Ask James: God, Giving Up, Greatness, The Fortress of Solitude, Mistakes, and More!

Every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 EST I do a Q&A session on Twitter. If you like these types of posts please “Facebook Like” so I get a sense of the interest (or comment if you have more answers for the questioners. I am sure they will appreciate it). There were many good questions and I did this as one big post. Some questions I left out because I might do posts just about them. I hope you come back for the Twitter Q&A next week.]

 WHAT IS GOD?

Dylan Love ‏ @_dtl What is God?

ANSWER:

YOU are God. But who are you!?

 

I don’t know if that answers the question. Our brains are too small to figure it out. So the best thing to do is to try and take the brain out of the equation and answer it without it.

EPIPHANY AND BLOGGING

Curtis Faith ‏ @inflector: Was there some event in your life or some epiphany that made you take the jump and start blogging brutal honest truth?

ANSWER:

I gave up.

I gave up trying to impress people so they would put me on TV.

I gave up trying to get people to think I was important enough so they would publish my books.

I gave up trying to start the perfect new business.

I gave up trying to be the best father in the world.

I gave up trying to be something I wasn’t to my friends and family.

I gave up everything. I was going to die.

And I looked around and saw that many people wanted to give up but I suspected were afraid to. Maybe, like me, they were afraid they would be less happy, that less people would like them, that they would be invited to have less opportunities, that they would make less money. That fear, by itself, was actually doing the opposite – it was keeping the boundaries of their existence tightly wrapped around their egos.

So I blogged to set myself free. And I blogged to show people that there were maybe others out there who had failed and had despaired and had given up on the future they thought they could control. I blogged, I felt, to give permission to fail. And with that, I hope the blog succeeded.

 

LEGACY OR IMMEDIATE JOY

Johan ‏ @johanejohansson: Whats more important – your legacy (dent-in-the-universe) or your immediate joy? Struggle a lot with all of these questions.

ANSWER:

Don’t think about legacy. Legacy is a myth. 100 years from now will your name be carved on the top of any building? Probably not.

And certainly one billion years from now (a drop in the bucket in a universe expected to live over a trillion years) our lives will be smaller than specks of dust.

But, this very present moment is HUGE. it’s the only thing you got. The past is done with. The future is only a basket of worries and concerns and anxieties that we should ignore. But we’ve got this great little toybox we can call RIGHT NOW.

So be kind to the people around you. Be honest. Be content with where you are this second. For a split second make sure you are breathing. Relax your face. Observe if you are thinking angry thoughts about anyone (you don’t’ have to stop thinking them. Just say inwardly, “this is an angry thought” or “this is an anxious” thought).

If you do all of that then this moment you will leave an amazing legacy. And you will feel more and more joy.

And those moments been to add up. And the benefits of those moments compound. And that’s a legacy.

(not so important to be this guy)

 

 WHAT’s THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WEB NOW AND IN THE 90s

[Note: This question comes from Quora]

ANSWER:

Basically, nothing. The basic technology and framework has barely changed. Which is a good thing.
1) There were HTML pages
2) They were all fairly slow to load (just like today because of the 85 plug-ins and widgets and apps on each page)
3) The most popular usage was messaging (either through emails or IMs or group messaging through newsgroups)
4) There were ads
5) The most popular site was a directory site like Yahoo (just like today although maybe today its #2 or #3
6) There were search engines that were barely adequate (just like today)

(Google in the 90s. 25mm pages indexed!)

7) There were social networks (Tripod, Geocities, even usenet can be considered a social network)
8) There were a lot of dumb acqusitions and IPOs that made people a lot of money and now they are called geniuses even though the businesses are totally out of business.
9) The most popular browser was Netscape, which at its core is the same Firefox, IE, and Chrome
10) the news is the same: news saying “bubble” in 1995. news saying “bubble” now despite $200 billion in profits generated by Internet companies between now and then.
11) there were blogs, only then people would say “go to my web page”.
12) there were games. This morning I played on the Internet Chess Club. In every morning of 1993 I played on the Internet Chess Club.

I can’t really say there are any differences between now and the 90s other than:

Differences:
– Computers are different. They are now called “tablets” or “phones”. But if I add up all the costs of my computing and connectivity it’s about the same (although per “unit of computing” its certainly cheaper.)
– There are subtle differences in HTML but nothing that can be considered rocket science. Javascript, HTML5, basically similar. PHP/MySQL, basically similar to Perl/SQL. Rocket science is when people mine asteroids. Not a new tweak in HTML.

WHAT BOOKS HELP ALLEVIATE SUFFERING?

[Note: This was also also a question off of quora]

ANSWER: This is my basic list for this question. But for each book, if you like one of them I have 10 more underneath that are similar. Also, these are only the books that I like that answer the question but not a full reading list of books I recommend.

1) “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. his intro explains how the book solved his own suffering
2) “I am That” by Nisargadatta Maharaj. You have to read it to see why.
3) “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life”, Wayne Dyer’s interpretation of the Tao
4) “The Prosperous Heart” by Julia Cameron.Good for anyone with a scarcity complex and anxious about money.
5) “Losing Control, Losing Serenity”. Must of us struggle with control issues
6) “Guide to Rational Living” by Albert Ellis. An alternative take on psychotherapy
7) “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles. The precursor to all the books by Napoleon Hill, the Secret, etc. This book was the orginal.
8) “The Places That Scare You” by Pema Chodron
9) “The Art of Power” by Thich Nhat Hanh
10 “Evil Plans” by Hugh Macleod. Gave a new twist on motivation.
11) And of course, “I Was Blind, But Now I See” by James Altucher which, in some ways, aggregates all of the above.

HOW TO DO A TRADITIONAL BUSINESS

Ken ‏ @kenthecoder: Do you have any specific advice on starting traditional brick & mortar biz? Like boutique resort or niche car rental company.

ANSWER:

Yes. There are many websites that contains lists of businesses for sale. There are also niche websites and magazines that contain listings for businesses for sale. Follow the “three Ds”: Death, Disease, Divorce. If an owner of a business has a “D” then his business will be cheap to buy. There are various innovative ways you can finance buying a business from someone with a “D”. This is not exploitation. It just is what it is. They want to sell as badly as you want to buy. Exploitation for one is salvation for the other.

Have him partially self-finance your acquisition so you make  sure that there is a smooth transition of current customers and employees.

Then figure out how you would improve business. Presumably you’ve already done that, else there’s no point in buying the business. Are there ways you can use social media for instance. Or Groupon to get new customers. Or a Facebook fan page to get people who use your service to “Like” you so their friends can see. And so on.

Then, as profits grow, get a bank to finance more growth (more sales reps, more outlets, more inventory, etc).

Then repeat.

 

TOP 5 PEOPLE TO MEET IN NYC

Jeffrey Baird ‏ @Jeffrey_Baird: I’m moving my company to NYC in a few months. Who are the top 5 people I need to connect with when I get to the city?

ANSWER:

I don’t know what your company is so maybe I’m making assumptions but here is what I do. As soon as you move your company to New York, organize a dinner and invite the CEOs of your top five competitors. Get everyone drunk and talk shop. What better way to find out the lay of the land in your industry?

(someone once told me, "when you live in NYC, you trip over deals even when you are just crossing the street". And it's true)

GREATNESS

Priscilla P. Wood ‏ @PriscillaPWood: What is greatness?

ANSWER:

Pick yourself.

Too often we want someone to like our novel. Or promote us. Or hire us. Or buy our idea. Or put our product on their shelves. Or tell us they love us. Or tell us we are good.

You have to choose yourself first.

A lot of people say, “once this happens, I will be happy.” The other day a hedge fund manager said to me, “once I get back to breakeven I can start working out in the gym again” while stuffing some Kentucky Fried Chicken in his face. Or “once she apologizes I can be friends with her again.” Or “once I publish a book I can feel I achieved something.” Or “once I get this boring PhD done I can work on my true passion”.

Once this, once that. That’s a lot of one + one + one + … equals out to the rest of your life. Then you’re dead.

(a great picture about the opposite of achieving greatness)

If we keep delaying our greatness with obstacles, the greatness will certainly be delayed.

If you keep repeating the same thing it becomes like a mantra.

The etymology of the word “mantra” is interesting. Its two words: “man” and “tra”. “Man” in the  language of the vedic texts could mean: “thoughts, or thoughtfulness with zeal”. And “tra” could mean (among many things) “protect”.

So a mantra –  or even a mythology that your friends, colleagues, family, lovers, whoever brainwashed into you –  repeated with zeal is the way you keep a thought trapped and protected in your mind. It is this protection that one actually has of their worst fears that will prevent it from being unleashed until the future you once imagined becomes your present.

What you need now is to give all that up. You can’t control the future. And the past is gone. Start choosing yourself right now for whatever life you want to live.

This doesn’t mean “live for the moment”. But it does mean “use this moment to live the best life you can live.”

Greatness is when every moment you choose yourself rather than relying on the past or future to choose you. Rather than relying on anyone else in the world to choose you.

And finally, be very grateful for how great you already are.

 

GETTING BETTER AT JOB

Ed Zitron ‏ @edzitron: how do i get better at my job. any job.

ANSWER:

A) you have to love the product. If you don’t, then get a new job. The economy is ripening now. If you like comic books, get a job at a comic book company. If you like advertising, get a job at an ad agency. But only get a job at a company where you love the product. In the early 90s I LOVED the TV shows on HBO. I watched every one. So I got a job at HBO. The lowest level job there, and I was still unqualified for it. But I loved it.

B) Know the history of the company. Who were the prior CEOs, who was the founder. How did they beat the competition? Know the history of their marketing campaigns. Ask the head of marketing why they chose different marketing campaigns. Learn whatever you can about the company.

C) Work hard but give your boss credit for everything you do. There is absolutely no upside in taking credit for yourself. ONLY give your boss credit. He gives you the sandbox to make things happen. If you build a castle, give it to him. Tomorrow he will give you a bigger sandbox.

D) Study the entire industry. If you are in the search engine space, learn about every search engine before Google. Learn the patents. Learn the failed business models. Start to brainstorm on what a newer and better search engine can look like. Learn all the competitors. What makes them work. What do they do differently than your company? Even go to lunch with the competitors and find out what makes them tick. Examples: when I worked at HBO I went out to lunch all the time with people from Showtime or MTV. When I started my first company, Reset, I would go to lunch with the CEOs of my competitors whenever I could. Your best sources of knowledge about the industry will be your frenemies.

E) BECOME the company. Say “we” instead of “you” when describing what the company should do next. Feel the “we”. The company is you. Be a loyal soldier. Fight to the death. We are fighting for liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the success of our company. Feel it.

F) LEAVE. Always find out what your value is in the marketplace. Always test the waters everywhere else. Always continue to network throughout the industry so you can leave when you need to. The world has turned sideways from vertical advancement to horizontal. People advance by either moving sideways or starting their own businesses. Every two years, at least, you should be totally prepared to do one or the other. No matterhow much I loved HBO, for instance, I took at least one job offer while I was there (which parlayed into a 60% salary increase at HBO) and then two years after that I left to do my own company – building websites for entertainment companies.

WHY BUSINESSES FAIL

Josh Beck ‏ @JT_Beck: Why do most businesses fail? Not enough money, bad idea, too much competition, not enough experience, etc?

ANSWER:

The heart of a business is the customer. The blood of a business is money. The muscles in the business are the employees. The oxygen in the business is the communication between the employees. Blood comes from the heart to the muscles and delivers oxygen to the muscles.

If there is a blockage of blood (the customer is faltering) then you have to stop the blockage immediately or you have a heart attack. Your employees fight, the money slows or doesn’t get paid on time, the business falters, and the customers leave, and you die.

(Don't let your business have a heart attack)

So this means to constantly check your customers. Do whatever it takes. Check the arteries (the big customers), the veins, the electricity between the customers and the product. Always ask your customer what they need. Take, as an example, Borders Books. They were too late to the ebook game. They were actually too late to the internet. They even had Amazon host their online bookstore for awhile. Bad Borders! The customers wanted Internet and ebooks and ebook-readers.

So Borders, once the best bookstore on the planet, died.

BUFFETT RULE

Cooper Wesley Warren ‏ @cwesleywarren: what do you think about the Buffet rule?

ANSWER:

I’m not sure what “the Buffett Rule” is. There’s two things I’ve heard about in relationship to Buffett’s Rules that he’s tried to inflict on the masses:

A) let’s tax more people because, for some reason, Warren Buffett pays a smaller percentage of his taxes than his secretary.

B) everyone should give all of their wealth to charity and not leave anything to their children.

There’s a story: Warren Buffett was giving Katherine Graham (the publisher of the Washington Post) a tour of Zales Jewelry Store in Omaha. Buffett owned the store.

Graham noticed that there was a necklace labeled “Buffett”. She asked a sales clerk about it. The sales clerk said, “oh yeah, that’s a necklace that Buffett’s daughter has on a layaway plan. Only 20 more payments and she’ll get the necklace.”

Graham made Buffett buy the necklace for his daughter. From his own store.

I am not like Warren Buffett. Money can’t strangle me. Can’t strangle my family. I’ve let it before but I won’t let it again.

So Buffett wants us all to pay this or that taxes. Wants us all to not leave money to our kids. Wants us all to give everything to charity.

I have a few comments:

A) Buffett can always write a bigger check to the government so that his percentage of taxes equals his secretaries. That’s perfectly within the law.

B) Berkshire Hathaway is in an ongoing dispute with the IRS because they refuse to pay certain taxes.

C) Buffett has given quite a bit to charity. Not only to Bill Gates’ Foundation but to foundations for his kids. I think each kid got $3 billion in a foundation. Which means (in my limited understanding of Foundation math) that they can probably pull $90 million a year out in salary per year. Not so bad for them. I think they can probably survive without the “help” of their father.

My main comment, though is: If Warren Buffett can keep his hand out of my wallet then I promise to keep my hand out of his wallet.

[Note: I looked it up. The Buffett Rule refers to taxing people a minimum tax of 30% for people who make over one million a year. I guess this means they should be taxed this regardless of whether or not it was income (which is taxed at 28% anyway or long-term capital gains (which is taxed at 15%). I have no real opinion on this  but it does seem that if you really wanted to get back to a budget surplus then I would focus on cutting government than on dipping into the wallets of the people who actually invest in building the American economy (or Derek Jeter).]

 

DO YOU HAVE A FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE?

Robert Chirwa ‏ @Robert_Chirwa
What significant or symbolic role does The Fortress of Solitude play in your life especially in terms of meditation & creativity

ANSWER:

Superman is the secret version of us. We all walk around as Clark Kent. Mild-mannered, a bit clumsy, rising up the corporate ranks, maybe we have glasses or some other slight infirmity (shyness, awkwardness around women or men, nervousness about our looks, a sycophantic wish to please our bosses).

But deep inside, we know that the version of us that people see is really just a secret identity. I’m not really James Altucher, who sometimes gets angry, who sometimes has petty jealousies or envies, who sometimes has worries about money or fears about love or desires for something greater in life. In reality, in the center of us, we know we can go into a phone booth and come out as Superman – a person with no family, a person with no worries of the future since nothing can harm us, a person with no ties in any way to a home (since it’s been destroyed), and yet we are all secretly people of hidden powers, infinite powers. We know this in the bottom of our hearts. And one day someone will unveil this to us, to tell us that the secret we knew all along is true.

And then we will be shown our home. The Fortress of Solitude. The key weighs half a million tons and is carved out of a dead dwarf star so only we can lift it to unlock our home. Inside our home we can finally be at peace. There is nobody there. Nobody can find us. Nobody can worry us. We breathe in the crisp cool air of the Arctic. Time has frozen for us. We are home right where we are, infinite solitude, infinite power, with no conceivable ties to anyone who can possibly harm us.

The Fortress of Solitude is our subconscious. It does take a million tons of key to open it up. Or it just takes surrender to unleash it. If we dig deep down and say, “James Altucher is just a name”. “My fears are just feelings this body has.” “My simple awkwardness is something this body has but not the real me.” If we surrender all of our fears, all of our angers from the past, all of our worries of the future, if we only observe what is in our body right now, we enter the Fortress of Solitude. Nobody knows the real you. But you are there and thriving.

Give up control. That’s the key to the Fortress of Solitude.

And right now, in that moment, you become super human.

 

HOW CAN ONE JUGGLE EVERYTHING?

This came from two questions:

David Mansaray ‏ @DavidMansaray: You recommend for people to diversify. One project can take A LOT of time + A LOT of work. How can we juggle everything?

kate goodyear ‏ @kategoodyear: EXACTLY! i’d love the answer to your question to @jaltucher (as a full time/side biz/parent/etc. person)

ANSWER:

In 2006 I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was running a fund of hedge funds. I was trading. I was writing for thestreet.com and The Financial Times. I had family responsibilities. But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t “getting over the top” in some elusive way that I wanted to. And people wanted more and more from me. I was starting to go crazy.

So, unfortunately, the first thing you have to do is take on even MORE things.

Here’s what I do:

A) Give up the non-essentials. Clients that take up too much time. Tasks that take up too much time without payoff. People that take up too much time. I had a dinner a few months ago with two friends of mine. I don’t normally go out for dinner but I hadn’t seen them in years. They all had a novel they wanted to finish, an arti project they were working on. And so on. On and on. All night. Appetizers, dinners, desserts, drinks, more drinks, talking, walking. How does anyone get anything done?If you have 10 things in your life like that you will get nothing done ever.

B) Keep the things that keep you alive (a job, for instance).

C) Exercise the idea muscle so you start coming up with both bad and good ideas. Every day come up with 10 ideas. An idea = [basic concept, spec of the whole idea, first step of execution, time you will do that first step]. You won’t come up with good ideas at first. But eventually you will say about some ideas, “Hmmm, this one is doable. I can at least start it.”

D) Eliminate any ideas that don’t get immediate forward motion. This might eliminate some potentially good ideas. But you really want to get moving right away. Eventually in 2006 I build about 10 websites. I tried everything to make them work but almostnone of them did except one: stockpickr.com.

E) Time management: Wake up at 5am. No dinner. No extra hanging out with friends. No TV. No extra meetings. My general rule on meetings are: No travel for meetings unles I have a 50% chance of making A LOT of money. No other meetings unless I have at least a 10% chance of making a year’s annual income. That cuts down on meetings quite a bit. If you do just the above you will save about 100 hours a month, which gives you not only more time to do extra activities that can help you but….

F) Be by yourself. Even Charles Bukowski, who was constantly drunk and depressed, said he can only be creative when things were looking up and he had time to be by himself. Make sure you take an “artist’s holiday” every now and then. The other day Claudia and I went to the local museum and just sat in the bookstore for two hours and read books on art and photography. Time for yourself. Time to be still. Time to be read. Time to write random notes. This is where the seeds of creativity are planted so when you are making your lists of ideas you have a great chance of having a good ide

 

SPEED LIMIT

Bobby Matson ‏ @bomatson: Quit my agency job to learn to code full-time. Advice for setting your own speed limit? (credit, derek sivers)

ANSWER:

Never worry about your speed limit. Tomorrow might never get here. Yesterday is long gone.

Today you are right where you are supposed to be.

Everyone is rushing around with plans for the future. If we get there fast then life will be “better”. But once you get there you realize life didn’t get better. It just changed.

Sometimes I get upset. If someone says something bad about me. If a family member is rude to me. If I’m unhappy with my own posts. If I’m unhappy with a failed opportunity.Or if I regret a missed opportunity.

But the key is to recognize that none of these things are the “real” me. I might have unhappy feelings sometimes. But those things are not me. That’s a practice. Separate yourself out from your feelings. They are all artificial. They were programmed inside of you by years of identification with “what you should be”, “where you should be at”, “what kind of person you were raised to be”, “what levels are your peers at”, “what goals did you have in the distant past that you feel you missed”. All of these things are man-made.

But deep-down inside, you aren’t man made. Get past the thoughts that are tortured into you by a thousand commercial imprints a day. Get past the  emotions that are build up by decades of habit, get past the beliefs that are programmed by family, friends, colleagues, the news – all of whom have their own thoughts and fears and expectations. None of this is the real you.

You don’t need to rush to any destination. You are already there. Once you realize that, then you can choose to go wherever you want, whenever you want, without anything stopping you.

 

 

 

NO COMMITMENTS AND WITH MONEY

Ken ‏ @kenthecoder: Im in my 20s, no kids and no major responsibilities or commitments but have some money saved up high 5 figures. What should i do?

ANSWER:

Honestly, you should have a huge party. You should turn to your left and have a high five with the guy or girl next to you. You should turn to your right and do the same thing.

(you deserve to do this every day)

The key, key, thing is not to spend your money. Not to go to zero.

Here’s what I would do. Every day you need to get in shape. You are in the Olympics now. So begin training. Every day you must do The Daily Practice [note: I don't want to seem like a constant advertisement for it but its the ONLY thing that has ever gotten me off the floor, motivated, executing, selling, and successful].

View it as a treat to yourself:

Physically: improve yourself today: eat well, sleep well, move well.

Emotionally: keep trimming the emotional bonsai tree of the people around you. Any diseased branch, cut off. No matter what, no matter who. Diseased branches spread.

Mentally: you MUST exercise the idea muscle every day. Every day write down 10 ideas for things you can code (I see from your twitter handle that you are a coder). Then look to see if those ten things exist. Are they succeeding? Can you do it better. Then tomorrow come up with ten more ideas. Ideas will start mating. Within  months you’ll have 50 generations of ideas. Then start building your ideas. You can code quickly. If you can’t then get faster. Code ten ideas and see what works. What actually helps people.

Spiritually: Every day get down and thank whatever entity you want that you are in the lucky position you are in. Be grateful for your mother and father. Be grateful for the friends who have helped you.

Track what you are doing every day with tdp.me. Use the forums there to get help from your peers. Share your goals so people can comment on them and help you. Build community and network.

Then live long and prosper.

 

WHERE TO TRAVEL

emtoo ‏ @emtoo: Good suggestions to travel to? Apart from mysore in India? Alone or with friends?

ANSWER:

Oh! I know the best place to travel to. And the cheapest. And the most interesting. Here is a ticket:

I bet you’ve never visited there. Every day learn ten things about where you live. For instance, I just found out the house I live in used to be a hotel 100 years ago. The other day I went to the local museum bookstore and read 5 books about photography. I went to a restaurant I never went to. I went swimming on a beach I barely knew existed just two minutes from my house. These all happened to me. They never would’ve happened to me if I was all tired and jet-lagged and bloated in Paris. Then I was able to come home and just relax.

How great is that: museums, swimming, good food, new information about places I care about, very cheap, and then I can totally relax in a place 10 times bigger than a hotel room.

Plan your staycation in advance. What does your street look like when everyone is at work? Take photos of it. Talk to the nearby store owners. Why did they start stores there. What weird shit do they sell? Go to your local newspaper and read the back issues from 50 years ago. What did you learn?

I am so jealous you get to go there. Have fun! Send postcards to all of your friends!

 

FREE ADVERTISING

wilsprod ‏ @wilsprod: Why does every business need a blog, FB page, & twitter? Maybe true for some businesses, but it’s not essential for most.

ANSWER:

Hmmm, if I advertise just about anywhere I have to spend money for little results. I once asked the CEO of VH1 if he would ever advertise on TV. He said, “not in one million years. Nobody pays attention to TV ads and there’s no way to track the response.”

But with a blog, Facebook, and Twitter you can actually advertise for free, track the response, spread word of your business through word of mouth, and get more customers. Why not try it? You can do it for basically nothing (if you do it) or you can outsource. I don’t know all the ways to outsource but at blogmutt.com you can get people to write your blog, at optim.al they can help you set up your facebook page, at twylah they can help you set up your branded twitter page. Using bit.ly you can track how people share your content.

All of this for almost nothing. And then you can see what happens. If you get a customer via facebook they can “like” your facebook page. Now all of their friends will see that they like you. And you get more customers. How will you get customers to even go to your facebook page? You can put your blog posts there to give it content.

It doesn’t matter what your business is. You can be the corner deli. You can be the first corner deli to have a huge social media presence. That will get you customers.

HOW TO LOVE HER MORE TOMORROW

larry ‏ @larrywh99772138: I know its corny, but i’m gonna try to love her more tomorrow than i do today

ANSWER:

As Yoda says, “Try not. Do!”

Here’s what you can do:

A) Take a pad of 100 sheets. Write a note to her on each sheet of why you love her or a receipt for something she can do to you in the future. Let your imagination run wild. Hide each sheet in something she will eventually find (kitchen cabinets, books she likes, pockets of coats she’ll wear next winter. She won’t find all 100 sheets today but eventually she will and each time she will be grateful to you for putting the thought in.

B) Make dinner for her. Look up recipes. Go shopping. Make it a great dinner.

C) Take one negative thought you have about her. Study it. Why is it that you don’t like that about her? What from her past or your past could be causing that dislike. Really dive in. Try to understand what is happening. Heck, try this with two negative thoughts you have about her.

D) Clean yourself. Shave. Brush your teeth twice. Shower. Dress in a nice suit. Comb your hair. Taking care of yourself is the best way of loving her.

E) Oh, what the hell: let’s take another negative thought about her. Why judge so much? Are you overly judgemental? Can’t you just let her be the woman you fell in love with?

F) Surprise her. How? I don’t know. It’s a suprise. Hmmm, let’s brainstorm: Buy her a dress that fits her just right. Call her mother and ask her how she’s doing. Ask her about her day, about the people she  encountered. Whatever she says, ask her to “clarify” (I put that in quotes because Claudia always announces to me, “now  it’s time for you to ask me to clarify things.”) Plan a staycation for the two of you (see above).

(Surprise!)

G) Find one thing new about her that you didn’t know before. Put it down in a notebook. One new thing a day. Then you’ll have a book of new things about her. You can make a drawing for each one. Give her the book on your anniversary.

These seem like kitchy things. But if you do them, it’s not that you will love her more, it’s that she’ll appreciate you more. And then you’ll see sides of her you maybe didn’t recognize before.

 

BEST MISTAKE

Robbie Abed ‏ @RobbieAb: what’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

ANSWER:

The best mistake I ever made. I had two children. Ugh, what a drag it is. You know what it’s like to have two children? All you do is keep them alive. That’s it. That’s your goal. And do they care? Not one bit. And then you listen to them bicker. I have two daughters so when they bicker its all about complicated emotional stuff that’s beyond the understanding of mere mortal men like me.

Also: kid’s cost a lot of money. It’s about 10-30k per pregnancy. Then it’s a ton of money every year on food, clothes, gas (to get them to school), then toys, presents, presents for their friends, furniture, extra living space, commutes, and then who knows when it ends? For all I know I will be giving them money forever. Kids are the worst possible thing on the planet. What a big fat drag.

But then when they aren’t here I miss them.

And when they are sad it breaks my heart.

And when they call me because they want to talk I have nothing to say but I desperately search for something in my head that can interest them.

And when I can make them laugh I want that laughter to never end. I hear it in my head right now. It’s neverending.

 

LISA’S WEIGHT LOSS

Dr. Dean Burke ‏ @DrDeanBurke: Did Lisa’s wt loss regimen make you change any behaviors?

ANSWER:

Yes. I’ve known Lisa for around eight years I think. The entire time I’ve always known her to be very positive. She’s been broke, fat, overburdened, she sleeps about 3 hours a night because she is constantly working. She’s borrowed money to the hilt (I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this) because she is starting her skin cream business (which I’ll feature in a future blog post because I think it’s very innovative).

And she had been trying to lose weight FOREVER. She went on every exercise regimen, every diet regiment. And she just coudn’t break through.

But through it all she was very positive. The most positive person I know, and I know a lot of very positive people.

So when she finally lost the 100 lbs (http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2012/05/how-i-lost-100-pounds/) she showed me several things:

A) the power of positive thinking, as cliched as that sounds.

B) the power of being around positive people. It’s not good enough that you are positive, but your environment has to be aslo.

C) The  power of taking care of yourself first. When the plane is going down, if you want to best save the people around you, you put the oxygen mask on your face first.

D) The power of cutting down sugar.

E) The power of being an expert on something. You can ask Lisa any question (and she will answer in that post above) about nutrition and she will have an answer, after 18 years of studying nutrition. You can ask her anything about skin and skin creams (look at her picture, she’s 40) and she will have an answer. That’s power.

OPTIONS TRADING

Mike Thompson ‏ @mjtco: teaching self options trading strategies (weekly-swing time frame) – what is reasonable expectation of rate of return?

ANSWER:

Your expected rate of return is negative 100%. You are going to lose all of your money. Fist off:

A) Every CEO lies about their company. So strike one.

B) Ever bank lies about the companies they cover. Strike two.

C) Every stock is manipulated by various parties that have huge amounts of money at stake. Strike three.

D) Options are further manipulated by hedge funds because they are less liquid and any move in options will create a corresponding move in stocks because of automated arbitrage strategies. So Strike four.

But in baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. Here you have four strikes. Maybe there’s even more strikes I’m not thinking of. Like most option experts at banks have PhDs in Math. Strike five.

Ok, now you’re out. Negative 100 percent.

 

PROBLEMS PARENTS FACE

iretired ‏ @iretired: what are the biggest problems parents face these days?

ANSWER:

Being a kid actually sucks. First you are in a total prison. You can’t eat or crap or walk on your own. It’s even worse. You crap in your pants uncontrollably and have to sit in it, and you can’t communicate with anyone. Then the prison gets a little bigger. You can crawl around a house. But it takes years before you are allowed to wander without heavy security guarding you at all times.

And to really be free from prison you need money. You don’t get that for a long time.

Not to mention the worst thing of all for kids: your bodies start to grow and your hormones start to kick off before your mind is ready for it. So your mind is a prisoner in your own body. 13 year olds can have children but they are completely mentally incapable of having children. So there is this huge disconnect between the mind and the emotions and the body.

So for a good 15-18 years you are in total prison. What do prisoners do? They try to break free.

They try to push the boundaries of the prison to see what they can deal with.

How parents deal with this pushing, makes or breaks their entire relationship for the rest of their lives with this little individual they created. You can’t give in too much because, after all, it really is a prison and you are the guard. But you can’t make the prison too strict, or eventually the kid breaks out and starts a full-fledged Alcatraz-style riot.

So I’m going to recommend a book that was just recommended to me. Because I deal with these issues every day. Or at least every week:

The Essential Guide to the New Adolescence by Ava Siegler

My goal is to understand where all of the boundaries are as they age and grow older and what are all the ways I can help them explore these boundaries without setting them free before they learn how to fly. I hope I can be a good father. I’m really trying hard.

[Note: there were a lot of other good questions this week. I'm going to answer them over time in posts. This post is already 7200 words and I know it's long. Please "Facebook Like" the post if you like these types of posts. And please join me for the next Twitter Q&A on Thursday from 330-430 EST and ask me anything].

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