ASK JAMES: SHOULD PUNCHING BE LEGAL? WHEN SHOULD YOU LEAVE SOMEONE? HOW TO THINK ON YOU FEET? AND MORE!
- Posted by James Altucher
About a week or so ago I was in Twitter’s offices in San Francisco. I fell in love. You can see this is a company that is intent on saving the world. I feel these “appointment twitter sessions” where I do the Q&A allows me to be a tiny part of what they are trying to accomplish across their thousands of avenues of improving the ongoing realtime social media conversation. It was great to see them in action, get the tour, and talk to many of the people who are keeping things going.
So below is this week’s “Dear Abby” but first two things: I’m giving this talk on December 7 to discuss failure, success, the daily practice, and whatever else comes up. And finally, Amazon seems to be doing a promo on my latest book. Enjoy! And stop by next Thursday for the next Q&A!
What are the Best Books for for People Who Want to Think Different.
@codymort, Cody Mortimer, asks: Off the top of your head, what would you consider the best 3 #entrepreneur books?
ANSWER: This answer deserves an entire post. Because there’s several questions here. What is an entrepreneur? What makes a good book about entrepreneurs? And what are the best books I’ve read. I gave one answer in the tweets that filled 140 characters but there’s more to be said.
An entrepreneur is not a businessman. He’s not a billionaire. He’s not necessarily a leader. I’m going to change the definition a little bit.
The universe is going in a certain direction. Atoms are in motion, quantum particles are on their endless journey. An entrepreneur is like a god that puts his hand into the universal soup and changes the direction of things so that the resulting worldscape that is created is now different. An entrepreneur can be a businessman, an artist, an employee, a creator, a mystic.
His mind is pulsating on a different rhythm than everyone else’s. He is either born this way, or learns it by seeing it in his colleagues, or gets it by clearly seeing the holes and gaps around him that can be filled when everyone else is somehow missing them.
His mind knows how to solve problems when the universe doesn’t go the way he has planned. His emotions are free from conflict and from the daggers constantly being thrown at him by the people who are jealous or refuse to believe his new ideas. He is physically fit. He knows how to surrender when defeated and move onto the next event because he had confidence that in the long run things work out for the independent thinkers and souls of the world.
What are the best books for entrepreneurs?
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. This one book alone shows how we live in a world where not only humans mate and evolve but ideas mate and evolve even faster. Understanding this one idea and seeing it in action through Ridley’s examples will inspire you to dip into that evolutionary pool and inspire yourself.
Sophie Calle: Did You See Me. An artist for the past several decades much of her art is not traditional painting or photos but “interactions”. An example: She got her mother to hire a private detective who followed her for a day and then she compared his notes to hers on what happened for the day. In the book she lists one art “piece” after another. It made me think.
Wallace Wattles: The Science of Getting Rich. Forget Napoleon Hill. Forget the power of positive thinking. Forget the”law of attraction” or “The Secret”. The source of all of these books is a book written in 1900 by a relatively unknown, Wattles.
Of course my book: “I was Blind But Now I See”. The purpose of my book is threefold:
A) How society, commercialism, corporate America, and government, are constantly hypnotizing the everyday person to conform to a definition of Happiness and Success that is far removed from reality.
B) How to recognize and reverse that hypnotism
C) How to start from the core within and get back physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health so that you can go on to be the creator, inventor, innovator, artist, entrepreneur you were meant to be.
I have many more books that have influenced me. You might say these are books from just the past week but maybe I’ll put together a bigger post describing about 50 other books.
By the way, on December 7, I’m giving a talk about my book here in the city. I hope you can make it. If you have trouble getting tickets let me know.
WHERE TO GO WHEN THE S*IT HITS THE FAN?
M_Knopf, Michael Knopf asks: If shit really hits the fan, what do you think is a good country for a young American to move to?
I have a scarcity complex. When I sold my first company it was 1998. I woke up one morning at about 4am in a panic. In about 28 years I was going to go broke, I thought to myself. And that’s after I would make sure my parents and kids had millions of dollars. I got out of bed and walked all over the city. I think I circled the entire downtown Manhattan within about two hours. Just pacing and adding up numbers and always coming up short. 28 years, 30 years if I cut this corner, 27 years though if I fall down this alley.
Downtown Manhattan became a map of my scarcity, my feelings that I was never good enough to make money, that I would never be good enough to hold onto it, that I didn’t deserve it in the first place, that eventually I would lose it all.
- (this is real scarcity. It’s not here.)
And guess what? I lost it all. Every single dime. Again and again, since I’m always good at coming up with more ideas. But for me, that feeling of scarcity is the hardest thing to deal with. Why do I have it? I don’t know the answer even now.
But let me tell you: nothing is hitting any fan. As Pinker shows, there is less violence in the world now than ever before. Heck, we have toilets, we have literacy, we have the ipad.
Are there people suffering? Yes. And our goal is to make the world better and help them. We can all do that by people the best people we can be first. As I’ve written before, “Occupy Yourself” first.
Don’t’ spend your day worrying about whether some bank in Europe is going to default to another bank in Europe. Let’s not forget in 1981 that almost the entire continent of South America defaulted. What happened after that? A 2 decade boom in the American economy plus the widespread acceptance and rollout of the Internet, which changes peoples lives every day.
Is there contemptuous behavior in the banks? In government (insider trading rampantly abused by members of Congress where it is surprisingly legal). In all the alphabet city of agencies in between the banking world and the government? In the lobbyists? In the candidates? Of course! But Occupy Yourself first.
Don’t run scared to another country. They aren’t better. They are, for the most part, far worse. When Havel became leader of the Czech Republic in the “velvet revolution” I was inspired by his first official talk where he suggested change comes from within. He was right, but it still didn’t necessarily mean people would listen to him or that the Czech Republic would flourish under his rule.
Focus on every day improving the energy you emanate out to the rest of the world. Then you can live anywhere and be happy and successful and a beacon to others.
HOW TO START A BUSINESS WITHOUT RISKING LOSING EVERYTHING?
@lakergod asks: how do you start a business when you have no money? how do you minimize risk of losing everything
In 1994 I had no money and I started working at HBO. When I say I had no money, I had $0. As I’ve written before I lived in a one room apartment with a guy, Elias Zamora, who made his living gamblingchess in Washington Square park. I slept on the futon, he slept on the couch. I had a garbage bag next to the futon that had allmy clothes including a suit I’d pull out each morning to get to work at HBO.
- (chess at Wash Sq park)
When you work at a big corporate giant you see everything they are doing wrong, all the holes that are missing. You start to think: they don’t have X. They don’t have Y. If they only had Z then their business would be better. Every day you can come up with 10 things they don’t have that would make their business better.
You can build those ten things.
And guess what: you have a ready customer: the company you work for. Or, ifnot them, their direct competitors.
That’s, at a high level, how I started my first business. I still had a full time salary. But I started making things for them and for other companies that I sold in a freelance capacity. Until it was too big and I was too busy and I was making TOO MUCH money so I had to quit.
And quitting even then is still a leap of faith that requires courage. But staying at a company for 15 years until you are inbred requires a sad sort of courage as well.
Every day take a little jump. Jump over a puddle. Jump over an alligator crossing the street. Jump over your own fears. Eventually you’ll land in the pleasure dome and hopefully you get to stay there.
To summarize: find a customer that will pay you. That minimizes your risk.
SHOULD WE BE ALLOWED TO PUNCH PEOPLE?
@icekevin Kevin Iacof asks: Would the world be a better place if each person in the world had a no retaliation allowed, one free punch per year?
ANSWER: Haha, I know what you mean. What you are really asking is: if everyone was slightly afraid that they would be a recipient of that no-retaliation one punch per year then perhaps people might behave better to each other.
The other day I was in Grand Central Gourmet. At rush hour when everyone is trying to buy some last minute food before catching their trains, I accidentally bumped into an older woman (in her 70s or 80s). Just brushed against her. She shoved me so hard I fell to the floor and dropped my own bag of food.
Should I have punched her? Would that have made the world a better place? Maybe she was a survivor of concentration camps? Maybe her father beat her so now she felt comfortable the rest of her life beating others. Maybe her son or daughter had died an early death. I have no idea what was going on in her life really.
Why then, punch her? Even if I could. Would that make the world a better place if that was my once a year no-retaliation punch?
Instead she became my greatest teacher that day. A day where I had already met many fascinating other teachers. I had to quickly pick myself up, pick my food up, get on my train, and not let my mind be crowded with thoughts of anger for her.
That’s pretty hard! I dare you to try it. That’s much harder than punching her. I couldn’t stop wondering, “why did she shove me so violently? Who would do that?” Heck, I’m still thinking of it.
But eventually the thoughts did simmer down. And on the train ride back I was able to enjoy a book. And I was happy when I got home and was able to see the Hudson River from my house, and the leaves on the trees turning all sorts of colors. I was able to log onto my computer and answer emails. I was able to come up with ideas. I was able to enjoy dinner. I was able to write a post.
I was able to save the world.
WHEN DO YOU LEAVE SOMEONE?
@brainybetty asks: when do you decide to leave someone? At what point is it really over? Even if you share children?
This not a simple question. Particularly when there’s children involved. You should always try to make things work. BUT, there are exceptions:
- Is the person abusive to you in any way. This could be the result of a temperament they’ve had since their childhood. It also can be a result of your temperament, allowing abuse without setting boundaries.
- Are they abusive to the kids in any way? Then the kids must be removed from the person immediately.
- Most situations are not so direct. And abuse is subtle. So my thermometer is: have the arguments worn you down to the bone. Where you can’t even look at the person without the two of you arguing? In my own situation I was arguing so much with my ex-wife the police had to be called and I had to spend the night at a motel. When things like that start to happen then there’s nothing good that can be the result. It’s time to move on.
One time my youngest came into the kitchen where her mom and I were arguing. She asked, “Umm, Josie [her older sister] wants to know if you guys are going to stay together.” Somehow Josie had convinced her younger sister to broach this question to us. They were scared. They were confused. Just like the stock market and the world economy, kids abhor uncertainty. After that I knew it was over.
Never forget that the kids want love. They don’t want hate. Four happy parents are much better than two very unhappy, constantly arguing parents.
HOW DO YOU LEARN TO THINK ON YOUR FEET?
@socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood Asks: How do you learn to think on your feet?
Things always go wrong. All the time. When I was selling my first company, everything went wrong. We lost clients. Our landlord refused to give approval. We forget to get health insurance for our employees (and we had to admit that to our buyer), we were going bankrupt if the acquisition didn’t close within a month.
But every problem has a solution. Your mind has to be as flexible as possible.
Some people say, “the mind gets flexible through meditation.”
That only works for a few people. Not everyone can start off sitting for an hour a day and not get totally bored or fall asleep. Meditation is not really meant for most people (this is my opinion).
But you can train your mind to be flexible and to think fast. When I exercise muscles, I exercise until I hurt. Until I sweat. Until I know the next day I’m going to be sore. Otherwise the exercise doesn’t work.
It’s the same thing with the mind. You have to every day exercise it until it hurts. Until it’s sore the next day. Until you can’t go on any further but you know you have to if you want your idea muscles to be working. Idea muscles atrophy. You need to exercise them every day to build them back up. The benefits:
- You will be able to think on your feet regardless of what problem comes up
- You will become an idea machine
- Other people with ideas will be attracted to you. Ideas want to mate. They want to give birth to new ideas. So people who have the idea muscles sharpened will become evolutionarily attracted to you to get new ideas born.
Just start with this: every day take a waiter’s pad and write down ten ideas. Then, with each idea, come up with the next two steps ofhow to get that idea done. If it’s a book idea, write the outline. If it’s a chapter idea, write down what the chapter is about. If it’s a business idea, write down some initial customers, or what the next step is on getting the idea implemented. Hurt your head. Keep thinking on each idea until you have to stop and say, “ugh, this hurts to push any more on this idea.” Do that for six months.
Then you join the ranks of the Idea Machines.
SHOULD I RUB A BILLION IN MY EX-WIFE’S FACE?
Tradestrong Jack Aubrey asks: if I make a billion shall I rub it the x wifes face?
ANSWER: NO! There’s that expression “the best revenge is living well”. It doesn’t say, “the best revenge is smothering your ex’s face with your success”. In fact, I’m going to change the expression slightly. “The best revenge is just being happy”. The statement is almost a logical impossibility. You can’t be really happy if you are consumed with thoughts of revenge.
There’s quite a few people I want revenge on. I know I won’t be happy until those feelings of revenge start to go down and eventually disappear. How do I do that?
Everytime I think, “man, I’m going to get that guy back” or whatever, I catch myself and think “not useful”. This is what I recommend in the “Power of negative thinking” post.
Those thoughts of revenge are like rocks. Catching them and saying “not useful” is like water. Eventually water withers away the rock.
When no rocks are left, you have a clean sandy beach, then the ocean, then the horizon. Happy.
HOW TO GIVE CHILDREN SELF-CONFIDENCE?
@Pcostanzo Pcostanzo Asks: What power, if any do parents have to give their their children self confidence and values? And how?
ANSWER: I wasn’t a self-confident kid. I thought I was too ugly. I thought kids wouldn’t like me unless I was special at something, or unless I gave them something as a gift, or unless I lied to them so I would seem more special than I am.
I have no idea what my parents did right or wrong. Certainly I know they did many things right.
But I know, for my own kids, the best way I can teach them to be self-confident is for me to be self-confident and for me to have values.
Their only comparison in life as they grow older will be their parents. If I demonstrate the right values and the right confidence then they will become the beacon to others that I hope for them.
(See also, “I want my daughters to be lesbians”)
WHAT’S MY DAILY LIST?
@iChmpneGrl Champagne Girl asks: U seem 2 B a man of lists. Do U have a daily 2 do (check) list that U cross things off of; or is it a more organic process?
YES! Here’s part of my list.
- I sleep 8-9 hours.
- I read books by writers with strong voices so I hope some of that voice rubs off on me when I begin writing
- By 6am I’m writing (I’m on my third cup of coffee by then)
- Around 9am I start thinking of ideas for making money, writing ideas, book ideas, distribution ideas, helping others ideas, networking ideas.
- Then the day begins. I try to respond to as many people who have written me as possible if I don’t have meetings in the way.
- Sometime in afternoon I try to write 1000 words on a novel. If I can do that 2/3 of days then I’ll have the equivalent of four novels done within a year. So we’ll see if I can stick to this!
- Asleep by 7-8pm
I avoid anything that’s a time waster: too much social media, I don’t read news. No pop culture. No Angry birds or other games. No emails with people who hate me or who I don’t like. No prime time TV. No more than two meals a day. No junk food. No gossiping. All of the above taken together saves me about three hours compared with how I used to live my life.
HOW DO I KNOW THE NEWS IF I DON’T READ THE NEWS?
socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood asks you don’t read newspapers so how u keep up with the news?
ANSWER: Three answers:
A) Who cares about the news? Name one thing in the news today that will make me any happier. Most of themedia lies to me to make me panic more. I don’t want to panic more. So I won’t read the news.
B) When I go on TV I might read a few research reports to get up to speed.
C) OR, I MIGHT NOT. The news never actually changes: Europe, Kim Kardashian, economy worries, everyone’s angry, everyone’s depressed, election blah blah blah. The news is the same EVERY SINGLE DAY. I know how to respond to the news whether I read it or not. I’d rather read a funny book than read the news. That will make me happier during those twenty minutes.
Try it, today: instead of reading the news (even the gossip news), read a non-fiction book where you can learn something, or read a funny book where you can laugh at something, or call your kids, or do something where you can actually add to the value of your life instead of decrease from it. Try that every day now for a week.
See the difference?
(See also, “How Snooki Can Stop Violent and Sex-Crazed Children“)
SHOULD YOU SELF-PUBLISH?
Donnellynomics John Donnelly asks Any advice for essayist that would like to get published. I enjoy writing about philosophy and ethics. Who should i write for?
ANSWER: I have a much more comprehensive post on this coming next week. I think EVERY blogger and entrepreneur should self-publish. And now is the exact right time to do it.
But, to answer your question: “Who should I write for?”
There are only two people WHO ARE REALLY INVOLVED in the writing and publish process:
YOU (the writer), and the READER.
Nobody else: agents, bookstores, publishers, editors, publicists, are all a waste of time (the lag to publication), money (advances are quickly going to zero and everything costs money. The publishers sometimes even charge you for part of the editing process.), and creativity (do you think a 22 year old editor is going to make your ideas and book better? Do you think an agent cares about you if you don’t already have a bestseller so they can count the money?)
So take your essays, put them into a book, geta book designer, AND PUBLISH.
More on this in the next week but you can view this post.
To get more of my step-by-step on how to get it done until the book is sitting in your hands.
LOVE OR CAREER?
@karlaVigilante Karlavigilante asks Love or career?
ANSWER: They are the same. If they aren’t the same, then figure out how to move towards a point where they are the same. There’s no excuses in this.
REINVENT YOURSELF…OR OTHERS?
iChmpneGrl Champagne Girl asks: which gives you more satisfaction, reinventing your own life or inspiring others to reinvent theirs; why?
About a year ago I got sick of talking about stocks. Everyone wants stock tips. They think if they buy a stock and it goes up then they will be happier than they are now. That they will be more “safe”. Some of my stock tips would go up , some would go down. When the stocks would go up, I would never hear from people again. When the stock would go down, everyone would send me angry notes.
So if along the way to happiness there’s a lot of potential for anger, then it’s not a true happiness. It’s not a true road.
So I wanted to reinvent myself. And the way I reinvented myself is by writing a blog that shows how I reinvented myself and maybe that gives a little inspiration to help other people find the right way to reinvent their own selves.
People are still angry at me. But it’s for their own reasons that have nothing to do with me.
And I’m happier.
Follow me on Twitter please.
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