Magic, Sex, and Outer Space

2011-08-12 12.46.33

In 2002 I framed a $200 check from a company called It was the first time I ever got paid for writing anything. When I went to get the frame, the guy said, “are you sure you don’t want to cash this?”

“No way! Someone actually paid me to write words down on a piece of paper. This is going to be worth a billion dollars some day.” Except I didn’t actually say that. It was winter and I was proud and happy and wanted to hang that up on my wall forever.

A few years later I had to take the check down for just a day. had just bought my company, Stockpickr, and I wanted Jim Cramer and Tom Clarke to sign the back of the frame. Let me tell you what happened: Tom Clarke, the CEO, still a good friend of mine, had given me a call in mid-2006. He said, “let’s get together for breakfast and brainstorm ideas.” We did this once every year.

“Great!” I said and we made plans. At the same time, a bank had made an offer to buy my fund for a very generous amount. My business partner, Dan, got the documents and said, “We can’t sign this.” I was standing in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel at the time, which was like my home away from home. I kept pacing. “Why not?” I wanted the money. But my eyes gloss over whenever I read legal documents. I just assume someone is about to screw me and I tend to let it happen. But Dan read them.

Dan said, “You have to sign a six year employment agreement and at any point they can fire you and get all the money back.” So we didn’t sign it and I was very upset. It showed me that the business had no value other than the people in it (Dan, me, and we had one employee, Omid, who later did this famous video). My lawyer, Jay, even said, “slavery was outlawed in the 1800s I thought.” Maybe the one piece of advice Jay ever gave me that didn’t result in a chair being thrown at me.

But flexibility is one of the keys to dominate anything you want. We shut down the business instead of selling it and I had two weeks to prepare for Tom.

I called up the guys in India and had them make sketches of what I thought would be a good “Myspace for Finance” site. I showed them to Tom and said, “this is what I’m working on. I would’ve done it with you but the site is almost finished.” So what started as just screenshots quickly became a business then then became a sold business ( bought it in April 2007). (See, The Easiest Way to Succeed as an Entrepreneur)

So I took the check off the wall and brought it to Jim Cramer and Tom Clarke and they signed the back of it. Everyone was happy. The market was peaking, life was good. Then I took a roller coaster ride I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Who would want all their guts and brains carved out and then put back randomly inside of them until they were only a jigsaw puzzle of what they used to be? Sometimes that happens.  Maybe you would pretend to be a psychic also. Just to touch people.

A few weeks ago I wrote Jim Cramer and suggested we do a video together for old time’s sake. The market was collapsing and I thought we could have an interesting discussion on why people were over panicking and what they should do about it. I felt we could help people.

He wrote back:

James–sorry to be so obtuse but why would I want to do this and for who?”

I wrote back:

“It would be for you, thestreet, whoever you want. For me, its just interesting. It wouldn’t really benefit me in any way. But I feel it would be an interesting discussion. It reminds me of that very first video we did.”

Alas, we didn’t do the video. I felt bad (See, “10 Things I Learned from Jim Cramer”). I was happy to just do it for with no benefit to me. And I had an idea on exactly what we could do to help people.

So once again I’ve taken the check down. It had been posted on the wall directly in front of my desk. But now there were some negative feelings surrounding it. Time to go. (Cramer had the right to refuse my request. No hard feelings. It just was no longer the best thing for me to look at. I’m throwing this parenthetical in because Claudia even said, ‘are you sure you didn’t just directly quote him because you’re a little angry?’ And maybe yes, a little, but at the same time he absolutely had the right to say no.).

I regularly change my space. I want only things that inspire me to be around me. Your living space is an outward manifestation of your body, which is like an outward manifestation of your mind, which is like an outward manifestation of whatever deeper stuff resides in all of us. The things that ultimately make us tick, make us improve, make us LIVE. I want it as creative, playful, fun, magical, as possible. A check from no longer fit.

So, of course, I wanted mysticism, sex, and outer space.

So I hung up this animation cel in its place.

Its an animation cel from the opening sequence of the 60s TV show “I Dream of Jeannie”. It’s even personally signed by Barbara Eden, who I had a crush on as a kid. I wanted to be Major Nelson, an astronaut who finds a genie who grants all his wishes. He went for the stars and ultimately his dreams came true. Maybe one day my dreams might even come true. Or maybe I’ll finally get smart and stop having them.

– – –

Follow me on twitter.

For other posts about stuff hanging up on the walls in my office there’s:

  1. “The Tooth”
  2. “Is Burton Silverman Dead Yet”
  3. “My First Actual Writing gig” (scroll to the picture at bottom)
  4. And I have two more that I haven’t written about yet.

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  • Anonymous

    I was / am big on I Dream of Jeannie too James.  Nice still.

    Some things are just better than checks and money.

    Money changes people, and it seams you noticed. (dreams don’t)

    Nothing wrong with being a dreamer, it’s also what makes the world go round.

  • 736hundred

    I love everything about the cell of I Dream of Jeanie. It’s awesome. 

    Take a photo of the front and back of the check and then cash it.  :)

    • James Altucher

      Unfortunately its got that “VOID AFTER 60 DAYS” thing on it. Maybe I can get them to reissue it. 

      • S34ndad

        I think you could sell if for more than $200

        • Kamal Ravikant

          True.  He could auction it off.  

    • Syren

      The I Dream of Jeannie cel has more longevity and value than Jim Cramer’s validation.
      You win.

  • Jared Mast

    I confirm your idea of “Your living space is an outward manifestation of your body, which is like an outward manifestation of your mind, which is like an outward manifestation of whatever deeper stuff resides in all of us.” 

    Today on TV an organizational guru told house owners that if you go into the messiest room in your house that is probably how your life, body, and soul looks as well. On the contrary if you have order, organization, and health it’s most likely that your life is running smoothly and you are a much happier person

    • Anonymous

      oh shit! 

    • Jake

      Interesting point. I also heard that a person’s “real” self is defined by their worst moment in the past 12 months.

      • Jared Mast

        I’d say it depends on whether that moment was self created or caused by an outside factor (for example the death of a family member or something like that). 

  • michael Rusinas

    ” And I had an idea on exactly what we could do to help people”

    What’s the idea?  Seems that you still could do it.   Or should do it.  Do you need Cramer to validate your idea?  How about writing something?  People still need help. 


    Bummer, I would really like to see you and Jim Cramer doing a video together about the current market conditions. In fact, I’d actually watch an online show with just you in it if you did it! I think you give some of the most real and genuine advice on the planet and that’s hard to find these days. On top of that I think you could provide some humor along with a dose of realism to help investors step off the ledge, back onto the building that is, not onto the street (some pun intended)

    Have a great weekend James!

  • mousketeer

    I will buy the check for $300

  • Brad Derfl_____

    It’s amazing how the artifacts that at one time inspire us eventually later disgust us

  • Anonymous

    It’s like your advice to not do anything that you don’t want to do. Removing the negative energy. The less you think about it, the closer it gets to never having happened.

    Totally had a thing for Barbara Eden as a kid, too. It was dead-heat between Jeannie in drag and Princess Leia slave-girl.


    • Anonymous

      Barbara Eden wins by a space mile

  • Anonymous

    Jim Cramer didn’t want to do a video with you. So you were so hurt you took down your first check for writing? Isn’t that having hard feelings by definition? I don’t mean to suggest your feelings aren’t legitimate, but why deny it? He said no to your interesting idea, and it made you…angry/grouchy/disappointed? I think Claudia is right. Noone likes rejection, even when warranted.

    • Jake

      It does seem a bit too sensitive. But then again, I suppose that would depend on exactly how the “no” was phrased.

    • 736hundred

      I think the check held deeper meaning that went beyond Kramer’s response. 

      Kramer’s response was just a well timed catalyst that finally placed a bright light on a past that is no longer inspirational. 

      I think it’s a good thing. But what do I know? I’m just a number.  :)

  • Ken Kurtz


    You and Cramer had great chemistry together.  That’s how I first learned of you and we have exchanged some email over the years.  For what it’s worth, I read your blog and I read nothing of Jim’s.

  • casper

    James, You said it would be “… no benefit to you” . Not correct. Jim Cramer has got the publicity/star value/eye balls. So if you do the video with him, you would also get a part of it. And that *will* benefit you in some way. So it was not totally alt(r)uistic from your side also. (Jim want to play his game , and he is selective about his videos to enhance his value as per his goals)

    • James Altucher

      You’re right. But I admit it in the article. I was a little angry. But my ultimate “mood” that I genuinely felt it would be good to do a video and that I didn’t care who benefited. 

  • 736hundred

    I’ve noticed sometimes when “talent” gets too full of themselves it’s a precursor to a falling out of favor.   I don’t wish this on anyone, but it seems to be a common a pitfall of an over-heated self evaluation. CNBC has plenty of over inflated egos and it has become tiresome to watch.

    I miss Mark Haines (RIP) and Erin Burnett – SO MUCH

    And I’m kind of glad Kramer said ‘no’, because I think you have more to offer than yesterday’s “schtick”, and you would do better with someone fresh.

  • Feng Z

    maybe someday Jim will be bored of his own jaded star power and start dreaming the outer space as well.
    the new picture looks much better than the check.

  • zzen321

    This probably goes without saying. You aren’t the only one to have a crush on Barbara Eden as a kid.

    • James Altucher

      On the one hand, you can say it was a very sexist show. But on the other hand, she ultimately stood up for her rights and became more than just a sexy genie on the show with barely any clothes on. Or maybe I’m just justifying. 

      • Anonymous

        Your father wouldn’t let you watch “Mr. Ed” because it was too sexist, but you were allowed to watch “I Dream of Jeanne”???

        • James Altucher


      • Phoenix

        Personally, I feel it’s still classable as, Sexist, Because, even at that age,
        I thought Nelson was too stupid to even be an astronaut. 

  • Sooz

    What the hell is his problem, anyway?
    I’d, also, feel very hurt if that was the response I received.
    Unlike youself,J.A., ‘The Captain’ has made it very apparent that he’s in this game for himself.
    Does he not realize that his viewership would skyrocket if you and he were back together for a brief moment to share thoughts and ideas. What a ‘FOOL’ he is!!

    • Sooz

      Now it is going to feel as if  I’m a traitor posting at your old site. Although, by far the best format out there( to date). Please don’t ever think of me as a traitor, J.A. that would just stink!!

      • James Altucher

        Ha, don’t worry. I’m happy that people still go to that site. It was a very useful site and probably had the best community going. Thanks for still using it. And you can never be a “traitor”. 

  • Concrete Dovetail

    Maybe this is an invitation to do something better than a video with Cramer.  Web design  + investment/trading experience + business experience + … = ?

    • James Altucher

      = sleep

  • Kamal Ravikant

    Had a crush on Jeannie as well – how can one not with that outfit?  This part was incredibly useful and a great reminder: “Your living space is an outward manifestation of your body, which is like an outward manifestation of your mind, which is like an outward manifestation of whatever deeper stuff resides in all of us. The things that ultimately make us tick, make us improve, make us LIVE. I want it as creative, playful, fun, magical, as possible.”

  • GYSC

    Fun post.  My den is my office and I take the decoration very seriously.  Mostly Star Wars stuff and pictures of the surface of Mars.  Very normal really.

  • TripleB

    Loved Jeannie as young girl.  M favorite part was when she went into the bottle.  I dreamt of having a cozy circular space with tufted cushions in which to escape.

    • Phoenix

      Me too !!  I do recall many of us kids attemping the nose wiggle, and the crossed arm and blink.  Check out the Battles with Censors over the Diamond in Her Belly Button, & Just to have her belly – button show !  

  • Sandra

    I don’t know who Jim Cramer is. Oh well.  I’d rather see a video of you discussing the collapsible  market with a Genie/Jeannie. If you have the resources it would be nice to have the set decorated so it looks like the inside of her bottle. Perhaps at the end show a swirl of smoke which would also be an implicit comparison of the market that people are over panicking about. 

  • Choijungsoo

    where is that article the “dow is going to 20K”?
    indeed, you’re another wannbe, goat entrail reader.

  • Stauder4

    Still sticking to your DOW 20,000 within the next 12-18 months James?? I also believe I heard you forecast S&P 2,000 in the same time frame as well. We won’t see those levels in 12-18 years at the rate we’re going. Nice calls!!

  • raznick

    I actually still have my first check from TheStreet and I think it was James that introduced me to TSCM back in the day. Those were the days. I also remember the first day stockpickr went up as I was a tester and enjoyed conversing with James on how to make it better and when the email alerts didn’t work. I wonder where those Indians behind the site are these days.

  • dTester

    My first thought reading this on Fri. evening was that you had found your genie after all – you should make a video w/ Claudia! She has much more eye appeal than Cramer. My life then intervened, and here it is Mon. morning, and the thought still stands.

  • Kevin M

    “Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.”

    -Pete, from the movie “Rudy”

  • manonthestreet

    It’s surprising that these inanimate objects: “the photo of the tooth”, “a check from thestreet”, “an animation cell from I dream of Jeannie” have that great of an effect on your mood and psyche.

    • Phoenix

      I am VERY Curious how You find it,  “……surpising ……”.   If you give it some time to settle in your deep thoughts, I’m sure you’ve find that They are actually abstractly used To Make Up This Blog.  A.K.A.   They stir his creative writing brain.  They are all very impacting in his psyche in many, many ways.

      • manonthestreet

        Well…it’s quite simple…I have spent a good deal of time around James and I have never in my life witnessed him so enamored with objects.

        I’m not suggesting he is not being honest about this, it’s just surprising to witness this about him via a post and not to have caught in person.Thanks for the insulting inquiry.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome! Cramer turned your idea down, but now I hear you will debate Porter Stansberry on Yahoo Finance! Your blog and Stansberry’s ‘Digest’ are the first things I read as part of my daily practice. Can’t wait to listen to the podcast!

  • Will Scott

    What are your dreams?