You've seemed to have lost your balls. Let me help you find them.
In this piece you're about to read, I use the word "balls" because I am a man.
But, please know the term can just as easily be exchanged for "ovaries" if you identify as a woman.
Or, "guts" if you identify as neither a man nor a woman.
My momma ran our home like an intergalactic warship lurching across the galaxy –– in tight order knowing good and well that with three boys who marauded about like a trio of world-conquering extraterrestrials, we were moments away at all hours from a complete and total cluster-fuck.
But, while she ensured that her three little mustangs were saddled with a healthy amount of discipline, this discipline was never an excuse to behave like cowards.
When she caught the slightest whiff of cowardly behavior, she was quick to remind us of our “balls”.
I recall one day crying at the kitchen table after a tough basketball practice. Having practiced like shit, I was worried I had fallen behind in the dogfight for the starting position.
She listened as I blubbered on for a couple minutes then she grabbed the kitchen towel, popped me across the back of the head with it and said something along the lines of…
“Jesus Christ, son. Grow a set of balls.”
I sat there in complete and total horror as she walked out of the kitchen and into her room and spent the rest of the night with her nose in a book.
I ended up earning the starting position.
This was the kind of woman that raised my brothers and I and while we’re far from perfect… we’re all in our twenties and we all make a living working for ourselves.
I can’t speak for them, of course, but much of this success has stemmed from me thinking a lot about my…
“Balls” are of course a metaphor for courage… tenacity… chutzpah…
Whatever it is you want to call it, the greats seem to have it.
Kurt Vonnegut’s “balls” were something he refered to as “moxie” –– a refusal as a writer to go unread.
Stephen King’s “balls” came in the form of a great big iron nail he beat into his bedroom wall, right above his typewriter, that he would hook his rejection letters on.
Theodore Roosevelt’s “balls” surfaced in an iconic piece he wrote called “the man in the arena” (we’re talking about the same man who got shot whilst giving a public speech, finished the speech and closed with the iconic lines… “it takes more than that to kill a bull-moose.”)
Brands on the other hand, are mostly ball-less.
If you don’t know who I am, I write advertising for brands both big and small.
Writing that many times receives some pushback because brands seem to lack what my mother, Vonnegut, King and Roosevelt very much so had/ have… balls.
It’s a cowardly abomination and I’m no longer standing for it.
Here soon, a prerequisite to work with me will involve the wet signature of a contract (or promise, rather) that reads as follows:
"We (fill in the blank brand) recognize that by working with Cole Schafer and Honey Copy we aren't just getting a writer but a writer that is going to help us find and locate our balls and that by signing this here agreement we are promising that, upon this discovery, we will not squirm, back-pedal, riddle off a trunkload of bullshit excuses nor behave like wretched cowards to avoid claiming them."
The vast majority of brands nowadays are run by men and women terrified of doing something creative with their advertising, going against the status quo, offending someone, taking a stand, etc.
Just today, I received edits on a sales page I wrote for a company in an industry where everyone sounds exactly alike.
The edits involved removing any and all language that made them unique, interesting and ultimately different from the dozens of other competitors gunning for their necks.
Due to the fact that I am not in this game to simply collect fat paychecks and watch 75% of the copy I write get edited out by individuals who've never picked up a pen, I'm fighting them, tooth and nail, on every phrase.
Shitty, safe, watered-down copy riddled with industry-specific jargon is a very micro-example of a phenomenon going on with brands everywhere at the moment... a wide-spread universal misplacement of balls, ovaries and guts.
And, as a result, we're getting underwhelming brands that could best be described as…
Ask anyone about them and they'll answer with a *shrug*
"Hey Mark, do you like RadioShack?"
*Shrug*... "Not really."
"Uhm, okay so do you dislike RadioShack?"
*Shrug*... "No, not necessarily."
"Wait, so do you have any sort of opinion on RadioShack?"
*Shrug*... "I don't know, I've never shopped there."
When brands choose to play it small... when they choose to play it safe... they avoid making enemies but they also avoid making customers.
"Not offending anyone" and being "agreeable" isn't an advertising strategy, it's a race to the grave.
By Cole Schafer.
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A couple dozen John Fante quotes that’ll make you understand why Charles Bukowski called him a god.
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