‘The Money Is Where the Enthusiasm Is’: A Life Lesson from an Imprisoned Father

Aaron Orendorff
Aaron Orendorff

From May of 1984 to March of 1985, Gary F. Halbert — easily one of the greatest copywriters of all time — spent ten months in California’s Boron Federal Prison Camp.

Not surprisingly, during those ten months, he wrote.

Sometimes daily; sometimes, multiple times a day. All of it accounted for and nit-pickingly time stamped by the institution he called home.

What was surprising is this …

Gary didn’t write his autobiography nor his mémoires. He offered no protests to his incarceration and produced no confessions or letters of regret. Even more astounding, despite his continued demand, Gary composed no headlines, no offers, no factsheets, no special reports, no marketing strategies, and no campaigns.

No. Nothing as grand as all that.

Instead, Gary wrote letters — personal letters — all of which were addressed to his youngest son, Bond.

And what he imparted to Bond — alongside fatherly wisdom about diet and exercise — was the collective wisdom, the distilled accumulation, of an already billion-dollar career making money with words.

Since then, Gary’s raw, straightforward, heartfelt, and loving correspondences have passed into the stuff of marketing legend: The Boron Letters.

Today I want to take just a few minutes to share what is perhaps the most profound lesson from those letters on the subject (as the title of this post proclaims) of enthusiasm and money.

Saturday, 10:02 a.m.

June 16, 1984

Dear Bond,

How’s my favorite youngest son? I’m sitting here waiting for the phone and I decided to start writing so let’s push forward.

Today, we are going to get started on the subject of how to make money. Usually, when someone asks me what is the #1 big secret to making money I tell them they should get involved in whatever excites them the most.

This is good advice. Money, in my opinion, especially big money, is most often a by product of enthusiasm. If a person, secretly in his heart, wants to be an architect, he shouldn’t go into selling real estate, for example, just because he has heard that that is where the money is.

The money is where the enthusiasm is.

Please remember this! Remember it also, when, in the future, you need to hire someone. Always look for the most enthusiastic person, not necessarily the most qualified.

When it comes to making money, attitude is the most important thing of all.

Of course, Gary’s advice is far from unique.

In 1936, quoting the indomitable Charles Schwab, Dale Carnegie made the exact same point:

I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

The question is …

What drives you? What are you passionate about? Where does your most potent source of unbridled enthusiasm arise from?

Why are these questions so pressing?

Because, if you know where the enthusiasm is, you know where the money is. Your enthusiasm. Your money.

Without the first, you can’t have the second. And … without the first, the second really doesn’t matter.

Let’s save the world from bad content

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