A simple way to make your new year’s resolutions stick

You might not know the name Harvey Penick, but you might resonate with his pain.

Penick was a golf teacher, famous for writing his “Little Books on Golf”.

I won’t bore you with his backstory. Suffice to say, he’s helped more than a few big golfing names reach the top.

Like most teachers, he never made it to the big leagues himself though.

As a kid, I always wondered why that happened?

I’d be watching a tournament on TV, listening to these coaches explain why Faldo was pulling his long irons… or how Jose wasn’t transferring his weight in the backswing, so was coming “over the top” with his driver, and think…

“If you’re so bloody good… why aren’t you out there winning all the trophies?”

Of course, there are a lot of possible reasons why. Maybe it’s because: 

– Life on tour is a whole different ball game from being a teacher. As a teacher, they’re based at their own club and don’t have to travel. Tour life, on the other hand, is a constant series of flights. Maybe these coaches have a family they don’t want to escape from?

– Having millions of TV viewers watching you miss a 3-foot putt isn’t the stuff dreams are made of. Maybe the pressure cooker environment of being in the spotlight isn’t for them.

With Penick though, I didn’t have to wonder why he never played on tour.  

He revealed why in one of his books:

“Sam Snead.”

He explains:

“I thought I was a pretty fair player and had nagging aspirations to join the tour until the Houston Open in the middle 1930s.

I was practising putting and one of the fellows said, “Harvey, have you seen this kid Snead hit the ball? He’s about to tee off now.”

I walked over to the tee and saw the new kid from West Virginia hit his drive.  I not only saw it, I heard it.  

It sounded like a rifle and flew like a bullet. 

I knew right that moment that my future was not as a tour player.”

One shot was all it took to destine Harvey to a lifetime of teaching (nowt wrong with that by the way…).

Here’s the thing…

Sam Snead wasn’t just any ordinary player.

He was (and is) one of the greatest players to ever slip on the plaid pants*.

* That *feels* like a golfing metaphor…

Harvey Penick took one look at the world’s greatest golfer and thought “I can’t compete with that” and quit.

Having our dreams crushed after having a prodigy blow our minds is probably something we can all relate to.

When it happens, it’s easy to think:

“Why bother?”

In “winner takes all” markets (markets where ONLY the top few get all the rewards), seeing how you measure up against the top performers is a good strategy for gauging your potential for success.

That’s being realistic.

But very few markets are “winner takes all”.

Business, for example.

I don’t have to be the best copywriter on the planet to make a decent living bashing out words at my keyboard.

I don’t even have to be in the top 1,000.

(Good job too!)

I probably should have written this to you earlier in the year, what with all the “new year, new me” resolutions, but…

If you’re holding back from doing something because you’re not the best in the world…


Seriously, stop. Pick up an autobiography of someone who mastered your “thing”…

… and prove to yourself that EVERYONE starts from square one.

(My recommendation? “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin. Even if you don’t dream of being a comedian, you get to see the amount of work that goes into every “overnight success” you see on TV)

What one man can do, another can do too.*

* Probably Lincoln. Maaaaaaybe Gandhi.

Penick might have been intimidated by Sam Snead, but if he’d have stopped for a second, he would’ve remembered there was a day where Sam had to be shown which end of the club to hold…

A day where he took a swing and missed the ball…

A day where he invented a new swear word because he couldn’t get out of a sand trap…

Sam Snead played in over 100 of golf’s “major” tournaments (The US Masters, Us Open, British Open, and USPGA).

Wanna know how many he won?

Seven. Only seven.

So if you’re still hanging on to a new years resolution, but not taking action because you’ve just seen your “Sam Snead” crack a small, thermoplastic resin-covered ball 300 yards…


Think of what they looked like on their very first day.

Compare yourself to that.


A quick and easy way to stand out from your competition

SL: Guess who? (and a little skinny “extra”)

“What the hell is Peter doing?”

Theatre days are looooong, and Peter wasn’t making this one any shorter.

As scenes go, this SHOULD have been an easy one, especially for Peter. He didn’t have to say or do anything…

All he had to do was stand in the background looking inconspicuous. 

That’s it.

His entire job was to go unnoticed… to be invisible to the audience.

But right now he was the exact opposite…

Right now the audience’s eyes were drawn to Peter, the skinny guy at the back of the stage…

… the man presently toying with a piece of gum under his shoe. 

As the seconds ticked by, more and more of the audience became hypnotised by his antics – oblivious to the show – as they watched him pluck the gum from his shoe, stretch it out, before getting tangled in a big gooey mess.

The director was losing patience.

Lead stars as divas he could handle… but extras? 

Unsurprisingly, Peter was fired that day, giving the director chance to create the scene he’d always wanted (sans bubble gum antics)…

Peter never made it as an extra. 

That’s the thing about extras… you want them to blend in.

But Peter didn’t want to blend in.

He wanted to stand out.

And stand out he would, but not as an extra, clowning around with a resin and wax-based consumable…

– – – 

“There’s no such thing as dead time… just an opportunity for interaction.”

I’ve said this a few times, but like most good advice (and that meatloaf I had last night)…

it’s worth repeating.

There are always moments – in business and life – where your expectations about anything interesting happening are close to zero.

Maybe it’s sending a “here’s your invoice” email…

Maybe it’s waiting in line for a coffee…

You don’t expect memories to be created from moments like these. It’s just a thing you have to do.

But what if it wasn’t?

What if you saw every potential moment as a chance to throw in a bit of personality into the mix…. 

What if you began to look at how to make every moment a bit more memorable?

What if instead of sending a curt “pay me now!” email, you sent a funny email that put a smile on the customer’s face, making them feel a little bit better about paying you (and more likely to do it)?

What if instead of staring at your phone while waiting for coffee, you struck up a conversation with the person ahead, or asked that old lady where the fuck she got all those pennies from and WHY DOES EVERY ONE OF THEM HAVE TO HAVE AN INTERESTING STORY?

If you’re wanting to be a successful TV and Film extra, standing out isn’t the way to go, but…

If you’re wanting to give your customers a reason to choose you over the rest of the competition…

Standing out is THE way to go.

The easiest place to start is with “zero expectation” moments – out of office emails, unsubscribe links, “no seriously… where the hell is my payment?” emails… stuff like that.

Doesn’t have to be anything hilarious or shareworthy. Just something that makes you different from everyone else.

The upshot is, the more you do this in business, the better the clients you attract charm lure tempt entice seduce *END OF SYNONYMS* get.

For Peter, standing out may have cost him his career as an extra, but I’m sure he didn’t think about it while playing Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Who (in two movies), or Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m reasonably certain Peter Cushing doesn’t regret fucking around on stage with a piece of gum.


How to create more profitable offers in 2022

Subject line: I thought my dog was going to die

“Something’s not right… he’s breathing funny… he’s panting… he’s shaking… his heart’s racing…


– – – 

I have to be honest,  contemplating the imminent death of a family member wasn’t the best start to New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had.

And while I jokingly attribute 103% of my frustrations in life to our beloved Puggle, seeing him like this was scary.

When kids are ill they can tell you “my head hurts”, “I feel sick”, or “the colour blue tastes funny”, but with dogs…

You have NOTHING to go on.

It was 7 am and I was scared shitless.

And if I was scared shitless, you know it was bad.

He was standing in an odd, leaning way. He was panting, his heart was racing, and his left eye started closing.

I genuinely thought this was it.

I woke the wife.

I dread moments like this because she’s a fucking nightmare in the morning I know how much the mutt means to her.

I’m under no illusions… if a law was passed requiring married Puggle owners to choose between their husband or the dog…

I’d be setting up a Tinder account the next day.

We grabbed our kid and raced to the vets (“raced” is a bit strong for my 16-year-old car, but I wanted to build a sense of urgency). My daughter was in the front with me, crying her eyes out, while my wife was in the back, cradling the dog.

We get there and have about ten minutes until the vets arrive, so we just have to wait.

I walk the dog around. I convince myself he looks a little better. Just as I’m about to say “I think he’s perked up a bit…”, he throws up a horrible white splash of thick goo, the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

I decided to not verbalise my “perky” comment.

Now I’m really scared.

Before I can Google “what the hell does it mean when your dog throws up white stuff?”, the vet arrives.

After we get him up to speed, he takes the dog inside, saying:

“We might need to keep him in and put him on Oxygen…”

I’d love to say I was a rock for my wife and daughter, but I was too busy scooping up the white stuff.*

* That sounds vaguely like a cocaine reference. It’s not. I’ve never done cocaine, though I did once squirt talcum powder up my nose when I was a kid. Sneezing was a bit ouchy after that.

As I head to the bins, I try to peek in the windows of the room, to see the expressions on their faces… or how fast they’re moving. Anything, to give me a clue as to how bad it is.

After about 5 minutes, the vet returns with the dog, merrily skipping behind.

“I think he’s twinged his back.”

WHAT? Twinged his back? You gotta be kidding me…

I’m convinced I’ve misheard.

“But… the panting… heart racing… eye closing…”

“Yeah, dogs can be like that. We’ll give him some steroids and see him in a week…”

Thank god.

The relief that washed over us was HUUUUUGE.

The dog might still be panting and looking like he’s at death’s door but we weren’t the same collective, crying, “is he going to die?” mess we were five minutes ago.

Because we were no longer wondering and fearing the worst.

A specialist has told us exactly what the problem was… and how to fix it.

Result? Total peace of mind.


It’s a bit like having your copy critiqued by a (still) Puggle-owning copywriter.

Last year, I had a ridiculously cheap offer for coffee critiques.

Bad news – that offer has gone.

Good news – you still have a chance for me to play vet to your poorly copy*.

* Other role play options are available upon request (and at steeper price points).

All you have to do is sign up for ThriveCart – the easiest sales cart software I’ve ever used in my entire life – by clicking this handy affiliate link.

Do that and you can send me any piece of copy you like to review.

I’ll not only gently lead your copy into my surgery, but I’ll also thoroughly examine it, giving you a fully annotated PDF of all my thoughts on how to make it more profitable.

I’ll even give you a dose of Steroids to make the heavy lifting easier by shooting a video of me walking through all these ideas.

But let’s add some credibility to this by using some words I didn’t type:

“I was expecting a quick review of one web page. But I got so much more than that. But it wasn’t just about volume, there was depth too. John took the time to explain his thinking and rationale behind his suggestions. And it wasn’t just high-level stuff. He gave me some really actionable easy to implement tips that will help me communicate what I do more clearly to potential clients. Oh, and there were some juicy creative ideas too – well beyond the remit of a web page review.”

“How easy is ThriveCart to use?” I hear 17 of you ask…

Piece of piss.

Why not see for yourself?

I made this video of me using ThriveCart to create an offer from scratch in less than 10 minutes (including designing a piss-poor checkout page and brainstorming an order bump).

If you want to get a feel for ThriveCart before you buy, watch that video and you’ll see whether it’s for you.

If you’re looking for a stress-free way of getting your offers out into the world in 2022, check out ThriveCart (you can also use code “insertgaghere” at checkout)

NOTE: ThriveCart doesn’t pass along customer purchases – they’re good like that. So if you do pick it up, shoot me an email, letting me know so we can organise your free critique.



P.S.  I still haven’t googled the white stuff.

P.P.S. But I HAVE Googled how to use Tinder. 

Not because of the “Puggle or Husband” ultimatum…

But because of the “she’s a fucking nightmare in the mornings“ gag. 

I’m gonna pay for that…
P.P.P.S. Here’s my affiliate link for ThriveCart again.

I made the “Top 100 Copywriter Email Lists of 2021” list

Another copywriter put together a “Top 100 Copywriter Email Lists of 2021” list.

Now, just in case you think this email is going to be a tad braggy, let me be clear…


Why? I’ll get to that in a moment.

First off, the spoiler…

My little “email club” – the one you subscribed to to read this email – is apparently the 88th best copywriting list… ON THE BLOODY PLANET!

(Actually, 10 of us tied, so if I wanted to flex even harder – always a risk at my age – I COULD technically claim to possess the 80th best email list… ON THE BLOODY PLANET!)

Before we pop the champagne and open the Vol au vents (3 for 2 at Iceland), let’s get back to my “I THINK THIS IS TOTAL SHIT” comment. 

Here’s why I’m not getting too excited:

1. The copywriter who compiled this list only asked his own subscribers to vote. One person running a competition is bad enough, but when you only poll your own subscribers… that boosts the bias factor up to 1,253! 

Of course, you MIGHT end up with a fair winner at the end of the day under these conditions, but there’s a far better chance of…

2. The copywriter compiling the list WINNING the competition! 

… which is exactly what happened when he scooped over 40% of the vote.

3. In 88th place, I’m ahead of legendary writers such as Bond Halbert, Ken McCarthy, Jon Morrow, Ryan Deiss, Marie Forleo, Chris Haddad, and Neil Patel.

And, there’s no delicate way to put this…

That’s just total bollocks.

If this was a true list, I’d be nowhere near 88th.




Now you’re getting there…

(Although, gotta be honest… I’m not even close to being comfortable saying I’m in the “Top 10,000 Copywriters”…)

Thing is, despite my “THIS IS TOTAL SHIT” assertion, there is ONE stat in this whole thing I’m really interested in.

For me, it’s the only stat that truly matters.

It’s the number 4 – the number of people who took the time to reply to the survey and say something to the effect of:

“John Holt’s pretty OK at emails…”

(and if you WERE one of the four, thank you. And hit reply and let me know!)

Paying attention to social posturing competitions like these can be fun, but…

It’s nonsense like this that gets in the way of you building the business you really want.

Time spent looking at stuff like this is time you could be:

– Learning more about your audience and your market

– Building your list

– Creating offers

– Writing emails that bring in sales

88th… 880th… 8,080,808,080th…

Who cares?

Marie Forleo seems to be doing OK.

I’m sure Ryan Deiss isn’t phoning the Samaritans because an odd chap from Cheshire got one more vote than him.

Like I say, stuff like this can be fun (and make for great email content!), but don’t let it distract you from stuff that really moves the needle.

John “for god’s sake, don’t search the urban dictionary for potentially comical ‘88’ references to use in your email signature” Holt 

the wrong way to get gigs off Facebook

It’s not often I start writing an email not quite knowing where it’s going to go.

Let’s see how this experiment works out…

– – – 

If I was starting as a magician from scratch, there’s one marketing activity I would focus on to build my business:

Spamming the hell out of Facebook groups

Networking with other magicians.

One of the problems of a job where you have to be in a certain place… at a certain time… wearing a certain style of trousers is you can’t be in two places at once.

So “peak days” like Saturdays in July for weddings, or Thursday nights in December for corporate bookings, get booked – FAST.

If I invented a time machine, I could make an entire year’s salary performing at 20 gigs on the 13th July and 36 on the 13th December…

… leaving the rest of the year free for me to wonder why I don’t just sell my time machine and make gazillions, instead of busting my ass doing card tricks for drunk people.

So, if I was starting again, I’d spend time with busy, working magicians, doing whatever I can to prove I can do TWO things:

(Which I’ll get to in a moment…)

I’ve got 100% confidence in this approach for one reason: 

I WAS one of those busy, working magicians.

For just over ten years I supported our family performing ONLY close-up magic. 

That might not sound like a big “TADA!”, but it’s pretty rare. 

Most magicians have to do kid’s shows, balloon modelling, or armed robberies on the side to make ends meet.

Not me.

And, because I never solved the “how can I be in Essex and Llandudno at the same time?” problem… I got tons of enquiries for gigs I couldn’t perform at. 

I’d post these in magician FB groups for other magicians to fight over.

(If you’ve ever fed ducks, that’s a handy image to have for this)

It was funny watching the comments stack up as magicians try to win me over.

Two of the more common “copywriting persuasion responses” magicians rely on are:

“That’s down the road from me…”

“I just happen to be passing through the area that day…”

Replies like these always made me chuckle.

Why the hell should I care about your geographical proximity to the event?

In what way does that make you better qualified to do magic tricks?

“We WERE going to book you some football lessons from Cristiano Ronaldo, Cuthbert… but it turns out, a former P.E. teacher was passing through the village that day. The only thing is, he’s not allowed within 500 yards of a school or his ankle jewellery will make a loud screeching noise…”

The only two things I want to know when you’re applying for one of my gigs is – will you:

1. Do an awesome job of entertaining the guests, and

2. Be professional during the booking process (and not a pretentious diva who never replies to emails and whose website boasts – “NO CONTRACT – NO DEPOSIT”).

“Do a good job and don’t be a dick” isn’t a high benchmark. But it’s one you have to reach and “If I stand on my roof, I can see the venue” doesn’t get you any closer to meeting it.

The very first time I met one magician, a man called Harry Robson, he gave me £1,200 worth of gigs.

“But you haven’t seen me do any tricks…”, I said.

“John, when you came into the room you looked at me, smiled, confidently walked over, and warmly shook my hand. I knew right then I could send you anywhere to represent me.”

(I know that sounds made up, but I swear on the 10 9 8 Tunnocks Teacakes that remain in my jar as I write this… it’s true. 90% of what it takes to be a full-time magician is contained in those two sentences. It’s the reason I still message him every New Year to thank him for what he did for me, hence me writing about it)

Even though it’s now MY gig… I’m representing HIM.

If you want to connect with – and get gigs – from your competitors compadres in 2022 (and you totally should – it’s a great way to get steady work), figure out what matters to them and PROVE you’d make a worthy representative.

You don’t need to be a rockstar at what you do. In fact, it’s probably best if you aren’t.

(The person passing you the gig has an ego, you know. They don’t want to be upstaged)

The only thing you need to prove is that you’re a safe pair of hands.


Have a belting week!


P.S. The email template I created to connect magicians with clients for overspill gigs has the line:

“…I’d be delighted to have them perform at MY wedding/corporate event”.

Again… sounds like Hallmark-level horseshit, but that’s really the only thing I cared about when looking for a Holt-worthy replacement.