Ask James: Happiness, God, Morality, Dating Advice, and Charlie Sheen


Every Thursday I do this Q&A from 3:30-4:30PM. It’s probably the funnest part of the week for me. I love doing it. And then writing this post. I hope to keep doing them.

HOWEVER, for the next two weeks I’m in India. So the timing won’t work out. So I have to take a two week break. That said, if you have a question (in 140 characters or less) send to me at I’ll answer either through email or in a post (where I will hide email addresses).

Another two notes:

1)      I’m almost done with the free book: “FAQ ME” described at the bottom of this post.

2)      If you have different answers than me for any of the questions below, please use the comments to answer. I need all the help I can get.

(i did a search on "FAQ ME" and this image came up)



@MrJNowlin Jesse Nowlin

Asks how do you make more hours in the day???


Gandhi has a great quote on this. Someone said that with all of his responsibilities he probably should be not be meditating for a whole hour every day. He replied, “I guess I need to meditate for TWO hours per day.”

Time management is a myth. You have the time. You don’t even really need to manage it that much. For instance, going through “the Internet loop”: email, facebook, twitter, news, etc. For most people that takes 15-20 minutes and they do it up to 10 times a day. Do it twice a day.

But if that’s hard we must take more extreme measures: No TV, No alcohol, no dinners outside the house (ideally, no dinner past 7pm or even earlier) and wake up an hour earlier.

And, if you can, no meetings. And if you have a meeting, make it a walking meeting. Walk around the block for your meeting. So you get exercise also and the meeting goes faster. Or don’t allow any chairs in the meeting room. I can guarantee the  meeting will only be five minutes then.

And don’t waste time making excuses about this. Or complaining to me about it. I’m pretty busy also. So I don’t watch TV, I don’t waste time at dinners outside the house, I wake up an hour earlier, I try (please god give me the strength) not to do the “internet loop” too many times during the day.  I don’t take on meetings (or, rarely – I pack all my meetings into one day a week and then go from meeting to meeting).

So I’ve saved time.

Now, my big challenge – what to do with that extra time? So I write a lot. And help businesses I’m involved with. But I want to take even that down a notch. Spend more time with people I love. Spend more time exercising and reading. I hope.


@dylanized dylan hassinger Asks: any dating advice for introverts?


Yes. If you spend even one night at home you’re in trouble.

As Gretzky says, “skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s at.

So…go to tango classes. Go to yoga. Go to cooking classes. Join book clubs. Don’t think you’ll go to one tango class and meet the love of your life. All of these things are seeds that you plant. Some of the seeds will grow, some won’t.

(yoga class: all women)

If you find yourself with free time after this, sign up for every dating service. Send out twenty notes a day. Vary them up. Make them funny, clever. I’d do it for you but I’d have to charge. I was a dating service expert. I used all of them. Heck, I built one.

And you have to handle rejection, lots of it. But even a rejection is a seed planted. It builds strength in you and gets the word out: you’re looking, you’re available.

But most importantly, go to all the  places where there are more women than men. Believe me! Women want to meet you just as much as you want to meet them. And they love introverts.

Look at me! I’m hideous. But I worked it. And it worked.


MrJNowlin Jesse Nowlin asks: build startup on the side slowly, or quit day job get funding and move faster?


DO NOT leave the day job. BY the time I left my day job I was totally able to duplicate my income with my startup. I did not suffer one decrease. I had about 10 clients, including my day job, and I was able to juggle the startup with the day job by giving up on social life. I hired all my friends at either my day job or my startup.

From beginning of the startup until the time I left my job was about 1.5 years. Give it time.I feel like the world is in a startup frenzy right now. Relax. Corporate America as has been traditionally is now officially dead. There’s no safety there. There’s only hustling now. Always have ideas and you’ll eventually be able to leave the day job.



justinjmoses Justin J. Moses asks: what is the sixth law of power and how important is it?


When I answered this I was, and still am, assuming the question is referring to that book “Power: The 48 Laws of Power”. I don’t like that book. I think many of the “laws” are about building yourself up at the expense of others.

Success is not a zero-sum game, else we’d still be back in the dark ages. You’re most successful when your one overriding thought is how can I bring the most success to others.

That’s the ONE law of power that everyone needs.

BUT, I’ll answer the question: the Sixth Law of Power in the book is to court attention wherever you possibly can.

This is not so bad, relative to some of the other “laws” in the book.

However, you can’t court attention for the sake of courting attention. Everthing you do has to provide value. If you write a blog post, if you tweet, if you perform a service, deliver value. Everything. Don’t even think of doing something without asking first, “What value am I providing”.

So, for instance, I’m courting attention by writing this post. By doing the Twitter Q&A’s, by writing books. I’m trying to court a lot of attention.  Some of it is for ego purposes probably. Some of it is so people think of me when potential opportunities arise. I don’t deny I have selfish purposes.

But first and foremost, deliver value. That really should be the sixth law of power. And then, if the value is real and helps people, attention happens automatically.



@oliverg12 Olivier asks why do you often encourage people to drop out of school, when you graduated from a good college with a respectable degree

ANSWER: Obviously this is a hostile question. I’ve written many times about the value of college. Here are some of my posts

This post: Living Life is Better than Dying in College, contains links to all my other posts on college.

My assumption is that the real statement this person is making is: you don’t want other people to accrue the other benefits you’ve accrued. You want to keep people down.

So, several answers:

A)     I went to college so that gives me experience on what college is really about. Would you rather have someone who didn’t go to college tell kids not to go to college? IN which case, there are also many examples.

B)      College now is different than when I was a kid. The most important difference: student loan debt is now so high that it exceeds credit card debt for the first time ever. Inflation has gone up 3-fold in the past 40 years, healthcare costs have gone up 5-fold, and tuitions for college have gone up 10-fold. How is this fair?

C)      People say, well, college students make more money than non-college students. This statement suffers from selection bias. The “type of people” who went to college twenty years ago certainly make more than the type of people who chose not to go to college twenty year ago. That’s a completely different statement and more correct.


@Julian_Lenz Julian Lenz asks your thoughts about the scene from wallstreet when charlie sheen sits in his apartment with beautiful girl and says life is great


A lot of times we strive for things that we think will increase our happiness: sex with the beautiful person at the gym. More money. A lot more money. A house. A nice big house. A nice car. Winning that last hand of poker, etc.

But think about all these things: you have sex with the beautiful woman one day (happiness!) and the next day you’re wondering where she is when she doesn’t return your calls (unhappiness!). You make a lot of money on a deal (happiness) and then you lose it on the next (misery!)

This is  not real happiness. It’s a mountain: the entire time you are walking up you are sweating and in pain. Then you get to the peak and you look around and you’re happy. And then you go down the mountain you no longer have that same happiness.

This “peak happiness” is not real happiness. It’s a fake happiness. It’s a dopamine addiction created happiness. More on happiness below.


greenjobseeker KAWB  in a business, is an idea the most valuable part of the creation?


I’ll give you an example: In 2006 I had an offer from a bank to buy the fund of hedge funds I was managing. The offer was a good offer except…they wanted me to sign a six year employment agreement. And if I quit at any point I’d have to give all the money back.  Even my lawyer said, “I thought slavery was outlawed”.  So I couldn’t take the deal.

So I outlined ten ideas I thought could be good businesses. Nine of those ideas were bad ideas. Anybody can outline ten business ideas. Anybody can outline nine bad ones.

Then I spec-ed out each business, I put the specs on, I took in over 100 possible bids from developers who wanted to create the businesses, and then I hired one for each idea, including for , which worked out well for me.

So the ideas were bullshit. You need to always practice the idea muscle else you won’t have any good ideas. But the actual important step was the NEXT STEP: the spec-ing out of each site, using to hire a developer, paying the developer to get started, and then STARTING.

The idea held the ladder. But I had to climb the ladder to change the lightbulb. Climbing the ladder, despite my fear of heights, was the most important part.


@AJBoom Adam Bastick: James, give me one piece of killer advice that i can use daily to make it a successful 2012


If a gun was to my head and I had to give one piece of advice (hard for me: I’m like a vomitorium of advice) it would be:

Spend more time with people who love you. You can do this at home, work, on the internet, wherever.

Corollary: spend less time with people who don’t love you.



chrisglopez Chris Lopez asks: if you have an idea that the market isn’t ready for, do you sit on it or build it out anyway?



Read the above answer. I had TEN ideas and NINE were bad. Maybe the market wasn’t ready for them. Who knows? I’d be broke now if I had tried to really pursue them instead of quickly cutting my losses.

Since 1990 people have been building apps for wireless devices. I would say the market only started getting readyh for those apps in 2010. (I know this, having started a wireless business that the market was not ready for back in 2000).

So, ideas are a dime a dozen. If you have an idea that the market is not ready for, come up with a new idea.



@adamclay211 Adam Clay asks: my self published material, should I completely giveaway


ANSWER: I have a post coming up about this in about a week or so. Basically, self-published books are the new business cards. I’ll explain why in the post but the short of it is: give, give, give away.


Unpacktherat Shirley Trevor asks: Thoughts on the anti-blog movement of authors using email services like Chimp Mail? Direct to the in box as they like to say.


ANSWER: TV didn’t replace movies. Movies didn’t replace radio. Radio didn’t replace reading. Photography didn’t replace painting.

People chose the medium they want to create in. The key is to have something to say. Then figure out the medium you want to use to say it.  I like blogging because, for me, it seems like hard work to build out an email list when I don’t feel I need to. Anyoen can just come to my blog and read what I have to say plus I can have other links on there to other posts that I think are relevant. I like my posts to be “3 dimensional” and link all around.

But some people like email lists. It’s more direct. I would say the style is a bit different. So it just depends what medium you want to be a creator in, an artist in.

The key, again, is to have something to say. Then CREATE.



@derekwhurst Derek Hurst asks: I know that you write a lot about getting motivated when times are bad, but how do you stay motivated when times are good?


Every day wake up and pretend you’re a superhero. You’re Clark Kent. Nobody knows you are a super hero. But you wake up and you get out of your bed and you have a mission: you have to save at least ONE life today.

Then the rest of the day, be on the lookout for how you can help save that live. Or, if you must, save the world.

It’s a costume game. It’s make believe. But it works.


tfrojd Thomas Fröjd  asks: what should i blog about? I change my interests every day



Don’t give yourself anymore excuses to not just sit down and create! Creation takes practice and time. So start now whether you have consistent ideas or not.

Set up a blog: “My New Interest”

Every day or week post on it. Completely tell me about your new interest:

–          Why are you interested in this new thing?

–          Why did you lose interest in the old thing?

–          What connections are there between the new and the old (or older?)

–          And tell me at least one new thing about your new interest that I could not have read anywhere else.

Eventually you’ll start to see themes arise across your interests. Those themes will intermingle. Something cohesive will come out. For a brief time, you’ll be a blogger, then an artist. Then you will create something new out of the intermingling and mating of all of these interests.



@jonathankyou Jonathan Baker  asks: Can you talk about morality. Is it universal or relative?


Very little of morality is relative.

I did a post about a year ago that provoked some discussion on other websites. The post was “Was Buddha a Bad Father”?

Buddha was prince with everything: a kingdom, a beautiful wife, a newborn son.

So what did he do on the NIGHT his son was born. In the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep (so he didn’t have to say goodbye) he rode off on his quest for enlightenment.

On other blogs people wrote I didn’t understand the relative morality of what was happening. That fatherhood was different then. Ok, maybe. It’s an interesting discussion to me.

BUT, more interesting to me (and something none of the other blogs commented on when trashing me on this topi) was much later when Buddha finally came to scoop up his son and teach him about life and morality.

He gave perhaps his most powerful and useful sermon in all the Pali Canon (the collection of works containing Buddha’s actual thoughts instead of the meassive hearsay which has gotten passed down through the ages.

He basically said: “before, during, and after a thought, action or speech, consider whether or not you are hurting someone”

So this was a guy giving a moral rule 2500 years ago, 12,000 miles away. This rule is still an important rule and one that many people ignore. Every day I see trolls on the Internet trying to hurt people. People in the news trying to hurt each other. Politicians and businessmen trying to backstab each other.

Nobody follows this universal rule of morality. I hope I can follow it. But it’s very hard.

Notably, I believe it’s the last mention of Buddha’s son in Buddhist scriptures. So maybe he couldn’t follow it either. I don’t know.



Nisey7 Nisey What makes you genuinely happy?



I try to keep my expectations very very low so just about anything will exceed my expectations and make me happy.

This can have a double-meaning, one negative and one positive.

The negative is that I seek out shitty things and if they aren’t horrible then I’m happy.

The positive is that I try not to constantly seek $100 milion dollars, every deal, every girl, and then (since I can’t get all of the above) I will be happy.

In general, every day I try to reduce the things that I’ve spent a lifetime striving for. When these things hit zero, or as close to it as possible (I’m always going to want a roof over my head and a good woman next to me) I know I will be perpetually happy.



@jhilderley John Hilderley Bluffing. In business and love. Is it lying? Is it bad, ok, or a necessary evil?


I have a post coming up about this.

But basically, in life you have 7 billion competitors (the other humans who live here). How do you separate yourself apart? Well, this is easy. 99.99% of them bluff/lie every day

Cultivate constructive honesty (as opposed to “radical honesty”).

Then you will stand out in any beauty contest with the other seven billion people. You will rise up and shine versus your peers. You will rewards you couldn’t expect. More in another post.


williamsjohn John Andrew Williams asks: if you were to give one piece of advice to a high school freshman, what would it be?


Drop out.

High school is a jungle. Why do you think many high schools have metal detectors at the front door. Places with good, healthy people don’t have metal detectors at the front door.

People get hit, they get bullied, they get spit on, they get laughed at. Or maybe this was just me. I easily generalize so call me on it if I’m wrong.

The other day I met a 25 year old on his third business. The other two were successful. The third one just raised a million.

He dropped out of high school. He told me, “one day I realized I knew how to learn things. I could learn anything I wanted to. So what did I need school for?”

You can say “socializing with your peers”. Is that really so great in high school? It wasn’t so great for me.

So my advice is: drop out, start businesses, spend time with your friends when they get out of prison every day at 3pm. And the rest of the time, learn what you want to do and do what you want to do. You might never have that chance again so why waste that in a prison?

I had a lot more good questions. But I think 3000 words is a good size for a blog post.

Let me tell you what I’m doing.

I’m taking all the questions from the past 5 months and cataloging them by topic. Then I’m taking questions that I had in emails (and hiding identities), summarizing them and putting them in the same catalog.

Then I’m publishing it under the book, “FAQ ME”. The price will be free (for ebook). I hope people find use for it.

Also, as mentioned above: I’m in India the next two weeks. If you have a question for me, send it in 140 characters or less via email to I’ll answer or put in a post which will answer (and I will hide emails if I do it in a post).

I’m going to miss doing these for the next two weeks. I have fun doing them and in my own perverse way, I feel like I make friends while answering these questions. I hope you do too.

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  • karen parmelee

    Super powerful post, James! Thank you for the kick-start to my idea muscle this morning! I do hope that you can sort the FAQ emails from the 14000 others clogging your inbox. Here’s a question: If I have an inspiring idea when reading your FAQ, do I keep reading or devote attention to the inspiration of the moment?!! Have fun in India; I’ll miss these posts & Q&A’s while you’re gone.

    • Kepeneter

      Karen:  My answer to your question was to devote my attention to the inspiration of the moment!  After reading James’ bit about “constructive honesty”, I Googled those words.
      The effect was amazing and almost instantaneous!  Within a few minutes I had an opportunity to pass on what I had read to someone who really needed the information.
      For me there was a big learning curve from understanding honesty to understanding constructive honesty.  This is both internal and external.  Positive and negative.  I’m on tiptoes wating for James’ writing on the subject.

      So, go with your gut, your instinct, your inspiration!  James?

  • Christian Jakubowicz

    I’m somewhat saddened that you didn’t answer my question…I guess it’s a doozie.

  • 736hundred

    Funny thing, just yesterday I mentioned that Gmail should offer twitter-like email setting – limiting the content to 140 words.  My daughter replied,” then people would just serial email you” – but I think they could program a setting to prevent that.

    Since you are taking a (well deserved) break, you could consider instgram instead of writing.

    Meeting people – I always believed a puppy is a great way to meet people-walking anywhere, at a dog park, any park for that matter or even outside your favorite coffee house, (helps logistically) or near your “favorite” anything.  Find a breeder or shelter looking for puppy-homes and take one out for the afternoon.

    Have a wonderful trip. Safe travels.

    • essays

      interesting thoughts

  • Ambi Oct

    “Places with good, healthy people don’t have metal detectors at the front door.
    People get hit, they get bullied, they get spit on, they get laughed at. Or maybe this was just me.”

    but,sir, this happens to me everywhere, not just college,home,neighbourhood,shopping,roads… except on my greader

  • TheAcsMan

    Even success has to follow zero sum kinetics.

    While it is true that real success also means helping others to be successful, if you assume that the resources necessary for people to access your product or service are themselves limited (which is a valid assumption), then the resources have to be diverted from some other place.

    Your success has to be matched by less success by your competitors. Even if you’re offering a new product or service that has no real direct competiton, there’s still the reality that the resources to access your product won’t be flowing elsewhere.

    Buying your comic book on Amazon might end up meaning that I’d be a couple of bucks short in my desire to by a new refrigerator. Not direct competitors, for sure, but competing for my limited assets.

    Of course, I could borrow the money, but the interest paid would just drain my ability for making future purchases and that hurts everyone, but the bank extending credit.

    Now let’s assume that the money spent by consumers to support your success came from their bank accounts, rather from their spending budget, well then the bank’s reserves available for small business lending etc is decreased, precluding others from achieving the success that their business plans would have engendered.

    Yeah, we all want success, but it’s best to put blinders on as to the true impact.

    • Preemptive Placebo

      Just finished my Saturday morning group cycling ride.  Sixty miles of pain.  Together about forty of us rode in paceline, one person in front fighting the wall of wind while everyone else sat in his slipstream enjoying the ease of the draft.  Of course, nobody could pedal up front for too long.  That front rider peeled off and latched onto the back of the line while #2 rider took over up front doing the hard work.  This rotation went on and on for miles, until we were a few hundred yards from the finish line.  That’s when we all sprint for the win.  By working together we all go faster and no one is diminished. 

      This is how life works. 


      When someone buys James’s comic book.  They get more utility out of the book than they would have gotten out of the money they paid for it.  James puts that money in his bank account.  The bank holds some of his deposit as reserves but lends the rest out, thereby expanding the pool of money for all.  The woman who owns the refrigerator shop can then borrow some of that created money to buy more inventory.  Perhaps she has that special European washer/dryer combo you’ve been looking for.  You buy it.  She spends the profit buying her morning latte at the coffee shop you own.  You, in turn, use her latte money to buy James’s next comic.  And so on….

      Human Emotions:

      I woke up in a good mood this morning and told my wife how beautiful she looked in her new tights as she was on her way out the door to teach a Yoga class.  She taught a killer class.  All the women (and one guy) went home afterwards with the endorphins flowing.  Some of them directed that beautiful flow of endorphins toward their significant-other who – at this very moment – is feeling very, very good himself.  And so on…..


      • TheAcsMan

        That was an entertaining response and I enjoyed reading it, as I do any fairy tale.

        Let’s take the bicyclists. FIrst, you do point out that they endured 60 miles of pain. Where you oversimplify is the expectation that the counter-event, restoring zero order to the world has to  occur immediately. For some, the recurrent pushing of their physical limits will result in orthopedic or other sequealae, costing them pain and society resources, as they must miss work, have surgery, etc. perhaps years later. Their physical pain and infirmity will be compounded by their sorrow that they are no longer able to be part of the team that breaks wind. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

        While I agree that you and I may buy James’ book and derive enjoyment, the reality of that supposition is that there will be those who are dis-satisfied, just as James pointed out a few days ago when writing about a 1 star review. The economic example you used is wonderful, but it is the plus side of the economic cycle. We all know too well what the negative, or downward sloping part of the cycle looks and feels like. It includes the unbought refrigerator sitting in inventory, bankruptcy, not performing loans and so on.

        And then there’s the guy who has no one beautiful to wake up next to. His frustrations are horribly pent up. He is surly, nasty and does unspeakable things becasue he believes that life has dealt him a bad hand. The things that he does and says makes other people upset and they then transmit those feelings to their loved ones or pets. In one case, a man’s weddimng anniversary, he and his wife had planned a romatic candlelight dinner. He was so upset by interactions with that horrid man, that despite the flaming endorphins he should have had and the glow of his wife, he just wasn’t interested in consummation that evening. Their child, who would have been conceived on that night, the one who was destined to find a cure for cancer? He was never conceived.

        And so on.

        In isolation, any of the scenes that either of us described can occur. Our individual experiences and observations are limited, however. Their unique combination colors how we perceive the world. It is neither all good, nor all bad. It is in long term balance

        • Preemptive Placebo

          Is it possible for a guy to not be interested in consummation?  Ever. 


          • TheAcsMan

            Yeah, you’re right. That was stretching it a bit beyond what could be believed.

          • TiredGuy

            “Show me a beautiful woman, and I’ll show you a guy who’s tired of XYZ’ing her.”

    • Josh Haas

      if you assume that the resources necessary for people to access your product or service are themselves limited (which is a valid assumption), then the resources have to be diverted from some other place.”

      This may be true if you zoom out to the perspective of universal entropy.  But we’re a pretty long way away from that.  The efficiency with which our civilization uses its available resources is probably a tiny, tiny fraction of 1%.  If someone builds a product or service that, on net, boosts that efficiency, that seems like a non-zero-sum win to me…

      • TheAcsMan

        In the context that I was referring, resources = finances or money to buy the product or service. That assumption remains valid, as most people have to make choices on how to utilize their limited resourcea.

        The assumptions that you make may not be equally valid, such as the guess that there is a 1% efficiency in natural resource utilization. But the essence of what you’re saying is distilled down to the “what if” question.

        What if someone invents a perpetual motion machine or can turn lead into gold. Yes, those would bea non-zero win – win, but the problem is that it can never happen.

        • Josh Haas

          We might be talking past each other a bit. As an individual consumer on a given day in a given moment, I have only limited financial resources to spend. But the net wealth of civilization can go up and down over time, and maybe next year the I have more cash in my pocket to spend on more products. Creating more wealth doesn’t require inventing perpetual motion, it happens all the time. Ie, better agricultural techniques let people get more vegetables from the same amount of land. Better manufacturing techniques lead to less waste = more profit from the same amount of raw materials. That’s not magic or wishful thinking, that’s technology….

          • TheAcsMan

            The problem with that kind of analysis is that it takes a freeze frame and doesn’t consider the natural consequences or the economic cycles that invariably follow.

            For example, for every farmer that gets better acreage yield, there is the natural reaction to plow more acres next year. As a result there is greater capital expenditure (more machinery, labor, ewtc). As costs go up, due to over-production, value of crop per acre now is going down. You go from bumper to dumper. It is a predictable cycle. Technology just takes you in a different path, but the cyclic nature, or a reversion to zero, is the natural order.

          • Josh Haas

            Really? I buy cycles, I buy that it’s 2 steps forward, and 1 step backwards, but I don’t buy reversion to 0. If reversion to 0 was the norm, wouldn’t we still be living in caves? I’m not the biggest proponent of modern civilization ever, but I think it’s hard to argue that there hasn’t been a steady advance in net human wealth both total and per capita. Likewise, if you trace the stock market from the beginning of the 20th century to present, there’s been a lot of up and downs but it’s still an upwards pointing graph.

          • TheAcsMan

            Yes, caves are coming back as the current cycle concludes, although only those whose  net per capita wealth is greater than 2 standard deviations beyond the mean will qualify for a mortgage.

          • Josh Haas

            Hahaha, I guess that means the time to start buying up caves is right now! Actually, speaking of which, I know this guy in florida if anyone’s interested who has a bunch of caves, grottos, beaver lodges, etc., very reasonably priced.

  • boris

    Few comments about your post on high school.

    When I was about 12 or 13 a relative of mine suddenly dropped out of high school, and I don’t remember the exact details or anything, but I remember every one of my family going “how stupid of him, why would he do that..?!” When I got to high school, I was a huge loner, hardly talked, got made fun of, but I was insane at analyzing everything around me which helped me understand that most of school was bullshit. To me, school was all about generating unneeded fear, dumbing down and testing kids and trying to make them all think alike.

    Instead of doing my homework which was boring I started drawing at my house and started a t-shirt company, and then all of a sudden local bands started wanting t-shirts, people at school thought they were cool, etc. 
    The thing about drawing and starting a business though, they all happened outside of school (I watched youtube videos, read magazines, studied the market, read success stories, tested different approaches, none of which I could ever have grasped in a school environment.)

    I ended up graduating high school but my senior year was spent figuring out what the hell I wanted to do next (outside of school), instead of worrying that I was getting C’s and D’s and failing college algebra. 

    • Adam Richardson

      James, I always enjoy and agree with your takes on “education” vs learning.  

      Aside from all the usual talk of smothering creativity, fostering group think, training you to get good grades but not learn anything, – all very true…I wanted to add a personal note:  My high school experience was mostly colored by the fact that I was so f-ing sleepy all the time I couldn’t have gotten much done in even the most ideal of learning environments.   

      If, like Descartes, I had been allowed to sleep until I woke up and then lazily daydream until rolling out of bed – those years would have gone much differently.  What happened when Descartes got a gig where he had to wake up at 5 am?  He died!  (OK so it was at least pneumonia / iatrogenics – and maybe even murder…but the man was very sleepy)

      Boris – I never did homework either…I drew a lot, lifted weights, read the Icelandic sagas and Greek myths.  Your comment reminded me of that and an article I just read about Einstein and Niels Bohrs views on education, imagination and the importance of play. 

    • TrepBeware

      There are only so many viable opportunities to own a t-shirt company, be a Playboy photographer, or be a micro-brewery beer tester. The world is littered with the corpses people who chased their dreams, worked extremely hard, and still failed. Let’s not paint a picture that dropping out of a formal education and doing what your heart tells you to do will typically lead to a happy life. I would read book all day if I could. That’s a passion. But who would pay me to read books? I’d have to be a book reviewer, and last I checked, there’s not a lot of jobs available. Plus, my passion is not writing about them, it’s enjoying one and starting the next.

      The successful folks we read about who developed and app or built a company and are wealthy enough to not have to worry about money anymore are one in 10,000. Many people put all their assets on the line to start a business, and they lose a lot, sometimes everything more often than they are successful with the new business. But books are not written about these folks. We put the winners on a pedestal made from the tears and bones of the failures, and everybody cheers.

      My point isn’t to say don’t pursue what you love. Just understand that doing this is a huge risk and does not make the road easier. Maybe more enjoyable in the beginning. The chances of failure are extremely high. A decent accountant can usually find work, even if the work is only a means to an income. A dreamchaser does not have the same income opportunities. 

      So is it better to earn a relatively reasonable living and wonder what might have been had a dream been pursued, or to go after ones dreams and most likely be considerably less well off, if not broke much of the time? I suppose it depends on how easily you can live off ramen noodles, mac-n-cheese, and hot dogs. Good luck living this way after you have a family.

      • Chootee

        But losing your soul, getting intellectually stunted and emotionally damaged in the indoctrination gulag is a worse risk. It is so wonderful that kids today have access to learning via the Internet. The purpose of the gulag is to imprison until they do get families that decrease the chances of their not conforming.

  • Teri

    Enjoy every minute of your trip!  I enjoy reading your blogs, and passed them along to my husband.  Now he enjoys them and passed them along to our son.  I’ve shared a few on FB and now friends have liked them too.  It is wonderful gift you have of offering sound advice, entertainment, and grounded perspective.  Thank you for sharing this with us.  And I thank your family for supporting you to do so.  Have a safe and happy trip!  

  • Zach

    FAQ book by topic (and that is the key) is a great idea…obviously you’ve been doing the daily practice :)

  • TheAcsMan

    I think that morality is like humanity itself, in that it is universal, however, there are evolutionary branches and divergences that create different exceptions to the universal rules that are codified in our DNA

    Every society has believed that kiling another is wrong. However, what may distinguish one era or one culture from another are those circumstances by which taking a life may be excused.

    For the Aztecs taking a life to appease a God was an accepted practice for the good of society, however, because the basic tenet was held in an individual’s core, some people, perhaps the close relatives of the  sacrificed may have felt anger, confusion, sadness or other feelings of loss, because there was an inherent feeling of a basic injustice.

    By contrast, taking a life in self-defense may be acceptable in Western civilization as being morally sound by simplying apply the qualifier “in self-defense,” but that action may not have the same foundation in some Eastern cultures, where there is no tolerance for one to take the life of an living being.

    If you believe the concept that our very existence is marked by imperfect actions, at least on occasion, then you have to believe that we are all sinners, in violation of universal moral truths that effect us all

  • Seb Latapie

    Really appreciate the more hours piece of advice! Very simple to follow and quick to put into practice. I clearly spend too much time doing the internet loop and will try to cut back to twice a day. By implementing both this and the 90 minutes of efficient work suggested in the previous blog post I’ll hopefully improve my time management and have more time to focus on doing things that  bring me happiness. 
    Looking forward to your new book, the past books have been great reads.

    I hope you enjoy India and get some awesome yoga in!

  • Leonardo

    We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.Seneca (4 B.C. 65 A.D.)

  • Priscilla Paredes Wood

    True, women like introverts, at least I do. I’m attracted to the geeky funny quiet type but for some reason I keep meeting the opposite :(  Where do introverts hang out? I guess I have to sign up for Programming 101, lol.

  • stanley hamtramck

    a friend once told me, “if you want your day to be really spacious, meditate for an hour in the morning.”

    it worked. there was lots of time for everything. 

    even ten minutes of morning meditation makes more time. there seems to be less brain conflicts about what to do next, or whether or not to do something.

  • Kamal Ravikant

    Forget the Oracle of Ohama, James, I’m calling you the Oracle of the Internet.  

    Lots of gems in in these ask James posts.  If even a few were applied *consistently*, life transforming.  

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Drop out of High School? You’re begging for hate mail now, James – LOL

    FWIW, I dropped out of High School. Just sorta stopped going after the 9th grade (mostly F’s anyway). I would sometimes show up for a class in the middle of the semster and the teacher would ask “who are you?” If being a “High School Dropout” has had a negative impact on my life, I don’t know what it was. Managed a 3,8 GPA through college.

  • Jhotard

    Hi, James

    Love your blog.  As a retired psychotherapist, I can tell you, you have a better handle on what happiness and mental health are like, than many of the people in my field.  That being said, I do not at all regret having gotten my Ph.D. in psychology.  I learned a lot in school, and a lot in life, and both have been very useful.

    A couple of your answers are ones I want to comment on, being as how you asked for help from others.  

    First of all, I have some things to add for the young high school freshman.  If he himself feels really strongly motivated to go out and start businesses, rather than to attend high school, perhaps this advice would work out.  And if it didn’t work, he could always go back and start a year late, I suppose.  That’s the great thing about youth.  You can try lots of things and start over if you want.  

    However, not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. Perhaps the young man is destined to be a chemical engineer, or a biotech researcher, or any number of other things where high school and college teach you things you need to know, and result in your being considered a serious job candidate for jobs that you want.

    Also, even 2 of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, Jobs and Gates, did not feel ready, for whatever reason, to go out and start businesses at the point when they decided instead to become high school freshmen.  In fact they both attended some college classes, while not getting a degree.  And Jobs, in his famous commencement speech at Stanford, which is in video on the Internet,  felt very good about some of what he learned in college and found it useful in his work.

    So if the young man follows the path of Jobs and Gates, he will wait until after high school graduation, and until after having taken some college classes, before starting his businesses.  And no one needs to feel as if they are not brave enough, just because they waited as long as Gates or Jobs did to become an entrepreneur.  

    So I suggest the young man should think about what he really wants.  And if he doesn’t know, as most college freshmen don’t, there will likely be little harm, and perhaps a lot of good, that would result from his going through high school. 

    • research papers

      you’re right

  • Jill

    Jill here again.  

    Regarding the book The 48 Laws of Power.  I think it’s a great book.  It is important for those reading it though, to be aware of what it is about overall and what use it has.  I do not consider it to be a good advice book at all.  The primary usefulness of it is to allow people in business, politics, and other highly competitive areas of life, to deal successfully with people whose primary motivation is power over others.  The book can be used to understanding what these folks are doing and how to avoid being their sucker.  Probably all of us are involved with some of these kinds of people. in some area of life.  Being clueless about what they are doing in relation to us is not a good idea.  It can result in being sold things that one doesn’t want or need, and in  feeling coerced into doing things that are destructive to one’s well-being.

    The reason it is a horrible advice book is that people whose primary motivation is power over others are rarely, if ever, happy.  And they are often unethical.  Many of them lack important qualities, such as power over oneself (self-discipline), and self understanding.  Many of them are pathological, being obsessed with gaining power over others, sacrificing everything that is truly good in life in order to get power over others.  They do this because they believe it will make them happy, even though it never does.  They may be clueless about their true interests, talents, personality styles, emotions, needs, desires etc.  These are not good things to be ignorant about, as ignorance of them can block one from having a fulfilled life.  

    So that’s my review of The 48 Laws of Power.  Good for understanding how to deal with power obsessed people.  Lousy if one follows all of it as advice for one’s own behavior.  I can’t remember all the 48 Laws, but probably some of them are constructive things to do.  I do remember that many of the Laws though, if followed as advice, will likely be self-destructive and destructive to one’s essential and important relationships.    

    • Andrej

      While it’s true that Greene is too focused on conflict and power, his books are full of great advice (these quotes might be from the 50th law, 48 laws, or 33 strategies of war):
       “He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of
      living creatures.” 

      “When we are tired, it is often because we are bored. When no real
      challenge faces us, a mental and physical lethargy sets in. Lack of energy
      comes from a lack of challenges, when we have taken on less than we are capable
      of. Take a risk and your body and mind will respond with a rush of


      “What most often weighs you down and brings you misery is the past,
      in the form of unnecessary attachments, repetitions of tired formulas, and the
      memory of old victories and defeats. You must consciously wage war against the
      past and force yourself to react to the present moment. The greatest generals,
      the most creative strategists, stand out not because they have more knowledge
      but because they are able, when necessary, to drop their preconceived notions
      and focus intensely on the present moment.”


      sooner you can match what’s in your head with what’s going on in the real
      world, the better you’re gonna feel.”


      “You cannot be everywhere or fight everyone.
      Your time and energy are limited, and you must learn how to preserve them.
      Exhaustion and frustration can ruin your presence of mind. The world is full of
      fools – people who cannot wait to get results, who change with the wind, who
      can’t see past their noses. When working
      alongside fools, do not fight them. Instead think of them the way you think of
      children, or pets, not important enough to affect your mental balance.”

  • Ankit

    What cities are you visiting in India? Let me know if you’re visiting Mumbai. I’d like to meet you.

  • Vijaykumar Koppad

    It was a good post. Anyway, Welcome to India 

  • EntrepreneursKorner

    Great post, it’s hard to drop out when you’ve only got one year left. I guess Il wait it out. 

  • Davidson Hepburn

    Do you think the 48 laws of power has. Slur in that it shows you how you might be getting played. Great post and I’m looking forward to FAQ ME

  • Anonymous

    Good post. Highschool was a fat waste of time for me. I got out of there early, and never for a day have I regretted it. And now thanks to the good ol’ internet, things are even easier for motivated kids who still want to learn but are too sharp for high school’s BS.

  • Ninty9Problemz

    James, I have an idea for you… you should charge $1 for the FAQ book. I bet you get 20,000 downloads. Then, you can take that money and start a business with it. Blog about it everyday from startup; what you’re spending on/progress/ect from development phase to startup and we the readers (many 1st time entrepreneurs ) can mimic your path with our own idea. So the reader (me included) receives a book and training wheels to start a company for $1.Then, maybe you’ll let us all share our companies on your site ;).

  • Jeff

    Would be glad to hear your thoughts on the Transurfing book series, if you have read those?  Might make for a good conversation along the lines of your usual interests and insights, and bring some traffic from people who are searching about that topic.

  • EntrepreneursKorner

    Awesome post, by the way is StockTwits yours? 

    Also Check out this:

    Most entrepreneurs seem to be using those types of elements to adapt.Thanks.

  • Felipe

    Have a great time in India, mate. 

  • Gethim2day

    Your success has to be matched by less success by your competitors. Even
    if you’re offering a new product or service that has no real direct
    competiton, there’s still the reality that the resources to access your
    product won’t be flowing elsewhere.