April 23, 2023

I completed my 25th Titans Mastermind meeting this week, and I wanted to take stock of where I’ve been, where I am now…and where I’m going…in this ever changing world of direct response marketing.

I’m not going away…which hopefully continues to be good news for most of you.

And for those of you who were ready to give me a gold watch, send cash instead. 🙂

After talking last week about “non-negotiables,” I looked back on my 40+ year career with a lot of pride, some regret…and realized that I give a lot of advice that is more “do what I say, not what I do.”

While I try to do what I say as often as possible, as we all know, it’s easier to give advice than to take it…especially from yourself.

What I can safely say during this journey is that I have loved direct response marketing from day one…of course there were some bumps and bruises…but by not focusing on money (most of the time), I did what I loved and the money followed.

An unintentional windfall…and one that I am grateful for…but I would do it all over again with no promise of getting rich (in a monetary sense).

I have gotten rich slowly, over time, with non-material things that really matter…family, friends, business colleagues that I can’t distinguish from personal friends…and enough money to get by. 🙂

This was also the last Titans Mastermind meeting—it has had a great run—but I want to focus on building up Titans Xcelerator, which allows me to reach and teach many more people.

See the P.S. regarding how I plan to expand everything we’ve accomplished in Titans Mastermind to that wider audience.

I am also not finished with live events forever…still looking at doing a 10th anniversary of Titans of Direct Response in 2024.

At least that’s the plan. I received some excellent ideas from my “Board of Advisors” (i.e., the attendees this past week).

Titans Mastermind will live on through the “Titans Vault,” with over 150 presentations from the best-of-the-best marketers, copywriters, business leaders, results leaders (rather than thought leaders…thanks to Joe Polish for that one…” anyone can have a thought but not everyone can achieve results”).

A subtle /not so subtle hint: The keys to the vault are connected to membership in Titans Xcelerator.

Back to the “journey”:

How do you end up loving what you do your entire life?

I have some thoughts on that today.

Whatever career you choose…or whatever career chooses you…it is never your career that defines you.

It’s also not a “vocation” that defines you…although that gets a little closer to the root of who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to share with the world.

But that doesn’t tell the entire story either.

Some definitions first:

Career: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress (my underline).

Vocation: a strong feeling of suitability (my underline) for a particular career or occupation.

Regarding your career, progress is defined more by objective metrics such as money, title, status.

Regarding your vocation, suitability is a more subjective metric…but not complete.

There’s a third category which I call, “What are you doing with your life?”

That’s in terms of your career and/or your vocation…which begins and ends with dreams, aspirations…and most importantly, passion.

I urge you to think back to your childhood…as far back as elementary school when you were dreaming about being anything you wanted to be…or when you graduated high school when those dreams may have gotten “revised” a bit…or even post-college (if you attended college) when they undoubtedly got revised further.

Here’s an image from my favorite site on the Internet, Despair.com, to trigger your memory:

I maintain that whatever your core passions were early in life—which may or may not have any relationship to your career or your vocation today—are still alive and well.

And there is no reason to ever abandon them.

Your life is part career, part vocation…but the most important parts of your life are your dreams (which can come true in many different ways).

They must for ultimate happiness.

On a recent podcast the host asked me an intriguing “final question” (after an hour of lively banter) that went like this:

“If you could start again and had to take a different route in life, what would you be? And this is not a question about regrets. Rather, it’s about what other passion areas of yours that if you had a second life to live, what would you do differently to make those passions real?”

Like I often do when I’m on podcasts, I told him I wanted to answer a different question, one not about “starting again” but rather how I have incorporated those “other passion areas” in the life I’ve chosen already.

And that it’s not about “what I would be” but “who I am already” (within the construct of the choices I’ve made).

That just seemed more constructive…and enlightening…and my conclusion was that all of the things I thought about becoming upon graduating from college I had become…without making any of them my career or vocation.

More on that in a minute.

But here’s the re-phrasing of the same question in four parts (with the first three borrowed from a site I found while Googling “career vs. vocation” called WORKALPHA):

1) What are the passions and talents you have noticed in your life ever since you were a child (or young adult)?

2) Even if you do not actually pursue them (directly) now, take a few minutes to reflect back why you enjoyed these activities so much?

3) What do they really mean to you?

And my bonus question:

4) Look at your career, your vocation and your life today in terms of those passions…have you really abandoned those passions and talents or are they part of who you are every day no matter what you “do for a living?” How do they show up in your life every day?

#4 is the question I asked during a Titans Xclelerator call two years ago in our Breakout Rooms…which ignited epiphanies galore among the members…so I wanted to share the same exercise with you today.

It’s the difference between “what you want to be when you grow up” vs. “who you want to be when you grow up.”

It’s always within your power to create this distinction.

Let me give the examples from my life when I did this exercise which hopefully will make it clearer for you so you can do this exercise yourself…which I highly recommend.

I invite you to share with me or others what you learn by doing this exercise by asking yourself “question #4” above…and if your life passions aren’t showing up for you, I assure you there are ways to do that by acting on them vigorously.

Having a dream job or career that never materializes in its purest form can still be pursued in many other ways. There is never any reason to abandon the dream.

I’m sure you have received advice throughout your life that you should never compromise and only pursue that one thing you were destined to do.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out since we still need to eat and find shelter…so we choose a more conservative route, playing it safe and abandoning the dream…or never knowing what the dream was in the first place.

Perry Marshall had something to say about this during Titans Mastermind…more on that in the P.S.

For most of us, being a little more pragmatic takes precedence…but that doesn’t include losing out on your most passionate passions.

You need to go deeper. Or maybe you have already.

Here’s how I did it which may help you think about this concept in your own life.

I recall that when I was a senior in college I had three career paths that were speaking to me (i.e. “what I wanted to be when I grew up”):

1) Becoming a professional baseball umpire (I even applied and was accepted to THE school for Major League Umpires)

2) Becoming an English professor (which went as far as receiving an offer to enter a PhD program at Idaho State University)

3) Becoming a movie critic (which included acceptance to New York University’s Graduate School in Film Criticism).

There were other professions on the list…not my list…but my parent’s list of “preferred jobs”…CPA, Lawyer and the like…you know, “real jobs.” 🙂

Clearly I pursued none of the above as a lifelong career (from my list or my parent’s list)…I guess that’s obvious since I write to you every week with marketing propaganda that has little to do with baseball, literature, or film…much less law or accounting.

On second thought, I’m pursuing all of those passions in one way or another in my life today.

1) I am not a Major League Umpire but I umpire baseball at a high level in my spare time (Varsity High School and Tournament Little League)…and I’ve written to you on a number of occasions how umpiring made me a better marketer.

Read this if you don’t believe me.

2) I don’t teach English (and sometimes I don’t speak it or write it all that well either). 🙂

That includes as a first language, a second language or through literature…but my life is all about teaching.

Read this so I can prove that to you as well.

And since my passion is also writing, my life has that incorporated into it as well…not as a world class copywriter or author…but like this.

While I may have stopped reading Dickens and Melville, I now read lots of non-fiction instead; and as you know, since I assume you are reading this right now, I write and share this marketing blog with you every Sunday whether you read it (or open it) or not.

Here’s a piece about that.

Maybe you would have preferred that I became an accountant or a lawyer rather than a marketer who majored in English?

Despite shunning those careers more directly, I write about things like statistical significance and how not to make your lawyer rich…because they relate to my vocation as a marketer.

Accounting (math, numbers) and law are useful things.

As an aside, my justification to my parents regarding why majoring in English was a good idea at the time:

“I will learn how to read and write.”

Mission accomplished (I think).

3) I am not writing movie reviews for a living but like so many of you, I go to the movies regularly…and although I am not asked to post reviews anywhere significant (sigh), I am very confident that I am the best film critic in my own mind.

The movie posters of Pulp Fiction, It’s a Wonderful Life and Midnight Cowboy that adorn the wall behind me whenever I do any video blog or Zoom are no accident.

They not only enable me to exhibit one of my passions visually for all to see…but those films (in addition to hundreds of others) have made me a better thinker and writer since I study screenplays as part of my current “job.”

I also look for lessons from the big screen when the lights go down that I can apply to my lifelong passions of direct marketing, copywriting and entrepreneurship, similar to how I apply umpiring and teaching.

I even did a video blog with the great Ben Settle on “marketing lessons from Frank Capra” (who directed “It’s a Wonderful Life” and many other classic films).

You can check it out here.

I also wrote about director Quentin Tarantino as a copywriter and storyteller extraordinaire. 

And I used a scene from one of the greatest films of all time, Amadeus, to prove a point about how we accumulate ideas…and eventually act on them.

Note: if there was room for another poster on my wall, Amadeus would be the next one to hang…but alas, it waits in a tube.

All of this reminded me of a candidate years ago who I interviewed for a job to run a trade books division at Boardroom (where I started my “vocation”)…and he told me his “main qualification” for the position was:

“I read a lot of books”

Therefore, I am a legitimate movie critic because “I watch a lot of movies.”

I bet you can find many places in your life where your passions show up…and it doesn’t matter if you get paid for them or not.

They are priceless and eternal.

And I didn’t share all of my “broken dreams” for you to feel sorry for me.

On the contrary, I wanted to emphasize that no matter what vocation you have chosen (or will choose), I encourage you to figure out ways to incorporate all of your passions into your daily life whenever and wherever possible.

Looking back I know that it would be a lot easier for me if, over dinner, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I could simply say I am an accountant or a lawyer.

It’s just so easy to say and have them get it.

Difficulties arise when I even hint that I am some kind of “consultant” in direct marketing—I can see the wheels turning in their minds, saying to themselves, “oh…I get it…he’s unemployed.”

But before they start feeling sorry for me that my profession is impossible to explain and obviously can’t be lucrative (e.g., “I run masterminds”), changing the subject to my passions of umpiring, reading and writing and movie watching seems to always end the pity party.

And of course when I add that I also use accounting and law in my business. 🙂

Everyone will accept your passions…they have to…because they are yours forever.



P.S. This last Titans Mastermind was the best one ever…as they all are 🙂

  • Perry Marshall talked about “thinking” at an entirely new level
  • Ken McCarthy told us about two books he recently marketed and  published…quickly and efficiently…one of which he wrote and published in 48 hours
  • Bari Baumgardner and Blue Melnick shared their journey from planning live events only, to virtual events only, to hybrid events…and what their new methodology is now for all events
  • We had the most in depth discussion on AI/ChatGPT and everything machine learning that I have participated in to date (and I have participated in many)… led by the expert who no one has ever heard of, but you will, Sam Woods
  • Kevin Rogers told us how to create “real stories” in your copy…by showing and not just telling
  • Jay Abraham talked about his amazing career, changing businesses and lives globally, while doing the same for manyTitans (by giving them a hot set or a seat next to him at dinner or the bar)
  • Jon Walker led a discussion on the evolution of online launches…and best-in-class coaching programs, with input from the Titans who have done launches
  • Jeff Madoff, who is producing a show which I believe is destined for Broadway, talked about how a big idea is born,  how producing a play is a “business” (unlike a product or a promotion), with humor, wit…and some blood and tears.

Why am I telling you this?

To create FOMO for you?

Just the opposite…to create FOMO for me! 🙂

My plan is to share this entire event…not including the dinners or the discussions at the bar…to new folks who enroll in a membership in Titans Xcelerator…and to all existing members.

If you want to check out the best value in masterminds (now that Titans Mastermind is no more), with a promise to receive video of the event described above, check out Titans Xcelerator here.

This is not an offer to join…just a tease.

But if you want to join, feel free. 🙂

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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