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2021: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Issue #147 Well, it's the last day of the year, and it feels like the perfect time to reflect on the highlights, the lowlights, and the downright ugly lights of 2021. I call it "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"... and it reminds me of a massive printed book of customer and market research my team and I used to put together each year when I was marketing health insurance direct to consumers for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. We'd spend weeks collecting the latest data and findings about our customers ("The Good")... our market ("The Bad", since there were huge hurdles to overcome, being the only non-profit in the mix)... and our competitors ("The Ugly"). I'd then compile it all into one giant, 500+ page book complete with charts, lists, and write-ups, which our in-house printing department produced copies of... and which then landed with a thud on every executive's desk just in time for annual budgeting and planning. It was a legendary book, and something I greatly enjoyed putting together. Looking back perhaps it foreshadowed my love of publishing this e-letter, blog, and e-books and sharing my knowledge via my courses and mentoring program. In any case, let's take a look at this past year's good, bad and ugly--at least from my own personal and business perspective: THE GOOD... 1) My Fast Track to A-List copy mentoring program wrapped up a few months ago. And just like in 2020--the first year I had this program--the copywriters and business owners who went through it saw tremendous growth and achieved their goals. I think one of the things that makes this program really special is that it's not just me teaching tactics that you can learn from going through one of my courses, it's the hands-on application of these tactics and understanding the strategy behind them. I also limit the number of people in the program so that everyone can get personal feedback and coaching in the group calls. And those who also get the individual one-on-one sessions with me seem to really skyrocket their progress--especially those "a-ha" moments they get in individual or group calls when they get my eyes on their copy. There are a lot of different "mentoring" models these days, and lot of people putting themselves out there as "A-list" copywriters. I feel like my program is a bit of a hidden gem, as I don't know of any other copywriter who's competed at the highest levels of direct response and against people like the late Jim Rutz who's doing this kind of intimate mentoring and coaching. (A few spots are still available for my Fast Track to A-List program, which starts January 12th--details are here.) To be honest, 2022 may be the last year I do this kind of structured group mentoring program. Even though it's been immensely gratifying, I have some other mentoring models in mind that may better facilitate the "semi-retirement" lifestyle I'm aiming for over the next year or two. Here's to hoping travel comes back with a roar later in 2022! I've got some trips I'm looking forward to, including a South Italy tour, a family trip to the Caribbean island of Anguilla, and a return visit to Oktoberfest in Munich! Speaking of travel, here's another good thing that happened this year... 2) I finally made it to Hawaii! Yes, Hawaii has been on my "bucket list" for a while. I had hoped to plan a trip for my 50th birthday... but my husband ended up battling cancer that year... and kicking its ass! So that was the best "gift" of all. After having to cancel other trips in 2020 to Denmark and Anguilla, and making plans in the Spring of 2021 to go to France only to have Covid-related closures continue there, I decided to book my dream trip to Hawaii. We got away for 16 nights and hit Maui, Kauai (where we met up with Copy Insider Kalani Walther who wow'ed us with his warm island-style hospitality), and Oahu (where we met up with top copywriter Dan Ferrari). Traveling to Hawaii at that time was rife with potential hurdles and problems... i.e., the strict Covid testing requirements, the supply squeeze of rental cars, etc. I almost decided to cancel the trip because I was so worried some unforeseen issue was going to bite us in the a*s... but I'm glad I decided to stay the course. The lesson here is, with careful planning (including for contingencies--which I did with back-up Turo car rental reservations, for example), you can make travel happen. But you have to also remain open to the fact that your entire trip you worked so hard to plan may be cancelled. (Yes, that reservation notification for Noma--the #1 restaurant in the world--that popped up on my birthday last year really stung!) 3) Meet-ups in person again--what a great feeling to finally see people in person after holing up most of 2020 at home. One of the highlights of the year was having dinner with Gary Bencivenga and his wife, along his business partner TJ "The Olive Oil Hunter" and his wife, at a fabulous Italian restaurant in New York city. On this whirlwind trip we also got to meet up with Parris Lampropoulus, Copy Insider Lisa Rangel, and my Fast Track to A-List mentees Carolyn Gretton and Kristen Driscoll. Now that the omicron variant is savagely making us all stay home again, it's so nice to reflect back on these great memories... after all, to me the best gift you can give yourself and your family is making memories. But hey, I also promised to talk about... THE BAD... 1) We lost my 95-year-old father-in-law the end of August. He'd been on home hospice care so it didn't come as a shock. But obviously it was a huge loss to the family... and the "hole" was truly felt this Christmas, which would have been his 96th birthday. My husband and I will be raising a glass tonight to him, and the wonderful contributions he made as a father, grandfather, volunteer mentor, and World War II veteran awarded the Bronze Star during his lifetime. 2) A week after my father-in-law passed away, my elderly mother fell and broke her hip. She was living over an hour away but luckily I had someone who could go check on her when she wasn't answering my calls... when they called and said they could hear someone crying "help" through the door, I had them call 911 while I headed there as fast as my car would take me. Mom then spent 17 days in the hospital, including an ICU stay when her blood pressure was too low, followed by a few different lung procedures for COPD. We then got her moved to a skilled nursing facility nearby, which after just a day sent her to the hospital for breathing issues. She's since landed at a wonderful nursing facility where she's making progress despite 2 additional hospitalizations since. I've been her "ride or die" equivalent through all of this, and while it's been a huge challenge, I'm grateful that I'm able to do it mentally as well as having the work flexibility. By "mentally" I mean all these years of writing health and supplement copy have made me more comfortable with complex health issues and terminology. I've learned a ton and filled up 2 notebooks with detailed notes as I talk with doctors, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, etc. and go toe to toe with them asking questions and otherwise advocating for my mom. Along the way, I've developed an enormous amount of respect for the devoted care and patience I've seen some of the least appreciated people in our health care system deliver again and again to my dear mom (I made sure to show my appreciation this Christmas!) 2) Cancellations continue... live events were few and far between. One I had been invited to speak at (Copy Accelerator in August) happened in person, but I had a wedding to attend, which we later had to bow out of due to losing my father-in-law. I wanted to have a mastermind for my Fast Track to A-List group the weekend before Copy Chief Live, but that got cancelled (as did the Live version of Copy Chief). One of these days I hope to have my own live event again... we will have a huge party to make up for all of this! 3) Saying "yes" to too many things is something I hope to STOP doing in 2022. A big part of that is trying to do my own copywriting projects for clients while also balancing everything else I do... like mentor other copywriters, write this e-zine, and promote my own and others' courses. I've realized this juggle is forcing me to work harder than I want to be working... so I'm planning to only say "yes" to certain projects (yes, even more selective than I've already been this past year) and always involve one of my past or current mentees to help me out. I've had a few successes this year by doing so and I look forward to more of them in 2022 (plus easing up what's on my plate). Okay, I've got one more category for you and then we're going to wrap this up... THE UGLY... 1) Competitive affiliate promotions gone awry--the Black Friday bundle deal was something I was excited to participate in. It seemed like a great way to get my training as well as other top copywriters' into the hands of people who could benefit from it at a very good price. Alas... despite having relatively good experiences earlier this year with a Spring bundle offer and other affiliate offers, if I could do it all over again I wouldn't have participated in the Black Friday ordeal bundle. I didn't like how over-the-top the competition became with competing offers that sought to undercut the others. And yes, that's BID-ness, and may the best competitor win, and all that... but for me, while there was some value (I came out within the top range of affiliates PLUS more importantly, brought on a few new mentees I'm looking forward to working with in 2022), it was not worth it to me in terms of opportunity costs. And by "opportunity costs", I mean the time I spent on the campaign versus finalizing my new Research course... getting my new website and branding up and launched... and just relaxing and kicking back over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. You can bet it's going to be different for me in 2022! I'll be choosing what I participate in much more carefully. And with that said, here's something else I found "Ugly" this past year... 2) Can we please stop with all the fighting and putting each other down? I happen to be friends (well, as close to being "friends" without having actually met each other in person) with both Daniel Throssell and Matt Bockenstette. Ever since Daniel declared "war" on Matt, there have been a flurry of emails where they've called each other out (though Matt backed out of the "war" early on after posting a video defense). The thing is... controversy and drama SELLS! Matt just did a recent poll of his list of his readers' favorite top 2 or 3 email copywriters, and Matt was #1 while Daniel was #2. (I ranked around #13 out of 123 copywriters mentioned...the highest-ranking female. But still way down from these dudes.) Now, I understand there may be some valid or perceived-to-be-valid issues between the two of them, but I'm not a fan of insulting and making fun of others. But seriously, I think we've seen the negative effects of our Tik-Tok "culture" and "slowing down to rubberneck" human instincts come out and show their worse sides in some of the emails I've been seeing lately. I am simply calling this behavior out as something I've seen in 2021... I'm not taking sides, and I admit at times even being slightly amused by it despite my "virtuous" stance. But to quote Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?" And I'm going to end it there. Let's all appreciate each other... learn from each other... respect each other... and LOVE each other in 2022... Happy New Year!



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