How do you think the best became one of the best?

68 replies
Something I've been thinking about lately...

What does it take to become one of the best (of the best)?

There are courses and books that teach copywriting, but nothing out there that shows you how to learn copywriting.

You pick up some tips here and there like... How Gary Halbert taught you should write ads up by hand.

I'm just wondering about all that a world class copywriter had to go through to get to where he is.

There are a lot of great copywriters, but it seems like there are a handful that are truly above the rest... The Jimi Hendrixes of copywriting.

How do you think they got there? They're obviously more disciplined and motivated to achieve that level of skill.
  • Profile picture of the author Michael Ten
    To be the best I think it requires the most practice and dedication, and some luck.
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      Suffer from coitus interuptus when a great hook or headline or bullet point
      flashes into the mind, and write it down...right then.

      That's how you tell if you've got the right stuff.

      Best,
      Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author TheSalesBooster
    Well I became the best because I practiced a lot. If you have anymore questions feel free to ask me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Pusateri
    I don't think anyone would argue that understanding salesmanship and psychology are prerequisite to becoming a good copywriter, but that alone won't get you into the pantheon.

    Something that's been kicking around in my head for a while - Literary critic Harold Bloom has a theory he calls Anxiety of Influence about what makes great poets great.

    Poets may seem a strange analog for copywriters, but I think it might apply. Both use words in structured ways to achieve maximum emotional impact.

    Bloom proposes that most poets (and copywriters, perhaps) will read the greats that came before them and then emulate them both consciously and unconsciously, creating works that are derivative.

    But there are a few strong poets (and copywriters, perhaps) who become troubled by this influence and deliberately break from their precursors in major ways.

    In copywriting those breaks might be in how headlines are written, how bullet points are constructed, how the offer is formed, the voice he writes in, etc.

    If these breaks with the past are effective, they get emulated and the copywriter who created them dwells among the copygods.

    So, what do you think? Is there any THERE there?
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  • Profile picture of the author JoeyXoto
    Just like anything else; practice!

    I remember reading once, that to become an expert or a master at something/anything, requires 10,000 hours of effort and productive practice.

    So all we got to do is practice for 10,000 hours ! I know this sounds stupid, but to be honest in this business we are practicing everyday. It's a churning model, that eventually pays off.
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  • Profile picture of the author Wytnyt
    10,000 hours.
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by Wytnyt View Post

      10,000 hours.
      That's about 8 hours a day for 4 years... Or 4 hours a day for 8 years... Or 2 hours a day for 16 years.

      Now THAT'S some discipline.
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  • Wytnt is dead on. No matter what you hear anywhere, you get to be the best by outworking everyone else.

    There is no shortcut.
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by MontelloMarketing View Post

      Wytnt is dead on. No matter what you hear anywhere, you get to be the best by outworking everyone else.

      There is no shortcut.
      How big of a part do you think natural ability plays?

      Like... do you think you can become GREAT without natural ability and only by practice alone?
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  • nope. Gotta have talent to start with. Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by MontelloMarketing View Post

      nope. Gotta have talent to start with. Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
      Nice I mean... a 7 foot black guy from LA is more likely to make it to the NBA than the 5'8 kid from the prep school down the road who thinks he's good.

      OK so what would you say that type of natural talent is copy-wise?

      I've always thought it was sort of the ability to make someone else feel very emotional.
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      • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
        Originally Posted by JasonParker View Post

        Nice

        OK so what would you say that type of natural talent is?

        I've always thought it was sort of the ability to make someone else feel very emotional.
        I think you need to be paying attention while others are just treading water. Even things so subtle as watching a kid at the mall coerce his parents into buying him something is important. Noticing how a group (could be members of a small home owners association or the majority of the citizens of a country) reacts to a new rule or an opportunity, something pleasant or not so pleasant. All of this goes into a mental file cabinet.

        This isn't stuff you can sit down and study from a book. And it's often not stuff you're consciously aware of either, at least not for a while. You discover you have it one day because it just sort of translates to the page. You look at it and say, "Where the hell did that nugget come from?" That's when you realize you've got the makings of a real writer.

        The natural talent all writers (not just copywriters) have stems from this intrinsic ability to grok human behavior and then use that wisdom to get a desired result. But it goes further.

        Once you recognize the interesting things people do and how they respond in certain situations you've got to get it on paper in such a way that other people easily understand it. In my experience, people either have this or they don't. It's not something that can be easily learned or taught, even by people who have it.
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        • Profile picture of the author Harlan
          In my opinion the only way to the top is through mentoring.

          No matter how many books you've read, no matter how many courses you've taken, until an A-lister rips apart your copy and gives you word by word feedback, you'll only be a good copywriter in your dreams.

          Carl Galletti used to go through my copy and make me justify every single word.

          John Carlton made me eliminate the word "that" from my writing. I still get phobias thinking about it.

          David Garfinkle taught me about emotional intensity and duration in writing.

          Brian Keith Voiles taught me about simplicity and offer, offer, offer.

          Gary Halbert taught me how to make proof seem simple and obvious.

          And Jay Abraham taught me how to make the boldest claims twice as bold.

          Want to be a great copywriter? Get a great mentor.

          And I paid for most of these guys tens of thousands of dollars plus their courses.
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          • Profile picture of the author JakeDaly
            Originally Posted by Harlan View Post

            John Carlton made me eliminate the word "that" from my writing. I still get phobias thinking about it.
            Eliminate the word as an abstract pronoun(ie "You can do better than that") or eliminate it altogether, even as a definite article(ie "I really enjoyed that comparison")?

            Shoot, now I'm going to worry about putting the word 'that' in my copy and I doubt I've ever even done so.
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            • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
              Originally Posted by JakeDaly View Post

              Eliminate the word as an abstract pronoun(ie "You can do better than that") or eliminate it altogether, even as a definite article(ie "I really enjoyed that comparison")?

              Shoot, now I'm going to worry about putting the word 'that' in my copy and I doubt I've ever even done so.

              There is obviously a need for the word, or it wouldn't exist.

              The problem is that most people use 'that' for no real reason. It simply doesn't need to be there.

              And a lot of times - I see this too many times - people use 'that' where they should be saying something like 'which' or 'who'.

              It's simply used in the wrong places.

              See my second sentence, above? I could change it and still say the same thing...

              "The problem is that most people use 'that' for no real reason."
              "The problem is most people use 'that' for no real reason."

              If it was just an ordinary essay, the first would be okay. In copywriting, in my opinion, the second is better.
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      • Jason,

        Based on what I look for in a mentee... it's all about being compelling. That may be because you tap into my emotions... or it may be because you keep me engaged in your writing. It's different for each one.

        I've had very successful students who come from journalism backgrounds and know how to deliver the "W's" in a compelling way... And others who, like me are good story-tellers.

        And one of my best student's ever, keeps me glued because he knows how to wow me with research.

        Give me a student who keeps me reading and I can show him (or her) how to make a ton of money for their clients.

        Originally Posted by JasonParker View Post

        Nice
        OK so what would you say that type of natural talent is copy-wise?

        I've always thought it was sort of the ability to make someone else feel very emotional.
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        • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
          Originally Posted by MontelloMarketing View Post

          Jason,

          Based on what I look for in a mentee... it's all about being compelling. That may be because you tap into my emotions... or it may be because you keep me engaged in your writing. It's different for each one.

          I've had very successful students who come from journalism backgrounds and know how to deliver the "W's" in a compelling way... And others who, like me are good story-tellers.

          And one of my best student's ever, keeps me glued because he knows how to wow me with research.

          Give me a student who keeps me reading and I can show him (or her) how to make a ton of money for their clients.
          I think that can be tricky because...

          I find that it's really common that a copywriter doesn't understand what the reader of the ad should be experiencing when reading your ad.

          (I'm not saying I'm a master of this myself but I know a little about what they should be experiencing).

          And once you know that, the whole way you write can change.

          I took creating writing classes in college and used to write a lot of short stories and poetry.

          Once I knew that those talents can be transferred over to copywriting, I think it opened up my writing a little.

          I thought about what was it about my writing that made my short stories interesting and hooked the readers in. (Garfinkel really helped me understand the connection between this... not personally, but from his materials).

          Then I thought about how I'm a pretty good listener and one-on-one type guy.

          I'm not great in crowds, but I know how to talk to people personally about issues they're having and what not... and I figured out I naturally pace people in a one-on-one setting.

          So that kind of translated over to empathetic passages in my ads.

          But I wouldn't have known to use those things to write in a compelling way if I didn't understand at least a little about what the reader of the ad should be experiencing.
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          • Aaah, but Jason, I was saying what I look for in a mentee, not what I was looking for in a great copywriter! Being compelling alone will not get the job done. But... that's what I'm looking for in someone I can mold and turn into a real copywriter.

            To me, if you can write in a compelling way, the rest of it can be taught. But... if you know the persuasion... and understand the emotions... but can't keep a viewer watching, or a reader reading... it's all for nothing.

            Originally Posted by JasonParker View Post

            I think that can be tricky because...

            I find that it's really common that a copywriter doesn't understand what the reader of the ad should be experiencing when reading your ad.

            (I'm not saying I'm a master of this myself but I know a little about what they should be experiencing).

            And once you know that, the whole way you write can change.

            I took creating writing classes in college and used to write a lot of short stories and poetry.

            Once I knew that those talents can be transferred over to copywriting, I think it opened up my writing a little.

            I thought about what was it about my writing that made my short stories interesting and hooked the readers in. (Garfinkel really helped me understand the connection between this... not personally, but from his materials).

            Then I thought about how I'm a pretty good listener and one-on-one type guy.

            I'm not great in crowds, but I know how to talk to people personally about issues they're having and what not... and I figured out I naturally pace people in a one-on-one setting.

            So that kind of translated over to empathetic passages in my ads.

            But I wouldn't have known to use those things to write in a compelling way if I didn't understand at least a little about what the reader of the ad should be experiencing.
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      • Profile picture of the author NBAY
        What does it take to become one of the best (of the best)?

        I think there are some people that are just born with a natural talent for the art of communication and they easily graspe the skill of using words to get their point across. Others have to learn it.

        I think what can make you into a great copy writer is to study and learn from the best, educate yourself on the basics through trainings (youtube, google, etc) and then start doing it (take action). Track your results and see what works and what works better. Eventually, if you keep doing this you will become one of the best or at the least very good at it. (relatively speaking of course).
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    • Profile picture of the author debml
      Originally Posted by MontelloMarketing View Post

      nope. Gotta have talent to start with. Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
      For those who mentor, how would you prioritize these skills (or additional skills) when considering a potential mentee?

      Writing ability
      Sales ability
      Psychological understanding
      Work ethic

      Thanks,
      Deb
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        Originally Posted by debml View Post

        For those who mentor, how would you prioritize these skills (or additional skills) when considering a potential mentee?

        Writing ability
        Sales ability
        Psychological understanding
        Work ethic

        Thanks,
        Deb
        I look for two things:

        1. Desire to bring a product or service to the marketplace
        2. Ability to communicate a thought in writing

        The rest can be learned.

        Alex
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      • Good question:

        1. Work ethic
        2. Writing Ability
        2. Sales ability
        2. Psychological understanding

        How's that?

        I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't teach you how to write faster or easier. I teach how to work harder for your clients.


        Originally Posted by debml View Post

        For those who mentor, how would you prioritize these skills (or additional skills) when considering a potential mentee?

        Writing ability
        Sales ability
        Psychological understanding
        Work ethic

        Thanks,
        Deb
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      • Profile picture of the author Harlan
        Originally Posted by debml View Post

        For those who mentor, how would you prioritize these skills (or additional skills) when considering a potential mentee?

        Writing ability
        Sales ability
        Psychological understanding
        Work ethic

        Thanks,
        Deb
        None of the above.

        DESIRE

        All the rest can be taught.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kneesmith
    I would say the best are the best because they practiced. If it's a success take some time to study what worked, if its a failure take some time to study what didn't. Write more copy... just a long road of constantly writing and improving
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  • Profile picture of the author rahulbangar
    Practice makes a man perfect
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  • Profile picture of the author sabinavarga
    “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I view myself slightly above talent. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy is eating, I’m working. While the other guy is making love, well, I’m making love too. But I’m working really hard at it.” - Will Smith
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  • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
    I would agree with Vin about having some talent to begin with...

    And with Harlan about mentoring...

    And the part about practice, practice, practice...

    But, first you need to learn the basics - the rules - before you can do any of those.

    And the way to do that is to study the masters.

    No one can practice something if they don't know what it is they need to practice.
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  • Profile picture of the author deezn
    I'm not even a novice at copywriting, but follow Dan Kennedy a lot (not for copywriting initially, but for general marketing practices).

    DK is the reason I have even started looking at copywriting. In a speech on what it takes to be successful, in general, he brought up a copywriting example. He may have been referencing Halbert, by saying someone once told him write out a sales letter by hand. He wrote it out 50 times. That's the type of dedication you need to be successful at anything. You take 1000 jump shots after practice. Catch passes from your QB after practice ends, etc. etc.

    And of course, test everything.

    You definitely need passion to do that as Mark says. Definite of purpose, positive mental attitude (to channel Napoleon Hill)
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Originally Posted by JasonParker View Post



    You pick up some tips here and there like... How Gary Halbert taught you should write ads up by hand.

    I'm just wondering about all that a world class copywriter had to go through to get to where he is.
    Or was. I met Gary Halbert when he was a Wannabee Marketer. He actually wanted to sell things by Mail Order. A guy I worked for was one of his mentors.

    So, what did one of the Greatest Copywriters do? What did he go through BEFORE he hit the home run with the famous Nancy letter?

    Yes, he had passion, plenty of it. Desire. Hopes. Dreams.
    Yes he practiced and practiced.
    And yes, contrary to some opinions he was a dedicated Student of Salesmanship and the Masters. Although in later years and some of you youngsters believe his press...that he INVENTED copywriting (Ha, but there are elements used today I believe he did invent)...

    Sitting in a bar in Barberton, OH, Gary told me he was pursuing ONE thing.

    The ONE thing he wanted, the one thing he obsessed about, the one thing he was working on/for/toward...

    RESULTS.

    And he went a few years and his results were FAILURE.

    Culminated with his infamous FAT ad on radio. Funniest ad ever, Akron radio talked about it for days and days, got a lot of FREE play...

    and not a single sale. Not even an inquiry.

    So, he went back to the drawing board. Again. Again and Again.

    In golf, I teach a HIT the BALL method, the ball gives you the feedback you need to make corrections on the delivery of the club head at the moment of impact.

    Likewise, Gary RAN THE ADS. He wrote the copy. Then he analyzed the

    RESULTS.

    The results gave him the adjustments he had to make. Add perseverance, and a desire to prove to himself (and his skeptics, he had more than a few)...and he spent his own money too.

    Then when he got the first POSITIVE results, he wanted to find bigger, better, more of the same...RESULTS.

    And once he got them, he parlayed his talent, which was immense, into one of the most successful copywriters/marketers in history.

    So, in my opinion, all of you are right...but you have to look at what an A list guy did in the beginning. And if there is a single answer to be found in Halbert's early years....

    He NEVER quit.

    He NEVER QUIT. Never quit writing and looking at the results of his writing.

    Gary didn't care (eventually) what his critics said about his promotions, he let the RESULTS tell him if he was on the right track.

    I'd have to say, YES, indeed, he was.

    gjabiz
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  • Profile picture of the author AdamJWriter
    While there is certainly a natural talent factor, and some people take to things like this more quickly, I think the level of innate talent needed for something like this is often overstated. I think more often than not, the idea that "I don't have the talent for this" is used as an excuse for people who give up before developing their skill.
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  • Profile picture of the author kasei
    Work, work, more work and perseverance, of course you will need at least some luck and intelligence but other from that I don’t know what can help you becoming the best .
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  • Profile picture of the author exploremyschool
    Try till you succeed. Pursue until you achieve. Before you give up, ask yourself a question - Why did I held up till now..? Try, try and try. Be curious, because curiosity makes man perfect and takes to the top of success...
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Banned
      The zen of seeing.


      Mark Andrews
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  • Profile picture of the author JakeDaly
    The greatest copywriters understand that they're constantly learning, it's the same with most professions.. you become the best by studying the best and practicing to become the best, they never cease on honing their craft.

    Even after Hasnat Khan became the most respected heart surgeon in the UK and boinked Princess Diana for a couple of years, he still has to keep up with all aspects of cardiac treatment and surgeries. If he doesn't, he'll be overtaken by the next ambitious heart surgeon who studied, practiced and applied his learning harder than he did.
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  • I vote for work ethic. I like that Gatorade commercial with Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III:

    Greatness is not given. Greatness is taken. Taken in the summer. When no one is looking.


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  • Profile picture of the author DavidG
    Nice Joe...

    I think this "Famous Failures" commercial really sums up what you got to do in order to succeed...



    Basically, having enough passion and desire to keep going, even after hitting rock bottom.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joe Karl
    Get a great mentor. Follow the best, I don't think its luck I think its having a vision of the end in mind of who you want to become and taking massive action to become that person
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    • Profile picture of the author JacMer
      Practice, lots of practice.
      10,000 hours might do it, but then again it might not.
      If you don't have a gig, make one up, practice on it, get critiqued by someone further up the ladder (the higher the better).

      What if - The secret to success is failure
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Sanchez
    I'm all for hard work and practice. These drive home success in all areas of life.

    Here's something I noticed over the years though.

    It's not just about the practice. Eric Clapton nearly gave up music after watching Jimi Hendrix play live. Trashed his guitar to smithereens and swore he'd never play a lick ever again.

    Today he's a guitar and music legend.

    I've watched people without natural talent try to learn something new. They try and try over and over. It seems hopeless and endless.

    But watching and listening in...you can see what's really missing.

    Those who already know what they are doing "get it".

    You see...the repetition doesn't drive your success.

    Repetition is just continual exposure to something. I once spent a weekend in the wilderness with an Apache tracker. After several days I could finally hear what the birds were saying.

    Practice doesn't give you skills. Enhancing your awareness does.

    With enough exposure you're eyes, ears and mind open with deeper clarity. Your senses can dance where before they could only walk.

    Suddenly you understand what you were missing. It's the big "aha"s. It's an amazing feeling to see someone go from lost to "I totally get it"

    You have a brain, arms and legs. You're no different then any other person out there. From a janitor to Mozart. what makes you different is what's going on in your heart and mind.

    Eric Clapton went on to become a legend just like Hendrix. Took him years but he got there. Desire, hard work and practice. And listening to endless hours of blues legends for years on end copying their music.

    Hendrix was different though. Not that different mind you. From the soul music at church to the blues played around at home...Hendrix's mind "clicked" much earlier than most. Hit the sweetspot of awareness most spend lifetimes to attain. Combined with picking up a guitar before most kids could multiply and you'll see why Jimi is still considered one of the greats.

    This is genius. To notice, refine and apply. Then rinse and repeat.

    The better you notice and refine, the faster you grow.

    I believe we all have genius...it's just a matter of catching what you didn't see before.

    Ever hang out with someone who had an accent? Ever notice how after weeks you start to pick it up and accidently talk like they do without even trying?

    There is something to be said about consistent exposure to something.

    Spend time reading and writing successful sales letters. Take notes on what you notice. And then apply it. Practice noticing more and more.

    Going over the same sales letter will do this to you too. I believe doug D'Anna went over one of Bencivenga sales letters every night for a year before going to bed. he also wrote 12 hours a day for a year too. Passive exposure to something doesn't breed skill or talent. Just helps you attune yourself mind and senses to something.

    I recommend a mentor bigtime. Experienced eyes cut the learning time by decades sometimes.

    I have a martial arts instructor who taught me this ingenius grappling defense. I said "Man! I wish I'd known this years ago! Would have saved me from years of struggle". He said "that's ok....it only took me 12 years to figure out"

    Not all mentors are created equal. Just cause someone's a superstar doesn't mean they know how to transfer knowledge to you. Some of the best athletic coaches in the world weren't famous pro athletes.

    I believe most of the advice you see above is spot on. Just avoid being a robot. Notice what's hiding behind the surface.

    Techniques and books can only take you so far. Get in tune with what you're doing. It's like noticing your heartbeat. It's there...you just need to quiet your mind and body to feel it.

    My two cents
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  • Profile picture of the author JoeyXoto
    I don’t think you have to be born with anything. In fact, science is beginning to show that our modern conception of genes are not as accurate as we once though. We can physically change our DNA through the power of the mind.

    I know of a guy who once upon a time started out as a rapper from West Philly; some kind of prince or something. When he first started acting, he was pretty poor, even miming the actors words as he was on stage. Surely this kid didn’t really have a natural ability to act if he was making noob mistakes like miming other actors words on screen? Sure enough; he’s gone on to become one of the greatest of our time.

    My point is, practice really does make perfect; as well as the positive mentality and confidence to say to yourself “I can do this.”.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jeremey
      Here's a few observations.

      It's a common mantra that if you work hard enough, "you can do or be anything." This "bootstrap mentality" surmises that natural ability is not a predetermining factor for success in athletics, business, musical aptitude, or writing (for example). That anyone can be Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, or Sean Combs if they just work at it every day.

      Write for 12 hours a day. Study until 3 AM every night. Play piano til your fingers cramp and curl. Shoot jump shots at the park after the lights click off and all the chumps are snug in their beds...

      Filtering out the obvious barriers - poor little Eugene will never break through a defensive line of 7 year olds, and we all know sweet Mrs Appleton in the church choir will never find a pitch with a map - and the consensus seems to be hard work and practice can get you anywhere...

      But what does it take to be the best? Aside from practice and being physically capable of performing at that level? If you take two people, all things being equal, and put them to work for 5 years, what are the factors that separate the solid and respectable from the wildly successful - the best? I bet you'd find a few things out about the "best" people...

      A disregard for rules. The best work from their own playbook. And that means bucking conventional ideas and trends, and it means occasionally breaking some rules.

      Don't tell me to stay in this box if I know that stepping out of it is necessary to setting a new standard. Regardless of consequence, the best understand that rules sometimes have to be set aside to achieve real innovation.

      A tolerance for risk. What are the consequences of going all in? Do I lose everything? Is that risk worth taking to become the best?

      Often it's not as monumental as "putting everything on the line," but the smaller risks - that a smaller percentage are willing to take - can offer up unexpected chance and opportunity.

      Takes advantage of opportunity. We've all heard the old chestnut that problems are opportunities in disguise. Yet still, most people think that problems are just problems. And the "best" figure out ways to explore the opportunities that are often hidden.

      On the other hand, opportunity reaches out and smacks some in the face, but they still won't exploit it. "Things are going just fine the way they are now." But the best know that "right now" isn't "just fine," and they are going to take those opportunities and break new ground.

      Good is the enemy of Great. They understand that the greatest threat of mediocrity is the idea that their work is "good." Breaking news: Everything's "Good." Opportunity doesn't go around knocking on the doors of "good." And even if the rest of the world thinks it's "good," the best understand it can't just be "better" - Its got to be Great.

      Willingness to test social and familial tolerance. Pretty simple. Most of us don't want to work 18 hours a day. We don't want to miss Connor's baseball game or Isabella's dance recital. The husband or wife is bitching about the hours we put in and we have a 10 AM tee time.

      This is what is most pivotal in separating the "best" from "the rest." Because the best don't care. There is a single driving need in their wiring that puts these bonds to the test. Many times they fail at marriage. Their kids might resent them. Their coworkers don't like them. They either don't notice, or don't care.


      So if you have a stomach for all that, you will probably be among the best.

      But we're talking about the BEST of the best here. We all know people like I described in the above paragraphs. But what separates the very best of the best from all the other fools who've practiced, risked everything, and took advantage of every opportunity in their path?

      I'll say it - The BEST of the best are truly touched by a sort of greatness and insanity. They may not be the strongest. The smartest. The prettiest. But if you spend any time around someone who is truly the greatest at what they do - and is widely recognized for doing so - you'd understand that there's a touch of madness and a little bit of something else that the rest of us just don't have.

      A light in the eye, a rhythm in their thought...And they are possessed by it to the extent that it controls every unconscious thought in their heads. I'm talking about the Michael Jordans and the Steve Jobses and the Stephen Hawkings and yes, even the Eric Claptons of the world. They don't live in our world, and there's nothing they (or anyone else) can do about it.

      Maybe I'M crazy for spending the time to write this , but I've had the opportunity to be around some people that have truly made it to the top in their field, and I've seen that same energy in each of them.

      Anyway, I believe the original post was about copywriting, so I guess you could apply all of the above to this line of work as well.
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      • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
        Originally Posted by Jeremey View Post

        Here's a few observations.
        Good post. Yet, it can also be misleading.

        Allow me to explain...

        I've seen this in many areas of life...

        A disregard for rules.
        The best work from their own playbook. And that means bucking conventional ideas and trends, and it means occasionally breaking some rules.
        You can only buck trends when they know what the trends are. You can't break rules if you have no idea what those rules are. And you certainly can't improve on something if you have no idea what that 'something' is.

        You can only buck trends when they know what the trends are. You can't break rules if you have no idea what those rules are. And you certainly can't improve on something if you have no idea what that 'something' is.

        A tolerance for risk. What are the consequences of going all in? Do I lose everything? Is that risk worth taking to become the best?
        I took many risks. And lost a bundle as a result.

        The reason?

        I took risks without knowing what risks to take and what would benefit me. Had I a glimmer of an idea as to what I was doing, I know I wouldn't have lost so much.

        Takes advantage of opportunity. We've all heard the old chestnut that problems are opportunities in disguise. Yet still, most people think that problems are just problems. And the "best" figure out ways to explore the opportunities that are often hidden.
        Absolutely. But...

        You have to recognise opportunities in order to take advantage of them. The vast majority of beginners have no idea what constitutes an opportunity.

        Good is the enemy of Great. They understand that the greatest threat of mediocrity is the idea that their work is "good." Breaking news: Everything's "Good." Opportunity doesn't go around knocking on the doors of "good." And even if the rest of the world thinks it's "good," the best understand it can't just be "better" - Its got to be Great.
        Unfortunately. a lot of people think they're good. Doesn't mean they are.Yes, it's better to do something well than wait to be perfect, and do nothing. But you need to be good first.
        Willingness to test social and familial tolerance. Pretty simple. Most of us don't want to work 18 hours a day. We don't want to miss Connor's baseball game or Isabella's dance recital. The husband or wife is bitching about the hours we put in and we have a 10 AM tee time.

        This is what is most pivotal in separating the "best" from "the rest." Because the best don't care. There is a single driving need in their wiring that puts these bonds to the test. Many times they fail at marriage. Their kids might resent them. Their coworkers don't like them. They either don't notice, or don't care.
        The one I agree with completely. And the one which most people don't/won't do. Most want everything on a plate. Handed to them. They don't want to work.

        I got an idea about this when I was being trained by a copywriter a few years ago. He gave me task to do.

        It was write out two sales pieces - each about 10-15 pages. I had to write each three times that day.

        So I did.

        Next day he asked me if I'd done the task.

        When I said I did he was surprised.

        I didn't say anything, but I realised from his response that most, if any, of his trainees didn't do it.
        Here's my point...

        You still need to start from the basics and get them under your belt before you can let go of the leash and do whatever you want to. You have to be willing to do what it takes.
        And I'll finish off with what Brian McLeod said: CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

        If you can't accept that you don't know something, you will never learn.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
    A few people mention mentoring. I have one thing to say...

    Make sure you get a good one. And that means an honest one.

    I paid thousands to someone who is very prominent on the scene. Most because he markets himself quite well.

    One thing I didn't know at the time is that he was always putting other marketers and copywriters down as 'snake oil salesmen' - still is.

    Watch out for those. Because they're the kind of people who put others down to make themselves look good. In fact they're the real snake oil salesmen.

    I lost a good gew thousand on that guy.

    He was a good talker and I paid the cash. But he didn't deliver.

    If I had to do it now, I would put my money on one of the guys Harlan has listed above.

    I notice he hasn't mentioned Vin Montello. I haven't mentored with him, but a few good guys have mentioned how good he is.

    And that's good enough for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    I haven't seen anyone mention the single most important prerequisite IMO:

    Being able to CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR.

    Defending defeats discovery.

    Good thread, gang.

    B
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  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    Lots of answers here. They're all over the place. I don't think anyone has questioned the definition of the word best. What does that mean? Is it measured in sales? Popularity? Years spent in the craft? Skill? All of these things are relative. What does best mean?
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by travlinguy View Post

      Lots of answers here. They're all over the place. I don't think anyone has questioned the definition of the word best. What does that mean? Is it measured in sales? Popularity? Years spent in the craft? Skill? All of these things are relative. What does best mean?
      I take it to mean the guys who have gotten the most results.
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  • I enjoyed reading all the comments - when all is said and done (and many have said) - the best is all down to one thing - Results.
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      Here's one that hasn't been mentioned
      and I think is worthy.

      It has to do with the fire in the belly and a negative emotion
      that pours petrol on the fire.

      John Carlton has mentioned it on numerous occasions
      and I've experienced it myself recently.

      That fuel is payback for being ridiculed by someone.

      John talks about a woman who said he wouldn't be able to
      be good at copywriting and blocked his path for getting better.
      He ended up stealing her book on advertising.

      And the rest is history.

      A consulting client came to me for help because she wanted to buy
      a boat which was going to be for her tourist business.
      Her never-to-be-anything lawyer husband continually poured cold water
      on this woman's dream. Boy is she fired up to show him up!

      I know of a woman who set about losing weight to show off to her ex abusive husband.

      See the common thread here...

      A person who puts down another's ambition or self esteem
      which causes a fights back to prove a point.

      You might call it a negative drive,
      but man-oh-man it sure beats the hell out of wishy-washy positive thinking.

      Best,
      Ewen
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      • Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        I know of a woman who set about losing weight to show off to her ex abusive husband.
        Interesting take. Sales trainer Tom Hopkins has said for years that most high achievers he meets are trying to prove themselves to someone:

        "1. A Burning Desire to Prove Something to Someone
        A professional in any type of business has a strong reason for wanting to succeed. My reason was to prove myself to my parents. I quit college after 90 days, knowing that formal education wasn't for me. My parents had high hopes for me and were quite disappointed. My dad told me, "Your mother and I will always love you, even though you'll never amount to anything."

        That was my first motivational talk, and it kindled my desire to become the best and prove something to my parents. What are you trying to prove? And to whom? You must know why you've chosen your particular business."

        business - Become a Sales Pro | Entrepreneur.com
        Signature
        Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
        - Jack Trout
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      • Profile picture of the author Jeremey
        Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        Here's one that hasn't been mentioned
        and I think is worthy.

        It has to do with the fire in the belly and a negative emotion
        that pours petrol on the fire.

        John Carlton has mentioned it on numerous occasions
        and I've experienced it myself recently.

        That fuel is payback for being ridiculed by someone.

        John talks about a woman who said he wouldn't be able to
        be good at copywriting and blocked his path for getting better.
        He ended up stealing her book on advertising.

        And the rest is history.

        A consulting client came to me for help because she wanted to buy
        a boat which was going to be for her tourist business.
        Her never-to-be-anything lawyer husband continually poured cold water
        on this woman's dream. Boy is she fired up to show him up!

        I know of a woman who set about losing weight to show off to her ex abusive husband.

        See the common thread here...

        A person who puts down another's ambition or self esteem
        which causes a fights back to prove a point.

        You might call it a negative drive,
        but man-oh-man it sure beats the hell out of wishy-washy positive thinking.

        Best,
        Ewen
        That's a great point, Ewen, and the desire to prove someone wrong is a huge motivator. However, it is a motivation of circumstance (not everyone has been beat up or put down over their abilities)...

        And I've always found that negativity breeds negativity. I've done a lot of things in my life simply to prove other people wrong. When I did prove them wrong, however, nothing really changed in their lives. They didn't care. They didn't want to see me succeed -- it was the negative energy that brought them happiness.

        In the end, I wasn't trying to find success and happiness in my achievement, but in trying to "show" someone that they had underestimated me. Once I started asking, "Why should I care what these people think?" I discovered that I had been doing a lot of things that didn't really bring me happiness at all, just to so I could "show" other people. It took me a while, but I realized the only person I needed to prove anything to was myself.
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      • Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        John talks about a woman who said he wouldn't be able to
        be good at copywriting and blocked his path for getting better.
        He ended up stealing her book on advertising.

        And the rest is history.
        A similar thing happened to Clayton Makepeace:

        You’ll Never Amount to a Hill of Beans | MakepeaceTotalPackage.com
        Signature
        Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
        - Jack Trout
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        • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
          Originally Posted by Joe Ditzel View Post

          A similar thing happened to Clayton Makepeace:

          You'll Never Amount to a Hill of Beans | MakepeaceTotalPackage.com
          John and Clayton's experience's gives clues as to my point
          on why "the best became one of the best."

          Not how we can become the best, or whether it had negative tones,
          just a neutral observation from what they have said and what
          Tom Hopkins has observed of peak performers he knows.

          Thanks Joe.

          Best,
          Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author secretguy
    Originally Posted by JasonParker View Post

    Something I've been thinking about lately...

    What does it take to become one of the best (of the best)?

    There are courses and books that teach copywriting, but nothing out there that shows you how to learn copywriting.

    You pick up some tips here and there like... How Gary Halbert taught you should write ads up by hand.

    I'm just wondering about all that a world class copywriter had to go through to get to where he is.

    There are a lot of great copywriters, but it seems like there are a handful that are truly above the rest... The Jimi Hendrixes of copywriting.

    How do you think they got there? They're obviously more disciplined and motivated to achieve that level of skill.
    Hey Jason,

    Maybe they were not even thinking on getting any level of skill...
    They were interested in making some bucks to pay their bills

    Anyways, I think the "trick" to really turn the BEST is stop looking for a trick, it's not even transcribing copy like holy Gary said (which helps a lot) but it's more about ANALYZING the context of each offer you put out and using ALL the ideas, knowledge and experiences you've got to make the best sales letter "this time"... so next time you have a better understanding of what it is.

    Like novel writers. There's a lot of GREAT writers world famous guys who really didn't know how to write. But they started to write every day until they started to improve and they continued in that way for the rest of their lives.
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  • Profile picture of the author MattStevens
    To be the best, you have to study the best...and do what the best do.

    20% inspiration 80% perspiration.
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  • Profile picture of the author jjmanno
    Are there any books or courses you guys would recommend to begin learning?
    Signature
    I have nothing to sell you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Gram
    I think they got there by primarily doing 3 things:

    1. Studying other great copywriters
    2. Taking LOTS of action
    3. Testing, testing, testing, testing x10000
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  • Profile picture of the author wrcato2
    Jason, I don't think that the best copy writers in the business really thought of themselves as the best, well... with the exception of Gary Halbert, but it wasn't a lie, now was it? Gary, knew what he could write in order to persuade thousands of people to buy his products. Some say it was luck, but was it really...luck?
    I have read and studied and still study to this day all of the Halbert letters at his website. Listen to his audios, interviews and probably most of his videos that he has out there, even the special two hour ones that a good friend and colleague of Gary Halberts, places delicately up on his website and invites his list to watch them every so often.
    There are two things that I have found that Gary did very, very well... and did before he ever wrote a word.

    Do you know what those two things are?
    How much are you seriously willing to pay to find out what those two things are that Gary had done in order to make
    *$98,000 dollars in a few short hours with one simple email?
    * How A 1 Page Space Ad about "Perfume" caused a frenzy mob of thousands of
    "Scent Whores" to flock an up-scale L.A. Hotel, Grid Locked 2 City Blocks, Almost Forcing City Fire & Police Officials on Riot Alert... All while making Sells that would have Apple Envious
    There will never be another Gary Halbert.
    However, I will give you the secret to Gary's success because there really isn't a price you can place on these two things, yet they are so basic and yet many veteran Copy writers forget to do these 2 steps successfully.
    If you want to know the rest of the story and Gary's 2 Step formula for success send me a PM
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    • Profile picture of the author Robert_Rand
      Originally Posted by wrcato2 View Post

      Do you know what those two things are?
      How much are you seriously willing to pay to find out what those two things are that Gary had done in order to make
      *$98,000 dollars in a few short hours with one simple email?
      * How A 1 Page Space Ad about "Perfume" caused a frenzy mob of thousands of
      "Scent Whores" to flock an up-scale L.A. Hotel, Grid Locked 2 City Blocks, Almost Forcing City Fire & Police Officials on Riot Alert... All while making Sells that would have Apple Envious
      There will never be another Gary Halbert.
      However, I will give you the secret to Gary's success because there really isn't a price you can place on these two things, yet they are so basic and yet many veteran Copy writers forget to do these 2 steps successfully.
      If you want to know the rest of the story and Gary's 2 Step formula for success send me a PM
      What is this, the WSO forum?

      The BEST OF THE BEST sure as hell don't get there by "two things". That's a suckers mentality. A lazy, microwave mentality that the internet has helped cultivate.

      Mastery is a process; it requires time. Shortcuts are an illusion. Persistence. Years of persistence. In copywriting, this translates to lots of writing. Analyzing results and market feedback (which is 100x more valuable than any mentor's feedback) and continuing to move forward - especially when encountering failure. Testing, testing, and more testing.

      Yes, of course God given talent. That's a given. You have to have the aptitude. But we can't control that. We can control our commitment and what we invest.

      Time and persistence. That's how you master anything in life. Thousands and thousands of hours invested with the intention and belief that you will achieve your desired outcome.
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  • Profile picture of the author MattStevens
    ^ You are about to create a pm frenzy with that post
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  • Profile picture of the author YasirAli1
    Banned
    [DELETED]
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    • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
      Originally Posted by YasirAli1 View Post

      What's the secret of its high demand ?
      The secret is Sex Panther. 60% of the time it works every time.
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
    This isn't how to become world class, but according to Gary Halbert, it was how to become better than 99% of all copywriters in 30 days or less... I just remembered this: The Gary Halbert Letter
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Personally...

    I've stepped away from the more cerebral side of copywriting (e.g. the borderline obsession to mimic the proven giants of slinging sales copy.)

    Sure...

    There's massive amounts of information to digest out there from the greats and gurus.

    And while I own tons of books, most of which I've read thoroughly...

    ...I've forgotten most of it.

    Ultimately...

    What's empowered me to make a passive living selling my own products and pimpin' out other people's stuff is one thing: The ability to observe.

    It's in my comprehension to intimately understand WHY people make decisions, in every conceivable market, that is singularly responsible for being able to position myself as a copywriter...

    ...when I'm absolutely surrounded by living legends (in their own minds ;-)

    From my perspective...

    If you want to become one of the best copywriters, perhaps ever, you've got to cultivate and nurture an extremely acute awareness about emotion and basic, fundamental human nature.

    You've got to know what makes people tick.

    And while the circumstances that prospects experience, in different markets/niches, can be massively different...

    ...the emotions that you ultimately have to connect with to fully capture people's attention and seduce their imagination are really mind-numbingly simple.

    Fear.
    Hope.
    Desire.
    Anger.
    Empathy.
    Jealousy.
    Doubt.
    Insecurity.
    Blah Blah Blah...

    That's why keeping sales copy conversational is so important.

    You don't necessarily want people to think.

    You want them to FEEL.

    And when you can easily tap into and trigger people on a purely emotional level, you have the potential to literally hold prospects in the palm of your hands and usher them to the destination you've determined to arrive at.

    So put down the stuff you're studying from Gary Halbert, John Carlton... or even the Vin Montello's out there...

    ...and start learning about emotion.

    Start with yourself.

    Develop your own mindset.

    Become a person who can envision a sales letter, from start to finish, just by mapping the critical emotions you KNOW people are experiencing and associate some simple circumstances to bring them to life.

    As I redundantly say to people who want to achieve something they NEVER have before (and I'll modify it for this conversation

    "You Can't Take Who You Are, RIGHT NOW, With You - If You Want to Achieve Copywriting Greatness!"

    That means...

    Just assume EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG...

    ...and keep going deeper, moving forward and always striving to get just a little closer to The Truth of what people are REALLY feeling.

    My Take.

    Mark

    By the way...

    I think Ric Flair may have said it better:

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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Only perfect practice makes perfect. Practicing something imperfect trains you to do it imperfect.

    I think the chops have to be there, no doubt about that. Experience is a factor too. But then on top of it all, is serendipity.
    Signature
    "Best book on answering objections I have seen... it's for photographers but it has brilliant techniques you can use in any business." - Claude Whitacre. When They Say That, You Say This (Amazon Kindle)
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  • Profile picture of the author aroth
    I think it's a combination of natural talent + killer work ethic + the right connections. I want to especially emphasize connections. Without the right people hiring, exposing, and noticing Gary Halbert he remains some guy doing direct mail from his house that we would've never heard of. I think a lot of us overlook the fact that there is tons!!!! of talent that you've never heard of and probably never will that are possibly better than today's considered 'best."

    I think natural talent plays a big roll in who edges out the rest, because we all study the same information for the most. Yet someone of us are able to attain greater success with that info than others. Someone's inner ability to craft messages that resonate with their target prospect on a truly deep level surpasses their seminar attendances, home study course purchases, mastermind memberships, etc. Once any one person masters something in a competitive space what separates the greats from the mediocre who've put in equal and in some cases more work...is their natural knack for the skill.

    For example, take Michael Jordan. Every player in the NBA went through training camp, practiced, learned the playbook. Other guys could do amazing dunks, make crazy jump-shots but what gave MJ that extra edge was that internal knack or insight into the game of basketball that enabled him to do the same things others did but just a little bit better and retire the legend he is.

    I say that to close with this; copywriters like Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, John Carlton, etc. Stand out because of that essential trio that "the greats" in all fields seem to share.
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