacked and you’re no different from all the other human beings walking the planet.

Direct marketing works because having it work is a central theme: If you ignore the fact that guys want to be like James Bond and instead send them to an advert saying, “Click here to be a boring, nice guy!” then you’ll go broke. Direct marketing literally follows a “survival of the fittest” paradigm where the best marketing materials (and this is objective; what makes more money) survive and ones that don’t return a profit die.

Despite what the dominant paradigm will push on you, most things can be treated in this way.

Take for instance your health. There are a million and one perspectives out there. Do you do high intensity work for cardio or endurance-based work?

Is the food pyramid bullshit even though it’s backed by experts?

Does weightlifting stunt your growth?

All these different questions have tons of different answers, and you can drown in theory without ever having done anything.

This is the wrong course. The right course is trial and error, analysing evidence and making decisions based on the best course of action for you at that particular point in time.


  • Jakub says:

    “Nothing Matters As Much As What You Want ”

    ‘The Saddest Truth in the World’ – Hemingway?
    – Everyone is exactly where they want to be.

    If you are fat, it’s because you want to be.
    “no, no I don’t!”
    Okay… which one do you really want more – eating cake, or looking slightly skinnier after not eating it for a week?

    You are exactly where you want to be.

    If you are poor, and you don’t live under a dictatorship…

    You are where you truly want to be.
    You value avoiding pain more than the reward of success.

    As useless as motivational speeches are (except for selling products…), there is a line that I remember from years back… “You don’t want it bad, you just ‘kind of’ want it”


    You are where you want to be.
    You can give all sorts of excuses of why you aren’t where you “want to” be…

    But the reality is – you DON’T want to be there… more than you want the immediate gratification of the present. Avoiding the work and pain is more valuable to you than going through it to get the success.

    You are exactly where you want to be.
    That can be your worst nightmare, or your biggest blessing.

    But here’s the secret…

    You can change what you value.
    REFUSE to give emotional charge to the bad habits and thoughts.

    And once you practice doing the things that improve your life long enough… they become addictive and you can’t imagine doing things any other way.

    Where do you want to be?

    Exactly where you are right now.

    Are you going to change it?


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