“Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey…”

The Times, 1913

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

This was the ad that Ernest Shackleton posted in The Times of London in 1913. He was recruiting for an expedition to cross the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the south pole. He received about 5000 immediate responses.

Truth in Advertising

The ad is remarkable in its honesty. There’s nothing sugar-coated about “Safe return doubtful.” Shackleton could have left that sentence out. Yet he chose to include it. As a result, you trust that you’re getting the whole truth. You either want to go on the expedition or you don’t. Either way, you trust Shackleton.

How often do you see ads on the internet for business opportunities that you completely trust? Not many I’m sure.  Every day, I see ads claiming 5 figure monthly incomes for very little work. All you have to do is buy their report and all secrets will be revealed to you. Right?

Reveal vs. Conceal

So what can we do differently to make the internet work for us? Taking a hint from Shackleton, be completely straight with your prospects. This means taking a more revealing approach than the concealing approach so common today.

When there’s an absence of information, when we sense that something is being concealed, we instinctively lose trust. On the other hand, when something is being revealed to us, particularly if it takes courage to reveal it, we instinctively trust.

A Concealing Ad

For example, here’s a an ad that conceals most of the information you need to make an intelligent choice. I made this ad up, though many current ads give you about as much information before they ask for your credit card.

“Riches Overnight: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Internet Wealth. I’ll tell you how I made $100k in two weeks using Twitter. Click here to buy my report.”

A Revealing Ad

Compare that to a more revealing ad. I made this one up too.

“Want More Customers? The secret to success on the internet is writing compelling ad copy. Discover how the copywriting masters of our time made their fortunes. With our training program, you will need 4 months of study and practice to master the skill. You’ll read hundreds of pages of copy and listen to hours of videos by the masters. You’ll work hard, writing dozens of ads and articles yourself. But in that 4 months you will produce a credible on-line presence. Click here to sample our unique training program for 2 weeks, absolutely free and with no obligation. Or click here to enroll in our copywriting masterclass.”


Even if the first ad were legitimate, who would trust it? It’s asking you to take all the risk, without offering anything for that risk. It has given you no reason to believe that it can deliver what it promises.

The second ad reveals the level of effort needed to be successful: 4 months. That’s taking a risk. The Lazy Man is outta there. The ad takes even more of a risk by giving you access to the training program. You could learn a lot about copywriting without paying a penny. That’s putting skin in the game. Wouldn’t you be more likely to believe that the second could deliver on its promises?


So when you’re promoting your business, consider taking the risk of revealing more to your prospects. Be straight with them. It will give you an edge that your competitors will miss.

And when you’re looking at training or opportunities, this is a good way to separate the trustworthy ones from the ones to avoid. If they reveal a lot, and you feel good about what you’re reading, go for it. Otherwise, let it go.

Incidently, here’s the post on Lawrence Bernstein’s blog that provoked me to make this post.

P.S. Everyone on Shackleton’s expedition survived. Shackleton tells the amazing story of his journey in “South: The Last Antarctic Expedition of Shackleton and the Endurance.”

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