“Don’t expect others to listen to what you have to say unless what you have to say is interesting to others.” – Michael Masterson


If You’re Trying to Impress Me, Don’t Do This

He had been strongly recommended for the job. And so I was expecting a sharp, take-charge person. Instead, when I took his call, I got this:

“I’ve been involved in strategically important roles with communications companies for 25 years. Throughout, I’ve focused on my core competencies, building brand recognition and interfaces with key personnel.”

To which I mentally replied: “Huh?”

He went on…

“It’s been a personal paradigm of mine that quality control and dynamic leadership are essentials in today’s globalized business environment, and that’s what I feel I can bring to any company I work for.”

I had already made an initial assessment: “This guy is full of shit.”

But, knowing myself to be a person that often rushes to judgment,  I tried to keep the conversation going.

“So,” I said, “what, exactly, have you been doing all these years?”

“Bringing in a bottom line and achieving optimal results have always been goals that resonated with me.”

“That’s enough,” I thought. “I can’t take any more.”

I opened and shut my desk drawer loudly to feign some sort of activity in my office.

“I’m sorry to do this,” I said. “But I have to jump off the phone to handle an emergency. I enjoyed talking to you. I’ll be sure to look at your resume and get back to you if something comes up that meets your qualifications.”

And with that, I bid farewell to this young man. And he, whether he knew it or not, bid farewell to any chance he had of ever working for me.

In their book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors Fugere, Hardaway, and Warshawsky say there are three reasons executives – and people applying for management positions – sometimes speak like this.

  1. Their focus is on themselves, rather than on the person they’re speaking to. “When obscurity pollutes someone’s communications it’s often because the… goal is to impress and not to inform.”


  1. They fear using concrete language, because saying exactly what they mean can make it hard to wiggle out of commitments. “Liability scares [some people], so they add endless phrases to qualify [their] views, acknowledging everything from prevailing weather conditions to the 12 reasons we can’t make a decision now.”


  1. They want to elevate and even romanticize their thoughts and deeds, because they are afraid they aren’t impressive. They do so by using lofty language that disguises the mundane truth. They are afraid to appear ordinary. Their solution is to attempt to bamboozle everyone they speak with – and particularly those with power.


This is a very bad strategy. It’s basically the opposite of what a job seeker should do.

When applying for a job, only three things really matter to your prospective employer:

* What you know (your skill set)

* Who you are (your integrity)

* How you can help him (your work ethic)

Pretending to know things you don’t is a waste of your time, because you will be found out. Getting tossed onto the street after only a few weeks on the job is both embarrassing and an ugly blemish on your work history.

You can demonstrate your good character by being honest from the outset. Be candid about what you know and what you have done. But make it clear that you are confident you can quickly learn to do anything that is required of you.

Most importantly, you must understand this: In granting you an interview, your future employer is trying to find out if you can help him solve his problems and grow his business.

He isn’t looking to be impressed. He’s looking for someone who can make his life easier by doing a great job. Your job during the interview is to sell yourself as being that person.

And the first rule of successfully selling yourself is to make sure you’ve got the basics down pat:

* You must be good at something – quite good.

* That something must be useful to the success of the business you are attempting to work for.

If you’re a longtime reader of mine, you already know what I mean by that: It must be some financially valued skill. Generally speaking, that’s one of four things: marketing, selling, creating profitable products, or managing profits. (I’ve written about these skills many times – most recently, here.)

* You must prove that you are good.

And then you must deliver.


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feign (verb) 

To feign (FAYN) is to represent fictitiously or deceptively; to put on the appearance of .  As I used it today: “I opened and shut my desk drawer loudly to feign some sort of activity in my office. ”

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The latest issue of AWAI’s Barefoot Writer

In this issue:

* 15 Ways to Reshape Your Brain and Propel Your Creativity Into the Stratosphere

* Become a Google “Influencer” and Reap Near-Infinite Rewards

* Are “Shiny, Flying Squirrels” Sabotaging Your Writing Career?

* If You’re Having Trouble Getting Leads and Subscribers…

* “Stealth Satisfaction” for You and Your Clients

Click here to read the June issue

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  • June 8-June 12, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…


The End of Intimacy, Trust, and Love


I’ve been thinking about how the world has been coming apart lately…


Click here to read more.



The End of Real Knowledge


“When I take over the world the first thing I’m going to do is abolish social media,” I announced.


“Yeah, right,” my sister said.


“Not funny!” my niece shouted.


“You can abolish Facebook, but don’t touch my Twitter,” my daughter-in-law warned.


We were joking. Sort of.


Click here to read more.



Fine Art As a Long-Term Investment


In my first essay in this series, I made the broad case for why you should consider investing in art…. Today, I’m going to explain why so many ordinary, “amateur” art lovers – people who are not necessarily financially savvy – have, nevertheless, seen their art holdings appreciate amazingly, leaving them and their heirs immensely rich.


Click here to read more.



quick quiz


  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:


*  anagnorisis (6/8/20)

*  cursory (6/10/20)

*  acumen (6/12/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:


* “When I got my first _____, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.” – Andy Warhol



* “The simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most _____ man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” – Leo Tolstoy (6/10/20)


* “There’s something to be said about the art-industrial complex, the collectors who recognize that your work has some sort of future _____ value.” – Kehinde Wiley (6/12/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False?


*  The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (6/8/20)


*  According to James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, social connection can actually be more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea. (6/10/20)


* Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike each year than all the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined. (6/12/20)




recommended links from this week’s blog


* If you don’t approve of the looting, but are horrified by the murder and want to do something actionable that is consistent with your moral and political views, you might want to contribute to this guy. (There are hundreds more like him. You can locate them if you look.) Here


* “How to Change the World by Doing This One Thing Every Day” by James Altucher – a good thought piece. To read it, click here.


* This short WSJ video reports on what some believe schools will be like in the future. I don’t believe it…Here


 * “Full Bore” – a quick, amusing read by one of my favorite essayists in Taki’s Magazine. Click here.


* I’ve watched 50+ interviews with doctors and scientists on COVID-19 and the lockdown. This doctor does the best job in explaining the facts in a way that anyone should be able to understand. Here




Your Question:


I liked your “Free Is Bad” essays.  What you said in Part 1 of this series is a reminder of what we learned in direct mail and have forgotten as we’ve moved into the electronic age. A buyer’s list was always worth more than an enquirer’s file. Also, you can cross-sell much more to a file that bought an expensive product, than you can to buyers of a cheap product. You just have to work harder to get the first sale.

The current trend to get a “small purchase first and then build on this,” I believe has been invented by people with very little direct-mail experience and never fully tested.

I don’t have any experience running charitable foundations, but all your comments in Part 2 made sense.

Will there be  a Part 3?


My Answer:


To your comments about free offers, I would add this: When the direct-response industry shifted from snail mail 20 years ago, there was a five- to six-year window when anyone could make a killing using the free-to-paid model. The Agora, my primary client, was probably the world’s leader of this model back then. Many people still call it the “Agora” model.

But even back then it was clear to my partner and me that those days of easy pickings were not going to last. Because the barrier of entry was so very low, thousands of new companies were flooding into the market and steadily pushing up the cost of acquiring “free” names.

That’s ancient history now. But there are still countless internet marketing gurus out there in cyberspace promoting this antiquated notion. And, yes, it still works – but barely.

The competition has returned to product quality and salesmanship, where it should be.

What many don’t understand about free-to-paid marketing is that amassing a huge free file today is not a meaningful marketing event. It is not a sale. It is merely a digital version of renting a direct-mail marketing list.

As JSN told me a hundred times when I worked for him: “The business doesn’t start until you’ve made the first sale.” Persuading a prospect to sign up for a free product is not a sale. It’s a marketing expense.

The magic happens when the sale is made. And making a sale today is not easy.

Re your question: Yes, there will be a Part 3… and probably a Part 4.



Your Question:


In reading your June 5th blog, you state that “last year there were 41 deaths of unarmed people by police.  Of that group 20 were white and 9 were black.”  I can’t find that statistic anywhere on the web.  Can you send me the source?



My Answer:


The numbers came from The Washington Post’s Police Shooting Database. (Since 2015, the Post has created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty.)

Following are some additional numbers. Note that the ratio of black to white deaths has been getting smaller every year since 2015. Next week, we will be publishing a longer essay on this issue.


201594 Total

32 White

38 Black

19 Hispanic

5 ‘other’


2016 – 51 total

22 White

19 Black

9 Hispanic

1 ‘other’


2017 – 70 Total

31 White

22 Black

13 Hispanic

3 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’


2018 – 58 Total

25 White

23 Black

8 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’


2019 – 55 Total

25 White

14 Black

11 Hispanic

5 ‘other’


2020 – 24 Total

10 White

7 Black

3 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 3 ‘unknown’


Totals (2015-2020)

352 Total

145 White

123 Black

63 Hispanic

16 ‘other’; 5 ‘unknown’


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page.



For a look back at the stock market, click here.



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