ASK JAMES: SOCIETY, THE PRESIDENCY, ECKHART TOLLE, LOVE, BUBBLES and MORE
- Posted by James Altucher
They say that comets crashed into the Earth a billion years ago and tiny microbacteria came from the comet and impregnated this Earth with water and life. From that combination, eventually, we humans rose out of it.
Sometimes I want to go home. Back to the comet and continue on its journey to the center of the Universe. Where, presumably, all of the answers can be found, where the prism for all life pulsates in the middle. It’s hard world to live in. We’re all suffering post-traumatic syndrome. Over what? Loss of Jobs. Loss of jobs. 2008. 9/11, the loss of the hope in the 90s.Sometimes having someone to talk to, even on Twitter, is a small way to heal from this post-traumatic stress. For me most of all!
Every Thursday, from 3:30 – 4:30 I have a Twitter Q&A where anyone can ask me about anything. From marriage, to money, to ancient cosmology. While this all stems from my goal (ever since I was seven years old) to be a “Dear Abby” I also have a lot of fun and I like tweeting with people. Then the next day, I’ll post a summary like this. Please join in next week.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GIVE BACK TO SOCIETY?
@alyosha19 asks: What do you think is the best way to “give back” to society as an individual? If at all…
ANSWER: Everything comes from you. If you work at a charity but beat your kids at night then you have failed to give back to society. The best way to give back to society is to make sure you are healthy:
Physically: you can’t be sick and give back. You need to eat well, sleep well, exercise well. You can be your own superhero.
Emotionally: you can’t give back if you are always arguing with wife, parents, etc. You need to eliminate the people from your life who bring you down and surround yourself with uplifting people who inspire you
Mentally: your idea muscle needs to be in superhuman shape if you want to give back to society. This means coming up with creative ideas every single day, good or bad.
Spiritually: this doesn’t mean praying to an old man with a beard but it does mean having a sense of surrender and gratitude. These are two different things. Surrender is when you say, “That’s it, I’ve done all I can. I need help now.” Where does the help come from? Is there a god? Who knows. Maybe it just comes from a creative force locked inside of you that is dying to come out and take over the world if you let it. But it does come from somewhere. And gratitude: as soon as you wake up, list the 10 things you are most grateful for.
Then, being fully in shape, you are able to walk through life and be a beacon to others. People will be attracted to you and they won’t know why. Opportunities will throw themselves at your feet. And, by being a force of nature unto yourself, you will give back to society without even directly knowing how you are doing it.
IF I WERE PRESIDENT
@bgn2end asks: Are you running for President? If so, when you are elected, would you abolish congress and eventually the presidency?
ANSWER: Ha, the problem with the Presidency is that at some point you have to decide that a little child is going to die at your hands (through war, military action, etc). But here’s what I would do if elected and had the power to do these things
A) Abolish Congress and replace it with an internet voting system. The only reason Congress exists is because there was no means to communicate important issues around the country when the Founding Fathers existed. [See, July 4 is a Scam]
B) Abolish the FDA. They make lethal substances legal: most chemicals are unregulated, alchohol and nicotine are lethal, and they keep drugs that cure people out of the hands of old people who need that one last chance to survive. [See, Eliminate the FDA]
C) I’d abolish every cabinet position. What do we need a Department of Education for? Education in the US has only gone down since that Department was created. What do we need a Housing Department for. We had a housing crisis and nobody helped. What do we need a State Department for? Rarely or treaties negotiated and we should stop giving all of our money to foreign countries anyway. What do we need a Department of Defense for? We haven’t legally declared war since 1941. If you go to Washington DC you see these long enormous buildings down every street that do nothing but bureaucracy.
D) I’d appoint myself Vice-President. Someone has to go to funerals of kings.
E) I’d sell off every federal asset: highways, the IRS, federal lands, trains, etc to raise money to pay down debt so that taxes can also be reduced.
F) I’d abolish the Presidency [See, “Abolish the Presidency”]
A lot of people who are politically minded disagree with me on some of these things. But the reality is. If we had the bravery to do all of the above then life would be better. People still would obey Stop signs (there are local governments to handle this) and they still wouldn’t kill people and “our way of life” would stll be defended since our greatest offense is now global capitalism and innovation.
@EricRomer asks: Any thoughts on Eckhart Tolle?
ANSWER: Eckhart Tolle wrote the best seller “ThePower of Now” and was fortunate to spend some couch time with Oprah Winfrey to really propel his message to the masses. When he first wrote the book, he printed up 3000 copies and basically went door to door at all the bookstores and handed them out. It took him years to find success, which I truly appreciate. I also think much of the advice in “The Power of Now” is interesting to read. It’s a watered down version (he does not admit this) of the Hindu philosophy Advaita Venta (best exemplified by a teacher from 100 years ago, Ramana Maharshi) but Tolle does a good job translating that into every day language and I agree with his approach of not mentioning the roots of his philosophy.
The one thing I think limits Tolle is that he hasn’t raised a family, or failed at a business or a career, or has shared his own stories of sadness, depression, and pain. I think that ultimately limits his message. Many of have real careers that we are stressed about, family that drives us crazy, businesses that we fail at.
Many of us need to get off the floor after those failures and know that the hand that’s reaching out to us comes from someone who has been there before.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF COLLEGE
@goldfo100: if you had a very intelligent child entering college today, what major and language skills would your recommend?
ANSWER: Here’s the problem with college, in a nutshell – you are going to be with the same people you spent the past 12 years with (demographically) and doing the same thing (spending most of the day reading books that have nothing to do with anything, and then fooling around with your friends without any supervision for the first time) and doing it on your parents (or the bank’s) dime.
So if you are fortunate to have that dime, how about do something that would be much more beneficial: don’t go to college. Spend a year learning to paint, or taking singing lessons, or learning yoga in India (getting in shape, meeting people from all over the world, learning Eastern philosophy) or any of 100 other things that will actually better your life, force you to meet new demographics, and do it for much cheaper than the cost of college.
Then, after a year or two of that, why not go to college then – if you still even want to?
WHAT WOULD I DO IF I WERE 25?
@rballe33 asks: What would J Altucher do if he were 25 yrs old right now?
ANSWER: Not everyone could be a Mark Zuckerberg and start a new business from scratch and watch it grow into billions. So the obvious answer, “start a business” doesn’t really apply. It’s hard, requires money, and requires you to know what people are missing in their lives. Also, a consumer-oriented business is the hardest sort of business to start but if you have no enterprise experience, then its also hard to start a business selling to the enterprise.
Believe it or not, here’s what I would recommend: work at a big company, learn everything about them (See, “10 things You Should Do if You Were Hired Today”), find out what they are missing, and after two years start a business supplying the things you find that they were missing. This, in fact is what I did (I was 26 and not 25) when I went to work for HBO. If you are vigilant, you will find many things they are missing and even if they don’t become your first client, if you build your network while you are on the job, you WILL find first clients for your service. (Be service-oriented, then transform to product-oriented. This way you are profitable right away).
WHERE IS THE NEXT BUBBLE?
@Unpacktherat asks: what’s the next BUBBLE?
ANSWER: This might be the wrong question. I don’t think there will be ANY next bubbles. Bubbles imply that an asset class goes up today simply because it went up yesterday (so more and more people flock into it for no reason).
BUT, the next asset classes to experience enormous returns: biotech and energy.
Biotech because we have 70 million baby boomers retiring. And they are all going to get sick and die horrible deaths. All of them. So whatever we can do to alleviate their pain and extend their lives we will do. There will be pressure on the FDA to relax their standards so drugs can get out thedoor. And more and more smallcap biotechs will find a new lease on life as their drugs are used to extend the lives of the retiring baby boomers.
Energy because it’s getting cheaper to drill for oil (in the US) using the technology called fracking, which gets oil that was previously hard and expensive to get. This will transform the US into a new Saudi Arabia and reduce our dependence on middle eastern oil.
Of course, I also think social media will do well: whatever the next Zynga, etc is.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS AND FAILURE?
@JorgeToullier asks: What is your definition of success and failure ?
ANSWER: This is a tricky question. [See, “Success is a Sexually Contagious Disease”]. My gut reaction was to say: Success is when you have the money and freedom to pursue spiritual pursuits as opposed to accumulate more houses and yachts. I firmly believe this to be true. The irony of success is that it gives you the freedom to throw away the trappings of success: the house, the cars, the trips, etc and just learn to be happy rather than be stressed about how you can afford it all.
Failure, is of course, the opposite of this. When you are worried forever. And the worry translates to bad health, more stress, and eventual death.
But failure and success is more than this:
Success is when you can renounce the stresses that attempt to suffocate you even if you haven’t yet accumulated the money to “buy” freedom. Freedom can be had right now. You don’t have torenounce the world to have success. You can renounce your stresses and worries.
And Failure is when you hurt people. Sometimes people hurt people because they themselves are hurt. Failure is when you can’t overcome your inner hurts and so you take it out on others.
AMAZN or APPLE?
@ChicagoYak asks: AMZN or APPL?
Answer: Warren Buffett says that if a company is still going to be here 20 years from now then it is probably a good investment (this isn’t always true: Kodak, for instance, GM. Bethlehem Steel, etc).
But clearly Apple is going to continue to innovate. Steve Jobs might be dead but the actual designer of the ipod, phone, ipad is Johnny Ive who is very much alive and 44 years also (See, “Why AAPL will be the first trillion dollar company”)
And while bookstores are going out of business left and right, Amazon is continuing to thrive and continusing to innovate in industries they were never in before (which reminds me of Apple). I think one can put money in both these companies and never look at them again. The “never looking at them again” is the key to investment success.
MARRIED TO WORK?
@niketdesai asks: Is being married to work really a bad thing when you are young. Do I really have a lot of time to find my life partner?
ANSWER: It’s very important to be married to work when you are young. To develop ideas and have a passion that takes you beyond the competition (the rest of society). Too many people spend their 20s chasing simple and easy pleasures without regard to their own health and without regard to building up so that later in life they can pursue more fruitful pursuits.
Also, looking at the divorce rate of people who are married in their 20s its often better to be married to your work than to be married to a human.
WHY DO I WRITE FOR MAINSTREAM MEDIA?
@robtoole asks: @jaltucher why do always advise to ignore the media, yet regularly contribute to hype and fear monger publications
ANSWER: Every day the headlines get worse and worse and then, when the worst doesn’t happen, the media forgets to apologize. Whatever happened to the radiation that was supposed to wash up on the shores of San Francisco from Japan? Everyone got sick taking iodine pills. No radiation. No apology.
Andnow Greece. What is it with Greece. Since 40BC Greece has NEVER been a self-sufficient country. They were also dependent on funds from others (last: we funded them to keep the Soviets out of the Mediterranean). They never ever had money. Why they were put in the Euro union is beyond me.
And now the media wants us to worry about them even though their effect on our economy is less than 1/10 of 1%. It might even be more like 1/1000 of 1%.
So why do I go on? To try to do my little to set the record straight although it probably accomplishes nothing. I think people at home are so used to hearing doom and gloom all the time I’m hoping that a little bit of optimism will be good for them before we all talk ourselves into a Depression (little “d” or big “D”).
WHERE IS THE US MARKET GOING?
@artling asks: what do you think the outlook for the US market will be in six months?
ANSWER: I can answer with a question: why would the US market go down? We just had good employment numbers this morning. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Exxon, and Intel, all trade for less than 10 times forward earnings (historical average is 15 times earnings) and they are all growing (Apple has grown 124% year over year), and they all have enormous cash.
Let’s look at all the leading indicators that suggest the economy will be good 1 – 6 months from now:
rail traffic: up
hotel occupancy: up
retail sales up: 4% year over year
ISM manufacturing above 50, saying the economy is still expandning
unemployment claims at lowest level since May 2008
existing home sales up 18% year over year while housing starts at a low (i.e. demand is up but supply is down so housing prices should go up)
I can go on and on. And the stock market is not necessarily related to the economy on a daily basis but I do think the worst is behind us. And the market is in bear market territory (or has been) so now we should get a strong bull market move and then we have an election year which should be good. Also, when Zynga, Facebook, etc start going public that should be strong for the market. And finally, when banks start lending the $1.6 trillion they have in reserves (and commercial lending is already back full force) then that shouldbe good as well.
So basically: I think the US market is going to go straight up.
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE IN LOVE
@martycos asks: at what moment did you know you were in love? Did you have a Shazam moment!?!
ANSWER: I’m a first date fall-in-love kind of guy. So after our first date we sat down on a bench in Tompkins Sq Park and we both just sat there and said nothing. And I didn’t feel awkward about it. That’s when I knew I was in love. No Shazam moment. But I knew I could be comfortable with this person. [See, “How I Met Claudia”]. It was such a relief from all the other experiences I had beenhaving.
HOW DO I BUILD TRAFFIC TO MY BLOG?
@ThePorchHound asks: How do I make my unknown website [popular]
ANSWER: It’s funny how “honesty” becomes a strong competitive advantage. Your entire competition is DISHONEST. I’m not saying they are lying. They are just slick, or are hiding the truth in various ways. They might give “10 best ways to find success” but don’t talk about all the times they failed.
In 1995 (I forget the exact site) there was a girl who was a narcoleptic. She slept 20 hours a day. But, she had a diary she kept online (what we would call a blog now). And because she so honest and sincere about what she was going through, she had more hits per day than People Magazine’s fledgling website.
Sincere voices always rise to the top. Honesty and bleeding are so easy for us to do and yet NONE of our competitors do it. Be honest and you will rise to the top [See, 33 Unusual Ways to Be a Better Writer]
One great example is…Google. Imagine being a consulting company but whenever a client comes to you, you say “no, you should go to my competitor over here”.
That’s what Google does. If you type in “cancer”, Google itself has no content about cancer but will point you to all of its website competitors that do have information that can help you about cancer. Consequently, Google is the most popular website in the world. IT’s the SOURCE. And his is why Yahoo websites are number two. Yahoo is also a Source. Become a SOURCE. You do that through honesty, through fearless bleeding, so people know that your site or business FIRST is the truest spot for information that we all need. [See, How Honesty can make You Rich]
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