August 21, 2017

“I’m just an ordinary guy who has been able to do extraordinary things”

-Martin (Marty) Edelston

After writing last week’s post “Who is your rainmaker?” I couldn’t stop thinking of the man who made it rain as much as anyone I have ever known in my career, Marty Edelston.

Marty launched the company called Boardroom Reports in 1972 and created one of the greatest “direct marketing universities” of all time–and a pretty successful company too.

I’m just glad I got into that university at a time when no one was checking my SAT scores.

Marty passed away in October of 2013 and was the inspiration behind what many have called the event of the decade, “Titans of Direct Response.”

My dream was that after the event, many more people would want to follow in Marty’s footsteps and focus on creating the biggest impact possible on the world of direct response marketing.

That’s what I’ve tried to do with these weekly blogs…it’s why I launched two mastermind groups for multi-channel direct response marketers…and it is also why I have released the Gene Schwartz classics Breakthrough Advertising and Brilliance Breakthrough. And​​ ​in the works are ​a Jim Rutz product ​(swipe files and copywriting secrets from one of the greats) ​and my second book​ about the eternal truths of direct marketing.

Marty is the one that got me into this mess and I have no desire to get out of it anytime soon. I hope you feel the same way.

Today I would like to share some of Marty’s genius with you in two areas: First,“the myth of work-life balance”; and second, the four pillars I have identified which enabled a man with limited education, an incredibly difficult childhood and very few resources or connections when he started out, to become truly extraordinary.

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

One evening almost 30 years ago, when I was leaving the office very late, I walked passed Marty’s office and saw him working at his desk very intensely.

It was probably 8:00 p.m.–he and I were the only people in the office–and he was playing with some direct mail copy and writing what he called “nice notes” to people he wanted to connect with–just doing his thing.

I remember saying to him that night :

“You know that expression about no one thinking they should have spent more time at the office when they are lying on their death bed? That doesn’t apply to you, does it?”

He said that he had never heard that before and if he had, it would not have registered anyway.

He went on to say, with a wry smile, that if he dropped dead at his desk later that evening (after moving a line of copy on the cover of a promotion an inch to the right), that I would agree to make sure the change was made the next day.

That brings me to the quote that was printed on the back of Marty’s business card–and I framed one of those cards, both sides, for the wall in my office:

“The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

-Zen Buddhist Text

Here’s what it looks like:











I know that this idea of our work also being our play seems more like an ideal and not based in reality…but what if this was true for you?

I invite you to reprint this quote and put it on your wall (or in a place you can read it regularly).

Every day we spend above ground is a blessing…and loving “what we do” will make all the difference.

So that’s Marty on “work-life balance.”

The Four Pillars to Becoming Extraordinary

At 2:00 a.m. on the day of Marty’s funeral, I was sitting at my kitchen table trying to construct a fitting eulogy (through some tears).

I was grateful (and terrified) that I was given the honor of being the only non-family member to deliver a eulogy…and I wanted it to be extra special for the man who changed my life.

And the lives of millions more.

Marty always would tell me that he was just an ordinary guy who was able to do extraordinary things… he was simply “Mickey from Newark, New Jersey”, trying to do the best he could do all the time.

Excellence was his mantra.

He had stationery that read: “ Good, better best. Never let it rest. Until the good is better and the better best.”

As I sat there in my kitchen just hours before well over a hundreds of people were going to pay tribute to him, I came up with four pillars of why I thought “ordinary Marty” became an extraordinary businessman, entrepreneur, marketer, editor, benefactor…the total package:

1. He outworked everyone
2. He had insatiable curiosity
3. He always surrounded himself with people smarter than himself in areas he lacked knowledge and/or expertise
4. He focused on helping YOU first…with “saving lives” as his ultimate mission

Not a bad way to run one’s life.

On “outworking everyone”: He was the guy in school everyone hated because he always won (and he spoke often about how he could “outrun the gazelles” as a track star despite being slower than most of them before working harder to make himself faster); and he was that guy in the office early in his career who always outperformed everyone by whatever measure was relevant.

And he wasn’t the fastest runner or the most successful salesman just because he was driven and super-competitive. Yes, he certainly was both of those things.

More importantly, he knew that “outworking everyone” was actually the ultimate expression of generosity.

On “insatiable curiosity”: Without curiosity, life is so boring.

And to bring it back to our world of marketing, this might be the most important trait for you to have in your arsenal to bring your vision into the world most powerfully.

Without insatiable curiosity you might end up only going through the motions.

On surrounding yourself with the best people you can find: Simply stated, and this is an oldie but a goodie.

”If you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”

This was a focal point in last week’s post.

It is critical to surround yourself with folks who will tell you truth, not just feed you what you want to hear, and who will never let love leave the room while they are telling you the truth.

On “saving lives”: Publishing the most important and lifesaving health information he could find (buy outworking the competition, having insatiable curiosity and connecting with the top experts in the world) is how Marty accomplished this in a huge way.

And we can all do this in our own way following the first three pillars above…and then working towards this fourth pillar as often as we can.

If you are interested in diving deeper into these “Four Pillars To Becoming Extraordinary,” you can click here to watch the opening session at “Titans of Direct Response”.

Let me know what you think if you decide to watch it. I sent it out last month but I am re-sending it here since some of you might have missed it–and I loved the feedback and dialogue it generated from those of you who did watch it.

I want to thank many of you for your insightful emails and how the “four pillars” resonated with you.

The event was extraordinary as was Marty.

Those who were involved in “Titans of Direct Response” all agreed on the importance of bringing together as many of the people as possible who Marty surrounded himself with during his lifetime…the people who made him so big and strong…and extraordinary.

And it was particularly rewarding when one direct marketing/copywriting superstar after another said they would like to speak, share and educate, on their own time and without a fee, simply to honor Marty.

Even folks who never speak publically or had previously decided never to speak in the future.

Coming out for Marty was easy for them because he always came out for everyone else.

I am sharing this background about Marty and the “Titans” event today since so many of you are new to my online family and might not know about either one; and sharing lessons from Marty is always worthwhile, whether you have heard them before or not.

The hope is that you will be able to incorporate many of them in your own lives.

It will be worth it. Being extraordinary matters.

I share this quote from Marty often and it bears repeating:

“You only go through life once so you might as well be the world’s best”



P.S. I want to thank those of you who filled out the survey a few weeks ago about the biggest challenges in your businesses.

If you missed the survey, and you think you might want to participate in a live webinar I am considering in the near future, send me an email with one sentence about your biggest challenge and also give me a sense of the size of your business.

Survey responders will get first crack at the webinar…but there may be some spots that could open up for additional folks who could have their questions addressed in real time on the webinar.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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