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I enjoy reading all manner of autobiographies as you can nearly always pick up some real gems of wisdom.
Thomas Edison’s taught me about perseverance. He tried 10,000 versions of the lightbulb before he found one that worked.
Jean Paul Getty taught me about focus. In one chapter he detailed his drilling exploits to finish the chapter "In that time I met, married and divorced my second wife!" Perhaps he should have focused a bit more on his marriage though! I'm keen to see the film “All the Money in the World”, out in January, based on Getty's refusal to pay a ransom for his kidnapped grandson.
Richard Branson taught me not be fazed by the odd setback. The threats of prison and financial ruin in his early days didn't hold him back.
As a fan of Fawlty Towers and Monty Python I looked forward to the John Cleese autobiography. He's had some bad press recently for turning into a grumpy old man but I've found him in the first half of the book to be warm friendly and generous. A thoroughly good read.
What really came out was his passion for comedy. He was lucky enough to rub shoulders with the comedy greats of the Sixties and Seventies and he was always looking to learn from them.
In one chapter he details how he got hold of a recording of some Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketches. He painstakingly hand wrote every word and pause then learnt it off by heart.
We often look back on experts in any field and assume it's ingrained in them. However, it takes months, even years, to be an overnight success.
His handwriting of great work reminded me of the late, great, American copywriter Gary Halbert. Gary got his students to find 10 direct mail copy classics and hand write them.
When I first heard of this I thought that I could skip the process by just reading them very carefully. It was only a couple of years later I followed his advice and my copywriting improved no end.
I understood the structure and many of the phrases fed by subconscious.
So, this week, I urge all you copywriters to find some great pieces of copy and hand write them word for word. Go on give it a go