You’ll Never Amount to a Hill of Beans

Dear Business-Builder,

That’s what my 10th grade biology teacher said when I asked him to sign the scrap of paper saying I was dropping out of high school.

He was wrong, of course, and I knew it. I had big plans. I was going to get rich.

Mind you: I had no earthly idea how I was going to make my fortune. But I was absolutely certain the secrets that would pave my way to riches were not to be learned from any of my teachers or to be found in any of my textbooks.

I sensed that every minute I spent with instructors who had sold their own dreams for that mess of luke-warm porridge called “job security” was a waste: A needless delay in my quest to find the answer that would transform my own dreams into reality.

I knew for a fact – instinctively, viscerally – that the answers were “out there” somewhere; in the real world.

And so, on a winter’s day in 1968, I walked out of East Central High School for the last time – and quickly and quite accidentally fell into something called “direct response marketing.”

My long-term goal was to make it big working behind the camera in the film industry. But my short-term needs – food, rent and a car payment – took precedence. So I got a job in a print shop, which just happened to produce fundraising appeal letters for a national non-profit organization.

A year or two later, I thought my “big break” had finally come: An opportunity to study film and video production in Hollywood. But when my training was complete, I found myself back in Tulsa, producing half-hour television programs that raised funds for – you guessed it; a non-profit organization.

Every road I took led me back to direct response marketing and copywriting.

And so, just about everything I’ve done and learned since 1968 – and certainly since the mid-1970s when I “officially” began my copywriting career at a small Los Angeles direct marketing agency – has formed my approach to copywriting.

And not to brag, but the lessons I’ve learned over the past four decades – secrets for writing better sales copy faster and getting bigger winners more often – allowed me to create more than three million new customers for my clients…and generate well over one billion dollars in sales…and to earn millions of dollars in royalties.

And while I have no intention of laying down my pen anytime soon, at the ripe old age of 58, I have found a new love: Passing on the secrets it took me some 40 years to learn to a new generation of writers.

It is my hope – my conviction – that if you learn the lessons that I’ve learned and apply them along with a heaping helping of your own genius, you will one day be as amazed at their remarkable, life-changing power as I am.

Have you had a life-changing experience with your own pursuit to happiness? If so, why don’t you share it below…

Yours for Bigger Winners, More Often,
Clayton Makepeace Signature
Clayton Makepeace
Publisher & Editor

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17 Responses to You’ll Never Amount to a Hill of Beans

  1. Randy B. says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading Clayton’s daily deliveries…however I have one complaint, which is probably the only one you will receive like it.
    I live in Costa Rica…would love to order Clayton’s writing course…however, it is my understanding that it is NOT in digital format.
    Is that the case?
    If not, why not?
    It should be. If it is , you will have my order within minutes.

  2. Linda Williams says:

    mine is a work in progress, 3 yrs ago my daughter was in a very serious accident, spent most of it in different hospitals and is now back in college.(and still only 19yrs old)
    In that time my other daughter and I have just about remained upright and putting one foot in front of the other has at times been difficult. AS they say I have bad days and days that are not so bad. I have started a Life Coaching business,( at last – o’r diwedd the second bit is in Wlesh) and the rewards are amaizing. This is still word and mouth at the moment as my struggle is my web page. (My plan is to do what I love and love what I do, FULL TIME)Do you know how much the want to charge !!!!
    Anyway, I would say to anyone, do not let a life changing possible disaster stop you getting what you want (it may be too late then), and where you want to be now. GO FOR IT.
    happy to help anyone – e-mail me and lets see where we can go………………. ANYWHERE WE WANT

  3. Yoav says:

    Hi Clayton,

    I had the same experience with education. I dropped out of university after 3 months. Not because I didn’t like the professors, I just figured that a man who has never sold a single product in his life will have a hard time teaching me how to build a business.

    I haven’t reached a tenth of a percent of the success you have, but I make a decent leaving and providing for 10 employees and their families. And I have to admit that the journey so far has been amazing. Plus at the ripe age of 37 while my friends are already contemplating retirement (and the inevitable deterioration that follows) I feel like I am just getting started.


  4. I didn’t drop out. In high school, I was the proverbial pain in the neck — no interest in sports, intellectually active, insufficiently challenged by normal course work, and wanted to be an engineer.

    Junior year, the principal asked me if I’d like to finish the radio-TV servicing correspondence course he’d started but didn’t have time to finish. I completed it a few days after my 16th birthday and it paid of many times over in the future. The next year I graduated at age 17 (skipped 3rd grade because my mother taught me to read before first grade (no kindergarten).

    As proof I was a nuisance: the principal my senior year (different man) was head of the education dept. at a university 24 years later, when he told my wife and I he was still talking about me in his college classes! (Not in a negative way either.)

    At age 17, I was taking sophomore calculus and physics in college, and a year later at age 18 … junior-year differential equations and engineering statistics — courses I rarely used in “real life” and career, if ever. Imagine that kind of stuff at age 18! No wonder it was so difficult.

    After 30 years of corporate gig and a few years of retirement, I stumbled into copywriting. I’ve made back my entire cost of training in the first 3 or 4 jobs (others’ mileage may vary). It’s still a challenge getting established — Obama’s economy isn’t helping — but I’m figuring it out.

    It’s not as easy as some think it should be, but it’s showing signs of being well worth the journey getting there.

    The key is persistance — never quitting when the world seems stacked against you. And doing everything you can to expand your sphere of influence as you grow yourself and as you grow your business.

    God told Adam, “By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, all the days of thy life.” No promises of retirement at age 27 in there…

    Work is always part of the picture. People don’t pay you to do stuff that isn’t worth at least as much to them as they’re paying you to do it.

    So get off you’re dream of lazy weeks on the beach and plan on enduring some serious brain sweat.

    The rewards are well worth the journey — especially when a client fires you and says you don’t know what you’re doing on the day following a phone call from another client who says he hasn’t been able to find anyone that can beat your control and wants to know if you can fit another project into your schedule. :-)

    [The client who fired me has a new website done the way he wanted it. The home page takes 7 minutes to load on a dial-up modem at 56 Kbaud! His old one took only 3-1/2 minutes. Mine loaded in 23 seconds and was much better. His loss. He knows nothing about writing copy. He's spent his adult years drilling oil wells and has the personality of a drill bit.

    Illustration: He said one day: "If someone is paying me, I can be patient all day long. But if they're not, I don't give a (bleep). I was wanting to find a way out of the job because I didn't like the direction it was going to go. But it was fun doing the new home page, and I have a good sample to show. All's well that ends well.]


  5. walter daniels says:

    I always enjoy reading what Clayton has to say. I think the “secret” of his success is twofold. 1) He has a broad background of experience, to work with. 2) He never stops learning about people.
    I’m a bit older than he is (I turn 39 for the 23rd time in December), but I share his never stop learning attitude. I’ve learned a lot from his blogs, and plan to use it. I won’t be a copywriter, but still use what he has taught me.

  6. Conrad says:

    To: Randy B.
    Randy, I am also fortunate enough not to live in the US ;-)
    … anyhow … even after adding the shipping, duties and sales tax, Clayton’s course is a must have. You will not regret it – it is really comprehensive.

  7. Wendy says:

    Sorry Randy! But, this course is very large…1,063 pages with several other componants including video, audio and several printed booklets. But, we do ship to anywhere around the world with great success. I bet we’ve shipped Quick-Start to no less than 30 different countries!

  8. Kelley says:

    My magic transformation came during my one trip to Italy. Up to that point I was a very good writer. But some part of me felt like writing was not important, that I needed to do something more substantial.

    I visited many art museums and saw thousands of masterpieces that were 500 years old, including the statue of David.

    In several cases the art produced an inspirational response in me. It struck me that these 500-year-old efforts were still stirring the hearts of many thousands of people.

    It changed how I felt about writing. And it enabled me to sleep for two years on a friend’s sofa so I could finish writing “The Doctor Who Cures Cancer” because I was so driven.

    Fourteen years later, the book is still making an impact. In the last several days about 250 copies of this 14-year-old book were purchased.

    There is no end in sight. For decades to come more and more readers could be inspired and given real hope.

  9. Randy B. says:

    OK, so where do I find out about shipping charges to Costa Rica?

  10. Wendy 'the redhead' Makepeace says:

    If you follow the link in the sales page to the order form page, you’ll see the pricing for International shipping near the bottom of the order form…before you actually purchase. The price is different depending on whether or not you choose to purchase the entire course at once or opt for the 11-mth payment plan.

  11. Marc says:

    I too have a long, strange story to tell. And not all stories go neatly from A to Z. Some stories mix up the alphabet like a dyslexic Tourette syndrome patient with a drinking problem.

    Back in the go-go Nineties I was part of a DM team that took a small nutritional supplement company from 12M a year to 330M a year. There were just three of us who engineered that rise. Nine months after blast-off I was forced out. Yes, it was about money. Isn’t it always?

    I’m not going to go off on an angry pity letter here; I already pulled that stunt with Clayton some years back. And the Big Guy set me straight. But hard.

    Now is spite of this setback, I quickly landed another gig where my writing helped take a financial services company straight to the moon. Then the principals looted the company … checks weren’t worth the paper they were printed on, and the stock became worthless.

    Less than three months after that I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The operation took my balance nerve and 85% of my hearing on the right side. Plus a real nasty ugly 16″ scar.

    But I struggled back. What else can you do?

    Eighteen months after that I suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Four months after that, a second, also near-fatal, heart attack. Both times my LAD artery was over 90% blocked.

    Five months after that, my wife told me she was gay. This after nearly twenty years of marriage. She then proceeded to kill my dog, take my money, and left me destitute in a trailer in Roosevelt, Utah. And yes, I have written a Country Western song about that chapter in my life. It’s so sad even horses cry.

    And no, I’m not kidding one iota about the above. Well … except maybe the crying horses part.

    I’ve got a bit more in the misery chest I could share, but I’m going to pull up short here. The point in my little narrative is that if I, at 54, with what I’ve experienced, can keep on keeping on … anyone can.

    All those trite, old sayings are true. Honest, nose-to-the-grindstone, bust-as* hard work is the only thing that saves anyone. I’m living proof.

    Now get off the damn Interwebs and go finish that sales letter you’ve been hiding from since last week.

  12. Sharon A says:

    Marc, you are not alone.
    I grew up with a perpetually violent, alcoholic, drug-crazed parent whose sole delight was making our lives miserable. (His repeated beatings left me physically disabled.) I spent years trying to prove to him I was worth something until I got smart and realized it wouldn’t work. The only thing that pleased him was my suicide attempt at 17. His joy turned to disappointment when it failed and I lived.
    I moved into my car at age 20. I lived in it for seven years while I put myself through college, supporting myself however I was able to. I refused to leave the streets until I was making enough to get an apartment. People told me I was crazy but I didn’t listen.
    I became the manager of a laundromat in 1995. I doubled the client base in less than two years, just by listening to what the customers wanted. Unfortunately, the owner didn’t have the same interest in running it that I did, so I eventually left. (I recently heard the place is up for sale because it’s failing. I just might buy it!!)
    In 1998 I had a car accident that left me with some extra physical challenges. I was told I wouldn’t be able to work anymore and I would need long term care just to maintain what I still had. I proved them wrong big time. I’ve run a landscaping business for six years now and I’m not about to stop.
    Life still throws its curveballs. My husband had a court case go against him last fall and we lost all our savings plus a lot more. I’ve been dealing with a chronic illness this year, plus the fallout from a minor skull fracture in June. But it’s just another step on the road. It can’t stop me unless I LET it stop me.
    My big A-HA moment came years ago once I left that toxic environment and learned to think for myself. I realized that no one was responsible for my life but me, and I haven’t looked back since. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have had the life I had—I would not be who I am today without it, nor would I realize how fortunate I really am. I may not be wealthy at this moment, but I am still very rich.
    Thank you, Clayton, for this post, and for continually showing everyone that anything is possible. I appreciate The Total Package more than you know. :-)

  13. Neal Browne says:

    I had no idea you went to East Central in Tulsa. Small world. I managed to graduate a year before you left. Not sure I can achieve your financial level, but I have just ordered the accelerated copywriting program and am hoping for big things.
    Thanks many times over for all the superbly valuable advice month after month.
    -Neal Browne

  14. Dear Clayton,

    Your blog inspires us all.

    Reading the stories above made me realize something incredible. I am truly blessed.

    I broke my neck in a horse and van accident over 23 years ago, the pain and anguish I’ll never forget. The van hit my horse on a one-lane bridge doing 59 miles an hour.

    The driver was drunk. He never got a citation, it was his 4th drunk driving incident. He knew the cop and the cop said they could not determine who was at fault. Guess I did not get the right of way on a horse on a one lane bridge!

    The driver left the scene of the accident so he could not be drunk tested. But my girl friend could identify the vehicle, her horse was right behind mine and was pushed off the bridge and into the river.

    The driver was bragging in a bar about what happened and a person in the bar notified the police but by then he had been drinking at the bar so they could not prove he was drunk when he hit me. He never even got a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident!

    I had to put down my beloved horse, his hind leg was completely broken off. Whiskey, was a friendly, beautiful bay arabian gelding I had ridden for thousands of miles. The vet that put my horse down fixed my dislocated shoulder, while we waited for my horse to die. Little did he know my neck was broken in 3 places!

    Later, I walked into an emergency room with a C1 + C2 + C3 fracture of my vertebra. The odds of my surviving to walk into an emergency room with a broken neck — well let’s just say with 3 – C fractures statistics are… 98% are dead and the other 2% that live are paralyzed.

    God did not want me to go that day… I guess.

    I had too much living to do yet. I was more than lucky. I had to lay in a hospital bed for 3 days while they pumped me full of drugs to reduce the swelling so they could bolt the 4 screws of a halo rig into my skull. So for 3 days I had to lay there in a hospital bed and worry if I turned wrong I could paralyze myself.

    In the end I walked out of the hospital on the 4th day with a 16 pound halo with 4 screws in my head, an iron ring around my skull and 2 huge steel rods connected to a body cast to support my broken neck. I lived with the halo for 90 days. It was pure hell.

    So, do me a favor please. If you ever see someone with a halo rig, please do not stare at them. That is so utterly humiliating and with my hair all shaved off (I had long beautiful reddish brown hair) it is as embarassing as hell. The neurosurgon would not do the halo proceedure unless he shaved all my hair off!

    That was the worst part of the whole experience for my husband loved my hair and could not deal with the halo bolts in my skull and how I looked bald. He could not even look at me. That was the worst blow, worse than the ugliness of being bald and the pain of wearing a 16 pound body cast and worse than losing my horse!

    My hair grew back but the pain of the rejection went too deep. When I look back at it now, it was the beginning of problems in my marriage that ended in a divorce 3 years later.

    After the halo was removed I was able to resume a normal life with a slighty stiff neck and limited mobility for turning my head to one side, but I was truly lucky.

    I was blessed to still be alive and not paralyzed. God’s got a lot of work left for me to do I guess.

    Although these painful stories are terribly sad and deeply heartbreaking… we have all stiffly-faced, and gritted our teeth and somehow found the courage (we did not know we had)and gotten through things that ‘broke us’.

    But somehow or other we survived.

    And we’re tougher now.

    Time has passed. We’ve put the broken pieces of our lives, health, and loves back together and maybe the glue ain’t really holden well, but it’s still there. Only by takin’ a close peak can some people see how poorly we are hold’in together.

    Life is incredibly hard for many of us, more than we’d ever like to admit to anyone.

    But for now, Clayton, let’s take a moment to reflect on all the GOOD in your life and ours.

    Life swiftly slips by us — quickly causing us to age, get cranky, grow love handles, and develop deep wrinkles!

    Let’s just hope those deep wrinkles are from smile lines and the crankiness is ‘just from being a little impatient’ and is still from a life, filled with being well loved.

    Just take a moment to consider your many blessings, I know I have a lot of pain in my life right now… but I still have many blessings.

    Life could be worse you know.

    May your trials be short and your loves be many. Be good to yourself today and try not to be so hard on yourself.

    Just take a moment for yourself today and do something you love to do. Why? Oh just for the heck of it!

    ‘Cause you’re WORTH IT!

    Jennie Heckel
    Wisconsin Copy Cub

  15. robert says:

    Loved this post. True grit…Thanks ever-one for your storys. You’ve giving me a big kick up the BUTT!

  16. Scott Elder says:

    I too had dreams of becoming a film maker. Unable to find a job in “the industry” I started producing corporate training and “how-to” videos. To get work (translation: be the “lowest bidder”) I started partnering with my clients on the sales of their videos I produced. A natural progression was to help my clients market their videos so I became a student of direct marketing. From there I started producing and marketing my own videos – self-publishing. My big break came when I produced a training program on how to use online stock investing tools. This evolved into seminars, workshops and coaching programs, which eventually became the company Investools Inc. I sold out after taking the company public (Wall Street CEOs and Board Members “don’t get it” and are hard for entrepreneurs to work with). I’m once again doing JV revenue sharing projects (but now with the luxury of only working on projects I want to work on) while searching for my next “big idea.”

  17. Youpele says:

    Mr Makepeace all I can say that I’d never heard of you in my life until about a week ago. I’m truly gobsmaked with the experience and knowledge you have gained over the years and I always look forward to getting your emails. Your first email was the longest I’d ever seen for sure! I read all the way through and found myself laughing at your great sense of humour and amazed at how much content you were giving to subscribers. I’m new to direct-response marketing. I know I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m sure you’ll inspire many others to be great Direct Response Marketers.

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