Gary Halbert and me

You probably already know the story of how I became a copywriter, but I bet you DON’T know the part I’m going to reveal today. The reason I think you don’t know is because I haven’t told a lot of people. But before I launch into the new, let me briefly review the old, okay? Ok, here goes –

In 1999 I took a leap of faith and left my corporate job as a secretary to stay home and raise my two young children. (One of them had a learning disability and they both missed me so much.) So I hung up my shingles as a freelance writer in the world of virtual assistance. Leaving a fixed paycheck was a huge financial strain. She wasn’t really sure how to get clients or build a business at all, just a dedicated mom.

Fortunately, I landed a client right away who introduced me to the world of copywriting. He had a successful network marketing business but hated writing. So he told me what he wanted and showed me some templates. The copywriting was unlike anything he had ever seen before. (Well, I had seen it, but I didn’t realize people were actually PAID to do it.)

Because I was so passionate about it, I kept getting better and better very quickly. But soon my client didn’t need to write anymore, and he didn’t have anyone else on the list. Journal. So my family started living off credit cards. My husband and I fight like cats and dogs. It stunk.

Thanks for your patience – this is the NEW part

Under the weight of our circumstances, I reluctantly began looking for a new day job. In 2002 I found a listing on CraigsList to write texts for a corporation. (I didn’t know anything about stocks.) They were looking for someone to write in “the Gary Halbert style.” “Who?” I asked. That was the first time I heard Gary’s name.

I didn’t get the job. They stated that they loved my samples, but felt that I just didn’t want another “office job”. That was his excuse. I think it might have been my confession about Gary. But his decision saved my life. I couldn’t have gone to put my feet under me and really grow Red Hot Copy if I had gone that route.

So thanks, Gary. That was the first life-changing moment you were responsible for in my life. There were many others to come.

As soon as I got home from that interview, I did a search on “Gary Halbert” and completely fell in love. Each carefully chosen word drew me closer to your copy. I couldn’t stop reading! The copy of him was so raw and full of personality. He was like a salty old dog who doesn’t care what you think, as he drove you like a speeding car toward the call to action. So in your face. So irreverent. So testosterone. And I wanted to write LIKE HIM.

What you’re used to reading from me is a departure from his style, but trust me, while I’m not Gary Halbert, I learned to write in a similar vein. How can I know? He called me a few years later on the phone and he told me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I first met Gary at a seminar in 2003, it was like meeting a rock star! I was so in awe of him. He was with his beautiful girlfriend, Sirian, who is really one of the most genuinely sweet women I’ve ever met. Gary was unlike his brash personality. You could tell he had that side, but he had such vulnerability and honesty with him.

Over the years we have had sporadic contacts. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were close, but he did offer me semi-regular advice via email and phone. I would occasionally show you sales copy. He would give me honest feedback. (who was surprisingly gentler than his friend, and one of my favorite mentors, John Carlton, you lovingly brutal beast).

The last time I saw Gary in person was in 2005 at his root canal seminar. It was bright, naturally. But something like a lost lamb since her trusted assistant Teresa had retired. The poor thing even got lost on the way to the bathroom, but he had the good sense to ask someone to find him through his microphone, which he hadn’t turned off. There I also met his two sons, Kevin and Bond, really great guys.

At the end of the first night’s event, I invited him to dinner. He refused saying that he was tired. Frankly, it looked like he was about to crash and I know how much throwing an event can take away from you. Then about 20 minutes later he surprised us by joining a few of us at the bar. He said that he had changed his mind about being tired. He gave up drinking a long time ago but had a couple of cokes and shared our pizza. I wish I could have recorded that night. Some of that I will NEVER share. But he was so open and honest that I felt like I had known him for years. That’s one of the lessons I learned from Gary. Be vulnerable and be yourself. Because there is nothing worse in life than being BORING or inauthentic.

Gary, you were never boring. He has secured his place in history as one of the greatest salesmen of ALL TIME. You lived life well. Give them hell, Gary. You were one in a billion.

In conclusion

I’d like to quote an excerpt from your online newsletter about your Halbert Index: “The Halbert Index is a totally unique way of ranking people. To be at the top of the Index, you must have the following:

  1. You must have a life, and
  2. You must have a sense of humor and
  3. You must have intelligence and be an independent thinker, and
  4. You must be a generous and generous person but… at the same time…
  5. You must refuse to take shit from anyone who doesn’t have a gun to their head, and
  6. You must be willing to take risks and accept losses cheerfully, and
  7. You must have the capacity and courage for true intimacy with your loved ones, friends…and sometimes…even with your associates and strangers, and
  8. You must be rich always in your mind… and therefore… very often… in your pocket, and
  9. You must be honest and have integrity not defined by laws but by the inner core of your being, and ultimately
  10. You must have a relationship with a higher power (nicknamed “God”) that does not necessarily include and/or often transcends any association with organized religion.”

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