February 23, 2019

Having a dream job or career that never materializes completely is no reason to abandon that dream.

I know many people teach that you should never compromise and only pursue that one thing you were destined to do.

However, being a little more pragmatic, and without telling you to forget about your highest aspirations, I would like to give you another take.

I recall that when I was a senior in college I had three career paths that were speaking to me:

1) Becoming a professional baseball umpire (I even applied to “THE school” for Major League umpires)

2) Becoming an English professor (which went as far as receiving an offer to join 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)

(Oh…there were two other professions on the list…not my list but on the list of “preferred jobs” from my parents…CPA or attorney).

Clearly I pursued “none of the above” as a lifelong career.

But I have no regrets.

I can happily say that I pursue all of the above (except the accounting and law stuff) in so many aspects of 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)

2) I don’t teach English…and 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 marketing propaganda with you every Sunday.

Maybe you would have preferred that I majored in accounting rather than English?

By the way, 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, I am very confident that I am the best film critic in my own mind.

That just reminded me of a job candidate years ago I interviewed for a job to run a Trade Books Division for the company and he told me his “main qualification” for the position was:

“I read a lot.”

So…I am a legitimate movie critic because “I go to the movies a lot.”

Better yet (I think)–I look for lessons from the big screen when the lights go down (and after chomping on a bag of popcorn) that I can apply to my lifelong passions of direct marketing, copywriting and entrepreneurship.

More on movies and marketing in a minute…but I want to finish the point about doing what you love, whether you get paid for it or not, and even if there is “something else” that pays the bills.

I didn’t share all of my “broken dreams” above to force you to take a stroll down memory lane with me…but 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 today if over dinner, when asked what I do for a living, I could simply say I am an accountant or a lawyer.

It’s just so easy to say it 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 the minds of who I am talking to that I am really just…well…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, writing and movie watching seems to always end the pity party. 

And of course I am not unemployed…hey, I write for you every Sunday.


Back to gathering marketing lessons from great cinema…


When I wrote “Sharks, aliens and dinosaurs” I explored the world and the movies of director Steven Spielberg and why we need to go deep rather than wide as copywriters and marketers.

In  “Too many notes” I began with recounting a scene from one of my favorite movies ever, Amadeus, to highlight the need for always keeping ideas “in the parking lot” even when they are not immediate priority.

And those of you who have watched any of my videos, you have seen movie posters of Pulp Fiction, It’s a Wonderful Life and Midnight Cowboy behind me –how’s that for an unlikely triple feature?

I have referred to those films in the past and what we can learn from their script construction and expert storytelling.

Today I want to talk about the film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977 (to honor the Academy Awards season that is upon us now).

Annie Hall is that movie and it is Woody Allen’s most acclaimed film.


I know…the same folks who have no idea who or what Annie Hall is are now asking:

“Who is Woody Allen?” 

Suffice it to say it is a movie worth checking out if you have never seen it.

And whether you ever get to see the film or not, I would like to tell you about a “Syndrome” that I came up with inspired by Annie Hall—something I have seen play out too many times.


I believe “Annie Hall Syndrome” (note that I capitalized it trying to make believe I invented something) can derail your emotional health and your career…and it is something that you can easily avoid with a simple shift in your mindset.

The trap begins when you think you have “learned enough” or that you have all the knowledge you need right now to go forward and achieve maximum success.

Here’s how the Syndrome played out in Annie Hall: 


Woody Allen’s character in the film is that of New York intellectual Alvy Singer…and Diane Keaton plays his flighty, naïve and somewhat unsophisticated “la-di-da” girlfriend, Annie Hall. (Those who have seen the film know about that phrase.)

Annie’s exposure to modern culture is virtually non-existent when she arrives in New York and meets Alvy– and then begins both a romantic and also a student-teacher relationship with him.

As their relationship develops, Alvy exposes Annie to classic books and authors she never heard of, cultural endeavors she has never experienced before, and inspiring films she has never seen.

There’s a scene early in the film when he takes her to see The Sorrow and the Pity, a four hour documentary about World War II which they discuss and debate…something that would have been impossible before Annie met Alvy.


And the relationship goes deeper from there…as Annie’s eyes are opened to a world she never would have thought imaginable…learning about so many things she “didn’t know she didn’t know.”

Without giving away all that happens in the rest of Annie Hall, at the end of the film when Alvy and Annie are no longer together, Alvy goes to see The Sorrow and the Pity by himself…and to his surprise, Annie is there, dragging her new boyfriend to see the film with her.


And the concept (and “Syndrome”) is this:

Never underestimate what you have learned, are currently learning, and can still learn from those who are your mentors and teachers. 


Or put more simply:

The day you stop learning is the day you can probably hang it up for good. 


Now in the film, Annie left Alvy for a host of reasons so adding the complications of a romantic relationship needs to be stripped out for our purposes today.

I simply want to focus on when the student becomes the teacher; and that the best teachers can never stop being students.

Obviously there is nothing wrong about the student branching out and expanding…however, the trouble starts when the student thinks they no longer need the teacher (or any teacher) on their lifelong journey.

Of course you can “outgrow” a teacher or mentor…however, I implore you to recognize the contributions of all your teachers…forever. 

I emphasized this when I encouraged you to write the “acknowledgments section” for your book as a New Year’s resolution in “Confessions inside his Rolls Royce”…and that suggestion applied even if you never intend to write a book.

(FYI: There is a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life in that post as well…love that film…and I have spoken with my friend Ben Settle about doing a webinar on the Director of that classic–and many other landmark films–Frank Capra…more movie lessons coming soon) 

I’ve seen some version of “Annie Hall Syndrome” ruin many promising careers or it was the root cause of unbecoming hubris with a shortage of humility, a terrible combo that leads to less personal fulfillment in the long run.

Many people flounder later in their careers simply because they get to a point where they think they no longer need to learn new things– or they lose the desire to continue to grow–because they are full up with all that they ever needed…or so they thought.

I maintain that you will never have all the knowledge you need until the day you die…and it is the hunger to always learn more and continue to strive to be the world’s best at all you do that will fuel you.


Being a student for life will keep you passionate and enthusiastic forever.

Case in point:

I am a member of 6 different mastermind groups…some are expensive to join and some have no direct costs involved…but all of them are a huge investments of time and effort, and in some cases, they cost a lot of money to join too.


Regardless of where they fit on the time/cost spectrum, I approach all 6 groups with 100% focus and I always strive to play full out in each one of them as both a giver and a recipient of knowledge and advice.

A big mistake I see often among other members: Assessing the effectiveness of those communities or associations in those groups solely on “how much money you made,” or “deals you made” (with other members)—or “what you got or didn’t get,” sometimes at the expense of the learning and sharing.

This is especially prevalent in high end mastermind groups where people pay a lot of money to join…but it also exists in one-on-one relationships when no one pays a dime…and I take some poetic license and use Annie Hall as an example of that.

And this is not a sales pitch to use for anyone with a mastermind group…but it is a sales pitch to avoid jumping to conclusions regarding the notion that “I’ve got what I need from this relationship and I can move on now.”

Of course you may be ready to move on from certain relationships…but I implore you to not jump too soon.

Life is always about playing the long game.

I’m not the first one to say this (or believe this) but it is worth repeating:

The best teachers are also lifelong students. 

The best students never jump ship too soon (even if they eventually leave their teachers). 

And when (if) students leave, they never forget their teachers. 






P.S. Speaking of finding the best teachers and mentors, I want to repeat my offer for two valuable gifts to anyone who attends “The Copywriter Club in Real Life” (TCCIRL), hosted by two of the smartest teachers I know (Kira Hug and Rob Marsh), March 13-15 in New York City.

And it’s not just for copywriters.

Proof of that is that I was there last year as a speaker and as you recall from last week, I am a copywriter wannabe! 🙂

Here’s what I told you last week about TCC IRL:

Copywriting is a unique skill and also one that everyone needs to be skilled in some aspects of, whether you are writing copy or not.  

All of the details are here.


And I have two special gifts I have for you if you decide to attend.

Of course I receive no affiliate commission or any other financial gain…and in fact, I want to spend money and send you some awesome gifts if you decide to attend.

While TCCIRL is billed as an event for copywriters (and the speakers are mostly copywriters), I believe that this is a transcendent event where copywriters can hone their craft and marketers can realize (in no uncertain terms) that copywriting is anything but a commodity–and that they can partner with the best in the industry to create long term and lifelong business magic.

Here’s my ethical bribe to get you to attend…

If you register, I will personally send you two (2) gifts worth over $200:


1) A copy of the Gene Schwartz classic, The Brilliance Breakthrough: How To Talk  And Write So That People Will Never Forget You (with an exclusive workbook)…a $195 collector’s item and an essential addition to your marketing and copywriting library…absolutely free.

(Here’s some background on the book, formerly a “lost classic”).

2) An exclusive pre-publication galley copy of my new book Overdeliver (I’ll sign it if you like)…only around 30 copies will be printed before the actual book comes out…and you can have one of these free as well.

You have to get to New York for “TCC IRL to receive these two gifts—so sign up now and email me with your mailing address once you register and I will I send you The Brilliance Breakthrough and Overdeliver. 


P.P.S. I’m writing this before the Academy Awards are announced…here are my picks:


Best Picture: Green Book

Best Actress: Olivia Coleman (Glenn Close close second)

Best Actor: Rami Malek (Christian Bale close second)

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali


And two more picks…I saw all of the nominees in these next two categories as well…told you I was qualified to be a critic 🙂

Best Live Action Short Film: Skin

Best Short Documentary: Lifeboat (Period. End Of Sentence close second)

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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