Ask James: Why Sex Motivated Me, How To Be Happy, Who Will I Vote For, and More!
- Posted by James Altucher
Every Thursday I do a Q&A on Twitter. I’m really happy people ask me questions. I also encourage anyone else to answer the questions in the comments below. This is a free-for-all. I need to learn the answers also!
Here’s expanded answers from this week’s. I expect to be done with the book, “FAQ ME” in about two weeks. Enjoy:
HOW DO I DEAL WITH STRESS?
Par Trivedi @Parito asks: how can I reduce stress? And what is real stress? I hear so much about stress reducing health, but really don’t understand it.
I feel really bad for you. I hate stress. Stress has killed me. Made me sick. Made me angry. Made me want to kill myself at times. Made me want to kill others at other times.
Stress is often caused by a specific problem that can’t be immediately solved. If it could be immediately solved then you would feel happy and not stressed. What are those problems?
Financial? Maybe you’ve lost your job and you look at your bank account and say, “I have six months left to live.” I have felt that stress often. Love? I like a girl but she may or may not like me or maybe she likes someone else. I have felt that stress as well. Both these stresses have come close to ending me up in jail or the hospital. It’s not fun to experience stress.
Other than the direct consequences of stress (you might hurt someone. You might hurt yourself), there’s the indirect consequenes: lack of sleep, drinking too much, using some other form of escapism or addiction to battle the drudgery of non-stop stress. Stress withers away at your skin until there’s only bone left. Withers away at your brain until there’s only insanity left.
So give up. You can’t solve your problem. Today.
But if you reduce the symptoms caused by your stress you’ll often find, magically, that the underlying problem is gone as well.
Physically: Exercise, eat well, sleep well, take walks, try to explore with your eyes details you’ve missed before in your surroundings.
Emotionally: be nice to people. Even the ones causing you stress. Be grateful for them. Forgive them. Only surround yourself with people who love you.
Mentally: challenge yourself every day. Come up with lists of ideas. Come up with lists of ideas for other people. Introduce two people to each other that you think will need each other.
Spiritually: Invite magic back into your life. You are feeling stress because you can’t control the world. One time I was seeing a therapist and he asked me, “what can I do to relieve your stress?” and I replied “write me a check for one million dollars”. And of course he could not do that. I couldn’t control anyone to write that check.
So I gave up. I surrendered. Dear god, it’s too much for me. YOU Take it! And give it. It doesn’t matter if you believe in god. There’s enough mystery in the world and inside of your brain that when you add it all together it equals….something. We don’t know what it equals. But it’s enough to bow down and surrender to.
I can’t take it anymore. You take it.
And mean it.
Then your stress will go away and, quite magically, you’ll find your problems that caused the stress will go away as well.
YOU HOLD YOURSELF BACK
mike @wiztrader I spend a great deal of time holding myself back. How do I stop it??
ANSWER: The structure of your question is revealing. The two question marks. As if your own body (“holding myself back”) is totally out of your control. The use of the word “it”, again implying your inability to move forward is somehow an “it”, outside of you, controlling you.
So let’s ask: what is controlling you?
I will tell you. Your parents are. Your friends are. Your spouse is. Your job is. Your colleagues are. Your children are. So many people have expectations of you. Each one draws a circle around you. You can’t move beyond each person’s circle without disappointing their expectations.
And so where can you stand? You stand in the center, in the tiniest circle of all, the tiny circle that is the intersection of all the many circles drawn around you.
You need to step out of the circles. Forget about “it” for a second. There is no “it”. There is you. You need to step out of those circles but it’s not so easy. You’ve just spent the first half of your life keeping inside of them.
To step out in one second is impossible (or , at the very least, hard).
You are now a spy. A spy on your own life. There are enemies everywhere, keeping track of your position. You must attempt to fool them.
Do something a little different. Fingerpaint. Take the wrong subway. Go vegetarian for a week. Leave in the middle of the day and don’t comeback. Go to a museum instead. Write a one page novel. Give advice to someone who didn’t ask for it and doesn’t want it. My favorite: return an email from 2007. Start it: “Sorry for the small delay.” Write an email to someone you hate and say, “How’s it going today?”
You can’t jump forward until you learn how to step forward. To step forward you have to start breaking through these tight circles wrapped around you. You have to practice what it’s like to move outside the circles.
In the movie THX-1138 (George Lucas, pre Star Wars), all of the inhabitants of the underworld are told the world above has been destroyed by radiation. So they have to live in this tightly controlled 1984ish world with tight controls. The main characters, as they do, fall in love. They are chased for breaking the rules. Eventually they hit above ground and realize it is not wracked with radiation. It is, in fact, a paradise.
Give yourself time. Practice stepping outside the circles. Eventually you will break free into the above world. And nothing will ever hold you back again.
YOU JUST STARTED YOUR CAREER AND YOU WANT TO SUCCEED
Victor J. Torres @vjtorres11 asks: What would be the 1 piece advice you’d give to someone who is 24, 6 months into a career he loves –
I’ll just tell you from my experience. I started at HBO and I watned to succeed at it. I was a “Junior Programmer Analyst” in the IT Department. But I loved HBO, the whole company, not just IT. And I loved the whole entertainment industry. I wanted to succeed beyond “just” being a tiny analyst in the IT department, playing with Excel spreadsheets and Unix programming.
I read everything I could about the industry. All of the major players at the time: Ted Turner, Murdoch, Michael Eisenberg, Jerry Levin. All of the mergers that had taken 80 years to form the industry. I read every book even though it had nothing to do with IT.
I read over and over about the history of HBO. How it started, how it became the first cable network to transmit up through satellite (thanks to Jerry Levine who later became the CEO of all of Time Warner). I learned all the bios of the top execcutives and how they built their careers (for instance, selling HBO door to door in remote areas of the country whenever Showtime opened up in that area of the country).
I went to the video tape library every day and watched every show ever on HBO. I lied and said I need to see them for work. I went to seminars about how HBO picked its slogan (“It’s not TV, it’s HBO”). I went to seminars at the Museum of Television and Radio. I spent weekends at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.
Get to the point that when you say “we” you are not just speaking for your own identity but for the identity of your company, your bosses, your entire industry.
Now you can fill the gaps that are in your industry. Now you can succeed.
I’M A LAWYER AND WANT TO BUILD MY BRAND
How can you stand out in any industry? In any service? Particularly when you are a one-person service? There are many answers so I’ll give a few.
- Give for free. Set up a blog and start answering legal questions that are common.
- Advertise cheaply online, “I will answer legal questions for free” and then blog about the questions and answers. Why free? Give and you will receive should be your mantra right now. The more you give of yourself to the profession, to the people you want to help, the more returns you will have in the future.
- One problem many people have is that very basic legal documents cost $1000s of dollars if you get them from a lawyer. One time I was starting up a fund. I took my old legal docs from another fund and modified them. My lawyer was OUTRAGED. He had charged me $30k for those documents and wanted to charge me again. I told him I spent the first $30k which means I OWNED them. He didn’t fight back. But why don’t you get basic legal docs (will, divorce, fund, whatever) and give them away for free on your website. And advertise that you are doing so.
Won’t people just take from you then and never use you? Of course not! It’s more than just a document to write a will. People will realize that. Then they will call you and trust you because they know they have already been getting value from you.
Search twitter for people asking legal questions. Tweet the answers back for free to them. Eventually hold a Legal Question Q&A on Twitter.
Guest post on other legal blogs. If you can’t guest post, then put comments every day on every legal blog you can find. At least ten comments a day. And update your blog every day.
Do all of this and you will find your brand building bigger than you thought could be possible and you will be turning away business.
WHO I’M GOING TO VOTE FOR?:
Tschad Erdström @TheSlycophant asks: Who do you plan to vote for in November?
I vote for “Nobody” for President. What has the President done for me lately. Any President. Name me one President that didn’t increase our military presence or destroy our economy in some form or other.
Right now the US has a military presence in 130 countries and we are bombing six countries. Plus there are rumblings about war with Iran. Is this not the height of insanity? Is my way of life really being protected when we bomb and kill little babies elsewhere? And spend trillions of dollars that could’ve been spent to help the lives of people right here in the United States?
Here is what the President can do according to the Constitution: he can veto bills and he can sign treaties. Two things he hardly ever does. He can also MAKE SUGGESTIONS to Congress. And he can throw parties for visiting dignitaries. I think that’s about it. Without looking, can you think of anything else he can do according to the constitution?
Let’s not forget also: the Constitution was written before phones, before the Internet, before even the telegraph. So there was no way to get the issues out to the masses. Why not set up Internet balloting for vetoes and treaties and even all laws? People say, “well then 51% of the people will vote to suppress 49% of the people.” And to that I say, “are you crazy?” What 51%? Instead, there will actually be discussion about the issues in a way that is not controlled by Super PACS run by Sheldon Adelson or George Soros, two people who do not have the interests of most people at heart.
My thoughts on the GOP Primary. A travesty. A circus run by the media and the Super-PACS. The final ticket will be Romney-Rubio and Obama-Clinton. And then an election will happen.
And then hopefully, no matter who the winner is, we get Google Glasses and an ipad 8 and some more cures for cancer that hopefully the FDA, in their infinite stupidity, doesn’t try to squash. Innovation will cure America. Not a President or a congressman, or higher or lower taxes. A society is made up of people. If each individual finds the strength inside themselves to take the next step, then that’s the only next step for a country.
SEX MOTIVATES ME
Martin Higgz @marty7higgins asks: what motivated you when you were 20, 30, 40 yrs old?
ANSWER: When I was 20 I wanted to write the “Great American Novel”. Now, why in hell would a healthy young 20 year old with no experience in life want to sit in front of a computer for 4-5 hours a day for maybe one to two years with little or no hope of actually getting published. In fact, I probably spent five years in front of that computer for five to ten hours a day.
One reason: sex. I though, perhaps misguidedly, that if I was the author of a great novel then despite what I perceived to be my other disadvantages, that girls would want to have sex with me. Lots of girls. Any girls I wanted, in fact.
What was wrong with me? Lots of things. For one thing, I lacked self-confidence. If I had spent those five years trying to have more confidence in myself, trying to fill the emptiness I thought a finished novel would fill then not only would I have been a lot more happy during that time, I would’ve had a lot more time on my hands (instead of writing four unpublished novels) and I probably would’ve been having sex with many more women.
Oh well, you are only 20 once. And I was 20 over 20 years ago.
At 30: same goal. But then I thought having a million dollars or more would do the trick. By the way, writing novels and having novels does do the trick. You get a lot of confidence (temporarily, until you slip back to old habits), and confidence gets you all the sex you want. Not money but being able to stand up and say, “I can rule the world if I want to but I just don’t feel like it right now.”
At 40: Finally, I have some confidence. So my goals are different. I have a healthy relationship with my wife. She’s beautiful and she loves me. I think.
Now, I want freedom. Freedom from what? I don’t know yet. But I know there’s still some emptiness inside of me. I know that every day I try to fill it in various small ways. I look for a path when I know, intellectually, no path is needed. One day I’ll find the right path. And I know it will be inside myself. But now I’m still looking for that elusive freedom from the forest which on occasion clouds my brain and soul.
THE CURE FOR APATHY?
Will Greenwood @wltgreenwood asks: the cure to apathy with life?
Robots have apathy. If you do the same thing every day, with the other robots, and then get unplugged at night until morning, then you join the other robots in their apathy.
I don’t want to say anyone is a robot. We’re all different. But look at the ways in which your life has become routine. In fact, list them right now. You take the train every day. You drink a coffee on train. You read the paper. You say hi to your boss. You gossip at the water cooler. You read a romance novel. On and on and on.
Make the list of 50 things you do every day that the other robots also do. Your routine. Your path to apathy.
Now change one of those things today. Then another tomorrow. Then another the next day.
Apathy will wither away.
HOW TO BE HAPPY?
Jack Bennett @32000days asks: how to be happiest in life?
Let’s say you want something. Let’s say it’s money. Or “enlightenment”. Or, to be the star of a TV show. Anything that we’ve been trained in life to believe are reasonable goals.
The problem is, none of the goals are that reasonable.
They all involve a fight. You have to fight to make a lot of money. And often there are people who don’t want you to have it. And so then you have to fight with jealousy, either your own or others.
And then even worse, you GET your goal and you are still not happy. Evidence: look at all the rich, famous, beautiful people who have to be escorted off airlines because they spit on the stewardess. Are these people happy?
Or even worse: You GET and then you LOSE your goal. Losing $15mm for me in the summer of 2000 was the worst experience of my life. And then everyone laughing at me. Ugh, what a drag.
I was so miserable I could’ve killed myself. Maybe I would’ve if not for having two little girls along the way.
I had high expectations for myself. When I was in third grade I was calling MYSELF a genius. I had no shame about it. I was the world’s greatest genius. At the age of eight. And then I had to make millions. And I had to have sex with beautiful women. And I had to…I had to… had to…on and on and on. It never ended what I expected of myself.
Now I try to lower my expectations. I don’t need as much as I thought I did. I don’t need to be as successful an author as Snooki in order to be happy. I don’t need many of the things I used to think I needed, including some form of spiritual enlightenment. Save those things for the people who are needy and think they need it to fill the emptiness.
And you know what, the more expectations I surrender on, the more I receive. The happier I get.
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