Harlan Kilstein

Harlan’s Blue Balls Story

A few days ago, Harlan Kilstein (NLP Copywriting guru) asked his mailing list what we thought he was doing in a particular email he sent.

What follows below is the original email, his selected best response, my comments on that response, and my response.

I’m still plugging away at the tiny house (see the previous update post) but I figured I could post this since it was almost already written.

First, Harlan’s email to the list:

From: Harlan Kilstein

To: Louis

Sent: Mon, June 21, 2010 6:25:12 AM

Subject: Blue Balls and NLP – The Email Contest

Sometimes, I like to share a work in progress with you guys.

This is an email I sent out today to my list.

And I thought I’d have a contest.

The best explanation of what I am doing here wins a free copy of my book – Steal This Book. It’s $197 selling price so start your engines.

Just email me your thoughts by Midnight tonight and I’ll pick a winner.

I share your name publicly tomorrow.

Subject Line: Blue Balls. Not What You Expect.

You are receiving this email because you signed up at The Hypnotic Secret.com

The news out of Rome is shocking.

Italian police have seized 70,000 balls of mozzarella cheese because they turned blue when the packages opened.

The police and the agriculture ministry are investigating the world’s largest case of blue balls.

You see, mozzarella cheese is the pride of Italy.

They serve it on everything for pizza to salads. They probably even have mozzarella gelato.

And it it’s turning blue…

Could it be poison?

But Italians were shocked this weekend to discover their “Italian” mozzarella cheese isn’t really mozzarella.

And it isn’t really Italian either.

Real mozzarella cheese in Italy is made from buffalo milk.

This stuff is not.

And it’s not made in Italy either. It’s imported and re-packaged.

It’s shocking when you realize something you trusted isn’t what you expected.

It’s the same way with The Secret.


Now don’t get me wrong, teaching people about the Law of Attraction is great.

Changing it and diluting it is not.

And when you start changing the ingredients without telling anyone.

You don’t get results. You get blue balls of mozzarella.

What Rhoda Bryne did was re-write the Law of Attraction to fit her image.

She took Esther Hicks out and left her on the editing floor.

And she took out all mention of taking action.

You were left with ask, believe, receive.


What happened to take action? It’s not there anymore!

And that’s why so many people don’t get results with The Secret.

So if you want the real deal, take action now.

Click here to get The Hypnotic Secret.

It’s the real deal.




Here’s the response he chose as the winner (posted here):

Harlan, here’s what you’re doing in the great e-mail you sent out today.

1 – Pattern interrupt: the subject line starts with “Blue Balls,” which interrupts the readers’ patterns when the readers are scanning their e-mail in-box. “Blue balls” is a slang phrase relating to sex, and sex grabs the readers’ attention if the readers understand the phrase. Plus, since you are very religious, a subject line starting with a slang phrase relating to sex surprises me much more than it would if the e-mail were coming from, for example, a sports blogger. So the subject line grabs the readers’ attention and forces them to open the e-mail, regardless of how busy they might be.

2 – Humor, to get the readers on your side: you retell the news story about the tainted cheese in a way that makes the story much funnier, because it’s you, not the regular news stories, that refer to the tainted cheese as “blue balls.” So you reward the readers for reading by giving us readers a good laugh.

3 – Making clear the point of your retelling the cheese story: you highlight, in ways the news agencies did not, how the tainted cheese is fake and how, even if it were not tainted, it would still be disappointing, because it says it is made in Italy but was really made in Germany and calls itself mozzarella although it contains no buffalo milk. So you emphasize how much of a forgery the tainted cheese it.

4 – Metaphor: You use the metaphor of the fake cheese to introduce the important way in which Rhonda Byrne’s book and film The Secret changed the Law of Attraction to make her book and film sell more copies than it would if she had told the truth about the Law of Attraction. And because you related The Secret to the fake cheese, which is also tainted, your readers will infer that The Secret is tainted, too, in its own way.

5 – Problem and agitate: You have revealed a key fact: that The Secret is a fake version of the Law of Attraction, and The Secret cannot teach anyone how to succeed with the Law of Attraction. You have revealed a problem that all readers and viewers of The Secret will encounter. Then you have agitated to make those readers and viewers feel cheated and lied to.

5 – Solution: You present the solution, which is YOUR fine product, The Hypnotic Secret.

6 – “Tell them what to do”: You have revealed that what is missing from The Secret is the necessity to take action. Then you tell your readers to practice the Law of Attraction by taking action to get the REAL guide to implementing the Law of Attraction, and that real guide happens to be your product, The Hypnotic Secret.

Although I bought The Hypnotic Secret as soon as I received your first e-mail about it, today’s e-mail about Blue Balls is so good I want to buy The Hypnotic Secret all over again!


Lee Marcus

The blog post then goes on to recap and tell you to buy more of Harlan’s stuff.

Here are my comments on the winner’s response:

  1. Email isn’t a pattern interrupt unless you have it dinging you every time you get one. The classic pattern interrupt is to ask someone if they smell popcorn in the middle of a conversation. The title is a standard curiosity builder. It’s effective but not NLP.
  2. Everything I’ve ever heard says to stay away from humor in your copy. Plus, I didn’t see it as terribly funny either. Interest provoking – very much so. Funny – not so much. Maybe I’m just the wrong demographic.
  3. Now that I’m rereading it, I’m not sure what the 3rd point is saying. I think it’s just that he told a story. Not NLP.
  4. Metaphor, yes. That’s the big one.
  5. True, there’s problem and agitation, but that’s not NLP.
  6. (Second 5) Yes, there’s a solution but that’s not NLP either.
  7. (6) It’s a call to action. Not subtle or elegant at all and not NLP.

Much of the most valuable feedback I’ve received in my life has been in areas of improvement. I included that in my response but found it curious that the winning response read more like a product testimonial.

My response is here:


I got your email. I’ve read it over and here’s what I think you’re doing:

Your headline provokes curiosity but then has a double meaning not evident until you’ve read the email.

The “Not What You Expect” is a mind read because as soon as the person sees blue balls, they’re thinking that can’t be what it would mean in a more commonly used context. The second meaning is the therapeutic metaphor you use. It’s also an embedded suggestion (not quite a command). There’s also a presupposition that they are expecting something which they will be after reading it.

Your first line is a pacing statement. Hopefully they recall being on your list and if not, now they do.

I’m not sure whether your only hyperlinking the “Secret.com” was intentional or not. If so, it might be to foreshadow “The Secret” to which you later refer.

You then use a current event as a therapeutic metaphor. You also leave out a lot of details that are in the BBC article on it such as the fact that the cheese in question comes from Germany and they suspect it’s a non-toxic bacteria but are testing it to make sure. Leaving those details out (deletion) lets the reader assume the worst – that it might be poison as you suggest or that it was artificially manufactured in some third world country.

Through your metaphor, you’re mapping it onto people’s experience with “The Secret”. Blue balls becomes the “fraud” surrounding “The Secret.” This list probably prides themselves in their belief and use of the secret to everything including their gelato. I never came across mozzarella gelato when I lived in Italy and your readers probably suspect no such thing exists too. But that sets a context where they can think their interest in “The Secret” is normal by comparison. And you’ve set a generalized referential index by talking about Italians which are just a more specific “they” which are really “us” and “me.”

You transition to “The Secret” with the line about something you trusted not being what you expected. You do a time pattern starting in present tense “It’s” and “realize” (also a leading statement) while ending in past tense “trusted” and “expected”. The suggestion is that you now realize you no longer trust the old stuff and need a new paradigm (i.e. your product).

The transition applies to both the metaphor and your point with “The Secret.” The reader doesn’t notice the transition though until you come out and say it’s the same thing. You talk about changing it to go over with the public. That allows the reader to sit there and think, “yeah, they didn’t teach it right.” You don’t say that your reader specifically was one of the people that was deceived which would probably offend their intelligence. And even though they can sit there and think they already knew it wasn’t the whole story, they can also realize that they’re now curious about what your take on it is.

For readers who know the background of “The Secret”, you probably lost them a little in next part. First off, you misspelled Rhonda Byrne. You suggest an unsubstantiated ulterior motive (fit her image?). Esther Hicks was actually in the first version of “The Secret” and the real story is more interesting than the version in the email. She wasn’t left on any editing floor. She didn’t feel congruent with the way it was being mass marketed so they created an “extended version” which was exactly the same as the first except they replaced her with a little more footage from one of the other speakers. At least that was all I could find when I researched the subject before. Private opinions are usually different than what can be found online.

I think your closing could be improved. I see the tie-in between the missing ingredient being action and taking action to buy your product. That part works fine. The gap is that if you just revealed what was missing – action – why do they need to buy your product anymore? They can just go take action. Your readers are probably also familiar with Joe Vitale’s work in writing “The Missing Secret” too. Are they now to think that your hypnosis version is better than his? No doubt your differentiate on your landing page but without further investigation, this sounds like a me-too (or rather the more popular – not-me) spin off from “The Secret.”

We all know people buy emotionally but a leap in logic can throw them off course too. Saying action is the missing ingredient so take action and buy my product that will tell you to take action… well, it isn’t a compelling value proposition. If you’ve just told them “The Secret” is right except for taking action then why would they need to spend more money instead of just taking action in their life?

The words you use in your call to action is to tell them it’s the real deal twice and then click the link. If you use the words “click here”, they should be hyperlinked. Otherwise, it should say “click below”.

Overall, good tie to current events, use of curiosity and metaphor. If you make sure the facts you include are accurate and have a stronger call to action, I bet you’ll increase your conversion rates even higher.

Good idea to have a contest for have your readers evaluate your email (and maybe even have a few click through and buy your product or get on that particular list).


So what do you think? Was I off base offering points for improvement? Did the winning response offer better content?

Welcome Harlan + Odds and Ends

The orginal NLP Copywriting Guru, Harlan Kilstein, has started a blog. His first post says he’s devoting it to his teacher, Dr David Dobson. I’m looking forward to some good NLP content there. He’s also linked his products there. The site is:


Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that if you’re putting an Aweber form on your website, it’s best to use the html instead of the script. For someone like me using Firefox, the script doesn’t appear on the page. It may be the ad blocker I use, I’m not sure. I had to open up the page in Internet Explorer.  The page I was viewing is a free ebook from Joe Vitale:


I actually have 3 completed models I’m working on turning into products. The first – graphic design – I’ve mentioned here before. I’m using the new ability myself to create some better covers for my products.

The second is a model from David Gordon. He agreed to let me use the one in his book on modeling as a free downloadable product here. I figured more people would be interested in my products if they knew exactly what kind of thing they’d be getting. That ability is “how to be passionate about something.” I’ve written the script for that already too.

The last one is one I’ve done over the holidays. My brother is finishing up his masters degree in mathematics. He’s pretty much a genius as I often hear of him solving problems that no one else could. I modeled his problem solving ability for a math context. I’d like to see if I can install it in some school kids who might otherwise think they’re “bad at math.”

My experience as a math teacher was that being “good” or “bad” at math was entirely up to the attitude and strategies of each individual student. I’m scheduled to help some kids with their science fair projects in the next couple months so I’ll see about working with them on their math as well.

The final update is that Arton Baleci is using modeling to see if he can turn himself into a professional soccer player (footballer) in one year. His site:


Thanks to Steve Bauer for alerting me to the Riggio Model and The Beautiful Aim.

Stay tuned for some comments on some recent experiences with Diego Norte.

Unpacking a hypnotic headline

Harlan sent an email the other day talking about hypnotic headlines.

He said the following headline had at least 8 presuppositions:

How Many Of These Secret Thai Chicken Recipes Have You Tasted So Far?

See how many you can find before you look at the way I unpack it…


  1. There are such things as recipes.
  2. There are more than one ("how many")
  3. It’s possible to taste them.
  4. You’ve tasted some.
  5. You’ll taste more in the future.
  6. They are chicken recipes.
  7. They’re Thai recipes.
  8. They’re secret recipes.
  9. You’ll find out what the recipes are ("these").

How did you do?

The reason you might want to do this in a headline is the idea of the mind being able to keep track of 7 (+/- 2) chunks of information at a time. No doubt some of the chunks will already be in use just by the activity of reading. If they can’t distinguish something as a separate piece of info, they’ll generally accept it without question.

Fortunately, there’s not much in the headline that anyone would object to anyway. Maybe a reader could ask if there really are secret Thai chicken recipes. I mean secret recipes? It’s not like they’re KFC or Coke with a secret formula, right? But then if you’ve taken up the remaining slots available to separate things out, they won’t even notice there could be something worth objecting to.

Of course that’s something else that needs to be calibrated and tested. You’re not going to an elephant into the living room without anyone noticing just because you used a bunch of presuppositions.

Getting Started in Copywriting and NLP

I’ve been asked a couple of times how to get started in copywriting and NLP.

If you Google “getting started copywriting” you’ll see over 200,000 results. Most of the advice I’ve seen and followed boils down to a few steps:

  1. Study the masters
  2. Copy out successful letters
  3. Build a swipe file
  4. Practice on low risk jobs
  5. Build your portfolio
  6. Specialize in a market
  7. Get bigger clients

What I want to point out is that your path depends greatly on your end goal. Do you want to be a corporate copywriter? Freelance? Or how about run your own business?

Personally, I started out following the above steps before I finally accepted the fact that many of the most successful copywriters write for themselves. Even the top copywriters that still write for clients also have their own products, services, coaching programs, seminars, etc. That’s where the real money and real freedom are.

If you’ve managed to stick to the steps long enough to become a half decent copywriter, branching out into your own business won’t be a terrible shock. Selling is the hardest part of any business and you already have a leg up. Plus, if you go after information products online, you’ve chopped your learning curve down again. And you won’t have to go looking for step 4. You can do your own stuff.

If you follow the career path of many copywriters, the steps that follow after the six above are:

  1. Charge your clients more
  2. Get more clients
  3. Get burned out
  4. Have an existential crisis
  5. Get fed up and start your own business

Why not start at step 4 in the first list and jump to step 5 in the second? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.

I wanted to elaborate on step 1 in the first list for copywriting and NLP. That was the original question… how to get started.

I read the original guys like Hopkins, Caples and Ogilvy. I don’t recommend anyone start with that unless you want to be a corporate copywriter. For direct response copywriters and entrepreneurs, I recommend you study some of the guys who are doing it well online already. Specifically, I recommend (not affiliate links):

  • Michel Fortin – has a great online presence and community
  • Clayton Makepeace – master of melding copywriting and existing business (aka profit sharing and royalties)
  • Ben Settle – a great resource to go for learning about swiping
  • Michael Senoff – an amazing resource for free seminars, interviews and ads on a multitude of business topics. It’s a great place to find ideas.
  • Dan Kennedy – he has a number of good books on the basics. I’m looking at a copy of The Ultimate Sales Letter on my shelf. You can see the 2nd edition free on Google Books.
  • Google “internet business ” and visit the top results. If they’re private business guys with blogs, they obviously know what they’re doing. Richard Lee, Cybercashology and Terry Dean come to mind.
  • [EDIT 5/23/09]I used to recommend James Brausch for his straightforward business formula that went something like “Product + Traffic + Copywriting = $$$.” He’s since sold off his blog and business and the new owners ran it into the ground with poor products and service. Terry Dean has a highly recommended beginner’s guide.

For NLP, it really depends on what you want to do with it. There’s a ton of general info online. Here’s what I recommend:

  • If you want a solid general overview, get a book like Introducing NLP by O’Connor and Seymour.
  • If you want to learn how to do NLP, you have 2 main options: take a practitioner course or read the original books by Bandler and Grinder and find someone to practice with. The first method would probably be easier although I’ve taken the second.
  • [EDIT 10/20/08: Richard Bandler has a new book out, “Get The Life You Want” that has most of his NLP patterns. Each chapter is a background story and the pattern laid out step by step. I highly recommend it as a pattern reference.]
  • [EDIT 5/23/09: It now appears that NOTNLP may have streamlined many if not all the patterns of NLP. If you’re wanting to do NLP in person, I recommend you check it out.]
  • If you want to learn to do Therapeutic Metaphors, learn the vocabulary of NLP first and then get David Gordon’s book on it. Some of it will be lost on you if you don’t know the basics.
  • If you want to learn modeling,  get Gordon’s book on it. [UPDATE: Steve Bauer has a more comprehensive list on modeling approaches listed in a recent post . It includes Gordon’s book.]
  • If you run across something you’re not familiar with look it up in the Encyclopedia of NLP .
  • If you want to learn it for personal motivation, get Tony Robbin’s materials.
  • If you want to be entertained and awed by it, look for Derren Brown on YouTube. “The Heist ” and “Subliminal Advertising ” are especially eye opening.
  • If you want to learn it for a face to face sales context, get Kenrick Cleveland’s materials. I haven’t studied his materials beyond his blog but Harlan Kilstein highly recommends him.
  • If you want to learn if for a seduction context, get the Speed Seduction materials.
  • If you want to have it done on you without worrying about learning it, get some Paraliminals or visit a hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner. I created a similar product you can download free called Passionate Heart.

And finally, if you want to learn NLP for a copywriting context, get my course. The only thing even like it is Harlan’s $1000 DVDs. Even then, a couple people have commented that my course is easier to understand than his. It’s way less expensive too.

You can get the first lesson free here: http://hypnoticwriter.org .

Modeling Customers

At Harlan’s NLP Copywriting II seminar (I didn’t attend), he said he was going to teach people to model their audience.

He also said he’d modeled someone without their knowledge.

The notes of that modeling are here:


Recently, Steve Bauer posted on what’s required to model people . He said you can’t model people you’ve never met.

Given those things, is it possible to effectively model a whole group of people? It doesn’t sound plausible to me. What you can do is come up with some general trends. According to David Gordon (and thus Harlan) it’s about discovering beliefs, strategies, emotions and external behavior… then yes, you can find out some of that as a trend for your market.

If you want to see an outline for the things included in David Gordon’s system of modeling check out the Table of Contents of his book. I ordered it last week so I can tell you more about it after I’ve read it.

Any maybe Steve will weigh in with his opinion too. 🙂

What qualifies as NLP?

In preparing the video that I’m nearly ready to release, I reviewed Joe Vitale’s books, Hypnotic Writing and Buying Trances .

In one of the two (I don’t recall which one), Joe doesn’t have high praise for NLP because he says it claims to have near absolute knowledge of the mind. He then goes on to describe hypnotic techniques that anyone familiar with NLP would recognize. And then he has Harlan Kilstein explain how he used NLP in a sales letter. That’s my paraphrase anyway.

The second of those books is dedicated to Milton Erickson who NLP was modeled after. In it’s essence, NLP is the systematized and codified hypnotherapy of Erickson. That’s what Bandler and Grinder did when they "founded" NLP. So it’s really misleading to claim that something in the realm of hypnosis definitely isn’t NLP or vise versa.

The reason I comment on this now is that Harlan recently sent out an email in which he referred to a sales letter by Gary Bencivenga that purportedly used NLP. Then, in a video clip from his recent NLP Copywriting 2 seminar, he explains the NLP content. See these links for the sales letter and video clip:



The interesting thing about this is that I don’t really think what he’s pointing out is necessarily NLP. He talks about the presuppositions in the following sentence (the 4th paragraph):

"But when I noticed that no one was creating ham from Kurobuta pigs, I personally sprang into action… leading to the development of the greatest hunk o’ baked ham for your holiday season that you will ever experience!"

The presupposition is supposedly that you’ll be buying the baked ham and it will be a part of your holiday season. But is that really NLP? Or is that salesmanship 101 where you assume the sale?

It may be splitting hairs just like trying to distinguish hypnotic techniques from NLP patterns. Harlan is undoubtedly the best NLP Copywriting teacher. I’m not convinced on this point though.

I also wanted to say that in my upcoming video, I did my best to eliminate traditional sales tactics in favor of huge doses of NLP. You won’t see techniques like assuming the sale being taught as NLP.

If you’re looking for a great book on straightforward persuasion, check out Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence or even the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People .

The Ultimate Intellectual Property

The final fronter for intellectual property seems to be NLP’s ability to model people.

Harlan Kilstein’s modeling seminar ended last Friday (I didn’t go but I may get the DVDs at some point).

In it, he was going to share and install his models of several A list copywriters. As part of the promotion leading up to it, he shared a model of negotiating he’d modeled from two top negotiators. The interesting thing about that was that one of the exemplars (person being modeled) wasn’t a willing contributor.

And then John Carlton posted recently that he’d done a live seminar in which he went through the process of what he does even before he starts writing copy to make sure it goes like greased lightning every time. It’s in the PS if you want to see what he said about it.


So what’s the deal? Do each of us have some kind of intellectual property over our own personalities? I don’t know. It’s an interesting question. As long as you keep growing and improving, no one will ever be a better you than you are. I don’t know about the ethical implications of modeling people who don’t want to be modeled.

In reviewing Persuasion Engineering , Richard Bandler said that many top entrepreneurs (esp. in MLM) were recovered drug addicts. James Brausch comes to mind. He’s told his story of recovery on his blog openly. Evidently the deal is that an addict’s life depends on him following directions to the t. I definitely see that in James’ story. That skill then serves him well in following business systems.

So it’s more than just copying the outward behaviors of a successful person. To truly get the same results, there’s the whole mental and emotional components too. If you think and feel what they do, then you’ll really behave as they do. In NLP, it’s known as acting "as if." That’s pretty different than the mantra, "fake it ’til you make it." In the latter, you’re acting with the full knowledge that you’re not doing or believing the same thing. In the former, you’re taking action with the same foundational beliefs and will eventually replicate the outcome.

All that’s to say that if someone wants to model James Brausch or others like him, I bet that would be a hot selling product. I may see about doing it myself some day if no one else gets around to it.

EDIT: I actually wrote this post last Friday and scheduled the posting for Tuesday. During that time, James came out with a new product that sounds eerily like what I’d just suggested. Of course it’s a 27 minute DVD so I doubt it’s a full NLP model. Funny thing about the timing though.

Free Copies of James Brausch’s Newsletter

James Brausch has launched a new newsletter called, "Testing." You can read a little about it here:


The deal is that he’ll give you an emailed version of the first issue if you request it on your blog like I’m doing here. Additional details are here:


And to whoever from James’ site that’s reading this, I can be contacted at writing at louisrburns.com.

PS. To everyone else, yes, the NLP Copywriting video is still in the works. It looks like it’s going to be quite a bit longer than the hour I was originally planning. Some of this goes way beyond anything Harlan taught us. I’ll also be showing you why even your attitude about people will make a huge difference in the way you use NLP. I’m excited for you.

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