John Carlton: The Most Ripped-Off Copywriter Alive

There’s a shift happening in the world of copywriting. People are beginning to recognize the wisdom that can be gleaned from studying the fundamentals of copy directly from the masters themselves. In this episode, we’re going to help you walk that path by introducing you to the most ripped-off copywriter alive.

John Carlton is one of the guys who got me started in the world of professional copyrighting. He's got a degree in psychology, understands how the human mind works and how people make buying decisions, and he uses his knowledge of behavioral psychology to sell stuff…which I think is a pretty smart idea.

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Spiritual Foundations

I’ve been doing some reading from John Maxwell’s Leadership Bible, and I discovered he has an interesting take on one of my favorite Scriptures…

“Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise. Which having no captain, overseer or ruler provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8

Maxwell came up with an acronym that explains what we can learn from the ant.

Attitude of Initiative: Ants don't need a boss to tell them how to get started. I like that.

Nature of Integrity: Ants work faithfully and need no outside accountability to keep them doing things the right way…because if they don’t they'll die.

Thirst for Industry: Ants work hard and will replace their anthill when it gets ruined…they don't give up and go look for ant welfare.

Source of Insight: Ants store provisions in the summer because they know there's a lean time coming.

Go to the ant and be wise.

Tip of the Week

Our tip this week comes from the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. This is a topic that a lot of people discuss, but not very many people have studied the psychology behind the idea of rest as this guy does. He says in the front of his book, “For most of us, overwork is the new normal and rest is an afterthought.”

In our busy lives, rest is defined as the absence of work, something to do once we’ve finished everything else on our to-do list. Dismissing rest stifles our ability to think creatively and truly recharge. The author works in Silicon Valley and posits that rest is not the opposite of work if they are part of the same cycle. Instead, without one you can't really enjoy and benefit from the other.

I'm reading this as part of Michael Hyatt’s monthly reading program LeaderBox. This program gets you reading two books a month, which is pretty awesome! You should sign up for it at

Feature Presentation: “John Carlton: The Most Ripped-Off Copywriter Alive”

Some people call John Carlton the most ripped-off copywriter alive and that's because there was a period of time when everybody was ripping off his one-legged-golfer headline. He's the guy who wrote the headline: The Amazing Secrets of the One-Legged Golfer, and it was for a course on how to play better golf. The premise is so obvious, if a one-legged golfer shoots a good game of golf, he must be doing something right. Or she, could be a one-legged lady. Well, that became the most swiped headline in history for a long time.

The list of well-known marketers who freely reference John Carlton as their primary mentor for writing sales messages is staggering. In fact, I went to a conference with the sole intention of spending $5,000 to buy his swipe files.

So, let's get into my interview with John Carlton.

Here are some snippets from our conversation:

  • The grooming of a guru – The process that took John Carlton from introvert to a commanding stage presence ([11:14])
  • Share your best stuff – Why John Carlton made the decision to give the world a license to steal his stuff ([12:34])
  • My greatest joy – Why sharing and hands-on mentoring can become an accelerant for your business ([13:50])
  • Birds of a feather – Why copywriters are a rare tribe of scribes, and are the ones who will write history ([14:42])
  • The ultimate calling card – Why you should have a book, and the easiest way to get that done quickly ([16:33])
  • Is your marketing working? – Why direct-response copy matters and the reason mastering this art form is the fastest path to the cash ([21:42])
  • The Father of the Hot Seat – How a random idea in an elevator created a powerful way to solve even the most difficult business problems ([27:15])
  • Operation Money-Suck – How a crisis revealed what your number one job should be, and how focusing on this one task can save your business ([34:25])
  • Turning failure into success – John Carlton reveals his simple secret to writing highly effective sales copy ([44:17])
  • You are who you hang around – John explains the power of the mastermind and why tapping into brilliant minds makes everyone better ([48:05])
  • Unleashing the Power Within – What John Carlton learned from Tony Robbins that made him a better marketer ([50:05])
  • The Freelance Epiphany – How a stolen book launched John Carlton’s writing career, and what that experience taught him about becoming a successful freelance copywriter ([55:20])
  • The Simple Writing System explained – John Carlton takes you behind the curtain and shows you the simplest way to write anything from a paragraph to a 24-page sales letter ([61:02])
  • Stalking the desk – How to put yourself in the right frame of mind to do your best work and make your mark in the marketplace ([66:06])
  • Moving the sloth – How a controversial visualization technique can lead you to writing copy that causes your prospect to take out their wallet and give you money ([69:04])
  • The Two-List Solution – John Carlton shares his hard-won advice about what it takes to become a successful copywriter ([77:47])

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at