Emails

The power of Vagiclean

Life lessons from comedy: No. 635 – if you want results, be specific.

As a fierce and loyal subscriber, you get access to the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!!

(You’d think I’d have got tired of the whole “ALL CAPS and 4 exclamation points” thing by now, but I genuinely haven’t)

In the GDOA!!!, you’ll find the “Five Days to Funny” pack. My plan was to delete it after a week, start selling it to non-subscribers and make millions. As my priorities shifted recently (“WHERE THE HELL CAN I GET SOME TUNNOCKS TEACAKES?”), I forgot to remove it, so it’s still there, like a houseguest who’s outstayed their welcome.

One of the ideas mentioned in “FDTF” (apparently I’m abbreviating everything now) concerns specificity.

In comedy, there’s a time to be vague and a time to be specific. If you’ve read the PDF, you’ll already know this (and understand the subject line).

For those who haven’t read it (those thinking, “Vagiclean??? WTF?”), here’s the point –

If you want the audience to imagine something, be SPECIFIC.

If you want to die on stage, vague punchlines are a great way to go. Unless you have a burning desire to experience the longest and most agony-filled ten minutes of your life though, I wouldn’t recommend this approach.

An audience can’t imagine “medical device”, “transport” or “sports team”, but they can picture “speculum”, “dark brown, beat-up Mondeo with a bin liner for a rear window” and “Sunday league football match at the local park”.

Specificity has more to offer than making drunk strangers laugh though. We’ll get back to this in a second.

When we’re in lockdown, unsure about our future, we need to be careful about what we focus on. It’s all well and good putting our trust in the government, World Health Organisation or Janet Street-Porter, but if we spend too much energy focusing on things outside our control, we’ll feel powerless, and that’s not good.

We need to feel like we are in control of something, even if it’s something small.

Or, to quote Cal Newport from his book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”:

“Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement and fulfilment.”

You need to feel in control of something. And, if you want to strengthen the feeling, you need to be specific.

What specific thing can you focus on to give yourself a sense of control?

It might be planning the week’s meals, choosing when you’re going to go outside for your one piece of daily exercise (“but I thought stocking up on 37 boxes of Jaffa Cakes WAS exercise, officer…”), or deciding which chokehold you’re going to use on your kid to get 15 minutes peace.

Even when forced into lockdown, we can still find plenty of things to give us a sense of control, and, for the sake of our mental health, we probably should.

Have a good [does anyone care what day it is? When you’re in lockdown, every day looks the same!],

John

P.S. If you struggle with email marketing, this might be of interest.

(I mean what I say in the FYI bit – you have first dibs. You iz ma peeps, innit?)

Preston 266001

Preston 266001.

That’s the phone number for Chorley Nissan.

If you live in Lancashire and are presently on the lookout for a new Micra, you’re probably freaking out right about now.

Feel free to join my church and hand me all your life savings…

… just make sure you don’t read the rest of this email before doing so, as you’re about to be in for one hell of a disappointment.

OK, so Chorley Nissan…

I’ll tell you why this is relevant in a second, but first, you need to know two facts about me. The first is that I’m a magician. The second? Well, about twenty years ago, I used to be a radio presenter.

Feel free to forget both of these facts immediately after reading this. There will not be a test and, unless your local pub quiz is run by the man living at the bottom of my garden, they will not prove useful.

Let’s start with the “radio presenter” bit. 

Most radio presenters are anoraks. I would be polite and call them “devoted enthusiasts”, but that seriously downplays the level of broadcast stalking they do.

Radio presenters know absolutely everything about what’s going on at every local radio station.

When I wanted to get into radio, I used to scour my local paper, checking the listings for all the local stations. It was the first thing I did, every day, when the paper landed on the doormat.

Honestly. If the headline read, “Melinda Messenger* seeks Northern wannabee DJ and Poirot fanatic for lust-filled, energetic romps”, I’d have missed it in my rush to see who was covering overnights on Rock FM.

*Sod off, it was twenty years ago. Also, I think the word “energetic” would have put me off a bit.

So, I’d check the paper…

“Oh, Craig Beck is doing the weekday late show…”

“I see Jordan got the boot from breakfast!”

“Look at the imbecile they’ve got doing Thursday nights at Blackpool Hospital Radio?”**

**Yep. Me.

This level of anorakism (probably not a real word) extended well beyond checking the local paper.

I used to listen to the radio all the time. What competition is Radio Wave running on the breakfast show? How often are they doing traffic bulletins on drive? Maybe this is why I’m alone, miserable and failing my A-Levels?

A side effect of this behaviour meant that I was also exposed to massive amounts of adverts. Fortunately – unlike having your lacklustre coffee table repaired to look glossy and new by Jim’s French Polishing – you’d never be able to notice.

Yep, listening to radio ads had no impact on me whatsoever.

So, if you’re coffee table has lost its sparkle, sit back and “Shellacs” with Jim’s French Polishing. Call Wigan 65 55 45 now, that’s Wigan 65 55 45. Terms and condition apply.

Anyway, this is where “Preston 266001” comes in. Or, more correctly, *singing the jingle* “Preston two double six… doooouble oh oneeeee”…

A few months ago, I got a magic gig performing at Chorley Nissan for the launch of their new car, the “[if I haven’t written it in here, you’ll know I couldn’t be arsed to go back and check]”.

As soon as I read the words, “Chorley Nissan”, I was singing the phone number.

IT’S BEEN TWENTY YEARS SINCE I HEARD THAT JINGLE!

Twenty bloody years!

But I still remembered the phone number.

Let’s talk about familiarity.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.

I guess we’ll find out whether that’s true or not over the coming weeks, but, for now, let’s focus on what happens BEFORE we start ordering pins on Amazon and Googling “how to make a voodoo doll”.

We know from smarter people than me (Daniel Kahneman, Amon Tversky and former CBBC presenter Andi Peters to name just three) that we humans have a bias for the familiar – we naturally opt for things, people, places, dogging location and foods that we recognise and understand. 

We find safety and solace in the familiar.

It might be the one face we recognise in the crowd at a local pensioner cage fighting match, the personalised “ding” of your mistresses text alert, or the gentle touch of Gary, the well-muscled – yet sensitive – masseur who knows his way around your carpal tunnel syndrome like the back of your hands.

There’s a lot of comfort in being able to say, “I know what that is!”

Customers will choose/pay/go with things that they recognise.

We can tap into this as business owners by being consistent – both in who we are and how often we show up.

‘John sends an email every Monday and Thursday, so I know I better refresh my skills on using the “delete without reading” feature the night before.’

‘I’d recognise that image layout anywhere. Mum’s on Canva again… Get her carers on the phone!’

‘Yay! It’s Friday – pizza night!’

To be familiar, you need to give people a pattern that they can identify, follow and predict.

“I’ve seen this before, so this means that…”

“This movie looks great… hang on, it’s got Nicolas Cage in it…”

As entrepreneurs, we’re told to do everything we can to be different and stand out from the crowd, and, while we should totally do this, we should be a “reliable constant” too. 

Customers need to be able to get a good “feel” for what we’re about. We need to give them something to grab onto.

You can’t be a friendly and familiar face if people have no idea what you’re going to do next, so starting being consistent in WHAT you say, HOW you say it, WHEN you say it and WHERE you say it.

And, if you can’t do that with your words, at least outsource it to a weird chap in Cheshire!

What do you want to do?

At 20:30 last night, Boris “I don’t care how bad the crisis is, I’m STILL not going to use a fucking hairbrush” Johnson announced that the UK was in lockdown.

🥳 “YAY!”, scream the introverts. 🥳

😒 “Meh”, mutter the Millenials. 😒

😨 “Oh shit… NO! Not three weeks locked up with HIM!”, yelled my wife, as a single tear rolled down her cheek, as she stared blankly out the window. 😨

We’re only allowed to leave the house when it’s absolutely necessary, so things like – food shopping, medical emergencies or for your calligraphy class at the local night school.

(“But it IS an emergency. Have you seen the state of my kerning after a drop cap?”)

Obviously, this is not a great situation to be in, but…

If you have an online business, blog, vlog, jlog (I may have made that one up) or presence – or want one – it IS a fantastic opportunity.

You now have a captive audience.

As of 20:30 last night, everyone is looking for something to keep them occupied, laughing and sane over the next few weeks and months.

We’re going to need it.

👈👉☝👇 It could be YOU. 👈👉☝👇

(I wanted the emoji to be pointing at you, but, seeing as I have no basis for determining your relative position to me at this present moment, I thought, “balls to it” and covered all bases)

Now is the perfect time to step up, put yourself out there and make a difference.

Now is the perfect time to start that thing you were thinking about starting and see what happens*.

You have (at least) three weeks of undivided attention – what are you going to do with it?

🦨 “SNIFF Did you catch a whiff of that, Marjorie? It smells like a pitch…”. 🦨

I can help you with this.

“I BLOODY KNEW IT!”

If the thought of sitting down and writing content, copy or lust-filled notes to your milkman makes you want to wander the aisles of Tesco naked, rubbing faces with everyone you meet, I can help.

As a copywriter, I’ve written:

✍️ Sales pages
✍️ Email sequences
✍️ FB ads
✍️ Blog posts
✍️ Webinar scripts

Most of these weren’t shit.

More than that though, as a performer, I’ve learned how to add a touch of personality and humour in there too, so your customers are smiling while you give them something awesome.

If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur – someone who’s regularly creating content, ideas and info products, I’d love to speak to you.

At the moment, I’m running a starter offer for retainer clients at the following rates:

£399 for 8 hours of writing,
£239 for 4 hours of writing (do I really have to put “of writing” next to all these?)
£149 for 2 hours… damn my OCD! – of writing!

My mentor told me to make it clear that this is a starter offer and strictly limited. I’m telling you this for two reasons:

  1. I’m genuinely terrified of her. Like, really proper horror movie scared. 😱
  1. It’s true. I have two school-age kids, an overly energetic dog I can now only walk once per day and a wife who is STILL staring blankly out of the window.

I have no time.

I’m writing this at 6am. In less than three hours, I’m going to be doing jumping jacks with my daughter while vividly imagining Joe Wicks’ testicles being crushed in a vice…

… very slowly.

📣📣📣 Whether you need my help or not, now is a great time to step up and start telling the world about you and your thing**. 📣📣📣

You’ll never have more potential attention on you than right at this moment. 👀

What do you want to do with it?

*Apart from you, Randolph in Exeter. Yeah, I see you. No one needs that. Put it away.
**Again, not YOU, Randolph. The Police have been informed.

If “The Simpsons” taught me one thing…

Lisa: “Cheer up, Dad. Did you know the Chinese use the same word for ‘crisis’ as they do for ‘opportunity’?”

Homer: “Yes. Crisitunity.”

If you want to be assured of surviving 3 months of isolation, I’ve got some good news, the supermarkets have just what you need.

Want some better news? There are LOADS of them in stock, so you won’t be needing that Tombstone Piledriver you learned by binge-watching 4 hours of WWE last night.

What? You want even better news? OK, here goes…

… it’s yours for less than a quid.

Let’s talk journalling…

“Urgh! I thought it was going to be something good, you know, like a lost Blue Peter episode, showing us how to make an Aloe Vera loo roll out of Fallafel.”

The next few months are going to be weird, scary and crazy.

We’re going to experience a lot of things for the first time:

  • Enforced isolation (unless you have young kids, in which case you’re already well trained in this)
  • Not being able to go out to the pub and vent with your mates over a beer
  • No more french kissing random pensioners.

We’re going to have to deal with all of this – and much more besides – in a way that doesn’t involve us all losing our minds or creating a “songs to slaughter your family to” playlist on Spotify.

(Killing your family has been known to lead to periods of enforced isolation, no being able to go out to the pub and… wait a second…)

You need to keep your head in the game.

I want you to start writing stuff down.

Get yourself a journal. It doesn’t have to be one of those expensive “I think you’ll find it’s pronounced ‘Mole-skin-ay’…” ones. You’re going to be trapped indoors and alone – there’s no-one to impress.

“I would journal, but I’m just waiting on delivery of my engraved and custom weighted Montblanc Petit Prince from Chisholm Hunter. I can’t be expected to write without a properly balanced nib.”

Shut up.

Tesco sells notebooks for 70p. They look bloody awful, but they work. They also have LOADS in stock.

(FYI, they also had a massive amount of condoms in stock, so expect a baby boom around December! Anyway, I digress…)

Get into the habit of transferring the contents of your head onto paper. 

There’s nothing fancy about this – write down whatever happens to be swirling around your brain.

You’re not looking for answers, or hoping for inspiration to strike – you’re just looking to get your thoughts, feelings and emotions onto paper.

That’s it. 

Sit and experience whatever you’re feeling and then let it all out on the page.

Write about whatever you want.

If you’re scared, write about being scared.

Worried about losing it all? Write about that.

Down to the last sheet of bog paper after eating that out of date Chicken Chasseur ready meal? What’cha thinking?? 

Whatever you’re feeling, own it… and then write about it.

Why are you scared? What are you feeling? When is your arsehole going to explode?

Every research study ever done has shown that this type of journalling – the kind where you really face up to your feelings and emotions and explore them on paper – improves your mental well being.

Every single one.

It’s not a cure. I can’t promise you’ll make the emotional shift from ‘worried and concerned’ to ‘blissful happiness’ just by writing for 10 minutes, but, at times like these – when we have no idea what the hell we’re up against – it’s not about finding a cure.

It’s about finding things that make our lives a little bit better.

Keeping your mental game together should be priority #1 over the next few weeks and months. 

Journalling WILL help you do do that.

I should also point out that it’s not about trying to ‘positivity’ your way through it either. 

If you’re feeling shit, alone and terrified, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write, “I’m so happy and grateful that…”. 

You’ll still feel shit, alone and terrified.

Own whatever the hell it is you’re feeling, write it down and explore it. 

Let it all out on the page.

There’s another reason you should start writing though, aside from processing your feelings and emotions…

We’re going to come out of this a very different population than we went in. 

It’s hard to imagine what a post-COVID-19 “normal” will look like. 

This is going to influence our world for generations to come, and your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will want to know what it was like to be there and what was going through your mind, so start writing stuff down. 

I’m not making light of this, but how cool would it be to be able to open a notebook and SHOW them what you were thinking, AS it actually happened, to share with them what it was like to be there and live through it?

By taking the time to write about how we’re feeling, as it occurs, we’ve got a real chance to help future generations – and ourselves – cope with this kind of adversity, when it happens again.

Because the truth is that the big issues never change, it’s just the specifics that do. Viruses will always spread; people will always panic; Kanye will continue to talk complete and utter shite.

There are things we’ll need to learn from this and, if we don’t keep a record of what’s happening, we WILL forget.

As I mention in the “Five Days to Funny” PDF (presently waiting for your eyeballs in the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!!), comedians know better than most that ideas and thoughts are fickle beasts. 

You’ll never hear a comedian say, “I’ve just had an idea for a hilarious joke. I’m won’t bother writing it down though, as I’m very confident I’ll be able to remember it all, even down to the tiniest detail, tomorrow morning. Barman – Sangrias all round!”. 

No, they’ve been burnt by the “now what the hell was that thing I had last night…” demon before. As soon as a good idea comes along, comedians get it down on whatever is at hand – note pads… voice recorders… iPhones… the thigh of a close friend. 

They know that as soon as an idea lands, they’ve got about a minute to get it down or risk losing it forever.

We’ll learn lessons, but only if we take the time to write stuff down and process it. Otherwise, the next time you’re on the bus and someone coughs and complains of a high fever, you’ll be sat there thinking, “this reminds me of something… now what the hell was it…?”

Look after yourself,

John

P.S. I’m presently weighing the pros and cons of doing this.

I stuck between wanting to help as many people as I can, but not pissing off previous customers. 

I’m no marketing guru, but I’m pretty sure that pissing off your customers is not an effective long term business plan.

I’d appreciate your thoughts. Genuinely.

U’ L R2 D B’ F U2 R’

(Sometimes, you gotta use the weirdest subject line you can. I’ll give you a clue – it relates to something in this email – honest!)

Firstly, I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well, that you’re looking after yourself and – more importantly – not freaking out too much.

While I was out walking my dog yesterday, I tried to come up with some ways we could be grateful for all this.

Not grateful for all the punch-ups, aggression and anger that seems to be rife (though I have to admit, it’s great to be able to see UFC-quality action in my local Tesco!), but the conditions we find ourselves saddled with:

  • Staying in,
  • Being advised not to see friends,
  • Self-isolation

These all sound like horrific conditions (unless you’re an introvert, in which case, they sound like absolute bliss).

“There has to be something to be grateful for in all this…”, I thought. “There has to be an opportunity here!”

And, of course, there is. Opportunity is everywhere at all times. Having the Corona Virus sweep through the planet is no different.

I tried to make a serious point about this in the last email, so, for this email, let’s change tack…

LET’S HAVE SOME FUN!

Two weeks of social isolation provides an ideal opportunity to mess with people.

Not in an evil or vindictive way (though, for some people, that might be a good route to go), but in a fun, practical joke kinda way.

A fortnight is the perfect amount of time it takes to master some awesome, but low level, skills – IN SECRET.

The kind of skills you can use to freak out your friends!

If you’re stuck inside, how about you learn something you can have a bit of fun with when humanity returns to normal?

(well, as normal as humanity gets with Donald Trump and BoJo at the helm!)

How many of your friends could you freak out if you secretly learned how to solve the Rubik’s Cube?

Or mastered how to juggle?

Both of these skills are relatively easy to pick up but SEEM massively impressive.

“Oh yeah? How easy exactly?” 

Very, it turns out. 

I learned to juggle during an inset day at school (that probably goes some way to explaining my shocking GCSE results) and I managed to memorise a simple method for solving the cube in about 5 hours of watching a YouTube video.

In two weeks, you’ll probably be able to juggle… chainsaws, on a unicycle… 

…WHILE solving the Rubik’s Cube!

Don’t want to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube or how to juggle three small beanbags?

No problem. 

How cool would it be if, after two weeks, you could:

There’s all manner of cool shit you could learn in 14 days.

The first part is learning it.

The second part is not letting your friends know that you’ve learned it, and then planning how you’re going to freak them out!

Imagine how cool it would be if, in a month, you pop round to your friends and see a jumbled-up Rubik’s cube on a bookshelf?

“What’s this?”, you remark, picking it up and twisting it. You continue casually turning it, pleading ignorance until you solve it and hand it back to them, as you say, “That’s a cool kids toy”

This freaks people out. 

I know this because it’s exactly what I did when I learned to solve the cube.

I’m a terrible friend.

You can do the same with juggling balls or the instrument you’ve been secretly practising on.

Put the work in, learn the skill and then freak out your friends.

It’s worth spending two weeks in social isolation, just to see their reactions!

Anyway, if you don’t fancy learning any of those skills, then you might want to check out the recently enlarged “GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!!”, as I’ve added a new video (and some slides) to the “Five Days To Funny” Folder.

The “Five Days to Funny” pack is presently for sale for £9 on the site, but – for a limited time – you can grab it for nowt, just by clicking the link. It’s my way of saying, “thanks for being a subscriber”

… and “sorry, I don’t have anything new and shiny to give you to distract you from all this Corona shite!”

That’s all for this week unless self-isolation gives me any new ideas that I deem worthy of your attention (it probably won’t).

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you think I can be of any help, or if you just need to vent. I’m here and happy to help where I can. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all in this together. 🙂

Look after yourself and take care,

John

P.S. Can’t be bothered scrolling up to find the link for the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!!? No worries – here it is!