One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal: If you think video games are simply “harmless fun”…

It used to be different, but in recent years boys (between 3 and 18) lag behind girls in terms of their behavior, how much they learn and even their future success in life.

One reason for this, according to social scientist Leonard Sax, is the “exponential use of video games, especially violent ones, which are popular with boys.”

In Boys Adrift, Sax provides data showing that boys today are more likely than girls to be held back and to drop out of school. And if they do graduate, they are less likely to attend college. If they do go to college, they get lower grades than female students and are less likely to graduate. And afterwards, they are twice as likely to abuse alcohol and have higher unemployment, crime, suicide, and incarceration rates.

Sax says that the evidence is unequivocal. The more time a child spends playing video games, the less likely he is to do well in school, at every level from elementary to college.

In a recent study, for example, 6- to-9-year-old boys were given a video game console for 4 months and were compared to a control group. The gamers did indeed spend less time on academic work and their reading scores suffered. They also had more problems at school.

Playing violent video games is linked to declining achievement and social behavior, too. “[It] clearly and unambiguously causes some young men to have a more violent self-image and to behave more violently.”

According to Sax, engaged reading of fiction is a powerful antidote to these negative effects, particularly for boys.

Our boys were never video junkies because they were not exposed to video games. K and I decided early on that they would be forbidden. I can’t say that they never played them. They may have when they were with friends in other locations. We also banned television for most of their lives. I’m sure this would be deemed child abuse by many today, but these restrictions seemed to work. They all became avid readers of both fiction and non-fiction. And so far at least, none of them have been arrested for violent crimes.


Today’s Word: apoplectic (adjective)

Apoplectic (ap-uh-PLEK-tik) means enraged. This is a word that, when I was growing up, was rarely used. For some reason, it’s become fairly common in conversation today. As in, “My boss went apoplectic when I came in late Monday.” A more literary example from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: “Once she heard Jem refer to our father as ‘Atticus’ and her reaction was apoplectic.”


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

How Ready, Fire, Aim Changed Nathan’s Life

The following is a slightly abbreviated version of a very long email that was forwarded to me by Joe Schreifer, a colleague who has published my essays over the years. The email came from  Nathan Fraser, the co-host of a podcast that Joe did a few weeks back.

“Total transformation story,” says Joe. “And you, Mark, were the initial inspiration for it. You turned this fellow’s life around with your book Ready, Fire, Aim… Thought you’d appreciate seeing it.”

Not only did I appreciate seeing it, it reminded me why, after so many years, I continue to write about the lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and businessperson.

 Hey Joe,

After listening again to your interview, I wanted to reach out and tell you about how sales copy saved my life…

Growing up, I was the oldest of four kids. We lived in a low-income neighborhood, surviving on welfare and food stamps. Our mom did the best she could with what she had, but that included a lot of physical and mental health problems. It also didn’t help that our dad spent most of his time in and out of prison.

This left the State as our main provider of income.

As a kid, I learned to hate the rich.  At the time, my mind was incapable of grasping nuance or the intricacies of economics. But I saw plenty of injustice and unfairness in the world. So, I found myself filled with anger.

At 15 years old, my mom kicked me out on my own. I hopped from couch to
couch, flipped burgers at a Sonic Drive-In, and started to fall behind on my grades. I was in a bad place and I knew that something had to change.

I felt helpless, victimized, and believed the world owed me. This led to me doing some rather stupid things. I dropped out of high school and started dealing drugs. Then I fell in with a bad crowd and even knocked over a couple of local businesses.

I justified all of this by telling myself that I was the victim. Society was to blame for who I’d become.

I was 16 years old, a revolutionary in my own mind, one step away from
prison, and two steps away from an early grave.

Then, a funny thing happened.

My little brother asked me to help him start a record label. He wanted me to take some of my ill-gotten gains and help him book some studio time. So, with dreams of rap superstardom, we recorded our first CD.

We put it up for sale on iTunes and made ourselves a little income on the side. We started performing at local venues and selling merchandise to our fans. That’s when we found ourselves on the other end of government wealth redistribution.

I’d been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

From there on out, I was hooked. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to run my own business. And, as fate would have it, I ended up running
quite a few of them… right into the ground.

The rap label made us some passive income, but nothing we could retire on. Then, in April of 2012, my little brother passed away. His death came out of nowhere. Drinking and partying snuck up on him and snuffed out his light at only 29 years old.

My dreams of becoming a famous rapper died along with him. But my dream of being a successful business owner lived on.

After shutting down our music label, I tried my hand at T-shirt  design. I’d print up a bunch at my buddy’s shop and try selling them on Facebook. I ended up with boxes full of unsold shirts and pockets devoid of any profits.

Next, I started a small software company. But we had almost no capital to work with and so we spent ourselves out of business within the first two years.

I tried, and tried, and tried again. But nothing seemed to work.

I was about to give up, and then it happened… and it changed my life forever.

While reading Mark Ford’s book, Ready, Fire, Aim, I came across a word
that was foreign to me. The word was “Copywriting.” So, I decided to look into what it meant.

A whole new world was laid out before my eyes. It felt like I’d discovered the
Holy Grail. Was this the missing puzzle piece that had eluded me, all this time?

I started studying the greats. I read everyone from Bruce Barton to Eugene Schwartz; from Gary Halbert to David Garfinkel. Even better, I  started implementing what I was learning.


I remember the first test I ran. It was for a T-shirt I was trying to sell on Facebook. I wrote up some copy, ran the ad, and in one day, I’d made $350+.

This was a game changer.

Next, I started running ads to promote my podcast, and listenership shot through the roof. The network I was at saw the difference and hired me
to write some ads for their upcoming pledge drive. Within a week, paid subscribers increased by 63%.

I had found my calling.

Now, like any ad-man, I’ve also had my fair share of flops. But coming out of the gate strong like I did definitely set the tone. I knew this was something I needed to invest more of my time and money into learning.

That was a number of years ago, and a lot has changed since then.

 I’ve been able to make a lot of money for myself, and more importantly, for my clients.

Along the way, I’ve had time to study law, economics, and philosophy. I went from feeling like the world owed me, to feeling an incredible sense of gratitude for what I’ve been given. I went from feeling like a failure to feeling like I can take on anything and overcome.


The lynchpin to this shift in my mindset, the foundation of this life-changing pivot, was my discovery of copywriting.

When I sat in on your interview with David, I  connected so deeply with what you said that I had to write you this letter. It’s crazy how much the discovery of writing copy has changed my life. And I never realized it until now, until I took the time to sit down and spell it all out.

This is a “thank you” letter.

Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you for bringing up the things you did. Thank you for causing me to take the time to reflect on why your message resonated with me so much.

Nathan Fraser


Fun Fact

The first car race in the US was in 1895. The winner had an average speed of 71.2 mph.


Worth Quoting

Compassion is the basis of all morality.” – Arthur Schopenhauer