Ask James: Billionaire Sex, Obesity, Writer’s Block, My Problems, Charisma


The other day I got an interesting question via email. A girl I know would like to marry a billionaire. She’s tired of the hassle. She lost a lot of weight (she sent before and after pictures), she signed up for and other sites like that, and she started getting messages.

But still nobody wanted to get married. The highest offer she got was $1000 for one night of sex. An offer she turned down because she felt a billionaire should pay more. She asked me what she should do.

In a few weeks I have a new book coming out:


It contains a curated version of many of the questions I’ve answered on twitter (divided up into chapters by category) and original material that I’ve answered via emails. I hope you like it. I hope it’s the first of many such books.

Next week I’m away. I might take this Q&A format on both twitter and radio so having a meeting about it. But back to the regular Twitter Q&A in two weeks. Meanwhile, here’s this weeks



wiserguy1971 Wise Guy

@jaltucher How would you “solve” obesity, the cost of which has reached $177 billion as of 2011? Diabetes, cardio, cancer, MS and alzheimer

ANSWER: Clearly Obesity is a national epidemic and has been for at least two decades. America has just gotten fatter and fatter with our processed foods, our lax eating habits, our corporate parks that discourage any form of exercise, and most importantly: our blinding faith that whatever trouble we get in down the road can easily be cured by the miracles of modern medicine.

So we eat. We enjoy our pleasures. We eat, we drink, we smoke, we screw hookers and pass the resulting diseases onto our wives (causing cervical cancer) – there’s no end to the way we punish ourselves.

To answer your question though: there’s no cure.

The only cure is evolution. Eventually one generation sees another generation kill themselves slowly through these ills in our society and then they clean up a little.  Eventually the costs of obesity become so great that companies jump into action with incentives to keep weight down, and children learn not to repeat the problems of their parents.

I saw it with my dad. He kept gaining weight. He kept having “TIAs” which are pre-cursors to strokes, but he maintained the same diet, the same intake of alcohol, the same stresses, and guess what? Sleep apnea and stroke. Both diseases related to obesity and weight gain.

There’s two pieces of good news:

  1. Obesity has plateaued in recent years. And although 33% of American adults are considered obese that number has not gone up (or down) in the past few years. THis is the first time in 20 years the number has remained stable. Although the bad news is 33% is totally unacceptable. Every one of these 33% will have medical dysfunction as a result of being obese.
  2. Inflation: A few months ago there was this horror story in USA Today. Potato Chip manufacturers were getting hit so hard by inflation they were actually REDUCING THE NUMBER OF CHIPS PER BAG and then, even worse, NOT TELLING US.

Horrors! First USA Today complains about Obesity (it’s a once-a-year standard story) and now they are complaining WE ARE NOT GETTING OUR CHIPS!

This is an outrage! How dare they reduce the chips and not tell me.

But it’s true. Food per dollar spent is going down. So the end result of the Federal Bailouts of 2008 and QE1 through QE 10 will be less obesity. Which, of course, is the ultimate goal of the Federal Reserve.

By the way, this is speaking on a macro level. On a micro level – if you want to lose weight – any diet at all will work if you stick with it. It doesn’t matter what diet. The problem is people can’t stick with a diet. Why will any diet work? Because the main way people get calories is by eating junk food and not a single diet will let you eat donuts all day long.

Exercise increases metabolism. Maybe. And only a little. The only thing that will truly work for you is having 2 meals a day, making the portions no bigger than a fist, and no junk food in between.


markmccarthyUK Mark McCarthy

@jaltucher how do you overcome writers block? You always find something substantial to say!

ANSWER: I have a post coming on this next week but I can tell you the two most important things (it will be a “list post” so be careful):

  1. Start in the middle. The other day I was having trouble writing an intro to a post. No problem. Skip the intro. Start in the middle. When you rewrite you will probably delete the intro anyway. So, for instance, lets say I was going to write “How to save the United States”. And let’s say I was having trouble with the intro. Do I look at it from a personal perspective? A patriotic perspective? Do I throw in some experiences?

Assume I can’t figure it out. I’m blocked.

That’s ok. I’ll go right in the middle. Lets say I have 10 solutions. I’ll start with number 5. “Sell off all the federal highways and use the proceeds to pay down debt.” Now its easy. I can give my justification and reasoning. Now I’ve got a paragraph or two. Then I go onto #6. “Pull the military out of the 130 countries we are in.” Now I can give more justification and reasoning and personal experiences if I need to.

And finally at the end, I can write the intro and outro. BAM! Writer’s block solved.

But what if you can’t come up with an idea. This is harder. Wait for post next week on this.

But I did promise 2 reasons so #2: Read writers that inspire you. When I first started writing this blog I would read and re-read teh 20 or so writers that inspired me. And then, mid-story or book, I would get a flash of an idea and I would walk over and start writing.

But that technique doesn’t quite work for as well anymore. I’ve run out of the authors who have really inspired me and I’ve read their books ten times over. So I have to tweak this trick for myself.


mikeytom Mikey Tom

@jaltucher which do you value more highly, startups that are built to change the world or to make money?

ANSWER: The answer is obviously both. Let’s look at it at a micro level and macro level. Lets say you start a plumbing business. A plumber certainly saves the world. When my toilets don’t work, my world is over. And one person at a time, the plumber does the job that nobody else will do that is incredibly helpful.

If a plumber wasn’t helpful then plumbers wouldn’t make as much money as they do.

(saving the world is a big responsibility)

If you can’t help someone with your business then your business is no good.

Look at the biggest businesses: Apple, Exxon, Intel, Microsoft. Without them we wouldn’t drive cars, heat our houses cheaply (compared with 50 years ago) or have computing or be reading this article. They have clearly saved the world (unless you like living in a cave).

The businesses I started that were not helpful to people, failed. The businesses I started that had a mission that I passionately believed in, all succeeded. Remember, though, it’s ok to save the world one person at a time.

A missionary passion will equal success and wealth.


jennablan Jennifer Ablan

@jaltucher, Twitter or Facebook?




WIth Twitter I can keep my finger on the world’s pulse.

With Facebook I can keep my finger on my friends’ pulses.

Hopefully every day both are alive and healthy.

And with only one of the above companies, it would be hard to track both pulses, both of which are very important to me



Andrew Daum

@jaltucher hi james – what’s your feeling on the current state of the economy vs the noise spewing out the mouths of the talking heads.

ANSWER: The economy is ALWAYS better than what the media says. The media throws as much garbage in the trash can as possible. And then every day dumps it on their viewers.

Then…when the data is better than they thought, or even different than they thought. Do they apologize?


Today I was picking up a coffee (Claudia still in India, I can’t figure out this R2-D2 coffee machine). On the TV in the cafe: murder, death, disease, and Matt Lauer. All in one segment. Matt Lauer is probably worth $80 million at this point.

Does he really need to wake up at five in the morning just so he can read off a teleprompter about a six year old girl in Michigan who went missing and by the way, employment is only up because low-paying jobs going up?

When will these people apologize for their fear-mongering?


As for the question: just go to and check out the statistics for That stat alone will tell you how the economy is doing. If you don’t like that statistic, look at rail traffic.

Right now the economy is artificially flush because of the money printing. Eventually inflation will hit. But for now, it’s a royal flush. Time to take advantage of it.




dscotthep Davidson Scott

@jaltucher do you think Facebook is worth $100B? Has all the money already been made by private investors?


Yes and Yes

In August 2007 I went on CNBC and said Facebook would eventually be worth $100 billion. At the time it was valued at less than a billion.

Everyone was laughing. Joe Kernen was laughing. They kept playing a clip of Jeff Bezos laughing hysterically. As usual, I was a clown and I was in the middle of the circus.

Now, Facebook will go public at $100 billion, give or take.

Is it worth it? i don’t care about the current numbers or financials. Facebook hasn’t even begun to monetize.

Imagine if the entire Internet went public. That’s like Facebook going public. Watch the Super Bowl commercials. I bet more companies will put their Facebook pages than their websites in their ads. Facebook is an organized Internet.

And here’s my more personal reason for thinking Facebook will be worth $100 billion: 

The other part of your question: have all the private investors made all the money? Yes. I would not buy the IPO. I think Facebook is fairly valued whereever they end up IPOing it. Wait at least six months and see where the dust settles.



adamlcrain adam crain

@jaltucher read your book and agree about not buying homes. Are u against real estate rentals a investments as well?


WHAT!? Please read all my articles about real estate. Here’s one that links to all the others: 

Do you want to be the guy who does maintenance? Or even higher the company that does it? What do you do when people don’t pay their rent. Are you going to sue them? Kick them out? And what if real estate in your area goes down. Doesn’t matter how much income you are kicking off.

There are plenty of public stocks that diversify by buying real estate all across the country and have ways of reducing costs that you have no access to. Buy a publicly traded REIT if you believe in real estate as rental properties.



Priscilla P. Wood

@jaltucher How to have charisma?

ANSWER: It feels like I have ego if I answer this question. I can’t claim to be charismatic. But I do know what people will respond to in the long run. Try to work very hard at this list:

  • Be yourself. Meaning: don’t be afraid to say what you mean. Don’t hurt anyone by doing it but don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for what you think is the right thing. Don’t be a follower.
  • Be honest. I’ve written before about the power of honesty: and it’s a real power that need to be practiced. There are so many ways we lie in tiny ways, even to ourselves. But if you stop it, or work on it, or practice being honest, the benefits are beyond what can be imagined.
  • Be kind: always have good will towards people. I really believe in the statement by Buddha to his son Rahula (Which I describe in “Was Buddha a Bad Father”) : Before, during, and after any thought, speech, or action FOCUS on whether or not you are doing harm.

When you just do these things, this is going to sound corny, but an inner light will shine through. People will see it. That’s real charisma.

I hope one day I can have it.




Richard Paulsen

@jaltucher Say you have a lot of Ideas, especially one that is really exciting, how do you motivate yourself to take the next step.

Several answers:

  • First, and I’ve written this before: most people let their idea muscle atrophy. When your leg muscles atrophy, in just two weeks you can’t walk without extreme therapy.

Same with the idea muscle. You have to sweat that muscle. Come up with ideas every day. But it’s more than that.

Let’s say after six months of coming up with ideas you START to have good ideas. What next?

Well, think of each idea as a quadruplet.

Don’t write down an idea unless you can write this:


Next step:

First customer:

First partner

I am horrible at executing. Horrible! I hate it. It’s boring and time consuming. I’d rather be coming up with great ideas.

My last business that I sold was I came up with the idea and liked it. But I had to force myself to take the next steps. So at the exact same time I had the idea, I spec-ed it out completely, within an hour I had put an ad on and hired an Indian developer to develop screen shots. And I set up my first meeting with my eventual partner on it. And I thought of the ten different ways I would distribute the site so people would see it.

Execution is forcing yourself to do those ugly things that come side by side with the idea. Don’t even write the idea down unless you also write these ugly things down.

Here’s what it reminds me of. I read a post recently by a woman who writes lots of novels. Sometimes she writes 15,000 words a day. In my life I have never done that. My tops is probably 7,000 on a GREAT day. She does it every day.

How does she do it? She totally outlines every step first. Then she sits down and bursts out the 15,000 words

So outline everything out or your idea does not even count as an idea. Then close your eyes and do it. You think writing 15,000 words in a day is fun? It’s misery. It’s boring. It hurts your hands. But that woman does it


Anonymous asks: I’ve started six businesses. They’ve all failed. I’m 49. What do I do if I’m a failure?

ANSWER: When someone asks me a question like this I always look for the “good reason” and the “real reason”.

It seems to be that starting and doing six businesses is far from failure. And 49 is young. So it sounds totally rational (the good reason) that he is calling himself a failure and trying to figure out what’s next.

But my guess is there’s a real reason. He might simply not like doing businesses and has another passion he wants to pursue. That’s the real reason and its right below the surface.

So he’s looking for excuses (calling himself a “failure”) to break his pattern instead of simply saying “I want to do X” where X might be something totally different from doing a business. Maybe he wants go to chef school. or be a photographer. Or move somewhere super cheap and paint landscapes.

Don’t forget: you can give yourself permission to do anything you want. Even when you are walking towards the altar you aren’t married until you say “Yes”.



DaveChmiel Dave Chmiel

@jaltucher What is the biggest or most annoying problem you wish someone would solve for you?


I think I answered this on twitter in too personal a fashion. Maybe that’s not what you meant. So I will give personal and professional answers.

My absolute biggest problems nobody can help me with. I have to day by day massage my problems so that they no longer jut out and stab everyone around me including myself

  • fear of going broke. A fear created ever since my parents went broke, ever since I went repeatedly broke. A fear thats hard to overcome no matter how much money or lack of I have.
  • fear of being abandoned. Claudia is a great wife. Will she ever leave me? Who knows? Every day I’m afraid.
  • fear I’ll run out of ideas for this blog or people will stop liking it. I work really hard to make sure
  • I’d like to keep improving the ways I’m honest with myself and others and the way I am kind to others.

This is all personal problems that nobody can help me with. The only way I keep working on them is by following my own advice I’ve outlined in my book: “I Was Blind But Now I See”: 

But here’s a professional problem I have that’s probably already been solved somewhere:

I need two things:

A centralized way to integrate all comments: when I do a blog post I have ongoing conversations on Twitter, Facebook (both on my personal page and my blog page), my blog, Google+ and sometimes Reddit or YCombinator and sites I syndicate to.

I’d like one way to aggregate all the conversations so people can really build community.

Next: analytics. When I post I get Twitter retweets, favorites, Facebook lkes/shares, G+ likes/shares, YCombinator likes, etc not to mention Facebook likes and G+ likes right on the blog itself. I’d like to get a sense of the total impact a blog post has.

These are two things I need and I’d probably pay a monthly subscription if it was done right.


khumk Casey Holmquist

@jaltucher practicing infinite patience, have the idea, have the partner, have the time, partner hs the progrming skil but he doesnt hv time


No bullshit! Your progammer is probably the best programmer in the world but I don’t care. EVERYONE has the time for an idea that can make millions. So “I don’t have a time” sounds like a good reason but it’s not the real reason.

He’s just not that into you, to misquote the book/movie.

Get a new programmer.





Enjoyed This Post? Get Free Updates

  • MR M

    @ James…what was your advice to the gold digger?

  • Jay Shirley

    Regarding the last Q&A, there is a weird culture going on right now with the business vs. technical co-founders. I keep hearing about it and seeing blog posts. From the tech side, it seems that there is a perception that the “idea” guys don’t value the technical work.

    I don’t know if this is true, but it relates to the previous Q&A about executing on an idea.  Execution is hard, and I fervently believe that the best and most talented developers are also quite likely to be terrible at execution. This is where the idea guys come in.

    Want to motivate that technical co-founder? Show him processes and plans. Lay out what will happen. Show him the details of it. Technical people *love* processes and plans.

    If you don’t have a detailed and laid out plan, the technical guy will assume you are a bozo. If you do have that, they’ll feel obligated to get their part done according to the time table. They will make time.

    • Nils Meyer

      Back when I was freelancing I got one of these kinds of requests every week, someone had an idea (and no money) and needed someone to handle the technical side for “equity”. Most of the ideas were shit. If I had done one such project each year on the off chance that it might take off I’d be dead from starvation now. 

      It’s much better to find an investor and hire the tech people. This also means you can fire them and they don’t get to share in the spoils later. 

      • Mark

        Most techies don’t need a non-tech co-founder. Look at a large part of the successful startups, where is the non-tech guy/girl?

  • the99th

    I feel like $1000 is about the right price for a night of sex… maybe there should be a sex futures market. Young women looking to trade their bodies for financial reward should be able to hedge their risk. For a more cynical business idea: a teen pregnancy futures market – what are you willing to be paid to do one episode of a Teen Mom type reality show? Young girls are getting pregnant in the hopes of making 12k an episode on MTV, we know the landscape of video media is changing, these girls should be able to hedge their financial risk before they get pregnant. 

    Likewise, a futures market for leftovers that homeless people can come pick up, it’s hyper-local-geo-social. Which futures will we be choosing? 

  • Nils Meyer

    I don’t think any man who prowls for cheap sex / hookers is even remotely a multimillionaire. And a billionaire has access to probably the best women the world can offer. You don’t get to stay a billionaire by making stupid decisions like marrying a golddigger willy nilly. And beware of former fatties, as soon as you put that ring on her she’ll start eating again. 

    Why does that girl think she deserves a billionaire? Confidence is great but you have to be realistic. 

    • Priscilla Paredes Wood

      Fatties? LOL! Yeah, we all have to eat, even people like you.

      • Nils Meyer

        I’m fat myself so I know what I’m talking about ;)

  • Preemptive Placebo

    Quote:  “Exercise increases metabolism. Maybe. And only a little”

    You haven’t been trying hard enough.  Do something like CrossFit for a few weeks and see if you can’t double your intake while losing weight. 

    • Jay Shirley

      I think if you did CrossFit, you would *have* to double your intake or you would collapse as a broken husk.

      • 736hundred

        I did cross-fit for a few sessions, it’s a killer ( in a good way) … Gained weight (muscle) lost fat…..but it became too expensive for me. 

        Try it at least once…’s amazing.

        • Preemptive Placebo

          It is too expensive for me too. 

          I’ve rationalized it by telling myself that it is saving me more in healthcare costs in the long run. 

          • Anthony

            Placebo –

            Read the line about health and thought it wasnt right either. I am glad you said it. I have read your blog and its really good.

            Have a nice weekend.

          • Preemptive Placebo

             Thank you, Anthony!

      • Derek Scruggs

        +100 for Crossfit

    • ScoopingOprahDotCom

      Your metabolism will become more efficient as you age, no matter what you weigh. You won’t eat the same amount at age 65 as you do at age 25, even if your weight doesn’t change. The older you get, the more energy mileage you’ll get out of half an apple.

  • ronnie mac D

      “I have to day by day massage my problems so that they no longer jut out and stab everyone around me including myself”

    Well put.

    “starting in the middle” is a very effective tool.

  • Priscilla Paredes Wood

    There is a fine line between being honest (that’s easy for me) but w/o causing harm or hurting the other person, looking for that fine line. I think I need a huge magnify glass with led light please!

    • jaltucher

      Priscilla, for myself I really feel the most important thing is  “Do no harm”. But that doesn’t mean lie sometimes. Where real power and energy is created is when you can do no harm WHILE being honest. Then suddenly you are creating value for the people around you.

      • 736hundred

        Yes, but some times you may never know what you have said has hurt someone.  If they don’t let you know, you may be kidding yourself in the “do not harm” honesty area.

      • Priscilla Paredes Wood

        I think a good way to start is to slow down my speech, I speak way too fast, in fact I have only two speeds on and off, j/k. Good piece of advice Altucher, thanks!

  • 736hundred

    If she wants a billionaire to marry her – tell her to go to a foreign country and find a billionaire who wants to gain U.S. Citizenship. 

    • Anonymous

      I doubt many foreign billionaires have an interest in U.S. citizenship, unless there’s some overriding business reason for acquiring it (e.g. Rupert Murdoch). Worldwide taxation and America’s ludicrously complex tax code? No thanks.

      • 736hundred

        No one said they would lose their standing citizenship or that they would move their wealth. (although I would guess they already own a bit of US assets)

        I’m just trying to help this poor gold digger out. What’s your advice for her?


        • Anonymous

          Once the billionaire acquires citizenship they have to pay U.S. taxes, even if they keep their original passport. On all their wealth, no matter where held, and even on the assets acquired before they became an American. The U.S. is also virtually alone in taxing its overseas-based citizens, which is another reason wealthy foreigners are very reluctant to hold a U.S. passport. For international types, being American is an expensive hassle.

          As for golddigging advice, I have no idea, but if she does find a way, and it also works on FEMALE billionaires, I’d be very interested to know! :-)

          • 736hundred

            Very interesting info – unfortunately not useful to a small number like me. :)

            I don’t see being a foreign male billionaire who wants to marry a US money grabber in my future.

            I hear Oprah is single. Hope this helps you. :)

  • Christian Hill

    Here’s an idea for solving obesity. I am shooting from the hip here, no solid numbers, just observations I have made. Government assistance, i.e. food stamps or whatever form they take (some are debit cards now) should only be redeemable for food staples. Milk, bread, fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. Only the cornerstones of a “healthy” diet. It shouldn’t cover ramen noodles, microwaved pizza, soda, etc. You want those foods? Pick up the tab yourself. I say this because my observational experience is that the obesity becomes more prevalent as you slide down the socio-economic scale. This obesity leads to the medical complications listed. As you slide down the same socio-economic scale, the quality of insurance coverage drops, leading to more unpaid insurance claims, which the rest of us pick up in the form of higher insurance. So eliminate the opportunity to put junk food into their bodies, and without the financial means to get it themselves, it might just result in healthier Americans. Again, all of this is just observational, I don’t have any hard numbers to back it up.

    • hrh88

      The problem with your idea is that foods such as ramen noodles and processed foods such as microwaved pizza are less expensive than staples such as meat and vegetables. Food additives and preservatives such as high fructose corn syrup and trans fats became the darlings of the food industry from the 1970s to the present. They are cheaper than products that were previously used such as butter or sugar, and, in the case of trans fats, greatly extend the shelf life of the product. HFCS, however, is not metabolized in the same way that sugar is. Thus, it is possible to consume many more calories and not feel full. They are found in hundreds of different foods including a few of the staple on your list such as bread and soups. They are most prevalent in processed foods, which make them much cheaper than some of the staples on your list such as fresh fruit and vegetable and meat. For many of the poor in this country, including those on food stamps, the choice comes down to a couple of large loaves of Wonder Bread (which is about the same in terms of nutrition as eating a large bag of marshmallows) versus a small bag of apples. Put some peanut butter (the cheaper brands are full of HFCS) on the Wonder Bread and you have yourself a meal which will last on your kitchen shelf or in the fridge for weeks. The Wonder Bread will go a lot further, in terms of creating a lunch for a poor family than the apples will. It is a sad fact that many people in America are fat because they can not afford the foods that would allow them to be healthy.

      • dandl

        The government could stop subsidizing corn.  Farmers will stop growing so much of it.  Supply will go down.  The price of corn will go up.   Since almost all processed foods are made with derivatives of corn, the price of processed foods will go up making healthy foods a more attractive option.  Ah..alas..I wish practically speaking it was this simple.

      • Christian Hill

        I agree with you about the empty calories, and you kinda make my point when you said “it is possible to consume many more calories and not feel full”. They have to buy and consume more junk food to feel “full”. A “healthier” diet would require less food to replace the necessary nutrients. Thus spending less on groceries, equalizing the equation.

        • hrh88

          It may be difficult for people on food stamps to afford the healthy alternatives to junk food, especially when they have to feed a family and the food needs to last. Fresh meat and produce are especially expensive and we know that food prices have risen sharply in recent years. Food banks across the country have seen a 46 % jump to 37 million people last year. Some food banks are having to shut down because they are running out of food. In addition, long term unemployment has resulted in a mirror increase in participation in SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Program also known as food stamps. It seems unlikely that the problems of unemployment and the resulting dependence on food stamps and other forms of assistance will be solved or mitigated by limiting the kinds of food that people can receive with that assistance. If anything, they would probably just wind up being able to afford less food and find themselves even hungrier. 

        • 736hundred

           Just to add to the food stamp conversation, and quality of food that “should” or “shouldn’t” be purchased….by enforcement of the government involvement (like we need more of that)…..look up “food deserts.”

          If I remember correctly it takes at least three trains and about one hour  to get to a Whole Foods store from Bed-stuy.  Bed-Stuy markets there have off brand, over processed crap for microwaves and junk food, soda and beer and cigarettes.

          “Food-Stamps” has become a code for poor lazy urban people sucking every last dollar from the government. It makes me cringe when I hear it in this context. Plus I can’t think of one person who hasn’t benefit in some way from one government social program or another.

    • wordblanket

      It is bad enough to have to rely on the government for food, but it is even worse to have people who are supposedly your equals and peers judging you and attempting to decide for you what you should eat. That’s terrible. I hate foodstamps. I hate being on foodstamps. I am almost a vegan and I try to eat fresh foods and organic whenever possible. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am buying the more expensive produce because the money won’t go as far. I even use coupons to be a good steward of the money that is given to me to buy food. Christian, it upsets me that you feel the desire to make me and others like me feel even more shame about being poor by trying to dictate the sorts of food we should buy in your personal opinion. 

      Worry about your own mouth and what goes into it – and also what comes out of it. If you want to criticize, seek to complain about those who use the system fraudulently, not those who seriously need the help. I saved up to buy myself a beautiful meal for my birthday, and then had some nosy, terrible person in line behind me ask what right I have to purchase xxx with THEIR money. My goodness, it makes me want to crawl under the floor. You just don’t know what it is like, if you pronounce edicts for other people without knowing what you are REALLY saying. I hear from you: “I know better than you what you should do and I will not hesitate to tell you how to live your life.” I would go hungry if it were not for foodstamps. Back off and eat a piece of humble pie, please. 

      And to be clear, I am young, I have a law degree and have been job hunting in earnest for over half a year, so I am NOT a stupid deadbeat, which you seem to imply is the criteria for people who need government assistance.

      • hrh88

         I read your reply and thought, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Government assistance was meant for people in your situation who have hit a rough patch and need a little help to get back on their feet. Thank you for using it wisely to buy nutritious food and stay healthy. We can only hope that the economy gets better for all of us soon. Unlike you, I am not so young. I know it’s cliche, but this too shall pass and you will get back on your feet. You will then, no doubt, given your education and perseverance, give back ten fold any small amount that you have needed in terms of assistance to get by thus far. By that calculation, any assistance that you have received is a great investment in the future. Hang in there and good luck to you.

      • Christian Hill

        wordblanket, re-read my post. I never criticized or passed judgment on those collecting food stamps or government assistance. I am in no position to judge any one person’s situation or how they got there. My point was to solve obesity, we need those most prone to obesity (i.e. the poor due to their diet) to eat healthier. The way to do that is to encourage buying healthier foods, and discourage eating bad foods. For those receiving government assistance, you discourage that by not buying covering those items. Every time I needed financial assistance in life, there were strings attached. Want an allowance from mom and dad? Chores needed to be done. Want to go to school but can’t afford it? Fine, but you need to pay back interest on the loan. Why should government assistance be any different? If you want assistance, that’s fine, we will help you, but there are stipulations, just like everything else in life. And I applaud you for using your assistance the right way, when it was needed. But you are the rare exception, and hardly representative of the vast majority who load up their shopping carts with sugar, sugar, and more sugar.

    • ScoopingOprahDotCom

      “….my observational experience is that the obesity becomes more prevalent as you slide down the socio-economic scale.” — My observational experience is that one can find overweight people at all socio-economic levels. Runaway hunger habits can do anybody in, rich or not-so-rich.

  • Michael

    James, the answer to your billionaire hunting friend’s question can be found at

  • Anonymous

    I look forward to your post next week on idea blocks and how to overcome them. Those are my favorite posts, I love the concept of being able to train your idea muscle. Pretty neat.

  • Mason Gentry

    Hi James, maybe this is the commenting system you’re looking for:

    • Andrius Aučinas

      Hi James, this one also look like what you’re looking for:

  • Joe

    I like all these tips. As usual they have helped me go forward in creating a business that I have been thinking of starting for a while.

  • TheAcsMan

    The question “Twitter or Facebook” shows just how insidious America’s obesity problem  has become.

    Reading therough Facebook’s recent S-1 application, as it readies to begin its Inital Public Offering (IPO) of shares on the stock exchange indicates that it will use a portion of the proceeds to purchase Twitter.

    The combined enterprise is expected to be rebranded as “Fatter”

    Fictional details at IPO-ville

  • Anonymous

    Another alternative to getting past writer’s block is to borrow someone else’s introductory paragraphs and then branch off from there. Don’t forget to go back and rewrite the intro though, because the internet will find you out.

  • Brett

    I still love the whole ‘Idea Muscle’ idea. I’ve loved sitting just thinking about solutions for what I guess my clients or others might need… even if I don’t share them, although sharing them makes me smile. 

  • pjc

    I think Warren Buffet is telling people to buy their retirement house now and rent it out. These are cheap house prices, particularly in some places.

    Feel free to chart the average home price in Pueblo CO, or Florence OR, or Las Vegas, or Miami. Now compare these charts to any broad index of publically traded construction companies, or REITS, or property management companies. Hmmm, do they match? Nope. 

    Feel free to double check this with Google. Type in “investments that track Case Shiller”. Answer – basically nothing. If you think real estate is undervalued, the best investment, by far, is to buy a house or apartment building. 

    At this point probably a cheap house, because the banks ***aren’t doing their jobs****. They are not loaning to households with 60K in income that wish to buy a 150K house. So that 150K house can be purchased by a cash buyer for less than 150K …. in some cases for much, much less.If the tax code doesn’t change radically, then in your early retirement you can live in that rental property for five years, then sell it tax free, like any home residence.Some people are ok with doing the property management work. It’s like a part time job. It’s also not that expensive to hire this work out, particularly if you know the area and can find a good handyman. Plus you deduct the expenses off your taxes (assuming you are a cash buyer and the rental is profitable).With re: to getting good tenants – we had an OK tenant, kept her on own until a friend of a friend with a stellar reputation wanted to rent in the area, then we kicked our tenant out. Boom – now we have a great tenant. If you are rooted in the area and know lots of people, you will have an edge for getting great tenants that professional companies do not have.So landlording can work, but it’s not perfect. The tax advantages of moving in, living there, then selling tax free could be enormous — unless that loophole goes away. The canard that “you can just invest in real estate via the stock market” is only sort of true. If you think houses targeted at 60K households are being undervalued, partially because the banks aren’t doing their jobs, then the best investment is to probably buy one of these houses and rent it to a well chosen 60K household.

  • Conductorchris

    Re Facebook: I think the *idea* or the market is worth $100 billion.  At least.  Right now Facebook is the only player.  

    But this is not the way to judge a business.  Is the *organization* worth that much?  Facebook does not own their market, even though they have a head start that is a barrier to entry for others.

    Sorry to say, I don’t think the organization is blue chip.  Their users are pissed off and don’t trust them.  The organization has a record of being able to (most of the time) build cool features, but has been clueless about rolling them out in with their users so they are welcomed.  Funny that an organization that hosts a community seems so clueless about it’s releationships with its users and about how to actually go about building community, but that’s my take on them.

    A company who’s customers are pissed off is not worth much.  It means they are vulnerable.  Google Plus hasn’t done it because google doesn’t know how to build community either.  Google is also focused on the tool rather than the fabric of connection.  But somebody will get it.  (And I don’t think it will be a big bang — I think they will start in some particular community and get strong under the weather and expand naturally.  The way people really do build *lasting* community).

    What I see happening is that the magic of facebook (reconnecting with your 5th grade crush) is fading.  People are posting their personal stuff less and less.  I see it becoming more like an RSS feed and more like Linkd-In.  Neither of which have magic.

    The magic is worth $100 billion, plus.  The underlying tool is not.  

  • Diarmaid

    James, thanks for your interesting, thought provoking posts.
    I was thinking about the ‘fear of loss’ comments you made and wanted to send you on a link re Nassim Taleb and Seneca. you have probably read it already. all the best. 

  • Anonymous

    re: diets. They don’t work because the mind-body refuses to restrict energy consumption.  Portion control and calorie restriction make no sense in evolutionary terms and yet the diet and “nutrition” industry keeps pushing that very flawed concept. Read Taube’s Good Calories Bad Calories or his much shorter book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.

    re: money vs. “saving” the world. James is right. This is a false dichotomy. Unless a business is doing something patently immoral then a successful business owner is necessarily helping people (alas, most businesses will fail; see below).

    re: The economy is ALWAYS better than what the media says. James, following your logic, if the economy is always better than “they” say then at the height of the housing market, when every single mainstream commentator was giddy with delight, the market should have been EVEN BETTER than they said it was! But it was not so. In that important case they exaggerated the soundness of the economy and one would have been wise to take a gloomy view of the situation.  

    re: 15,000 words per day. That woman is an animal.

    re: Are you a failure? Success in business has a gigantic random component to it that is beyond the control of most mortals. Or stated differently, luck creates more billionaires than anyone is willing to admit (Read Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness). People should not be so hard on themselves when things don’t work out as planned (easier said than done, as I know from personal experience). 

  • Vivek

    I agree about the obesity as a pbm in America, but I think the debate about “WE ARE NOT GETTING OUR CHIPS” was more to do with companies giving you less value for your money. Would you have used it as an example if it would have been lets say toothpaste or a bottle of shampoo ?

    I think one should get more chips in the bag and eat it over a week :)

  • Genvejen

    No need to limit yourself to 2 meals/day, small portions, etc.

    Just go paleo and soon you’ll be slim/toned/whatever you want to call it (no exercise required, but it might still be a good idea to get off the couch anyway)

  • write my essay

    Thanks for info 

  • campaign sign

     Excellent article, I will recommend my friends to read it.

  • Chootee

    I would consider myself something of a success if I had ever started even one business. Just a middle rapidly aging underpaid middle management cog in a job with 24/7 responsibility. I don’t get the hysteria about obesity. I’m a little overweight, starting to lose it with “The Primal Blueprint”, carbs are the problem. If there are 33% obese people why are they letting themselves be pushed around? Why can there only be one approved body type? Part of me secretly admires these really morbidly obese people, they do what they want. The few I’ve known have been very nice people for the most part, it’s just a self destructive coping mechanism (smoking? “sexual addiction”? drugs?). Also, a LOT of men are attracted to fat ladies. It’s just not PC and is ridiculed.