Old-Fashioned Discernment in the Age of the Internet


You know what’s wrong with the Internet??

Smart people and stupid people get equal airtime.

And since stupid people tend to shout longer and louder than people who have acquired wisdom and judgment, ignorance generally prevails.

Is that a bit too cynical for you?

When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00, for every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, you will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a cheque. I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this e-mail…

Remember that one? Did any of your friends fall for this and forward it to you?

I rest my case.

Listen up: The stupid will always be with us. “If you don’t want to win, no one will stop you.”Stupidity is not a function of capability, it is a choice.

At any Hooters restaurant, on any given day and at any given time, there’s a guy in there who thinks the waitress is attracted to him. Did you see that, Bill? She’s hot for me. Did you see how she was looking at me? I’m tellin’ ya, she’s gonna give me her phone number, just you see, Bill..

Uh-huh. Yep. Sure Steve, I think she really does like you.

(Reality is no match for a good fantasy.)

OK, so what’s the point? The point is, stupidity is cheap and plentiful. With stupidity, your options appear to be endlessly open. Enticing possibilities, immediate, apparent, as though you could just…

Wisdom is scarce and expensive and usually involves up-front commitments.

You decide between the two, every hour of the day.

Your customers decide between the two, every hour of the day.

At my first engineering job there was a guy in the next cubicle named Boris, who was a Russian immigrant. Boris explained to me what it was like to stand in bread lines in the Soviet Union and have virtually zero choices, then come to America and walk into a supermarket and suddenly be assaulted with choices, inundated with options from every direction.

The effect on him was visceral. Physically overpowering. It was so shocking that some of his Russian friends literally got on the plane and went back home, to where the number of choices was manageable once again.

That conversation happened fifteen years ago. How many more choices do we have now than then? No less than 100 times more, probably 1000 times more.

1000 times more people talking and sending out newsletters, and only you can decide who to pay attention to. 1000 times more places to spend or invest your money. 1000 times more businesses you can get into. 1000 times more opportunities to screw up. 1000 times more opportunities to succeed.

How do you navigate?

Being tech savvy won’t help. College education won’t help. A faster Internet connection or 30″widescreen monitor won’t help. Having more connections and a bigger rolodex won’t help. Being more motivated won’t help. Being a better copywriter won’t help. Getting more visitors to your website won’t help. A bigger email list won’t help.

No, all these things will only get you in more trouble, faster, unless you have THE number one 21st century success skill.

In the 21st century the #1 success skilla skill that NOBODY ever seems to talk about – is discernment.

Discernment (di-sûrnment) n. Keenness of insight and judgment.

“How Do You Teach Someone Discernment?”

That’s a million dollar question, my friend. And the best answer I can give you is… you just have to watch both stupid and smart people thrashing around in the mosh pit of life and begin to discern the difference. It’s all in the contrast.

In no particular order, my own observations of wise men vs. fools:

  • Stupid people proudly step forward and identify themselves. They self-select. As soon as this newsletter issue hits the streets, people who are angry about this newsletter and this irrelevant first section which “obviously has nothing to do with marketing”will send nasty emails and cancel their membership. This naturally weeds the stupid people out of my Renaissance Club. (When I gave Mendy this newsletter to proofread, that was her very first comment to me.)
  • Smart people read Cosmopolitan to learn how to write compelling copy. Stupid people read Cosmopolitan because they think they’re actually going to get what the copy on Cosmo promises. (Or because they think that Cosmo is interested in honoring and empowering the female gender.) Honey, I’m sorry to break the news to you, but if it’s got airbrushed tits on the front cover, it’s probably more about using women than empowering them.
  • Wise decisions involve obvious terms, clearly enunciated costs, certain drawbacks, and many of the true benefits may be written in the fine print. (Your wedding vows, for example.)
  • Foolish decisions have immense appeal and obvious benefits with easy-looking terms and… lots of fine print that spells out the true cost.
  • Wise people research history and read original sources. Fools check on the latest buzz. Most “direct marketers”and most people in most marketing and advertising jobs have never read Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, for example.
  • Most people who go into a new business do not research the history of that business or find out why so many others who went into that business failed. (Do you know who the original sources are in your industry? I can guarantee you, most of your peers have heard of them but few have ever read them.)
  • Wise people research online and offline. Wise people take a trip to the library and search collections of used books. Fools suppose that if it can’t be found on the first page of search engine results, it surely must not exist.
  • Wise people know that education costs money.
  • Fools think that “information wants to be free.” Hey, if information is defined as that which most people don’t know or can’t know, then free information isn’t really information at all, is it?
  • Wise people focus on timeless principles. Fools focus on quick tricks. In March I did a teleclinic with Jonathan Mizel and Glenn Livingston, explaining the “www dash”technique. In short, it’s a domain name trick where, for example, you can’t buy http://doctor.com – but you can buy http://www-doctor.com. This can dramatically increase the CTR on a Google ad or other web advertising link, typically by 70% or more. Very exciting, potentially misleading, in some cases it’s the difference between a successful web project and an unsuccessful one. But if it’s the only competitive advantage you have, it’s gonna be short-lived. I don’t really like this technique (Bryan doesn’t either), but do I teach it as a competitive weapon that can be used very effectively in certain circumstances. And I also made sure that in our teleclinic, we delivered some substantial marketing strategies along with the promised tricks and techniques.
  • Wise people know that principles are simple and techniques are complicated. Fools think techniques are simple and quite sufficient for success anyway. They won’t be bothered with the underlying principles. That stuff is too involved and too boring. Plus, “black hat”is more fun anyway, isn’t it?
  • The wise make time to do things right the first time. Fools never have time to do it right the first time, but somehow they find the time to do it over again… and again… and again.
  • When wise people get criticism from another wise person, they ask, “Hey, is there anything else I should know?”Fools mouth off to the coach when he tells them to do their pushups.
  • Fools think only of the immediate benefit; Wise men think three or six or ten chess moves ahead and consider the long term consequences. Once at Dan Kennedy’s VIP meeting, Dan illustrated a perfect example of this.The new Eminent Domain decision had just been handed down by the Supreme Court, which states that if your local government thinks your Cabin On The Lake isn’t generating enough tax revenue, they can pay you what the tax rolls say it’s worth and sell it to a developer who wants to build condos on it.(This is one of the most fundamental and far-reaching confiscations of personal rights in the last 100 years, altering the very nature of property ownership.) Dan had calculated the long-term implications of this on real estate prices, under-the-table election payoffs, impact on the political process, and its far-reaching effects on developers and investors.Yet most people in real estate that he spoke to hadn’t the slightest idea that this was important and were not even following to the Supreme Court case at all.

I don’t know that anyone can just sit down and teach you to be wise. You can’t go to a seminar and acquire this vital 21st century skill in an exciting, star-studded weekend getaway. However, you can:

  • Become aware of the distinction and begin thinking about it and noticing it – because vital lessons are literally everywhere in your life, quietly shouting to you to be noticed and absorbed.
  • Associate with wise people, and distance yourself from people who always seem to be screwing up their life with bad decisions.You can’t fix them anyway.
  • Seek and accept sound advice, even when it’s uncomfortable, negative or embarrassing.
  • Disregard the raucous shouting, the flattery and surface level buzz, and tune into the quiet, calm voice of reason.
  • Watch the Jerry Springer show, pen and paper in hand. Write down every mannerism, expression, motive and impulse you observe, and… expunge those habits from your life.

Oh, and every business you see advertising on Jerry Springer, make sure you’re never in a position to need to patronize. And then… don’t ever watch Jerry Springer again, or hang out in places like your local Laundromat where it’s on all the time.

Perry Marshall

This article is an excerpt from the Perry Marshall Marketing Letter, which is sent out monthly via good old fashioned snail mail. Try a subscription for $99 and get $600 of cool stuff just for giving it a whirl – www.perrymarshall.com/club

Archived Comments

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  • Ty Talbert says:

    This is the first time I’ve taken the time to make a comment on line.
    Discernment (Wisdom) is something I pray for often.
    I stress principles over techniques to those I train.
    I will be directing my children, students and friends to this.

    Thank you,
    Ty Talbert
    [email protected]

  • Alasdair Morgan says:

    Many thanks for this Perry! This was a great, great article IMO. I realize I’m stupid a lot of the time – or at least fantasizing – particularly when it comes to opps on the net. Thanks for the wake up call!

  • Dat To says:

    As always your writing is gripping and relevant. Solid Sense.

  • Mario Kluser says:

    Hi Perry,

    First of all: excuse my English (not native).

    A couple of days ago I was wondering what makes me read your newsletter. The reason is simple as that: you share valuable information and you are straight to the point in an entertaining manner. Even though there are readers out there who can’t cope with the truth you are sharing with them. It can be hard to face the facts.

    I receive(d) many newsletters over the years. Many of them I canceled finally because they almost are reminders from so called Guru’s who want to remind me on the fact that their product must be bought now, otherwise I will never have a chance to purchase it. Pity me. Don’t misunderstand me here, I know that deadlines are useful. But not in every effing newsletter, written by somebody who delivers nothing else than deadlines.

    What in my opinion separates the men from the boys is that what you are doing: You send useful information to your subscribers and so now and then there is a direct offer involved, while others do the opposite.

    Have a nice day,

  • Fred Merlo says:

    Hi Perry, once again you have provided the reason why I stay subscribed to your newsletter and while I can attest to having lacked discernment at times with regard to the net, mainly out of false hope, I am grateful for the wisdom you share which gives me the belief that while there are some questionable operators out there, theres only a few of them, but they move around a lot!

    Perry I thankyou for the continued words of wisdom and information you provide in your newsletters and I look forward to being more than a subscriber as soon as I am in a position to do so, which shouldnt be long now.

    May everyone have a Wonderful Day!

    God Bless

  • Brad Roseborough says:

    Perry, this is great! True, funny, sometimes embarrassing because I have made some dumb choices I’d rather not re-live, but at least I learned from them (I hope).

    Just a side comment: The thing that you say is wrong with the Internet, that smart people and stupid people get equal time, could also apply to some of our public institutions: The UN, Congress . . .

  • Jo de Jong says:

    As a newbie affiliate marketer trying to start a ‘learn-along-with-me’ site for other newbies, I find enormous amounts of inspiration here, as well as articulate explanations of the basic principles of marketing and, above all, straight from the shoulder advice that never wavers from the highest standards of integrity and excellence.

    I might do well to tell my site visitors and list members, “Don’t do like I do, do like Perry Marshall says to do.”

    Sincere thanks for the vast amount of free and worthwhile material made available–like this superb article.

  • Stephen Orchard says:

    Great counsel, Perry
    Miss your letter and the Mastermind Club, going through some tough times right now but the plan is to get back on track and subscribe. Thank you for not deleting me and giving me some of your recent thoughts.

    You are a ‘high beam’ on the info highway! :) I know, an antiquated term!

  • Mark Baker says:

    “Smart people and stupid people get equal airtime.”

    Actually by the nature of things stupid people are attractive to far more people than smart (confusing?, “nerdy”) ones so they generally get more airtime – newspaper space etc.

    And of course in any advertising supported medium its easier to sell large volumes of low quality (high margin) goods to stupid people than to smart ones – so guess who the medium is going to be aimed at.

    Television is worse of course – less room for niches. Certainly in the UK one of the best ways for smart people to get on network television is to be able to do impressions of stupid people most of the time – or to have a secondary “cool skill”.

  • Ron Nelson says:

    Thanks Perry, for an excellent article. Discernment is certainly an important characteristic of wisdom. And principles are universal tools that come in handy in any situation in life.

    I submit that learning, applying and experiencing a set of essential & universal principles might be one of the fastest tracks toward discernment and wisdom. To this end I am going to publish a book on the “7 Secret Principles” of life, taken from the ultimate source of Wisdom – the Bible. I will give you a notice when the book is ready.


  • Kyle Whitford says:

    What kind of world includes Jerry Springer, Barack Obama, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Nelson Mandella, Ken Wilber, Adi Da, Pema Chodron, Led Zeppelin, Britney Spears, David Wolfe, Steve Pavlina, Frank Kern, Perry Marshall and all each of them stands for? An Integral World. All as it should be and, yes, some are more adequate than others. All have some partial truth. And the beat goes on…

  • Captain Dave says:

    You Are Right On Perry. Appreciate your Newsletter and The Relevent
    information imparted..Keep it Up. Eniment Domain was interesting,
    sometimes we are Not aware of all that goes on around us before it is to Late..

    Capt. DAVE

  • Kari Baxter says:

    I knew there was a reason I love you.

    “Watch the Jerry Springer show, pen and paper in hand. Write down every mannerism, expression, motive and impulse you observe, and… expunge those habits from your life.”

    I’m not even using PPC right now and I devour your newsletters, one of the few I haven’t unsubscribed from lately trying to “quiet that surface level buzz” and use my discernment.

    Thank you for reminding me I’m on the right track.

    Kari Baxter

  • Jerokiah Darr says:

    Hi Perry,

    I read every word because of the way you use an in-your-face approach to discerning the facts of life. The only reason this would be considered a controversial post is because of the existence of those riding coat-tails and chasing the shiny new ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to financial short-comings. Thank you for your integrity.

    My members and subscribers will have access to your teachings. :)

    God Bless,

  • Bex says:

    Perry, this is such a great piece – thank you. I realise I have been hunkering down in the fools’ camp for far too long. Foolishness and fear often go hand in hand, I think, as do wisdom and patience. Your post is a clarion call to me to calm down, stop snatching at the latest quick fix and commit myself to some steady, thorough growth. I can’t tell you how much I needed that, but I did (and do..) Thanks.


  • Peter Brissette says:


    Articles like this from you are exactly why I have unsubscribed from all but a few of the “internet” money making guru’s out there and focused my attention on those that I see are built more on principle and long term thinking than just the hot thing of the day.


    Peter Brissette

  • Howard E. Deutch says:

    Great article. Simple, yet profound truths. Thank you.

  • Charles Todd says:

    Awesome article and awesome advice Perry. Definitely one of the best I’ve ever read. I experience a real frustration in building my list and getting people into my funnel. The main reason, I don’t post any flashy or obnoxious income claims. My goal is to give people the reality of our business not the Mickey Mouse hype. I always look to over-deliver. The challenge with all of this is people are in love with the hype. As you stated in the article “reality is no match for fantasy.” So I’m always faced with pressing the creativity envelope by accentuating the real benefits without crossing any lines of violating integrity. You’re articles are a great help and I thank you for making me better.

  • Demetrius Brady says:


    Thanks to you and your mission, as a high level marketer and a man. It is clear from your approach and intent that you have got it right. The free information you provide, set me in the right direction from the start.

    I just made sense. I like your toughness! You are not afraid to throw the dagger, aimed at the all the posers. I have finally gotten in the position to get alot of your programs. My next move is to opt out of all of the others and focus solely on your education.

    I am truly grateful for your sincere leadership. Realizing that you are simply the best, now that’s some discernment for your ASS!


  • Tom Dewell says:

    Once again, right on! This is why I read all your emails from cover to cover and am in your Renaissance Club.

  • Dr. George Burroughs says:

    Thanks Perry. I literally just finished an email to a very good friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer – less then one month after her wedding. She asked for advice (I’m a holistic Chiropractor) and prayer. I told her that my prayer from God for her right now is DISCERNMENT. I then opened this email from you and, sure enough, it’s about discernment. Demonstrating discernment – especially when there are many around you screaming advice – goes far beyond Internet Marketing. Thanks again for the timely article.

    Dr. George Burroughs

  • Ryan Shaw says:

    Hi Perry,

    I kind of like the stupid people. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t make all the money being wise! With great power, comes great responsibility however and enjoy that you are doing things the right way. Way to go giving it the way it is!

  • Mark E Thurston says:

    One reason I named my company Discerning Image LLC. (To remind me not to be distracted by all the pretty shiny objects I come across like some brain dead crow. Still, nature is a hard one to break. Lol.)

  • Mike says:

    Just had to respond to Kyle’s remark about “all have some partial truth”. In the real world, a half truth is still a lie. In business leaving out part of the truth is fraud, if it’s material to the decision. And in a practical sense, there may be some undigested kernals of corn in a terd, but it’s still crap, and not fit for human consumption.

    The idea that “there’s a little bit of truth” in anyone’s bunch of lies and that makes it worth anything is just stupid. Much like saying there’s some corn in that poo yet, so it’s worth eating.

    That’s why I love your writing Perry; It’s all corn, no poo, even when it has nothing to do with marketing.

  • Chris Clark says:

    Hi Perry,

    Whatever the wisdom or otherwise of the crowds, keenness and insight has never been at such a premium when configuring online marketing programs for my clients against a total smothering of win the earth promising SM charlatons (sorry, practitioners). They are everywhere attracting filled rooms.

    Honestly that Social Media survey you did should rank as a public service to protect people from their own gullabilty with that list of comments nailed top to bottom of London’s Natwest Tower for everyone to see.

  • Nick Neilson says:

    3 Ways To Help Your Audience use Discernment and decide that buying form you is the wise choice:

    Precursor: Remember the three things that everyone needs to believe before they buy something:

    1 – They need to believe in you – that you’re a real person, that you’re a real authority, and you’re not a swindler. More than that they need to believe that you understand the nuances of their pains and desires.

    2 – They need to believe in your product/service – that it really will do what you say it will do. This gets 80% of the attention but is only 20% of the puzzle in my mind.

    3 – The forgotten clincher – they need to believe in themselves – that your product/service will work for them despite all their past failures, all the criticism and put downs they get about those failures, etc.

    Okay, so here’s how I notice people doing that:

    1 – Attract them with something TIMELY: This correlates directly with principle 2 above. Timeliness and specificity is the single most effective tool in giving your product/service the depth it needs to seem tangible when someone’s reading about it.

    2 – WISELY interweave all of the elements that are TIMELESS: This correlates directly with principle 3 above. Timelessness is the best way to foil the person’s “oh but that won’t work for me” shopping ejection seat. A timeless principle is a respecter of no one. It works for those who follow it. It ruins those who ignore it. Help your client visualize and understand deeply why that’s true.

    3 – So what about principle 1 above – that they have to believe in you. Here’s the irony. The authority you desperately need comes primarily as a natural by-product of being able to successfully interweave the timely with the timeless.

    Why? Pure and simple – less than 5% of your competitors are doing it.

    Carpet cleaning is a great example of all timelessness – but nothing timely – just an eternal 20% off coupon and the annual “going back to school” promotion.

    The Real Estate Investing Boom was a great example of timeliness – but nothing timeless – just get in now, everything’s changed, there’s no risk, you’re an idiot not to do it.

    So you attract them with what’s timely, you focus them on what’s timeless, and you give them a compelling tangible glimpse at what will be true about their life after buying your product/service that isn’t true about their life now – usually through a set of really well written bullet points – and the authority takes care of itself.

    Testimonials, endorsements, audits, bank statements, whatever… that all helps and is very valid. But it’s not the core. As Glenn may say – that’s a point of entry, not a point of difference. The difference is that you can get up on a soap box and evangelize a segment of the masses with what’s timely and then make them lasting converts by guiding them to what’s timeless.

    I posted this because I feel it’s the most effective way to cut through the noise and hopefully take someone out of the market and capture their full attention for long enough to sell them something.

    Discernment is what we want, but it’s also what we need to help our client’s achieve within the confines of a sales letter.

    As always, thanks for the invigorating articles and newsletters Perry. Your discussion forums are a great place to sharpen the saw.

  • Adam says:


    After reading this, I realize I still have some fool in me. Thanks for the great reminder to keep aiming for wisdom and discernment!

    PS: on your reco I read Scientific Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods by Claude Hopkins.
    Another great one to read is My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

  • Alex Newell says:

    I have screen fulls of unread emails but amidst the shouting of raucous subject lines, “free software”, Are you too late?, “I have a gift for you”… I find Discernment and Simplification.

    This is one of the most extraordinary articles I have read – and certainly the best in the Marketing field.

    Thank You!


  • Luke Brown says:

    Yeah, Perry! America continues on its daily ‘dumbing down’ path and so many don’t care or accept it. The radio duo Mark and Brian are perfect examples, actually expressing pride in their stupidity.

    The low (or non-existent) barrier of entry to the internet soapbox allows, as you said, any moron to shout, thinking volume equates to intelligence.

    I’ve always had a short fuse for stupidity and gullibility. It’s one reason I like your blog and website. You tell it like it is, the idiots be damned! Thanks and keep it up, Perry.

  • Trish says:

    Thank you Perry.

    Are you sure you’re not a Buddhist at heart?

    Discernment is one of its cherished principles, if my understanding is correct.

    Thanks for reconstituting this article by sending a link to it again today.

  • Rodney Daut says:


    This is right on. I actually think having too much access to too much “information” might be making us a bit dumber. We make worse decisions because we are allowing ourselves to be bombarded.

    To get through this we need to actually limit our exposure to new information. Read less email. Limit our hours of TV.

    I’m sure others can come up with more ideas.

    Then do actual thinking with some of that free time that opens up.


  • Trevor says:

    It took me over a year after leaving school to realize how stupid the general population is and that I had also been a fool most of my life, basing my decisions off of others without taking the time to think for myself.

    After finding my way through the smoke and mirrors I can honestly say that I am not the same gullible weak person I once was. I am now “discerning” and very much in awe of how easily people can be shuffled around by those who are both manipulative and intelligent.

    I don’t think I would ever trade my painful learning & wandering experience for anything because it has made me a better stronger person.

  • Ramon says:

    Hi Perry:

    Usually I prefer to remain silent and listen so I’m able to pay attention to what people say, and only when the time is right, I express an idea if it’s fit. This article is one of those rare occasions that makes me give an opinion, so here it goes:

    Smart people are a few – Stupid people are everyone else.
    Both need money: smart ones should receive it, stupid ones should give it away.
    Smart people and stupid people just won’t get along so easily.
    So smart people won’t pay a dime ever to someone stupid.
    On the other hand, stupid people won’t pay a dime ever to someone boasting he’s smart.
    So we have a conflict. How do we solve it? Easy:
    Every one of us is a mirror to everybody else and they want to see in us what they love about themselves. So let’s give them that. That’s how people become friends, when they’re sincere in they’re hearts. That’s how people do business, when it’s money they’re after to fill their pockets. The similar will always attract the similar: smart people like smart people and the same thing happens with morons. So since I blindly think I’m smart, what I do to fill my wallet with stupid-people’s money is to deliberately wear an invisible mask that on the outside and in my newsletters makes me seem “stupid” in front of my readers in such a way they see themselves reflected in my writing, so they being stupid connect with me, say things like “you know exactly how I feel, thank you so much for understanding” and so I gain rapport, we become “friends” and with a little patience I sell them what they “blindly believe they need” and I get paid… multiply that model by the thousands of stupid people the web lets us reach so easily applying your teachings Perry, then it’s no surprise that almost anyone can become very wealthy very quickly in this age… even stupid people. In fact, it’s easier for stupid people to become rich with this system because they don’t have to fake the fact that they’re stupid for real, when for us smart people it’s harder because we knowing all this, we have to work our asses off to fake it ’til we make it… go figure. I

    I can discern that and I thought it was to important to share it. Best regards Perry.

  • Wayne Myers says:

    Thanks Perry, as always, for your candor and insight.

    I’m adding “discernment” to my short list of essential attributes (up there with Dan Kennedy’s “congruent behavior”).

    Not easy, but definitely critical.


  • DaveC says:

    Perry is a frakking genius.

  • Alan says:

    Perry has nailed it once again.

    There is no time more important than now to make discernment a part of one’s make-up. I am beseiged daily by 10’s if not 100’s of offers to make me the next $10,000/ day internet marketing earner by sigining up for their program. The problem is, is that 99.8% of these programs are BS, some well designed to take advantage of that “need” many of us have to earn money and get out of our current economic dilemma while others are genuine programs that with hard work and intelligent action, can allow you to build an income (and not overnight!).

    Not only can discerning between the two, good vs. bad, be critical, you have to be able to make an assessmnet without spening countless hours doing so. That for me is the key. I could look at all the promos out there, the countless well-designed landing pages, and before I know it be overwhelmed and have lost hours of valuable time. How many of us have seen the almighty “screen shot” of someone’s ClickBank account showing how $100’s if not $1,000’s have been made. Really? Not another screen shot of how much money you have made? C’mon.

    Keep the principles above in mind and that will help you sift through the crap quickly and at least make that first fork in the road an easier choice. Good Luck!

  • Peter (IMC) says:

    The thing with wisdom and stupidity is that it you can’t teach people to be wise. You can trick people into stupidity though, but smart people will notice and then get upset with themselves (in stead of with the person tricking them) for being so stupid to not have noticed it right away.

    It reminds me of the intelligence quiz:

    In the intelligence quiz you have to guess of your self if you have a high IQ or a low IQ. And if you won, that means you have a high IQ.

  • Chris Rempel says:

    Hey! This has nothing to do with marketing!


    Just kidding, Perry. Awesome article.

    It’s ironic that it’s actually EASIER to do things the right way, the fundamental way, the first time – than it is to “maximize” everything to death with all the latest tricks or black-hat tactics.

    And you’re right in saying that the problem with the ‘net is that both fools and sages are given equal stage time.

    But all it takes is to apply the “time filter” to see who lasts, and who doesn’t. As far as discernment goes, that’s often the simplest indicator.



  • Phyllis K Twombly says:

    …and expunge…(it’s like aerobics!)

    This requires some self-reflection, which a lot of people are hesitant to do.

    “What do you mean I’m not perfect the way I am?” is of course, the stupid answer. Another lesson in no pain, no gain. Ironically we become closer to perfection the more we learn and integrate personal improvements.

  • gerard sanfourche says:

    Thanks Perry, I feel better now.
    I knew I wasn´t alone, but I didn´t think we were so many.
    I don´t know how fast I may change from one side to another, but you can be sure I start right now.
    By the way, if ALWAYS reading your letter is discernment, I had that one already.
    Thanks again.


  • Web Design says:

    So true ..Or to put it another way. The biggest problem Man has is telling the important from the unimportant.

  • Ted O’Grady says:

    “Stupid is as stupid does.”
    Forrest Gump

  • James Allen says:


    Effing Darn Right!! He He He I’m feeling a bromance coming on. Love your stuff dude.

  • Patricia says:

    Love this article not just for content but absolute timing of my reading it.

    Yikes! My problem is that I am surrounded by stupid people and I just don’t know how to discern them away “nicely.” It does hurt when these people are your family and some friends and they choose lower levels of discernment than the people that change and grow over time.

    I will send them to read your article… so aptly put and all people will “get it” but may not see it in themselves to greater or lesser degrees. I think the really sad part for our economy today and families today is that not enough “smart” people are holding the stupid-who-could-be-smart people accountable for playing stupid to make sales or win money or be elected or married. (Ever watched the Bachelor? me neither) We really need a good ole fashioned revolution.

    Taking personal responsibility is great but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A few of the stupid people can really ruin the day and business of more smarties than we give them credit of doing. I mean you don’t have to watch Springer, just turn on an “all news all day” channel with about 3/4 of the stupids pretending and selling smart to other greater stupids. Or corporate message owned newspapers or digital in store advertising… You just can’t get out of their way fast enough these days…I wish it were as simple as turning off the tube.

    We should be really scared now. And I don’t think it is 50/50 anymore.

    Thanks for taking the time to articulate this growing epidemic of the stupids running the show — and noting that the “intentional stupids” should see the responsibility they shirk staying that way or suffer some “unintended consequence.” Just because they are artificially inflated doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold them accountable for sucking out all the oxygen from our half of the life, sales, business or relationship.

    And those that drop off since this ain’t marketing… don’t have a clue about marketing at all.

    you go, Perry!

  • Brian says:

    This is a great article. These tips on discernment can help anyone pick out who to listen to. There are tons of internet “gurus” out there. If you match up what they say against these principles, you can weed out fly by nighters from the tried and true.
    Perry- You are on my short list of those I follow. Keep up the good work.

  • Giuseppe says:

    Hi, thank you for this great piece that I will PRINT and read again.

  • Julia Rymut says:

    Hi Perry,

    You really hit the nail on the head. The internet is full of dribble by the fools.

    One thing you point out is that it takes both discernment of what is outside yourself (on the internet) as well as what is inside yourself.

    I have been working on my internet business for a couple of years. I am business producing content and learning the steps from some great masters. In the beginning, what I produced was not great.

    Now I am creating content and writing and I see that I must step up or be left in the company of the fools.

    Fools can not discern when it’s time to polish their own game–to offer to their customers something of true value. Fools are happy to produce more and more of the same old meaningless nonsense that everyone parrots.

    Thank you for this great post,


  • Donn says:

    Hi Perry.

    As always, you hit the nail on the head. Here’s a good example. I got an email this am from a guy whose command of the English language is roughly equivalent to a 4 year old. I’m not dishing him for that, but he said he has made 1.9 million dollars etc. I couldn’t help myself, I had to see because I need a good laugh this A.M.. Sure enough, the first earnings screenshot has some 55k in profit circled but, it shows a loss of $3500 dollars for that day, and he goes on to daily totals
    that go back several months, even though the statement clearly shows that he only joined less than a month ago. The kicker is he actually
    brags about only being a member less than a month. I just have to wonder how many “stupid people” have fallen for that. I mean, if you are going to lie, at least do a better job of it!

    Just my 2 cents..


  • Shel Horowitz – Ethical Marketing Expert says:

    Brilliant, Perry. I’m going to Tweet a link.

    The funny thing is–as you and I have both taught for years–that the black hat crap doesn’t even work, long-term. If you want long-term, profitable customer relationships,you get them by treating people right, not by cheating them–and ethics is actually a key success driver (as I discuss at length in my own sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First ).

  • Gerry from http://www.increaseweb-sitetraffic.com says:

    Mmmmm interesting article – as always.

    Thanks for the good read.

  • Aubrey Fonseca says:

    Thanks Perry. I have saved every e-mail received under the heading
    The Worldly Wisdom of Perry Marshall. I have also sent them to like-minded friends so that they can distill your thought-provoking insights into human behaviour.


  • Karen Davison says:

    Wading through all the junk (hype) is so difficult when you’re starting out and don’t know who’s who and what’s what. But during this time, I keep coming back to you and your emails. Thank you for your insights. Thank you for your honesty and integrity.
    I have learned a lot and have only just begun.

  • Jet Tucker says:


    I always make time to sit and read your essays. My mentor, Beca Lewis, told me a year ago to read Perry Marshall if I want to learn from a master, and she was right, so I consider myself discerning when I do what she has instructed me to do – listen to a master (her) and learn from a master (you.) Thank you for your straightforward and valuable advice.

    • Perry says:


      We all need our masters, I know I have mine. Thanks for hanging out here.

  • Jane says:

    Hey Perry —

    Just amazing that you focused on how most people go thru life totally unaware of the way others see them. Maybe if they see enuf videos of themselves behaving in their usual pointless ways they might start to consider how absurd they are … talk about the Ugly American!

    really enjoyed this post

  • Mark Baker says:

    “Maybe if they see enuf videos of themselves behaving in their usual pointless ways they might start to consider how absurd they are”

    Isn’t that called reality TV? I think it just encourages their antics!

    (I may be wrong – I haven’t seen any “Reality TV” myself – except The Apprentice – I use the TIVO to skip the programs and just research the adverts)

  • The Mad Webmaster says:

    Thanks Perry.

    I’m going to make my wife read this.

    I’ve been telling her for years that I buy Playboy to learn to write compelling copy and for some reason she doesn’t believe me.

    The Mad Guy

  • JON says:

    hi perry,

    i think this is worth saying again.

    The wise make time to do things right the first time. Fools never have time to do it right the first time, but somehow they find the time to do it over again… and again… and again.

  • Martin Rizzi says:

    Thank you again sir for this enlightening report.

  • Bryan Aucremanne says:

    Terrific topic.IMHO,the best yet!Thank you!!

  • Mark says:

    Just popping my head around the corner to ask a question of any of you from the US who might be around.

    What is the US equivalent of the term “High Street Stores” or “High Street Retailers”?

    • Jet says:


      I found this on Google – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Street
      They use the term “Main Street” and give a fairly good description. For some reason, the thought “Big Box store” came to mind when I read the definition. A Big Box is the primary big name store like Macy’s or Target or some such huge chain store that occupies the biggest spot in a shopping mall and draws traffic to the smaller stores in the mall….. but I could be misunderstanding your term. Hope this helps!

  • Mark says:

    Thanks Jet – that was helpful!

  • Raul says:

    Well!!! I never, smile! Just kidding.

    Funny as hell, but true.

    Now I have to give my Jerry Springer Show tickets away.

    And thanks Mad Guy for the Playboy comment, brilliant, You better copywrite that one, laugh!!!


  • steve dale says:

    Very good post.

  • Patrice Barber says:

    What a brilliant way to bring home the point that we all have to think for ourselves. Hey Perry, I am totally bummed you won’t be at System Seminar. Looking forward to our next encounter.

  • Jeff Gardner says:


    Thanks for reminding us that the love of wisdom and the pursuit of discernment are worthy of our attention.


  • Rick says:

    Very well written. I especially liked the statement: “Fools never have time to do it right the first time, but somehow they find the time to do it over again… and again… and again.”

    I’m sure we all fall into the stupid category once in a while, but I would imagine that just about all of the people on your mailing list would be considered smart or wise. People who are truly stupid would not (or could not) read your thought-provoking newsletters.

    • Perry says:


      In marketing, EVERYTHING you do is a filter. A magnetizer. You’re right, a lot of people don’t have the patience for really thinking about things. I put emails like this in my AR series because it brings discerning people to the top. I LOVE working with people like that. It’s one of the most rewarding things about what I do.

      And it’s a pleasure to meet you here. Hope to meet you in person some time.


  • Larry says:

    Yes, Perry, thanks for the discerning article.

    I find this lack of discernment in politics, and am incredulous at the politicians – who are clearly working for the 1% globalists, not us – that Americans have voted for, election after election.

    Fools can be converted, in my view, but it takes a heck of a lot of mentoring. Like a lifetime lol

    • Joseann says:

      @Larry: I find this lack of discernment in politics, and am incredulous at the politicians – who are clearly working for the 1% globalists, not us – that Americans have voted for, election after election.

      I think this is hilarious. Those politicians are very discerning and strategic, but not wise. They discern very well what they need to do in order to achieve what they want (and those who have the money, I guess) Point is: discernment is not enough. Values and goals determine the result, if you have lousy values and goals, but great discernment in choosing how to get there, the overall result is still lousy.

  • Orestes says:

    Hi Perry,

    Thanks so much for sharing with us this great post and thanks for not deleting me from your list.Like Stephen I also got through some tough times.But thanks to the Lord spending time with Him I got wisdom and diserment into the situation.The good news is I almost am out of my debt and looking forward to join again the Mastermind Clud next year.

    Yes it took wisdom and diserment and I pray the Lord
    give it to Stephen also to get out of his situation
    also and join the Club.

    My blessings to all!

  • Lea Sedan says:

    Hey Perry,

    The internet is like a huge ocean of content.In the internet as in the real life there are a lot ot of
    subjects,issues, ideas and many kinds of people.
    hee is a freedom of speech, with its limitations,in the internet, as in the real life.Everyone has the
    free choice which from the huge offers of content is relevant fot him,according to his preference

  • Everett Patterson says:

    Classic Perry information. I love not only your content, but the style that you put it in.

    I hope to have discernment in this coming year as my business is starting to take off. I have seen that I need discernment for many years, and it is a trial and error type of education.

    Thanks for good read, and here’s to a great new year!

  • Dwight says:

    Thank you for keeping me on your list Perry. May we all have inspiration to contribute top relevant content and discernment to rule against a top enemy- distraction.

  • Neil says:

    Thanks, I enjoyed this and of course you’re right – we have many choices and we’d better choose right as choices/actions have their consequences and it’s up to us…

    P.S. When will Microsoft send me the (minimum) $19,233 for forwarding the email you mention…?

    It’s been more than two weeks already…

  • Jamjee says:

    Wow! This is extremely great. I really loved reading this stuff.

  • alan little says:

    I’ll add:

    Stupid people go for whatever they think will make them money the quickest – “work” really hard, and go broke falling for every guru or BSO along the way.

    Smart people follow their passion, invest in themselves, stick with it and find success is actually fun.

    Thanks from a gradually un-stupider person..

  • Stella Oefinger says:

    Some people are naturally wise…but most of us have to attain it after years of observation.

    The balancing act I have found with online marketing is striking the balance between something that is functionally profitable and is aesthetically attractive. You are right, tricking consumers is short-lived…not sure that creating a tricky domain name would work with consumers since many people won’t understand (or catch) the difference between http://doctor.com and http://www-doctor.com.

  • Michael LeJeune says:

    Great stuff Perry. Very powerful concept and principles.

  • Joseann says:

    This made me wonder:Wise men think three or six or ten chess moves ahead and consider the long term consequences.
    Are they wise or rather strategic? For me, your post is much more on strategy than on wisdom. Strategic people have a goal or direction and that is why discernment is easy for them. All they need to ask is: will this get me to where I want to be? Some insecurity remains, but there are proven tactics by now, I guess. People who are not strategic are not necessarily stupid, many are unskilled, not very well educated, just innocent and human or just not goal oriented. From an European perspective, I was really shocked about this Eminent domain decision that basically forces landowners to produce as much tax revenue as possible or they can loose their property? Can they be forced to sell it? Just curious, what would a “wise” person do about this?

  • Jerry Cooper says:

    wait a minute Perry…are you saying I need to stop watching Jerry Springer?….who consistently conveys the prime solutions to the great struggles of mankind…the original in reality TV….the fist fights, the bitch slaps….I don’t know…you may be over-reaching ……

    but this, on the other hand, has potential…. “Associate with wise people, and distance yourself from people who always seem to be screwing up their life with bad decisions.You can’t fix them anyway.” There might be some wisdom in that!

  • Robert Orow says:

    I am a very successful in home direct sales pofessional for home improvements.I was very lucky early in my career to read an article by the great Drayton Byrd “There are a few smart people in the world but most are idiots. Market to the idiot” Harsh but true. If you want to eat with the classes you have to sell to the masses.

  • Don says:

    Thank you for your wisdom and guidance with discernment.

  • Synergize says:

    I need to monetize my discernment far more.

  • Robert Miller says:

    Dear Perry:

    You left out another important point. The smart people and fools all get the same vote (1 vote per person) in a democratic society. I guess we can question the validity of democracy.


    • Synergize says:

      Here’s a good description of what happens to “democracy”: http://www.wimp.com/thegovernment/

  • Edward Cannell says:

    Fools think that “information wants to be free.”

    I guess that means that I am a fool.

    First off, I’m not an Adwords guy, nor do I engage in push marketing of any kind. Perry’s latest e-mail about Adwords that is about to change talks about the top 2% of inside players having an overwhelming advantage.

    Learning how to spend $5000 a month on Adwords successfully is not my game, but I like to know what is breaking out in other areas other than my own.

    I can use this information to pull with as my market is not with the big spenders. I can show it as a threat to all the little guys that think the only way to succeed is to push, and push hard.

    No one knows me. I don’t make a big splash and I doubt I ever will. That, too, is not my game.

    I am a fool by the above definition because I like giving information away freely. I like to educate my market and I like to build relationships that have a long and prosperous life that is mutually beneficial.

    That’s the primary difference between pushing and pulling, but even pushing with Adwords is still pulling because search engines pull, and the ads are written to pull.

    So call me a fool for sharing information.

    • Linda Copeland says:

      You’re not a fool for sharing information, and I don’t think Perry was implying that. (Heaven knows, Perry gives out valuable information himself, and I’ve benefited from a lot of it.) The way I read this is that fools EXPECT information to be free, so they aren’t willing to pay for it, thereby getting their knowledge from dubious sources (on the Internet and elsewhere). In my old data processing career, we called that “garbage in, garbage out”. There are times when you have to pony up to get the information or expertise you need, and a wise person knows this.

      As a marketing technique, your providing information demonstrates your expertise and gets people to trust you before they buy anything. Nothing wrong (or foolish) with that! It’s exactly what Perry does, exactly what Dan Kennedy does, and it works.

      Building relationships and educating your market is anything but foolish. So keep wise and carry on.

  • Bob Adermann says:

    Perry contradicts himself saying that information isn’t free while giving away his informative book. (Postage is charged by the post office.) Or does he? Well, acquisition of higher level skill and knowledge comes at the cost of time and effort. So you may have Perry’s book in front of you, but unless you open it and submit to the effort of working through it, understanding it and remembering it, it’ll remain just what it is: free information, but a closed book.

  • Darren Hanser says:

    Hey Perry,

    Great information here and I would consider this a MUST read especially for anyone online or marketing for the first time.

    I can personally relate to the ‘study dumb people’ principle. Many times we only want to study success and the ‘winners’.

    Thanks again.

  • Tsufit says:


    Yup. It’s all about discernment, focus and finding and for those of us who make our living coaching others, finding a captivating way of communicating what we’ve discerned to our flock.

    We have to be super discerning also about whom we listen to. You, Perry, and Dan K. are 2 people who always make the cut when I go through my email with a finger on the Delete button.

    I’d write more, but Springer’s starting…

    Author, Step Into The Spotlight!

  • John Langley says:

    On more than one occasion I have thought your posts or newsletters have wandered into waste lands yet another blogger going no where. However, I do admire this one. It’s a classic in copywriting. I’ll stay for another month, plus you got me on the book and email deal!

  • Matthew says:


    I love this post because it’s on the same level as my thinking. discerning between the wise and the fool is a natural inclination of mine.I have my own list should you ever want a contribution from me for your Marketing Letter.


    P.S: the “Watch the Jerry Springer show, pen and paper in hand…” suggestion is an enormously valuable idea, but you forgot to recommend your subscribers to read the Book of Proverbs ?

    • Perry says:

      Matthew, if you want to post your contribution here, hardly anyone will see it but if I like it I may use it. Thanks for your post.

  • art says:

    Excellent post:) Discernment is a state of mind that I have reached after going after the sure wins too many times and not finding them. Thanks for sharing. Art

  • Mo Ogilvie says:

    Thanks for your take on Discernment. I have always been a “people watcher”
    Sometimes you learn what to do – sometimes you learn what NOT to do but it definitely takes Discernment. You can tell a tree by its fruit. Thanks
    Mo Ogilvie

  • Genesis Berrios says:

    Thanks so much for this amazing piece of content

  • Nigel Stratton says:

    Dear Perry,

    An engaging article once again but wisdom and truth are also known by their vocabulary. Ed Cole, a great leader to men, said “I can tell you have a limited vocabulary when you resort to vulgarity.”

    The paragraph about Cosmo included a statement that unnecessary. It detracted from the quality of the article and was actually quite disappointing. Maybe others glossed over it but when one does their best to live with purity in heart and mind, statements like that slap you in the face.

    So keep the articles coming and deliver the excellence that you are so good at giving.


    • Perry says:

      My vocabulary is fairly large and I said exactly what I intended to say. Someone needs to call out Cosmo for what it really is – a publication that reduces women to so many body parts and disguises it as feminism.

      • Jet says:

        Thanks, Nigel, for posting your comment. I think I knew it would get a response from you, Perry. Thank you as well.
        Why? Because I really needed to read this again right now. Every six months or so I get a reminder, and it was obviously time to review the idea of discernment.
        I think maybe now is the time to print this out again and give it to all my small biz clients.
        The Perry Marshall “stick it in your face” semiannual review…..


16 Comments on “Discernment”

  1. Hi Perry,

    Whenever I share your posts to some people, I am surprised many of them strongly disagree with what you say. Some of them are even professing Christians.

    What’s happening? :)


  2. Discernment is also a religious discipline. The Rule of St Benedict, rules for Monks from the 6th Century, is a wonderful guide to creating the conditions in which to discern clearly (Benedict calls it God, but as Julia Cameron says, God means Good Orderly Direction). The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown) is a classic. Sister Joan Chichister’s work is another great resource. A more recent book is Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community, which is for groups that meet formally for purposes of enhancing discernment. That book has a wonderful list in it of signs that you are hearing “Good Orderly Direction,” culled from the authors’ review of copious literature over the centuries on the subject.

  3. Wisdom and discernment will never be sexy, but it falls in the 5% of things that truly move the needle for my life.

    I believe we are dying from information overload, while starving for wisdom and discernment.
    Excited to be on this journey with other like-minded individuals and learning from you Perry.

    Keep ushering in the second Renaissance.

  4. Timeless!

    Thanks. Thoughtful. Thought provoking.

    I’m learning so much from your emails. Loved your 80/20 book. Got to re-read your book again this year!

    Ahh… Using your “grade” tool? Priceless. I’m improving. Training myself to copy you.

    Greatly appreciate you and your team.

    Blessings to each of you.

  5. Hi Perry,
    On point as usual! My wife Leona and I met you at the last “Memos from the head Office” event you had in June. Paying BIG dividends right now. Spent time with Vivian, we bonded to her instantly. If we don’t have and use discernment in this day and age we will find ourselves following the ‘experts” right off the end of the cliff. Get off the wide road and walk the narrow road that few traveled.

    Thanks again Perry for being the brave one to speak what needs to be spoken.


  6. Because the article itself is 8-years old Perry, and the internet – Offline Information also – is (or seems to be) a changing machine of information and methods of communication, happening every second, one would think your article is outdated. This article of discernment could have been put out in 1000 BC or 3000 AD (1000 years from now) and would be helpful to the WISE and not the FOOLISH! – A comforting lesson that there is “Nothing new under the sun,” as the Bible states.

  7. WOW… and just as valid today as when…. 2009! I’ve been preaching discernment for years now, but I don’t think many folks understand that word any more. They may pay it lip service – like value, integrity, quality, customer service! But I don’t see a lot of actual ‘practice.’ Instead I get people who want to argue for their own defense!

    What a great article!

    Thanks for sharing it again!

    Warmly, Ellie

  8. Regarding “Wise people focus on timeless principles. Fools focus on quick tricks. In March I did a teleclinic with Jonathan Mizel and Glenn Livingston, explaining the “www dash”technique. In short, it’s a domain name trick where, for example, you can’t buy http://doctor.com – but you can buy http://www-doctor.com. This can dramatically increase the CTR on a Google ad or other web advertising link, typically by 70% or more. Very exciting, potentially misleading, in some cases it’s the difference between a successful web project and an unsuccessful one. But if it’s the only competitive advantage you have, it’s gonna be short-lived. I don’t really like this technique (Bryan doesn’t either), but do I teach it as a competitive weapon that can be used very effectively in certain circumstances. And I also made sure that in our teleclinic, we delivered some substantial marketing strategies along with the promised tricks and techniques.”

    I don’t like it either, as it feels gimmicky. However, when I read about the generic domain name benefits in your early Ultimate Adwords advanced course I resolved myself to do what it took to test your statements that CTR could often be double. And every test I’ve done has proven that the increase is substantial: more clicks for same money or same amount of clicks for less money. While my marketing budgets working with clients aren’t yet industry-leading, they have inched up year over year for a while and this advantage with Adwords (translates also to many other marketing mediums) is one secret to that success. That’s because I INSIST that the businesses do what I recommend and sell their product from a position of strength on the matching PRODUCT.com if it is at all possible.

    In many cases, even when they think it isn’t possible because “someone owns that domain and is sitting on it”…it actually is available.

    What if you could get the http://www.doctor.com of your industry? I mean, the exact PRODUCT.com or SERVICE.com domain name that matches what you sell and is the generic “category” domain name for your customers to see in Adwords and other marketing media, a name that lends immediate credibility your customers can easily spell, easily remember and communicate to others? In many cases it is lying right there unused (just like doctor.com was not too many years ago in fact according to the WayBackMachine, or just ask the gentleman who owns it or the company that took him up on a partnership offer to develop it and split profits).

    Oops, did I just give away the secret to the secret of what I’ve been profiting from and plan to do more of throughout my career with every business project worthy of a top-tier online presence? Yeah, I did. “Planet Perry” is like that, y’all. We share what works without fear of an idea being “stolen”! If you can read between the lines, by all means go forth and use this tip to profit more for the same effort and less expense in the long-run. Hell, even if you operate in the jewelry industry (like my signature link here) or another one that I play in…who cares if I just gave you a great advantage? Business is about smashing competition through innovation…and I’m already several steps ahead so bring it!


    P.S. Regarding Perry’s 2014 comment justifying his bashing of the Cosmopolitan magazine: “Someone needs to call out Cosmo for what it really is – a publication that reduces women to so many body parts and disguises it as feminism.” I co-sign that statement 100%.

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