April 4, 2021

“There is no luggage rack on a hearse…”
– Clotaire Rapaille, cultural anthropologist, in his book, The Culture Code

Someone who was on my Titans Xcelerator group coaching call this past week put the quote above into the chat…and although Rapaille had a particular meaning in mind for the quote, I want to focus on a different angle today.

Rapaille goes on in the above quote and says:

“…and since you cannot bring your…money into the afterlife, Americans choose to give a significant amount of it away…”

I appreciate his optimism and faith in people…and in fact, the level of generosity seems to rise exponentially when folks get rich so his theory is mostly accurate.

That’s a good thing. Smart (and rich) people know that the money is far less meaningful to them once they are in the ground for eternity.

But the notion of “you can’t take it with you” does not only apply to material wealth and money; it also applies to the deeds, behaviors and interactions that make up the decades of your life.

You can’t chalk up all the times in your life you won an argument or got the last word as an “asset” once you are dead.

Albert King, an American blues guitarist and singer, gets to the gist of the angle I want to pursue today in his song, Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die.

I’ll let the lyrics speak for speak for themselves:

Everybody wants to laugh
But nobody wants to cry
I say everybody wants to laugh but nobody wants to cry
Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die

Everybody wanna hear the truth
But yet everybody wants to tell a lie
I say everybody wants to hear the truth
But still they all wanna tell a lie
Ohhh everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die


Given the fact that everyone reading this today will likely be dead in 100 years (and some of us in a lot less than that), I maintain that the things that we do in our lives “for the principle of the thing” are among the most unproductive activities we engage in.

Because as I’ve shared with you numerous times in the past, everyone will be very sad at your funeral…but at some point near the end of the service, one of your friends will say to another friend, “I’m hungry…let’s go to Denny’s.”

I encourage you to look at all of your behavior in the world through this lens of what’s really worth holding out for…and of course I will use a marketing interaction as an example. ☺

Whenever the person on the other side of an argument lets me know their position is not about money, not about fairness, and not about forgiveness–but rather about “the principle of the thing”–I know I am in an argument I can’t win.

I don’t even want to argue anymore…and I look for an escape hatch as soon as possible.

Here’s a granular example of what I’m talking about.

Did you ever buy a product online, digital or physical, and when you were not satisfied and tried to return it you were told that that the date to return it had passed, no ifs ands or buts?

And while you had your reasons for procrastinating the return, all legitimate and compelling to you, you were met with an automated response saying “no dice” in one way or another?

And even if you got someone to hear your sob story, they still refused to give you your money back, citing some version of “it’s the principle” (e.g. “if we do this for you we will set a bad precedent and we will have to do it for everyone”).

I maintain nothing really sets a precedent when you treat every customer as an individual with specific issues (i.e different than any other customer’s issues), with respect, and therefore the only precedent you set when returning their money after some self-imposed deadline has passed is a precedent for them only (which, by definition then, is not a precedent).

A (reasonable) exception is not a precedent.

Am I suggesting that you always have a guarantee that has no expiration date? No.

Or that everyone gets their money back every time? No.

(But I can safely say, once I hear their full backstory, and it makes sense to me as much as it does to them, they get their money back).

A better place to focus: Always make your product or service as spectacular as you say it is in your sales letter.

Yes, it is as simple as that…I love solving complex marketing problems for you. 🙂

No hype or guarantee of success can be illegitimate if in fact you know you can deliver.

And…you’ll get fewer returns this way than giving a drop dead date to return. With fewer arguments and stress. And you will always whistle past the graveyard as an extra bonus.

In this marketing/customer service example (i.e. remembering that customer service and fulfillment being marketing functions), if you have “unlimited time to ask for a refund” that might lead to fewer refunds and unsatisfied customers rather than those same customers fighting with you to return the product after the guarantee expires.

Even an unstated, lifetime guarantee is something you can incorporate into your offer…not in your sales copy but in your head.

I know there are many gurus and product developers out there that are cringing with this example…”this product is my life’s work, it’s worth ten times what I’m charging for it and I’ll be damned if I’ll give anyone a refund after the refund period expires.”

That’s certainly one way to go.

But if you really want to go to heaven, you could rethink this one.

Going to heaven can be a choice whereas whether you are going to die at some point is not.

So how much does it really matter if you gave the refund or not?

I guess if you held out on principle and didn’t give the refund, you would then be able to set aside that $2,000 you kept “on principle” to help your family pay for your funeral expenses.

Please don’t think I am saying that lifetime guarantees are a superior offer every time; and I am also not saying that your offer should be designed so that every Schnorrer gets to take advantage of you.

What I am saying through this example—and hopefully you can see the broader context—is that when you match your promotion to your product or service, with concrete deliverables, delivering on the promise impeccably, you don’t even need a guarantee in that (somewhat perfect) world.

But the world isn’t perfect. However, why not make it as perfect as possible for everyone you touch in business?

Life is long…I’ll take 10 unsatisfied customers who got satisfaction from me (refund or otherwise) over 1 paying customer who I died on a sword on “principle”…”principle” that is only a construct in your mind and not based on anything that’s really tangible.

Admit it…you made that principle up. ☺

My experience tells me…again it’s only 40 years so it’s not a significant sample size…that “saving” those 10 customers from paying me now has led to many of them paying me later.

Did I say life is long?

And this is why I hate “Done for You” (DFY) products or services…not that there’s anything wrong with them…but the fulfillment on your promise needs to be even more perfect than perfect–which it never can be because every customer has a different definition and experience of DFY.

Simply put, DFY is always in the eyes of the beholder (i.e. buyer).

Even with a perfect match of promotion to product and fulfillment (on everything you promised), you can always count on some dissatisfaction (Schnorrers not included)…which makes my thesis today more difficult to deliver (inside of a DFY model).

The warning with a DFY model, so you are not constantly in arguments you don’t want to be in and ones you can’t win, is to assume chaos and know what “principles” you will avoid citing when you are told you didn’t come through on your promise.

In case you missed it, I went into this more deeply in “Realizing unrealized expectations” which you can read by clicking here.

I’ll end with another quote, from Eric Thomas, an American motivational speaker, author and minister, which landed in my Inbox this morning from my friend Craig Ballantyne…he must have known what I was writing about today:

The wealthiest place on the planet is the graveyard. Because in the graveyard we will find inventions that we never ever were exposed to. Ideas, dreams that never became reality. Hopes and aspirations that were never acted upon. The question is what you are going to do with your time. When things don’t work out for you. When things happen that you could not anticipate. What are the reasons that you can think of that can keep you strong.”

I would add that the graveyard can be the poorest place on the planet because of the poverty associated with arguments in your life that you think you won based on principles that were figments of your imagination.

And those “winning” arguments (which you really didn’t win) will only get in the way of acting on your “Hopes and aspirations that were acted upon.”

Buying time to act on the important things is the best gift you can give yourself while you are still above ground.

Getting buried (figuratively and literally) with those winning arguments is a shame…because you lost in life and then again in death.

And as an added irony, the time you spend dying on your sword in life might be what ends up killing you.

The good news is that it’s not too late to lose some arguments.



P.S. The best news of the week:

The owner of the URL BreakthroughAdvertising.com approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse: “Would you like to buy the URL at a reasonable price?”

And there was no deadline on the offer…imagine that…not that I needed one. 

I obviously jumped on it.

He also positioned his offer beautifully as one where I could do more good in the world with it than he could…and being a disciple of Gene Schwartz himself, he wanted to be part of the Breakthrough Advertising team.

If only every sales pitch could be that elegant.

Of course I enrolled him in my Titans Xcelerator mastermind with a complimentary membership on top of what I paid for the URL…I figured he’s a guy worth making a VIP in my Titans family given that we are both cut from the same cloth.

I also gave him all sorts of other valuable books, swipe files and other resources I had “lying around” at no charge to make sure he knew how much I appreciated his generosity.

Why not overdeliver on his unexpected gift from heaven?

You can be one of the first people to order using this link:


The book won’t be better if you order on this link…but what could be better than perfection?

That’s a promise that I can deliver on…and that’s why there’s no guarantee with a deadline to return it…because I guarantee you will never return it.

And if you happen to buy it and return it, I’ll give you your money back immediately…but since I’ve sold thousands of copies already with zero returns, I’m not scared of  “arguing” with you about that. 🙂

Well…the only “argument” will be how you could send back an opportunity of a lifetime. 

And that’s no hype. 🙂


About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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