July 30, 2023

I spent most of last week in Cleveland, Ohio, attending Dan Kennedy’s “Back from the Dead Tour” … which is now officially over…since it was a one-stop tour.

I know most of you know who Dan is…a true icon/guru in direct response marketing…and I’ve written about him often in past posts.

Here is one about lessons learned while spending a “Tuesday with Dan.”

We partnered in 2014 on Titans of Direct Response, an event that launched my second career…and I owe him bigly for that.

Here is a post about the planning of that epic event.

I ventured to Cleveland in the middle of the hottest summer in the history of the world (according to weather watchers and enthusiasts) first and foremost out of respect…and to honor him.

But lo and behold, I learned some stuff while I was there.

Imagine that.

Whether you like him…despise him…or never heard of him…he always delivers the goods…whether you think the goods are good for you or not.

There was also a reunion of many graduates of what I call, “Kennedy University,” specifically the ones who are now studying for their PhD’s, most of whom have become wonderful friends, clients, mastermind members, and colleagues.

ALL of them are Titans. 🙂

We even held a gratitude dinner…gratitude for Dan…and gratitude for each other.

There were laughs, tears…and yes, additional learning.

The Kennedy tree has many branches and roots…and I am grateful to be a small branch on that tree.

The day before I left for Cleveland, I received in my Inbox, a weekly email I signed up for from Srikumar Rao–a magnificent thought leader, professor, and author who I met recently…and I fell in love with his philosophies, teaching, keynote presentations, and writing.

The subject line on the email was: “Be Nobody!”

If you know anything about Dan Kennedy, you know that advice to “Be Nobody!” is as far from his philosophy about business as one can get.

Yet…I embrace Rao as much as I embrace Kennedy.

I must be a split personality…or wishy-washy…or maybe just a little confused.

But a little confusion can lead to chaos…so this post will begin a conversation to create (at least a little) order from that impending chaos.

In the email, Rao went on to explain that the subject line originated from an exercise inside a course he created which was titled, “Becoming Nobody.”

He then explained how the exercise came to be, inspired by this passage from a book, Polishing the Mirror (which I just bought), written by world renowned spiritual teachers Ram Dass and Rameshwar Das:

When I was growing up, I used to be somebody. We were all in “somebody training” in those days. You become somebody, and then you tell everybody who you are. You hand out business cards, and you say “How do you do? I am Somebody, and I do such and such.” Everybody is very important and special, and each person assesses how much more important they are than everybody else. We were all in that training.”

Srikumar continued in his own words:

Think of how much of your life you spend becoming somebody. You define yourself by the work you do, the people you know, the locality you live in, the company you do your work in, the clubs you join, the political views you hold, the robustness of your bank account and so much more.

All is dust and to dust it will return.

Juxtaposing Rao’s thoughts with what Kennedy spoke about last week is an exercise for opposite day…but maybe not completely on further inspection.

The Kennedy event had as its topic the MAXIMUM Influence & Impact System–which is an 11-point blueprint…which frankly could have been renamed, “The 11 Keys to Becoming Somebody.”

Dan’s agenda was dominated with words like “Legend,” “Power,” “Manifesto,” “Authority” …and of course “Influence” and “Impact.”

Since I am an admirer of both Kennedy and Rao, I find myself trying to justify both ways of thinking…and it’s not easy…but that won’t stop me from creating that justification.

Playing by “Kennedy Rules,” with integrity and boldness, becoming somebody who everyone wants to come to, work with, and be with, you will most likely make more money than any of your competitors (and non-competitors) … while creating tons of influence and impact.

Although influence and impact can be more subjective than money.

Depending how obsessive you are about becoming “somebody,” whether you do it under a Kennedy guidance system or not, there also could be a cost in terms of peacefulness or inner contentment (also quite subjective).

Kennedy gives you the road map that has worked for him in becoming a big deal…but there are many places you can trip yourself up…and there are other ways to get there too.

Kennedy’s system works (well, it’s worked for him based on the metrics of having more cash and tremendous impact): He is a somebody of epic proportions.

Regardless of how you get there, Kennedy would insist that if you want to be the unassailable authority in your field, and the one with the largest bank account, it doesn’t happen by magic or accident…it’s hard work.

His system gives you his road map.

In addition to doing the work, you need to do it under an umbrella of self-interest without selfishness (a distinction many people never make) …and you must do it for something beyond an ego boost.

Money is the way Kennedy keeps score as many others do who are students or graduates of his university…it’s precise, unforgiving and real.

But for many, his way of becoming somebody isn’t for everyone.

Playing by “Rao Rules,” I believe you may be more peaceful (however you define peaceful).

And dare I say not as rich? That is definitely up for debate.

Well maybe less rich in material ways…but possibly richer in the things most important to you.

And you can still make a lot of money under Rao’s rules too. 🙂

It’s also more likely that you’ll have lower stress, fewer worries about how you are being perceived, and experience less imposter syndrome…and you get to more peace by moving away from being (or trying to be) the center of your universe…and moving towards being a grain of sand on a beach…while still being firmly entrenched in your beach-universe.

Can we be students of both Kennedy and Rao and not drive ourselves crazy?

I admit that I live in both worlds all the time…and I will let you know how that works out for me.

I guess that’s (partially) what these Sunday missives are all about. 🙂

So far, so good: I can say with utmost humility and candor, that I remain above ground (THE most important metric!) … and content.

And with a lot of the key ingredient called freedom.

I’d love to hear if you play under both sets of rules…toggling between being somebody and being nobody…and how that’s working out for you.

When I want to be a somebody I do it with influence and impact always with an eye towards freedom…albeit not with 100% conviction all the time (i.e., I don’t play by “Kennedy Rules” ruthlessly)…which causes me to leave some Legend, Power, Manifesto, Authority (and other Kennedy Rules) on the table …along with some cash. 🙂

When I want to be a nobody, I can create a peaceful and low stress life–with freedom–knowing that I will be dust like everyone else at some point in the future.

My conclusion (but not the final word):

Freedom comes in many flavors.



P.S. Thinking about other heroes of mine in the context of being somebody and/or nobody, I can’t help but think of Gene Schwartz.

If you are a regular reader of these blog posts you know I write about Gene even more than I write about Kennedy.

Gene was a somebody…but when I think of him as a legend of copywriting, I also think about his obituary which, while lengthy, only had one paragraph about his copywriting and marketing prowess…and the rest was about his world class collection of modern art.

In the context of this post, I realize that he followed some Kennedy Rules and some Rao Rules…but when the rubber met the road, he lived by Schwartz Rules.

Maybe that’s the answer:

Find “rules” everywhere… learn them like a pro…and break them like an artist.

That’s an oldie but a goodie…and I went deep on that in “Marketing like Picasso”…which you can read here.

That’s a huge rerun with a purpose. 🙂

P.P.S. Speaking of Gene Schwartz, I won’t assume you all know who he is…but he is definitely worth knowing.

In one of my first Sunday email blogs, in June of 2014, I wrote my first public thoughts about Gene with, “It’s not always about the money”…which you can read here.

That post was written before the Titans of Direct Response and before I had secured the rights to Gene’s two classic masterpieces, Breakthrough Advertising and The Brilliance Breakthrough.

You can read more about both books on my products page here.

Gene was a profound thinker…became a somebody in very different and multiple worlds…playing by his own rules.

As I said earlier, there are different roads to maximum influence and impact. 🙂

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Title Goes Here

Get this Free E-Book

Use this bottom section to nudge your visitors.