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7 Powerful Copywriting Lessons from the Original Granddaddy of Personal Development (Who You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)

Lets face it, these days there are self help gurus and coaches for everyone and everything. They are the easiest thing imaginable to find, there are websites, books, seminars, podcasts and DVDs a plenty.

Into fitness? No problem. Want to get a new job? Again, no worries. Relationship issues? Hey take your pick.

But you know what? It wasn’t always like this.

Although of course there have been religious, spiritual and philosophical gurus for an eternity, the self help guru is, in the great scheme of things, a pretty recent phenomena.

And who kick started it all off? Well, many would argue that it was the remarkable Mr Earl Nightingale.

So, who was he and how can someone most people have never even heard of help make you a better copywriter?

A good question and one I am happy to try and answer.

Earl Nightingale was an extraordinary man born in America in the era of the great depression. He was blessed with an insatiable thirst for learning, a natural curiosity and an exceptional gift for inspiring people. These rare qualities combined and worked together to not just make him a wealthy man, but motivate hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and in the process created what we now know of as the self help industry.

In honour of the original Seer of Self Help here are my 7 quick and simple ways you can apply his wisdom to help with your copywriting skills.

1. “We become what we think about most of the time and that is the strangest secret”

This is just one of those laws of nature that we all recognise but seem to forget when it comes to ourselves. But how you might ask will it help me as a copywriter? Well, it’s simple.

A). Give yourself a specific goal or objective and stick to it for 30 days i.e. every day no matter what, find some copy, a sales letter, slogan or tag line and make it better.

B). Believe in yourself and quit any negative self critical mental chatter.

C). Stop making up excuses for not being a great copywriter and instead start thinking of all the reasons you will be one!

2. “You should be doing a job you like to do and because you do it well”

That’s right.

Presumably you already write because you love it, so now just find your niche.

Make it something you are really passionate about and then invest your time learning more about it; its history, emerging areas of development, sub genres and key players. You will find that your time will fly by, and as you become more and more of an expert similarly interested parties will seek you out for consultation, advice and of course to do their copy.

He called it ‘following your river’ I call it ‘finding your copywriting area of interest and becoming an expert in it!’

3. “Act as though its impossible to fail”

This isn’t about being in denial, deluding yourself or living in cloud cuckoo land.

Oh no, this is all about establishing achievable goals and applying self belief, persistence and tenacity.

The best thing about this is that all you need is a positive mindset and a huge dollop of optimism. Gradually and wonderfully as if by magic you will find the habit forms and it becomes second nature!

4. Learn to manage stress in the right way

As Earl put it ‘its not what happens to you in life that makes the difference. Its how you react to each circumstance you encounter that determines the result’.

Or put more simply, you can react negatively or positively to every situation.

So what at first might seem like a terrible predicament i.e. some great copy that took you ages has been rejected by a client, could be a perfect opportunity to re-purpose it for something else; turn it into a great blog, use as a sales responder email, sell to another client, include in a book or just remember as a great learning experience.

5. Become more creative

Being a great copywriter doesn’t just mean you can write well and follow a brief.

No, it also requires imagination. But how can we develop that?

It’s simple, by becoming more creative. And one way of achieving this is by learning to think ‘outside the box’. A simple technique you can use to kick-start this process is by applying Earl’s easy to remember formula; ‘combination, adaptation, substitution and re-arrangement’.

In short here’s how it works.

  • combination’ just think of new and novel ways of combining things you already do or know to come up with something different, cool and innovative. Think the Smart Phone or the Swiss Army Knife for inspiration!
  • adaptation’ this works by simply adapting something you already do (well) but on some other problem entirely. Its a form of ‘recycling’ but I call it ‘creative adaptation hacking’!
  • substitution’ this is just about changing one thing for another far less obvious ‘thing’. Just as someone on a healthy diet might swap ice cream for yoghurt or a salad for fries. You can do the same thing with your words or techniques. Get the idea? The point here is just because something already works well it doesn’t mean something else won’t work even better!
  • Finally ‘rearrangement’, this last component is all about re-looking at what you already do but playing around with it. We all re-arrange our rooms from time to time and often times come up with something we love better even though the furniture is still exactly the same. Why not try it with some old writing work and see what happens?

6. Have some fun and make yourself laugh!

Nope! I haven’t lost my mind.

Running a business is an important job but that’s no reason to take life too seriously.

It’s important to be able to see the bright side of life and the humour in day to day things.

Plus it really will help you relax more, and trust me when you are relaxed you write better and faster and often come up with novel great ideas!

7. Take action – Ideas are worthless unless we act on them

Last but not least. In fact my favourite bit of his wisdom.

I admit following your dreams and going on a big adventure can be daunting. I know because I did it myself over five years ago when I left my job, sold my house and moved abroad.

But if you think about the most successful businesses, enterprises or personal achievements, they all began as an idea in the mind of a normal person like you or me. But through hard work, focus and determination and a thousand other variables they became the great thing they are today.

So don’t delay or procrastinate. It’s your life no one else’s and time does not stand still. So apply your knowledge and skills and become the best ever copywriter!

You know you can.

If you are interested in learning more about Earl Nightingale I can recommend ‘How to Completely Change your Life in 30 Seconds’ as a good place to start

Of course if you are serious about improving your copy then sign up to our email newsletter for all our persuasive writing tips.


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