How I Made a Lot of Money Because of Breakdancing


I just woke up from the worst nightmare. I was breakdancing and everyone was laughing and saying, “you know we’re all better than you right?” And I was then naked and forced myself awake. I spend more time naked in my dreams than in real life.

But the dream was close tot he truth. Because when I was a kid I WAS the best breakdancer. In my mostly white (jews) and Indian (doctors) neighborhood.  I had every cassette tape for guys like Run DMC, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash (my father upset when I would play “White Lines” for my sister) and I would listen to them on my Sony Walkman. This sounds like a bad movie script from the 80s but there it was.

(Grandmaster Flash)

One  day I really wanted something. And I get what I want. So our housekeeper drove me over to the carpet store so I could get a 10 by 10 foot square of Linoleum. My Grandparents took me to Quakerbridge Mall where Joey Cappacio got a blowjob (I accidentally wrote “blogjob” at first but that was only much much later, in the distant future) in the stairwell but nothing like that ever happened to me. And at the mall I got a PUMA track suit with PUMA high tops.

Here’s my explanation. You can’t practice spinning on your back without linoleum. I don’t know why. You just CAN’T. And if you’re going to spin on your back you need the slickness of the PUMA jacket to slide appropriately across the lineoleum. You lay down on your back, move one leg way in front of the other and then KICK and BOOM you are spinning on that linoleum and the PUMA jacket provides not friction and then you bring your legs in close so that you spin faster.

Why the PUMA hightops? Duh? If you’re going to even think about any kind of moonwalking, Michael Jackson style and even better, you have to make sure there’s ankle support so your toes can go straight up off the ground.

(NYC Breakers vs Rock Steady Crew in “Beat Street” – my favorite movie at the time)

[Note: Here is the youtube video of the above “battle” from the movie. My favorite is “Mr. Wave”.]

I’d go over my friend’s houses and after we’d play with our Star Wars Legos in their basements I’d show them a few moves, confirmed for them that “that was the most stupid thing I’ve ever seen anyone do” and then I’d leave. I had better things to do while they laughed and played ping pong. I had to practice my “above the floor” stuff in the mirror.

Then one kid moved into town. THE ONLY ONE. You know what I mean. Andre. I’d go into his house and it would be like going to the magic kingdom. None of my friends had houses like his. There were paintings of naked black women from Africa all over the walls. It was the coolest house in the world! He’d say things to me like, “are you the smartest kid in the school?” and I’d pause for effect and maybe some false modesty and then say, “probably. I mean, I can’t think of who else it could be so I guess that means me.”

And I’d ask things like, “how do you meet a girl?” And he’d laugh and say, “You just ask!”

People always say that. “You just ask!” But first it’s gotta be this for someone like me: She already has to like me in advance. For some reason she has to either think I’m “safe” or “cute” and maybe there’s a list of ten other reasons on her mental checklist. Claudia told me later she had a checklist and I almost failed it on the first date (She asked on the date, “Can I ask you a personal question?” And I said “No” and she checked me off the list but then I said, “Yes. I was just joking.” (I accidently just wrote choking. Where’s my therapist) And she then put me back on the list. The worst most common joke in the world almost got me eliminated in the Girl Tank.

So I’ll start my “ten things I learned from breakdancing” with that one.

A)     “You just have to ask!” means you have to be able to handle rejection over and over. I’ve learned this in a ton of cases. To sell a company you have to ask 20, take 6 meetings, get 3 offers, accept one. To ask out a girl, same ratio. And so on. But it takes the ability to handle a LOT of rejection. And most girls (or potential mates of any gender) you ask are going to say “No”, or will simply walk away (the latter has happened to me more than the former) without saying anything.

B)      Get the equipment. I’m not going to play tennis with a badminton racket. Then I’d look like a little girl. I’m not going to start an Internet company unless I know someone who knows all the latest programming languages and tools and unless I know someone who knows all of the latest marketing tools and tricks (he will hate me saying “tricks” in Internet marketing.)

(not me…but close)

C)      Be yourself. NONE of my friends liked breakdancing, the music, or anything about it. They didn’t get it. They thought it was a fad and nothing more. They didn’t understand why I thought the best idea on the planet would be if someone made a “Dancing channel” just like there was (the beginning of) MTV. They all 100% thought I was a crazy. My grandparents said, “I don’t want to hear about this. How are you ever going to get into college!” But I had a passion for it. I thought about breakdancing all day long.

If you love something, set it free. Inside of yourself. Go for it. Read about it. Get what you need and…

D)     Practice. I practiced every day, all the time. Do I regret it? Was it a waste of time? Maybe. Maybe going to medical school is a waste of time. How many people will you kill when you are a doctor? I can see the comments now, “what if they save your life?” Sorry, if I need a pancreatic whoofer like Steve Jobs did to live another few years then I will just say my good-byes instead. What’s so great about this planet that I’d kill myself to live in it.

E)      Money. Lots of money. You mean, did I roll out my linoleum in NYC and put a cup so people could put money in it while I did my awesome breakdancing? Of course not! Didn’t you hear me before: I WAS A WHITE JEWISH KID FROM THE SUBURBS. There was no way I was going to ever make money breakdancing.

But when you grow up your early passions have time to marinate. And they can come out and into the forefront in the strangest ways.

Because for the next twenty years I listened to all the music, read all the magazines, kept up with my “moves” for the hell of it and just immersed myself in the culture it was a natural for me to make money off of it.

My first company, Reset, made websites for entertainment companies. We did the site for every rap label and then their rap groups: Bad Boy (Puffy, Notorious BIG),  Loud Records (Wu-Tang Clan), Interscope (Death Row Records), Jive, and then we did the site for The Source magazine, which was the primary magazine for rap.

(would hang out in my office)

I remember our first job in that space was for Loud Records. First off, you walk in and get frisked by the hugest guys in the world. And guess what, they were Jewish and in their 50s. Then you wait. Then Steve Rifkind called us in. He, of course, was not only Jewish but the son of Jules Rifkind who started Spring Records (James Brown’s record label) and was probably the basis for that guy in the Sopranos who had conned all the superstars of his day and age 50 years earlier. And Jules Rifkind was the son of some guy who used to throw parties for Meyer Lansky back in the day. That’s the way it was. The Source magazine also: all Jews. Interscope records: Jews. Bad Boy was Puff Daddy but his #2 guy: Jew.

Then I go into Steve Rifkind’s office and he’s meeting with his broker. Steve turns to me, points to the broker, and says, “I can’t figure this guy out. Maybe you can make heads or tales.” So his broker (jewish) says, “Steve, this is a great fucking story. Record label, basketball camps, street teams, clothes, we do the first African-American rollup and take it public. You’ll be a billionaire.”

Steve says, “I’m fucking coming. My dick is so hard I gotta go to the bathroom and jerk off until I come.” So he leaves the room.

I turned to the broker, Justin Weil, and introduce myself. Less than a year later Justin introduced me to the company that bought my first company.

I made a lot of money learning how to breakdance.

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  • michael

    I would love to know what a conversation btwn Havoc, Prodigy and James was like. 

  • James

    Omg jealous
    Can’t believe you chilled with Mobb Deep. Those are some sharp cats. I like Prodigy’s skeptical politics.

  • Ralph Havens

    follow your passion.  you or God put it there for a reason….

  • Augie Dawgie

    And it’s still alive today, but the jews aren missing the boat this time.

  • Leo

    Is there any network in the world as powerful as the invisible Jewish network?

    • James Altucher

       If that were true I wish they would invite me in since I am jewish. I guess I’m not religious enough.

      • Daniel O’Kane

         I wish they would invite me in (I can pretend to be jewish)

        Seriously, you have inspired me to do more. Now down to the daily practice !

      • wolf

        Sort of made me laugh. My dad always was confused for being jewish, probably because of

        a) physics PHd
        b) super German last name (think “altucher”, but even more kraut)
        and c) (no offense) kind of a big nose.

        he’s not. I think our family’s maybe Lutheran or something. But for years at IBM everyone thought my dad was Jewish and credited him being promoted all the time to being jewish. Turns out he was just a great engineer. 

        If you want a fun, cheap laugh at the expense of the jewish conspiracy, check out the admittedly crass gay conspiracy. Via the superb, Oscar-worthy Run Ronnie Run.

        I can’t believe this movie didn’t win some kind of award.
        Good or bad.

    • Priscilla P. Wood

      I’m not Jewish but I’m in!

    • MarkW99

      LOL. Out west we have the “Mormon Mafia”. When I lived in Boise I knew more than one contractor that had moved up from California and “converted” (in parentheses because they still drank booze, coffee and did whatever else they wanted when nobody was looking) solely for business reasons.  Very powerful – LOTS of business gets done in the wards of the Latter Day Saints.

  • karen parmelee

    Wonderful perspective you shared James, thank you! Felt more like a stroll through memory lane coming out on a rainbow with a pot of gold waiting for us! Really fun, sincere, genuine – thank you!

  • Stewart

    …and an ocean away around the same time a skinny white boy from Manchester, England was spinning on his head on his own lino (as we call it), except in top to toe Adidas, memories!

  • skeptical investor

    I (and I think everyone) would like to see you breakdancing. Perhaps the video will get viral and will reach more than 1 mil. views.

    • Zachary Burt

      oh my god i would pay cash up front

  • Street Smart

    DAMN…Mobb Deep.. DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMn…my nigga!

  • Street Smart

     eminEm was right, ”the source has a white owner”

  • Priscilla P. Wood

    Altucher, you and your stories, I’m soooo jealous (in a good way). 

    Pursue your passion, always! Two unreggae/rap guys, Matisyahu (Orthodox Jewish) rocks it with the best rapper today -Eminem. Love it!

  • Pedantic Lego Expert

    Fun Fact: They didn’t make “Star Wars Legos” back then.  Licensed Lego showed up after their patents expired much later.  Not saying you didn’t create your own.

  • Theresa Roth

    Way to pull it all together, James!  Great storytelling!  
    I was hoping you would show a pic of you in breakdance mode, or a video would have been classic!

  • James_fraud

    Still spreading misleading information about Google to pump your penny stock 
    VRNG? How does being sued by sec and losing all your money (yet again) sound to you? Disregarding your moral turpitude, your argument  is wrong because patents expire after 14-20 years so unless this goes to court soon, it will be moot just the rest of your gibberish.  Additionally, in the worst case outcome Google would have to pay a small royalty for the next 5-7 or so years that would have a negligible impact on the stock, but of course the truth has never stood in the way of your pursuit of a quick buck.

    Your demonstrable lack of critical thinking can’t be attributed to an intellectual deficit, but a deliberate dissemination of misinformation in the pursuit of profit.

    • Tgxman

      youre a dick

  • Kamal Ravikant

    What a great story.  You can’t make this stuff up…

  • Modernist

    Who introduced you to Sergey and Lawrence?

  • Roman Geyzer

    This post was hysterical!

  • James Hamlett

    It is funny how the path we choose in life leads us in directions that are unknown to us at the time.  I started out in the Hip Hop publishing world in the early 90’s with a magazine named BEAT-DOWN.  I would never have assumed James that you were associated with hip hop or break dancing in any way.  I have met Steve as well when our magazine interviewed Wu Tang in the 90’s.  This article shows that you can sometimes not predict how your future is going to unfold.  You have to sometimes just go along for the ride and let go.

  • MarkW99

    James HAS to breakdance for us now. All in favor post under this comment : )

  • DiscoverCircle

    Comment deleted. Made by mistake using this account. Sorry.

  • Prat Agarwal

    This might sound bad, but I’d pay a dollar more easily to watch a video of you break dance, than to buy a book you wrote (nothing against reading or knowledge, I read all your posts and have bought your books, but such a video would take you from a geek to a hero fairly quickly ;)).

  • Jerome

    Nice Post James

  • Andrew_ferri

    holy christ that’s a great fucking story

  • B Young

    My son is like that James. He obsessed over magic the card game and got me playing it, ( which instill do), he became the best Magic player in the neighborhood and bought THE best card from the US, then he dropped that and obsessed over music and became the best lead guitarist in the local neighborhood, won a local rockquest with his band and bought a Paul Reed Smith custom 22 from the US ( 9 months waiting for it to be made ), got me into blues rock which I still buy, then he dropped that and came home from university one day and said.. “I want to be a doctor” ( we’re not Indian btw ) and obsessed over that! And now at 27 he IS a doctor.. And has saved lives already!! But funnily enough he didn’t get me into medicine!
    So.. No real money but for each obsession he sure followed your principles..

  • Todd_Andelin

    This sounds like a Marshall McLuhan vision.   

  • Éric Martín Ruiz

    Haha well you van only connect the dots going backwords.

  • KW

    how does a man like that (SR) get so successful? Why do people work with him?

  • Bob

    So if the answer is, be Jewish, how is it going to help me? I’m not Jewish and never will be. ;( Don’t get me wrong! I got my life saved by a Jew. And my favorite musician of all, all, all time is Bob Dylan (aka Robert Zimmerman). So it is not that I do not care for Jews, but rather, that Jews do not care for me. So now what? Kill myself and make room? I don’t know, but it seems you guys have an empire of your own. Maybe it was different, maybe non-Jews had an empire of their own at some earlier time and you achieved success in spite of that. But the generation I got born into is that Jews run Hollywood, the media, and everything else I wanted to do. So why don’t you Jews have room for me, the follower of Christ? I mean, I kid you not, I have even had a Jew tell me to back off the Christian story, saying “He’s our Jesus–we killed him.” No kidding. So am I just on the wrong planet, or what? No offense intended, just the facts.

  • Cousin Larry

    great story man

  • Albert

    Wrong on Sreve Rifkind being the basis for Soprano character “Hesh”
    That person would be Morris Levy

  • stankinaz

    Man you are cool. I wished I kept up with my break dancing. But I don’t think the break dancing had much to do with your success. In your mind Break Dancing was hella cool and it made you cool. Just from reading your story, with how you admit to making mistakes, took challenges and lost more than you won, and how older people liked you, you are in essence just a good person that everyone liked. Furthermore, your faith allowed you to have insight into loving what was different.

    It sounds like your personal experience from hip hop, break dancing, and your religion gave you awesome instincts to be a success. God bless you and keep on breakin . Like Ollie and Jerry – “there’s no stopping us(you) . . . no one does it betta!”

    Just admit it, boogaloo shrimp in breakin was awesome too.