Inspire Change Through Words

33 Copywriting & Messaging Principles For The Rising Personal Development Star



What does it mean when a prostitute’s gut growls?

That was the topic of the original introduction to this book. But I had to change it. Too racy. As I intend to publish a large fraction of this book for free, I didn’t want to get penalized by Google. I’ll include the original if there’s ever a print version. For now, I’ll just say this: all any audible gastrointestinal contraction means about anyone is that they’re human.

How Does This Have Anything To Do With Being A Personal Development Copywriter?

It depends. When did your personal development journey begin? I like to think mine started when I was 19, waking up from a heroin overdose for the third time in the shower, being held by my screaming girlfriend, with a river of blood squirting from the vein where a needle poked a hole. 

But I’ve come to realize that we may have the wrong idea about personal development; the traditional paths that lead us to better ourselves don’t always begin where we believe them to. And buckle up, Superstar, because this is going to get nice and philosophical, but I promise to round back to the good stuff. Plus if you’re a true personal development junkie, you eat information and knowledge for breakfast, and this’ll be nothing more than a snack.

The Grandiose Shadow Of The Personal Development Industry

You could say most of our lives are dedicated to personal development. From the moment we’re born, in some way we are continuing to develop ourselves. Even people we’d classify as “lazy” or “losers”—adults who’ve given up, so to speak—continue to develop themselves throughout life. 

The kid who dropped out of high school to sell drugs and became a criminal had to develop keen street instincts to continue his schemes. Until he got sent to prison. Then he had to develop himself to understand the dynamics of the big house, at the risk of death. 

His classmate who also dropped out because she got pregnant at 16, only to have three more kids in a span of five years, all from different fathers, undoubtedly had to personally develop herself enough to care for her children. Being a mother is a hard job, and many may conjure up images of a skinny, meth-addicted girl smoking a cigarette while holding a baby as I tell this story, but let’s say for a second that is who we’re talking about: she’s had to continuously improve her wits to keep on living the existence that you judge so much.

We hear stories like these in traditional personal development circles, but only as overtures to grand symphonic tales of redemption: the classic “I was down and out, only to turn my life around” Campbellian monomyth of rebirth. 

It’s a classic tale any personal development or self-help copywriter can’t help but rehash (because it works).

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m all for people turning their lives around for the better. As I once told my friend who took issue with the echoes of dogma that fill the room of every 12-step program around: if someone finds enlightenment within AA, even though I think it’s annoying that all they do is repeat the same platitudes over and over, I’m happy to see them doing so, as opposed to smoking crack on the street, or drowning to death in a bottle. 

The issue I take is with the grandiosity specific to “the personal development industry” that (and this is from Wikipedia):

Personal development or self-improvement consists of activities that develop a person’s capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.

As if human beings, regardless of their intent, aren’t always developing themselves. 

I saw a homeless man on the subway near Hollywood just last week who was selling tasers, pepper spray, and phone chargers. I very much doubt his intent was to “facilitate employability” or fully realize his “dreams and aspirations,” but his instinct and ingenuity were the result of developing himself enough to know the supply and demand of goods in the area (two women bought pepper spray for $20 a pop, and he upsold them both tasers for $10 more). But you won’t see him jumping up and down at a Tony Robbins event, being lauded for his brilliant street hustle.

Which means you must view the development of the self as an innately universal human process; it transcends external identities like class. 

In one way or another, whether you’re:

  • A personal development Superstar in the making who’s on the precipice of massive growth, and you understand the role copywriting and marketing will play in your next level’s reality, or…
  • A personal development copywriting Superstar, whose passion for knowledge and excellence will drive you to the top of the A-List, and you’re hungry for any bit of information that can give you an edge along the journey

The sooner you understand that we’re all motivated by the same human instincts, the sooner you can communicate with people on a larger scale. 

Because I know you want to help people. I know about the fire that lights you up inside, how badly you want to enrich yourself by enriching the lives of others, and your desire to see the audience’s eyes twinkle when it finally clicks for them. 

And for my Superstar copywriter, I know how you dream of setting the industry on fire, and getting paid the big bucks to write about transformational products that you’d consume and write about for free anyway.

It’s the same fire that propels me forward: to educate people that what drives true transformation is the ability to communicate with people on a human level. 

That’s how you inspire change through words.

Why Should You Listen To Me?

I was asked by a business consultant what I was most proud of one year. I thought about it, and said, “I wrote a speech for the CEO of a bank, and after he delivered it to the board, he said they walked out of that meeting a completely different business.”

There had been other accomplishments that year. But this was the one I thought of. Knowing I had mastered the ability to move people through my words made it worth the years of sacrifice.

I got sober at 19, shortly after that overdose I mentioned earlier. Seven years later I sought help for sex addiction (the original introduction’s topic that I shall tell you about another time), which was in 2016, and coincidentally ended up being the same year I began my career as a freelance copywriter. So it makes sense that my profession and my personal development journey are so closely intertwined.

After two years, I quit my 9-5 to freelance full time, joining one of the most sought after agencies in the online space, Conscious Copy & Co., whose roster of clients included the likes of Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Eben Pagan Training, Bulletproof, JJ Virgin, Joe Polish, and more. Since then I’ve also:

  • Ghostwritten for NFL players, multimillion-dollar entrepreneurs, and household names in business that I’m bound by NDA to never speak of
  • Ranked several of my SEO clients on Google’s first page for their most in-demand offers, taking a product-driven approach to quality
  • Trained businesses and/or their writers, and mentored many other juniors, in the art of writing emotionally compelling copy, resulting in my students actually generating revenue from teachings on the spot
  • Been featured as a case study in The Harvard Business Review, published in the Huffington Post, banned from writing for Buzzfeed (which is a long story), and quoted as an expert in Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and more. 

Not Only That, But I Should Also Be Dead

I’ve written about it extensively, but personal development is near and dear to my heart because of what I’ve gone through to be here with you, sharing these words:

  • I grew up surrounded by drugs and crime since I was old enough to remember (one of my earliest memories was walking in on my grandmother in the kitchen heating drugs in a spoon)
  • My grandmother was a drug dealer for the Dominican mafia in the Midwest, and I remember the DEA raiding our house when I was 11 (among other gruesome memories like her boyfriend being shot by rivals and left on the side of the highway—same man who would bring me gifts whenever he came over)
  • My first gram of cocaine I bought from her when I was 14, and I started selling ounces of the stuff by the time I was 16
  • Eventually I was strung out on heroin by 18, but not after almost getting killed by some really bad people for using up a half-ounce of the stuff and never paying them back—only reason I got out of it was because the head guy wanted to marry my grandma 
  • I ended up going to rehab and getting sober when I was 19, and have been sober ever since, but I’ve had my ups and downs with other forms of addiction and mental illness, including depression, dysmorphia, and bouts of suicidal ideation
  • Through it all, I’ve devoured personal development books, courses, and information to continuously improve myself, from the classics like Nathaniel Branden, Napoleon Hill, and Stephen Covey, to more modern names like Pia Mellody, Robert Greene, Thich Nhat Hanh, and more in between

Sometimes I look back at my life and feel like many forces have conspired for a very long time to kill me. But I’ve persevered through it all. 

Whenever I’m struggling, I seek to learn as much about my problem and how to fix it as possible. It’s the same way I approach my career as a marketing professional and copywriter.

When done right, what we do is magic. We help people create lasting change in their lives. I’ve seen it happen many times. 


Guy on the left wrote several books and is training for a marathon after years of taking the time to work on himself; guy on the right has worked pretty hard to get to where he is, but still can’t figure out why he sabotages all of his opportunities, and his relationships are a mess.

And I’m going to give you everything I’ve got in hopes that it helps you help someone else.



Copywriting & Messaging Principle #1: Know The Arc Of Transformation

Your ability to deliver transformation to those you can help depends on whether you understand the specific moment when they will be open to receiving your message. Know the arc, or transformation is impossible.

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