Ask James: Global Warming, Facebook, More Crappy People, and How Many Dates Before You KNOW


Jonathan Baker @jonathankyou  Asks: How do you establish ethics or recognize ones you already have? Especially when you don’t have a religion to tell you.


It’s an interesting question when you add the “especially when you don’t have a religion to tell you”.

Ask, “who told Buddha?” or “Who told Jesus?” or “Who told Lao Tzu?” I suppose you can say God did and then he asked them to transmit it to you. But I think better to find directly.

Why do people need religion. Often they get religion because they were born into it and stick to it for cultural reasons. Often people find deeper religion because they feel an emptiness or fear (of death) so they want to fill that emptiness with a path.

A path that goes from one emptiness to…another? We don’t know. Better to always go from strength to strength.

So how can you fill that initial emptiness without a path? So that all paths turn around and point to you instead.

I think the basic tenet that permeates most religions is Do No Harm. It can be thought of in another way: We do three things throughout the day: we do things, we say things, we think things.

On any of these things, there’s a before, during, and an after.

So my one rule of ethics, regardless of religion, is:

Before, during or after, I say, think, or act, I have to really ask: am I hurting someone and, if not, am I lying to someone?

If your answer at any point during that above question is “yes”, then stop. That’s ethics without a religion.

Will you find heaven then? Will your find the end path of your religion? Who knows? But you will be happier and so will the people around you (since they won’t be hurt by your words, actions, or thoughts).  And when the people around you are happier, the people around them will be happier. And that’s how a happy society can start. Unfortunately, most people, with religion or not, don’t do this.


Gonzalo Gandia @GonzaloGandia  Had an important meeting today + got anxious, sweating, light headed…has this ever happened to you?


ANSWER: Before any meeting that I care about I get very anxious. 100% of the time. This is a good thing. It makes you hyper-vigilant before and during the meeting.

Check out my post, “11 Unusual ways to be a better public speaker”. Many of those techniques apply.

But if you were going to do only two things, I’d say this:

-          Prepare as much as possible. If you are meeting a person from company X, learn as much as you can about the person (using google, facebook, twitter, whatever) and know everything you can about the company (history, all of their products, all of their divisions, the bio of the CEO, etc) and everything you can about the industry (the initial companies, how they merged, lost, won, etc).  Final piece of preparation is the same as if you were going on TV. What is your media message? i.e. What are the three things you need to say that nobody else has ever said and you are going to say them over and over again regardless of what questions come up. You will always end up back on your media message.

-          Finally, how are you going to make the people in the meeting laugh. The more they laugh, the happier they will be to see you again. It’s good to think of this a little in advance how to make people laugh. I do this before every meeting. Self-deprecation is a good starting point.


Zeke @zecket  How many jobs have you quit, and did you ever regret it?


ANSWER: I’ve quit six jobs. I’ll list them but some of these you won’t have heard of: Fore Systems (I was employee #10 and they later sold for over a billion), CMU’s Center for Machine Translation, HBO, Xceed (which bought a company I started), Investcorp, (which bought a company I started),  and now that I think about it, there were one or two more (usually involving companies that bought assets I had created).

I have never regretted a single one even though in some cases, much hardship resulted as I had to deal with rising expenses, declining income and net worth and even declining self-worth when I couldn’t find a replacement job or income source.

But I never regret leaving a situation where the people and circumstances are unpleasant for me. There are 100 million jobs out there. The unemployment rate for smart, ambitious people is probably 1% so if you really want a job you can get one. But most people don’t want to work for others. Most people want to do their own thing. Most people want to eat what they kill.

For better or worse, for most of the past 20 years I’ve only eaten what I’ve killed and not what I’ve been served. And sometimes  it’s made me vomit. Sometimes  it’s made me go to sleep hungry. But often it’s been very satisfying and at the very least, has created a lot of stories.

I’ve also been fired from several jobs but that’s another story.


Malpighian Corpuscle @asplenia  Asks: What do you do when someone won’t forgive? And when they have no desire for owning their part, only hating & feeling like victim?

ANSWER: We all deal with these people every day. These are called “crappy people” in my overly simplistic terminology. And guess what?

Crappy people aren’t the neighbors down the street. Or the people from the distant past you never see anymore. Crappy people, by definition, are the people often closest to you: family, friends, colleagues, bosses.

(you can’t force them)

The question is: why do you care so much what is going on inside of these other people. Only worry what’s going on inside yourself. And if someone is inside of your head, then get them out. So the only answer really is…ignore them.  If you can’t ignore them completely, then don’t engage with them. Say “hi” and don’t let them press buttons. Respond politely. Be pleasant. But get away as soon as possible so you can comeback on the computer and read my blog.



WiseR Guy @wiserguy1971  Asks: What about global warming?How much longer b4 we fully accept this fact ?



What about global warming? The highest global temperatures every recorded were in 1998.14 years ago. And 40 years ago we were worried about an ice age. So I think the politically correct phrasing now is “climate change”.

I tend to believe my friends on these things. I like Stephen Dubner’s description of the facts and fallacies of global warming in his book “Super Freakonomics”.

But let’s say there is global warming? First off, the US is a small country. And relatively free of pollution. Go to China or India and complain if you are truly worried about global warming.

Global warming is a luxury. Notice the lack of articles on global warming after 2008 happened, when people began to worry about whether they were going to starve or lose their homes, rather than whether Manhattan was going to fall into the ocean.

Don’t worry so much about things that are not under our direct control. First try to be happier with easier problems. Then worry about big things. If you are still very anxious about global warming then ask yourself what else inside of you might need warming. See if you can solve that first.




Oz W.-P.-McK. III @wrgly   Has revealing so much in your blog and books affected you negatively?


Yes and no. Many people who used to speak to me, no longer speak to me. This includes everyone from friends, to former colleagues, to relatives. Many people have felt I have revealed too much. In one or two cases, I had to change a story to be less revealing.  I’m ok harming myself but never ok if I harm others in what I write.

But overall the blog has been a net positive. I’ve met MANY new friends. Some people I hope will remain lifelong friends. And I hope that continues. Being honest draws good people to you. Pushes negative people away.



Obladi Oblada @AlfredSureAndCo  asks: I didnt finish college. Sometimes I feel I don’t have what it takes because I didn’t finish.

Dont doubt yourself. college would not have given you the tools to finish your task. only experience will.

ANSWER: Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t give “I didn’t finish college” as an excuse. We can go through the list of people who didn’t finish college (Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, Ellison, and on and on) who managed to find a little bit of success in their lives.

Here’s what college teaches: How to take a test. How to show up on time for a test. How to continue to socialize with the same people you’ve socialized with for the prior twelve years only this time you are without parental supervision for the first time in your life. And…that’s about it.

Now you need to learn how to learn. They don’t teach that in college. You need how to take life apart and put it back together again. They forget about that class in college. Even though it happens again and again after you graduate.

The key benefits of not finishing college:

-          You have  a head start on other experiences in life

-          You’re not in as much debt as your peers

-          Failure is hard to find in college. You can find it more quickly outside of college and learn to bounce back from it.

-          Stories. You will have more of them. Create a lot of stories in your life. They all go in a filing cabinet in your mind. You can refer back to them when you need them. And they cost you less to accumulate them while you are young. I envy you the stories you will tell.

I have excuses also. I got into too much debt in college. I wasted too much time in college. I took the wrong courses, majored in the wrong subject, didn’t become an entrepreneur early enough, never traveled the world when I was young. I graduated college, went to graduate school, and finally was thrown out, forever diminishing my ego.

I can use these as excuses an d often I did. But you won’t have to.


Odelya Bouganim @OdelyaB  asks: A serial entrepreneur wants to co-found my company – he has other companies under his wings. How can I maximize my terms?

ANSWER:  First off, congratulations. You have an idea/company that is good enough that someone serious wants an equity stake.

Now your challenge is: don’t let him overrun you with his credentials. Now you need to get into negotiation mode.

I wrote an article on this about how to negotiate.

But let’s summarize what you should do:

First, list the items that are potentially at stake that are all worth equity of some sort:

-          Will he put in personal money?

-          Will he get his fellow entrepreneurs to put in money?

-          Can he find immediate paying customers?

-          Can he provide office space, programmers, etc.

-          Will he put in sweat equity? If so, make sure he vests into his shares over time so that if he dispappears he suddenly doesn’t own half your company for nothing.

-          Will he provide product development?

Each of the above is worth some equity but not a lot by themselves.

If he is not putting in his own cash, then the vesting is the most important thing. He must vest into equity over time. And you are the judge if he is providing value (the only real value is if he provides customers or revenues of some sort).

You can give away the nickels (he won’t provide immediate customers) if he puts in the dimes (e.g. if he puts in significant personal money).


AndyLiebs @AndyLiebs  Asks: what is your favorite meditation technique?

ANSWER: First you have to ask yourself: what is the goal of meditation? Because I think in most cases, meditation is very bad for the brain despite scientific evidence showing that Tibetan lamas are more relaxed when meditating. Those are Tibetan lamas that have been doing it for fifty years. Not people who work all day and then collapse exhausted by the end of it.

How can meditation be bad? Isn’t it supposed to be relaxing?

Not really. In most theories of meditation (whether its from Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, etc) the idea is to separate out the “I” from the “ego”. Not to relax from a busy day.

(“Hmmm, McRib sandwich later?”)

And yet, when most people meditate – its all ego. You sit down, totally unprepared, and all you think about (all I think about) is “he did this, she did that, they did this ten years ago, I need to do this, I want to have sex with her, intrigue, me thoughts, money, worries, more worries, fear, etc” for a half hour. That’s no fun. That’s not meditation. No relaxing happens. No separation of “I” from “ego” happens. What does it even mean to separate “I” from “ego”.

It means nothing so don’t even worry about it.

I’ve written before about my favorite technique for meditation. It involves two seconds but can occur throughout the day.

Meditation is simply practice. It’s stopping yourself in the middle of “I can’t believe she said this to me” or some other similar thought and saying, “this is not a useful thought for me”. This happens to me all the time. The other day someone left a comment on a blog ABOUT meditation to me that I thought was insulting to Claudia. So during the day yesterday I was thinking, “That guy is an asshole. I should respond by saying, this, this, or that.” But really the best thing (meditation) is to stop myself and say two things:

A)    This is not a useful thought. I’ll replace it with one that’s useful. For instance, I’m glad I’m not that guy and it’s too bad he felt the need to attack Claudia for no reason.

B)    I need to apply the “Crappy People” technique. Mastering that, and mastering honesty, is much more important than (or it can be viewed as a several year long preparation for) meditation. If you don’t master those then meditation is useless (you can call it “mad attention”)  because too many things in the ego will cloud the spare time you have to clear your mind.



Michael Shengeliya @MShengel  do you think FB is overvalued? Sure it’s almost impossible to predict future FB earnings


ANSWER: A lot of people also asked similar questions and included the phrase “are we in a bubble”.

The answer is Facebook is probably not overvalued (although it’s not necessarily undervalued either). It’s a market but not a bubble. Bubbles are very very rare. In Feb, 2000 we had an IPO bubble. We never had an Internet bubble. If we had an Internet bubble then we wouldn’t be seeing so many Internet companies now at all-time highs in the stock market. The dream of the Internet came true. It’s here! We all use it every day. And companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay are all all-time highs in profits. So that’s not a bubble.

Looking at the Super Bowl commercials about half of the commercials didn’t even put their website URLs. They put their Facebook URLs instead. This tells me what corporate America is thinking. That more and more of our ad dollars are going to be diverted from other sources (TV, billboards, Google, etc) and moved onto Facebook to get direct engagement with our customers.

The worldwide ad market is $600 billion. Facebook will be getting a bigger chunk of that market than any other Internet company before it, including Google.

Imagine the entire Internet going public. That would be worth, obviously, billions. Facebook is like a mini-Internet. We haven’t even begun to see what business models they will evolve into. You might ask, what does Facebook have to do with the US dollar? Everything. We are moving towards a world where true competition and capitalism means that every currency is allowed to flourish and compete. Right now, in the US, the US dollar has a legal monopoly. This will eventually end with the rise of alternative currencies like bitcoin, Facebook credits, and even gold. There may end up being more transactions using Facebook Credits than transactions involving the US dollar? Not tomorrow, not next year, but eventually.

You might even ask, what does Facebook have to do with the decline of worldwide violence and wars? And the answer there is also: everything.

That’s why I will never say Facebook is overvalued. Even if I’m not a buyer at the IPO.



John Kennedy @jfkesq  Asks: james, what is the number one thing you do every day without fail (except sleep and write and eat)

ANSWER: Without fail, I will always list the things I am grateful for. And I will try to make the list different (additive) each day.

Why? This is the one surefire way to crowd out negative thoughts. For example, people I hate, things I’m anxious about, things I regret, things I wish I were doing. If I stop myself and say, “I’m grateful for X, Y, and Z.” Then tomorrow I’m grateful for “A, B, and C”. Then the next day, “D, E, and F” then I start to build a big list of things that can crowd out the already big list of negative things I can choose to think about.

Is this avoidance of some sort? Maybe it’s important to think about things I’m anxious about. Maybe. But I’d rather not be anxious anyway. I’d rather just pay the check than be anxious about it. Or make the call than be anxious about the reaction on the other side. Gratitude is a great tool for replacing just about any other negative thought. And this, in turn, increases your time to think productive and useful thoughts. More on this in a future post.



Vito Phoenix @vittorioq8  is it better to get a mortgage from a bank, or pay the full price up front, for a small piece of property?

ANSWER: This is really a two-part question. The second part is below.

First off, its better to do neither. I’m assuming you are talking about owning a house. It’s better to rent a house than to own. I describe why here.

But, in summary. Why put up a big chunk of money, then pay interest (which is basically your rent on the property you already own) plus all sorts of things that go up with inflation (which is usually the typical argument for owning): property taxes and maintenance. Not to mention tying up a bulk of your assets in the up front payment that can be used for other investment purposes.

Then someone asked: Why borrow? Because the US dollar is falling off a cliff?

This has two answers:

A)     Yes. The US dollar may fall off a cliff. But at the very least, interest rates are near an alltime low so why not borrow at low interest rates than borrow later at higher interest rates? Always borrow when it’s cheap, as long as you have the income to pay the interest payments.

B)      Second, there’s a saying “cash is king”. You always want to have as much cash around as possible. If the shit hits the fan like it did in 2008 you won’t be able to borrow again for years. At any interest rate. So what if you lose your job and risk going broke and you can’t borrow and you can’t sell your house. Then I hope you have cash in the bank. Good thing you borrowed as much as you could, you’ll be saying to yourself. Better to be foreclosed on then go broke.



Vic H @Vic5557  Do you think humans would have a fighting chance in daytrading again ?



I’ve written before about why people should not daytrade, despite the fact that I used to daytrade and have written books about daytrading. Here’s the 8 reasons Why People Should Not Daytrade.

But think about it. Right now the average trader sitting at home is up against three massive roadblocks:

-          Computers. High frequency computers that are attached right into the nucleus of the exchanges that make trillions of trades a day snapping up 1/10 of a penny right in between every one of YOUR trades. Why fight that battle against them? What do you know that they don’t

-          Criminals. No matter what my feelings are about the laws on insider trading – right now it’s against the law. And I would estimate 90% of hedge funds are guilty of breaking that law. Every day. Again you have to ask: what do you know that they don’t.

-          Congressmen. They are allowed to trade based on what they know is about to be passed into law. This is a huge unfair advantage and at the moment it’s completely legal for them to take advantage of it. Why would you want to fight that uphill battle.

Everyone thinks they can be THE ONE. The guy who armed with “technical” and moving averages and Elliot Wave Theory, etc who can fight all of these uphill battles.

I’ll give you an example. I was on a plane Monday morning. A guy passed me and recognized me from one of my CNBC appearances. He was in his 60s. He said to me with a knowing look, “the market is going down big this week. BIG.” He raised his eyebrows to emphasize it.

I was polite. “Oh yeah? How come?”

“It’s obvious,” he said. “All the technicals. You’ll see. It’s going down big.”

Meanwhile, as I write this, the market has gone up every day this week. Futures are up. And the Nasdaq closed at a ten year high yesterday. Unless the market crashes big today, this random stranger who felt compelled to pass on his sixty years of wisdom in such a definitive fashion will be dead wrong. Will he remember he was dead wrong? Of course not! He will go back for more fun in the sandbox next week. And lose even more money.

Don’t be that guy when you are sixty. Or thirty. Or twenty.



Maggie @wikibacher  Asks: I have an idea that I think people will love but I do not have contacts to make it happen. What can I do?



I will tell you the exact same thing I did that worked for me.

Make a list of 20 people in your industry that you don’t know.

Tell them your idea completely. Don’t leave anything out. Be succinct so you don’t bore them. Flatter them a little.

Then tell them you can do the idea FOR them.

See what happens. They won’t steal your idea without you. They will contact you with questions, ideas, and maybe a meeting setup.

If one of them respond then contact twenty more people. Even write your idea up in a popular blog. Whatever it takes. Get your idea out there. Someone will eventually ask you to do it.

See also: The Techniques to Be a Super-Connector




Malpighian Corpuscle @asplenia  Asks: how many dates does it take to see if someone’s a good match?


There’s four issues:

A)    Do you like them?

B)    Do they like you?

C)    Are you a good match?

D)    How soon is too soon to express it?

I think within two seconds you know if you are attracted to someone. And probably by the end of the first or second date you know if they like you. If you don’t know by that point then something is not quite clicking. And even if you are clicking, you might want to wait awhile before consummating. For me, if everything happens too quickly then I’m either too nervous or then I don’t trust the person (or myself).

I kissed Claudia on our second date. (See also, “How I Met Claudia“)  But I was nervous. We took a long walk. Maybe a two mile walk. On mile one there was a point when we were staring out on the East River and looking at the Brooklyn Bridge. I could’ve kissed her. But I got nervous. So we walked another mile. Then we were at another point, right at the tip of Manhattan in Batter Park, looking at at…the East River again.

I was still nervous. I did what a five year old would do. I made fun of her teeth. They were a little crooked and pointy. Like a vampire’s. That made her feel self-conscious I think while I leaned in for the kiss. Then there was discussion: “why didn’t you kiss me a mile ago?” she asked. More discussion: “ok, no bed for  awhile though.” She didn’t want to rush. I was fine with that. I knew I would get there eventually.

But on the second date, after that first kiss, I knew. And still do.

blog comments powered by Disqus