“Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue.” – Confucius

Quit smoking. Lose weight. Read more. Work harder. Get organized. Spend more time with family and friends.

Every January, we make the same promises. By March, most of them are out the window.

“A resolution,” somebody once said, “is a thing that goes in one year and out the other.”

What if, this year, one resolution could improve every aspect of your life?

Yet, to make this one promise stick, you need to do no extra work, command no extra discipline, and make no extra sacrifices. In fact, following through on this one pledge is actually easier than NOT doing it.

What is it?

Two words. But before I explain, let me give you the set-up. It starts 15 years ago, just six months into my copywriting career.

I was an understudy to one of the best copywriters in the country, Bill Bonner. Already, I had a handful of very successful sales letters under my belt. And we were just sitting down to talk job review and salary.

Now copywriting is about selling. And, I have to admit, at this point I had some mixed feelings about what that meant.

It was only natural.

Lots of people are under the impression that selling is about fooling people. Says the stereotype, it’s all about tricking the customer into wanting something he never wanted before. Or doing something he never really wanted to do.

Was that accurate? I genuinely wasn’t experienced enough to be sure. But being young, I also sometimes mistook cynicism for the cloak of the wise. And during this conversation with Bill, that’s how I dealt with my doubts.

“Of course,” I told him, “you know I don’t really believe in all this stuff.”

This “stuff,” by the way, was what I was supposed to sell. Bill looked taken aback. “Wait a minute,” he said, “You’ve got to believe in it… otherwise how can you write about it? You can’t sell what you don’t believe in.”

He was right. It was simple. Yet it felt like a revelation. With every copywriting project that followed, that was my guideline.

If I couldn’t buy the product’s proposition, I either wouldn’t agree to write for it… or I would work with the product manager to reshape the product until I could.

Sometimes I’d get in deep on a hopeless case and have to extract myself. But for the most part, it’s a strategy that’s worked out well. And I’ve heard plenty of other top copywriters say the same.

Sell the products that are so good they sell themselves. Those are the ones you can believe in. And that’s the key to a successful career in sales and marketing. Yet, even in something so simple there’s something else that’s profound.

I read a book a few years ago by Joe Vitale. It was called The Seven Lost Secrets of Success, and shared the life story of advertising legend Bruce Barton.

Maybe you’ve heard of Barton. He’s most famous as the second ‘B’ in “Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn” or BBDO, one of the most famous ad agencies of the 20th century.

He’s also the creator of “Betty Crocker,” named General Motors and General Electric, and helped build Ford Motors, Carnegie Steel, plus a few dozen more of America’s most famous companies.

Here’s the funny thing. Barton never imagined he’d wind up in the ad industry. He originally wanted to be a novelist. Then a journalist. For a while there, he was a magazine editor. But his partners would later say Barton was born for advertising.

Why?

Not because he could successfully bamboozle customers into buying. But for the opposite reason. Here’s Barton himself, spilling out his personal philosophy back in 1925:

“Do not venture into the sunlight unless you are willing first to put your house in order… no dyspeptic can write convincingly of the joys of mince meat. No woman-hater can write convincingly of love… unless you have a real respect for people, a real affection for people, a real belief that you are equipped to serve them, and that by your growth and prosperity they will likewise grow and prosper, unless you have this deep-down conviction, gentleman, do not attempt advertising. For somehow it will return to plague you.”

And then once more, writing in that same year:

“I believe the public has a sixth sense of detecting insincerity. We run a tremendous risk if we try to make other people believe in something we don’t believe in. Somehow our sin will find us out… the advertisements which persuade people to act are written by men who have an abiding respect for the intelligence of their readers, and a deep sincerity regarding the merits of the goods they have to sell.”

Translation: “Be genuine.”

That was Barton’s secret. It’s also the secret I suggest you and I carry into the coming year. By the way, that doesn’t just apply to your business decisions.

Being genuine means being honest with yourself too. Especially when it comes to focusing on your objectives and setting the goals you’ll target over a lifetime.

Ask yourself, did you buy that exercise bike as a tool to finally better your health… or did you really buy it as a towel rack that says “I care about exercise” even if you don’t?

Are you saying you’ll quit smoking because you know you should? And because it’s robbing you of cash, health, and future time with your family? Or just because it’s what your friends want to hear?

Is this really the year you’re going to get organized, get serious, and get to work building the career you care about, the skill you wanted, and the life you desire… or are these just more superficial ornaments to jot down on your “to-do” list to make yourself feel better?

Be honest. Be sincere. Be genuine.

With yourself and with everybody else, as often and as much as you can. Nothing else you’ll resolve to do could make a bigger difference.

[Ed Note: John Forde, a published writer and a direct-mail copywriter since 1992, is the editor of the free weekly e-zine, The Copywriter’s Roundtable. You can meet all your marketing goals – and achieve all your personal, social, financial, and business dreams – with the help of ETR’s Total Success Achievement Program]

John Forde’s 15-year career as a top copywriter started as an understudy of Bill Bonner and Michael Masterson. Since then, John has written countless winning controls, has generated well over $30 million in sales, and has successfully launched dozens of products. He’s also worked three years as a financial journalist and has written books on wealth building and health, as well as more than 250 articles on copywriting for his popular ezine, The Copywriter’s Roundtable.
John has taught copywriting in private seminars and conferences in Paris, London, Bonn, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Baltimore, and Warsaw. He currently lives and works from Paris, France.