Ask James: Greatest fear, Sex every day, Mitt Romney, Bounce Back from Failure, the Supernatural, 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. You can also Follow Me on Twitter]

GREATEST EXPERIENCE EVER

V. van Scherpenseel ‏ @vanscherpenseel: what’s your greatest memory/experience until now?

ANSWER:

Unfortunately I dont have a greatest memory. Most things in the past seem really bleak. And even when good things happen, it’s really striking in retrospect how fleeting the happiness was that resulted. I’m not complaining about this. It’s the nature of being human that life is a sentence made up of failures punctuated by the briefest of successes.

My greatest memory happens to be writing this, right now. So I’m happy with that.

But I hope my greatest memory will be a good, peaceful death

WHEN TO MARRY YOUR GIRLFRIEND

Hamzah ‏ @Hamzah81: How do you know your current girlfriend is the one?

ANSWER:

Check list time:

  • Do you love having sex with her? This goes away eventually but you NEED IT now.
  • Ethics. Do you share similar ethics. Because if you don’t, that gap will widen until one of you cheats or goes to jail.
  • Discipline. Do you both work in a similar fashion to your goals? And are your goals such that they won’t pull you away from each other for long periods of time? Because that would suck. It doesn’t mean your goals have to be the same. But it does mean you will work equally hard on helping her achieve her goals and she  on yours.
  • Physically. Do you both try to stay in similar shape. If one person works out every day and the other person is eager to begin getting obese then you might lose physical attraction to each other.
  • Surprise! Do you like to surprise her? Does she like to surprise you?
  • I agree. Can you say “I agree” when she has problems with you. At least agree enough to seek a common ground solution. Don’t be defensive. If she has a problem, or you do, then there’s a problem. It’s not fiction. It’s real. You have to seek common ground. Always a place where you can find a “yes, we agree” and then work from there.Make sure you are both committed to always finding that “yes”
  • Spiritually. Do you bot have similar spiritual beliefs. Not necessarily the same religion. But deep respect for the beliefs of the other? Else this could cause “drift”. First you think in the background, “she’s an idiot” for believing that and then it gets deeper and deeper until its a permanent dent in that once beautiful car.

ADVICE TO NEWLY WEDS

Hank ‏ @Hankdawg: What is one piece of advice you would give to a soon to be newlywed couple (ages 30 and 25)

ANSWER:

I’m going to be brutally honest. Marriage, as we know, is difficult for a number of reasons:

  • a) people change
  • b) people are tempted
  • c) you might have gotten married for the wrong reasons
  • d) you might eventually get bored of each other
  • e) children change a marriage in ways that cannot be predicted (even step-children)
  • f) financial burdens can change a marriage once everything is mixed.
  • g) you might eventually fall in love with someone else.

OUCH! Marriage is really hard. And painful. Why would people do it?

Also, we know people are on best behavior for the first date. Maybe the second. Maybe even until the altar! And then truth might come out: That anger is mixed with fists. That stress is mixed with depression. That sex begins to wear off after marriage. And on and on. With all that, why do people even get married?

I will tell you why I got married. I wanted Claudia to know I was committed to her and that I wasn’t going anywhere. Not that she suspected I was but I wanted her to know that. And I guess I wanted to know the same thing. Not that getting married guarantees any of that. I can leave today. So could she. I think slavery was banned in the 1860s. But, culturally, marriage means we’re going to try and stay committed to each other, we’re going to help each other achieve our goals, and we’re going to always try to have a lot of fun together.

Some times people say the best advice for newlyweds is to “never go to sleep angry”. I first heard this on the 1970s TV show “Eight is Enough”. Guess what: the couple that advice was given to got divorced within a year (on the show). And sometimes people are just too tired to say, “I’m sorry” before they fall off to sleep. I don’t think that advice is realistic.

Also, sometimes there are issues you simply don’t know how to solve. When I have a chess opening, for instance, where I don’t know what the best move is, I go to a grandmaster-level player and say, “what is the best move here?” because he’s seen this 1000 times before. Sometimes you need to go to someone who has seen this a thousand times before. Claudia inherited step-children when she married me. She had never seen that before. Sometimes you need to speak to someone who has seen 1000 couples go through that and can say what the best course is.

But I have two pieces of advice for newlyweds. Close your ears if you don’t want to be shocked.

1) Have sex every day. Doesn’t mean you have to go all out, smash the bed, break the walls, everyone screaming so that the people walking around outside decide to walk slower or peek in. Just do it. Every day. Can’t hurt, right? And there’s various studies that show it’s healthy. Also, important note: doesn’t have to go to full culmination for either side. Just get it done with every day. Feels good.

There’s that saying, “put a dime in a jar everytime you have sex before you get married. Take a dime out everytime you have sex after you get married. You will never empty that jar.” With my first piece of advice you will eventually empty that jar. And, by the way, sex is very healthy. Studies show!

2) Find something new to love about the person each day. Today, for instance, Claudia didn’t like a blog post she wrote. I looked at it and we worked together on it to make it a little better. I felt good about it. I felt I learned a bit more about her and she about me. It was fun.

Do I have the perfect marriage? Of course not! I don’t like the idea of going to India EVERY SINGLE YEAR. India is DISGUSTING. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when compared with the street I live on. Claudia does like to make that trip every year and so far I’ve done it. Maybe this will be a source of tension at some point. But if we stick to #1 and #2 above then how bad can it be?

 

ADVICE TO A 21-YEAR OLD

War ‏ @michiganwar: if you could give your 21 y/o self one piece of advice, what would it be?

ANSWER:

It’s an ugly and cruel question! Because there’s so much I could tell him. So many things he can avoid: bad breakups, bad financial decisions, bad this, bad that. Almost everything was bad that happened to him. All you need is to avoid a couple of those bad things (out of 100s) and life would’ve seemed so much better.

But then I wouldn’t have this MOMENT that I’m living right now. Writing this answer, Claudia upstairs, a good banana lying right next to me that I just finished, music from some outdoor band wafting (I wanted to use that word) down the street into my window, 10 episode of Battlestar Galactica downloading on itunes right this second, Jonathan Franzen’s book of essays getting ready to be read by me. I wouldn’t have all the things that I’m excited about for tomorrow and this week.

If I had to tell my 21 year old self something I would just be dead silent. Because all the bad that happened led to this very moment here. And this moment is always always perfect.

BUT, if I could give a current 21 year old advice I would say this: do not worry so much about the future. Don’t obsess over something she said or he said in the past. All words and insults disappear within 24 hours tops. And all plans of the future are probablyu wrong. And all worries of the future are probably misplaced. So with the past and the future in such sorry shape, just focus on doing the right thing RIGHT NOW.

Oh, I have to add to that though. Be honest. Be kind. I am saying this in a selfish way completely. YOUR LIFE is actually better when you are honest and kind to others. You can’t get value without providing value for all the people around you.

Ok, let me check inside of myself to see if I’m truly done with this question. 21 years old is such a critical year. But, yes, I think that’s it. So to summarize: if you currently are 21: Be honest, be kind, RIGHT NOW. And if you were 21 years old in some distant past then HIGH FIVE, you made it to this great moment we all share this second.

NASTY BREAKUP

Madra David ‏ @madradavid: How to handle a nasty breakup and what about the children?

ANSWER:

I would reverse the order of your question and make it into two questions.

“What about the children?”

They are the only thing that’s important. Every decision, every word spoken, every action taken, has to do with the children. Maybe the other side doesn’t realize it. But you do. Before, during, and after each interaction with your ex, think about the children and how this effects them.

Your children don’t want to be the children of divorce. They hate it. They want you to be back with your ex even if all you guys do is argue and hit each other. They don’t care. They just want a big happy family and they are too young to understand that might not happen with your ex.

So always listen to your kids when you have them. Always let them know you love them. With my kids, when I see them, I do “office hours” so each kid has a chance to talk to me about whatever they want. They can for HOURS! So be careful you don’t get sucked into hours of talk about their friends on the playground. But listening to their nonsense is sometimes the best way for them to know that they are still “safe”. And that’s the most important thing.

(how dare he cheat on my favorite!)

Now: “What to do about a Nasty Breakup”.

“Nasty” takes two people. So here’s the key. You should never really speak about anything other than the kids, or specific financial matters. You should also come up with a fair settlement that is totally fair whether you like it or not. Avoid lawyers. If lawyers are needed because it’s so nasty then let the lawyers do all the talking. But YOU come up with an above-and-beyond fair settlement.

Never talk to your ex. Then it won’t be nasty. If there’s talking and then there’s yelling then say, “I guess we should talk later.” And get off the phone fast. Nothing good will come of it. Don’t argue. Don’t fight. Don’t try to convince anyone you are RIGHT. As hard as it is (because you are in a habit of arguing with your ex whether you realize it or not) just get off the phone or schedule a time when you can talk later.

Every breakup is different, but these simple guidelines will help.

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Paul Voss ‏ @Dafmaster: i hear people i work with complaining about “work-life balance” what are they really saying?

ANSWER:

I hated my job. I used to close my office door and either play games on the computer or work on a novel. I would then leave at 5pm on the nose and meet up with my friends. My excuse, I wanted to keep my “work-life balance” sane. But the reality is I hated my job.Eventually I quit and did something much more fun.

Right now, my work-life balance is a little off. I have about 14 irons in the fire. It’s too much. I can feel it and it makes me unhappy. So unless I want damage to my relationships, my health, my life, my kids, my marriage, my writing, etc I need to cut out some irons.

Every day ask your body, “how are you feeling?” Is there something bothering you in the chest? In the stomach? A little nagging feeling. It could be that work-life balance thing that’s telling you you need to slow down.

There won’t be any punishment for slowing down. In fact, there will be only abundance. The less you do, the more you will be creative, the more opportunities will come your way, the more you will be able to get rid of the low-paying irons and replace them with high paying irons.

So when someone complains their work-life balance is off, they need to shake everything up. They need to eliminate things. if they don’t or if they say, “I can’t right now”, that’s fine. But they will lose money, energy, creativity, friends, relationships, and so on. Your body is already telling you what to do. Do it.

 

#1 MUST DO FOR STARTUPS

Dan Russell ‏ @danruss: what is the #1 most important thing for a startup to do?

ANSWER:

the #1 thing for a startup to do is to get customers. #2 is to get paying customers. #3 is to get money while u sleep.

 

THE SINGULARITY IS HERE

Matthew Banks ‏ @mathdepath: Is the singularity coming any time soon?

ANSWER:

The singularity refers to that moment of time when the computing becomes so powerful it reaches a state of consciousness. It’s that moment when suddenly computers become AWAKE.

Consciousness is that part inside of you that is still there when all the thoughts are gone, all the angry and happy emotions, all the words. So no words can describe the state. No 1s and 0s. It’s undefinable so even this definition is inadequate. Perhaps with DNA computing there will be some form of Consciousness in that sense. Give it 50 years.

BUT, I do think computers are past the Singularity in the sense that they fully act like they are conscious.

I can easily have a conversation with my computer that is just as fun as any conversation I have with a real-life person. In fact, because the computer is an extension of me rather than some “other”, its even better. I won’t fight with the computer.

For instance, I just asked my computer (via google) “Should I Love my Mother” and I got back 20 of the most beautiful and poignant/poetic answers I could’ve conceived of. Does it matter where those answers came from in a world where we alread know nothing is truly original? The answers came from Google!

I can ask, “Should I go see the Avengers” and again get back an answer that will convince me whether or not I should see this movie (I saw it).

What can’t I ask Google that it won’t answer in as concise and correct way as possible. I just asked it: Should I kill Adolph Hitler if I could Go back in time? And Google AGAIN had answers for me. What doesn’t Google know? The Internet is already more conscious and smart than any human.

But, again, it depends on how you define consciousness.

 

WAITER’S PAD

Dan Russell ‏ @danruss: what’s with the excessive use of the waiter’s pad?

ANSWER:

Ahh, the waiters pad. You know how Thor has his hammer? And the Green Lantern has his ring? And…I don’t know, Wonder Woman has her lasso? I have my waiter’s pad.

I love a good waiter’s pad. It makes my mind burst with ideas even looking at one. I have one in my pocket right now and about three surrounding this computer. In my closet I have 100s of empty, unopened ones. I bought them for 10 cents each at some restaurant supplies website. Whenever I open my closet (on the 1 or 2 days a week I change my clothes) I see those pads and chest starts to thump thump. I can see myself with a new pad, a pen, scratching out the first lines on that pad.

So what is the big deal. Why the excessive use. Almost addictive use.

  • Waiter’s pad is perfect size to write down a list of ideas. It’s also too small to rant too much on any one idea. It’s made for listing. Nothing more.
  • It fits in your shirt pocket. It fits in the pants pocket. It fits anywhere.
  • If I’m in a meeting and everyone is pulling out their expensive pads with binders and laminations and stars and pictures of Hannah Montana, etc and I pull out my waiter’s pad, its a conversation starter. I’m shy in a meeting. I need all the help I can get.
  • It’s cheap. 10 cents a pad TOPS. So let’s say I’m raising money. People can see that I’m frugal with how I spend.
  • If I’m in a restaurant writing notes on my pad then waiters think I’m “in the club” so I get treated well.
  • It’s got table shape at the top so if I’m in a meeting I can write down the names of the people around the table. Helps me to remember who I met with.
  • It’s funny. I like finding orphan uses for objects that were made for completely different use.

(Alan Boulanger, a reader of this site, used the waiter pad idea to create his first book)

VALUE IN DOMAIN NAMES

Enrique Homs @ehoms: Do you see value in domain names?

ANSWER:

In the past few months different people have approached me to help them sell their “.com” domain names. Many, many people have made millions on domain names. I kick myself now (like many do) for not thinking in 1993 more about this, when you could register whatever names you want for free. I thought that in order to register a domain like “sex.com” you actually had to have a company called “Sex, Inc”. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Plus, I was too busy with girls, writing unpublishable novels, skipping work whenever I could, getting thrown out of graduate school, etc. I was too busy being stupid to be smart.

(I once had breakfast with the guy who first registered sex.com. Perhaps material for another blog post)

But, alas, things come and go. The day of the “.com” is disappearing. Several of the domain names I was asked to sell were very common word names and yet proved to be unsellable. How come?

Because if I want to find out about “asbestos” for instance, I won’t go to “asbestos.com” anymore. I’ll just type “asbestos” into Google and see what all of my choices are. Asbestos.com might not even exist or get the highest traffic (I haven’t checked on this one, nor was this a domain I was asked to sell).

Another thing bringing down the value of domain names has been URL shorterners like bit.ly and goo.gl, t.co, and fb.me. Or even, nyt.ms. Note that they aren’t “.coms”. The URL shorterner in just the past two years has shown people that the most common links these days are not “.coms” at all but all sorts of extensions from 100s of countries. It’s now acceptable to be a “.me” or a “.ly” and build an entire business around it without anyone even using the .com extension.

In fact, if you use compete.com to compare “bitly.com” with “bit.ly” you can see a huge difference. Nobody even cares about the “.com”. So if you were thinking of going into the domaining business I’d say you are ten years too late. And if you are in that business, I’d begin unwinding now.

JAMES ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Marnus Broodryk ‏ @marnusbroodryk: who cares what @BarackObama thinks?! Wink wink. Whats James’ thoughts on same sex marriage?

ANSWER:

Why is the government involved in marriage at all, is the first question? The way you answer that question is not by thinking about “love” or “family values” but doing what one should usually do: tracking the money.

Marriage gives great benefits on things like estate taxes, etc. The government wants as few people married as possible so they can tax the hell out of people who can’t shift money around so easily.

So of course the government, in general, would be against gay marriage. Heck, they would probably be against regular marriage if it wasn’t such a cultural institution.

(if they can get married, anyone can)

Personally, I think anyone should marry anyone they want. If a grandson wants to marry his grandmother then what’s the big deal? Why should we stop them. “Marriage” for the government means something very different than “marriage” usually means between two people.

I like being married. I like the feeling of “where in this together” for the long-term and the feeling that I am committed to helping someone else achieveing their goals in life. That’s my definition of marriage.

Note that many people equate marriage also with “sex”. But I think it’s a myth that marriage is about sex. It’s about everything else that is involved in building a relationship that can last decades, long after the sex is gone. Although, for me personally, I hope that never goes away. Which is probably why I wouldn’t want to marry my grandmother. But that’s just my choice.

WHEN TO STOP CALLING INVESTOR

B.G. Melanson ‏ @BGMelanson: When do you stop calling an investor who never takes or returns you calls?

ANSWER:

Read my post on when I met Stevie Cohen, head of one of the largest hedge funds on the planet. He never returned my calls at first. But you don’t want to be rude. Most people are very busy. We live on a busy planet. Everyone has their eyes glazed either doing one of two things: thinking about their angry past, or worrying about their obsessive future. They can’t take your call. Of course not! Who are you?

But water eventually withers away rock. If an investor doesn’t return your calls, even if you had a great first meeting, even if you’ve never met before, and even if you’ve met and he’s rejected you, then do this: every month send a personal update. Show consistent friendliness and growth. Its a no-hard-feelings world. Show that in your world, though, everything is good, everything is growing. They can participate in it if they want. Or not. Doesn’t matter to you. Your world is about friendliness, growth, abundance, reaching out, connections, networking, and no-hard-feelings.

Never be rude. Never do the hail-mary call. Never say “why aren’t you returning my calls.”

I’ll give you an example: On Friday I had a call set up for 2pm with someone. HE actually set up the time. Then I got on the conference call and he never showed up. Nor did he respond to a follow-up call or email. You can’t take something like that personally. Perhaps he was busy. Perhaps something bad happened. Or perhaps he just didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe he realized too late that he hates my guts.

Whatever. As Jay-Z says, “onto the next one.”

 

FICTION

Michael Comeau ‏ @MichaelComeau: Is a 25-30 page short story a good start for fiction? Thinking of putting free on Amazon.

ANSWER:

Michael, you are inspiring me to do it also.

First off, a 25-30 page short story is a perfect start. But just a start. We live in a world now of “the long tail” which means quantity wins (assuming quality can be found like gold in stream among the abundance that you create).

Make it a Kindle story. And then a Kindle single.

BUT, make sure you then have the quantity to back it up. The biggest fiction successes on kindle (look at “hunger games” or “50 shades of grey”) quickly put out book after book in a series. Amanda Hocking, who has made millions from self-publishing, also played in the series game. Book after book.

I think that’s the way to win in fiction these days. Unless you are content with being “literary” and having 500 readers, etc. I would like to do fiction but I think I can only do it if I attempt to go all the way: something people are desperate to read, so desperate they need to turn every page, so desperate they need to buy the next one, and the next, and the next, and the publishers are all calling and saying “PLEASE LET US PUBLISH YOU” and I just say, “Nope. I love my self-publishing, but thanks.”

The problem is I don’t like thriller fiction or fiction in a series, etc. But maybe one of these days I can mix it up a bit.

But, to answer your question, size no longer matters. It’s quantity.

(as soon as 50 Shades of Grey was a success, she wrote 5 sequels)

DOING VS. PLANNING

Robert Chirwa ‏ @Robert_Chirwa: How you you balance doing vs. planning especially when involved with bringing a new business to life?

ANSWER:

Plan Do Do Do Do Plan DO Do Do Do Do Tweak Do Do Do DO plan DO LAUNCH!

NEXT RECESSION

Christiana Smith ‏ @CRS19: what’s the bubble/cause of the next recession in your eyes?

ANSWER:

I had a different answer for this in the Q&A. I think the question is wrong. I’m not worried at all about recessions. Even in a recession, things are booming for people who are creative, open-minded, and open to abundance. I always bring up the example of Groupon. Guess when Groupon started? November, 2008. Maybe the worst month in financial history since October, 1929. Maybe even worse!

And people STILL hate Groupon’s business model despite the fact that it’s the fastest growing company in revenues in history. But guess what? Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon, didn’t care he started it in the middle of a recession. And he didn’t care what all the people thought of his business or still think of his business. He’s now a multi-billionaire. He’s one of the richest people on the planet.

(the CEO of Groupon doing yoga)

So never think about recession. There is more cash now on the planet than ever before. Just sitting in checking accounts. There’s a lot of money out there. So think about how some of that money can be yours. Think about what service you can offer that will deliver greater value than that cash sitting in the bank.

Social media, aging baby boomers, alternative fuels, technology for extracting expensive fuel – all of these are trends that will deliver great value in the next decade. If you want to get rich, get involved.

Don’t even worry about the next recession or bubble.

Oh, here I though I had a good closing sentence but my mouth still has more to say.

“Bubble”. What’s a bubble?

Was the Internet really a bubble? Hundreds of billions in cash profits have been created because of the Internet. Hundreds of billions have been saved across the corporate world because of the efficiences to productivity that the Internet has provided. If anything, any deflationary winds in the world are fanned by the productivity enhancements caused by the internet. And I’m going to wear Google Glasses every day for the rest of my life once they sell them.  I might even directly surgically implant them into my eyes.

There are no bubbles. There’s only innovation and abundance with temporary blips on the way to greater abundance. The world has gone past the bubble tipping point.

HOW TO MARKET A WEBSITE OR A BRICK AND MORTAR BUSINESS?

John ‏ @JohnAnthony_II: Starting a website to help real estate professionals leverage facebook to gain leads, any advice on how to market properly?

ANSWER:

Absolutely, every real estate professional should have a facebook fan page. Streaming on the page should be non-stop real estate news picked up from various RSS feeds. He should then advertise on facebook (don’t spend more than 2 pennies per click-thru) to people just in his region.

Every house he sells, the owner of the house should “Like” his fan page. Then word of mouth will automatically spread to all of the owner’s friends.

This is not just true for real estate professionals but almost any brick-and-mortar biz (which was another question i got this week).

Let’s say you are a supermarket. Set up the fan page. People get “loyalty points” if they “Like” you , which can go towards certain purchases. You should stream local news onto your fan page, getting more likes. You should advertise super cheap to get people to Like your fan page.

Bricks-and mortar haven’t realized yet how targeted venues like Facebook and Twitter could be. All other advertising pales in comparison. From first viewing, all the way to purchase, you can build a social media relationship with your customer that lasts forever and then extends out to his or her network of friends. The bricks and mortar companies that get there first will be the winners, hands down.

MITT ROMNEY AND RELIGION

Alan Christensen ‏ @alanchr5412: how much will religion factor into Mitt Romney winning The @whitehouse?

ANSWER:

I am totally apolitical. Since John Adams the President has abused the power allocated him in the Constitution. So it’s a joke. The last legally declared war in 1941 and yet in the past year we’ve bombed no less than five different countries and we are at wars in two. All of this by “executive order” which has dubious claims to being constitutionally valid.

So for me its game. Who will win? Who will lose? Why? What are the best strategies. Whether Romney or Obama will be better for me is pretty clear. Nether will be. Not a single President since I’ve been born has improved my life and the winner of this election won’t either.

(Mitt Romney as a senior. Why do Mormons always look so clean-cut?)

But religion will not factor into Romney. Think about it. He won the Republican primaries, where if religion was going to have any effect at all, it would have an effect there. It didn’t. So that’s over.

Everything will hinge on the stock market between now and November. If the stock market is up, people will interpret that to mean the economy is improving so lets stay on the current path. Then Obama wins.

If the stock market struggles, or even struggles in just October, then Romney wins. People will interpret a struggling stock market as meaning we need a new leader in office, one with experience with business and economics.

A small factor which could shift things if we are close to a tie is the VP candidates. My guess is there is a lot of back-room maneuvering happening right now. Obama would love to replace Biden with Hilary Clinton. But will she take that chance? Who knows. And there’s really no other Democrats he can pick.

As for Romney. If he picks a Latino like Marco Rubio or a big charismatic personality like Chris Chrystie, then that might change the rules of the game a little. His only other real choice is Rob Portman from Ohio who will bring to him a crucial swing state but I don’t think that pick is strong enough to move fence sitters.

So that’s where we are in this position, in this game.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT

David Mansaray ‏ @DavidMansaray: I’ve discovered the difference between good and great: the final polish. How can one learn to make a product / service sparkle?

ANSWER:

The only way: release the product you have. Then get users. Then get feedback.

Then tweak based on the feedback. Then release new features. It doesn’t even matter if your first batch of customers are still with you. You’ll get new customers.

Repeat the process again and again. There is no such thing as a final polish. If you love your product and passionately feel you are delivering great value to your customers you will keep on releasing, keep on tweaking, keep on building.

Note that products that are good but not GREAT (Coca-cola, for instance, has no real distinguishing factors from its competitors) rely on billions of dollars in marketing to fool people into thinking they are great. So the best marketing and the best way to save money is to actually be great.

That’s why this process is so important and will make your business successful.

 

HELPING A POLITICIAN

Ben Nesvig ‏ @BenNesvig: Should I help a politician with marketing if I don’t entirely believe in their cause? Or should I help any politician?

ANSWER:

Sure, why not? Politicians are famous for accomplishing absolutely nothing so even if you totally hated their cause what good or bad will they actually do. So three reasons you should help a politician:

A) they are totally useless so it doesn’t matter. And everyone needs to make a living.

B) You will learn how to market a product, even if that product is a human being.

C) You will get hilarious stories to tell.

GREATEST FEAR

Lee Springer ‏ @springer7217: what is your greatest fear/concern?

ANSWER:

I had a completely different answer. Then I reread it and thought it was bullshit. So I hit delete. It’s one thing having something smart to say. It’s another thing to reread and make sure I’m being really honest.

My greatest fear is simple: having a stroke and being “locked in”. Fully conscious but unable to move. Even unable to blink.

My dad had a stroke in 2003. He didn’t die until 2005. I’m pretty sure, despite what every doctor said, that he was locked in. It was so painful to visit him. Since all he could do was stare straight up I taped a chessboard to the ceiling. But I don’t know if he was able to see the board. They dropped him  more than once. He had bed sores. When I wasn’t visiting him I couldn’t even imagine what was going through his head.

I also felt really horrible. I felt like if I hadn’t lost millions just a few years earlier than I could’ve paid for more therapies to help him. Instead, it was just a matter of watching the clock run out on whatever was left of his life. His quality of life was less than zero.

Having a stroke could be hereditary. I eat better than him. Drink better than him. But who knows? I hope to god I never get locked in, or if I do, then Claudia has the sense to make sure I die pretty quickly.

 

COMMON STARTUP MISTAKES

TradingPub ‏ @TradingPub: What is the most common mistake startups make in the first year and how to avoid it?

ANSWER:

There are several most common startup mistakes:

A) Using the word “startup”. Please, for the love of god. You are a business like any other business in the history of commerce. Provide more value than the cash a customer has and you are a good business. Provide less value and you’re perhaps a good feature (instagram) or perhaps just a bad business (like 99.9999% of businesses that provide no value).

B) Raising money. Most startups want to raise money right away. What are you raising money so fast for? For one reason: to get a salary. And to pay others. First make sure you have a good business. It’s a catch-22 but every real business deals with it. Build your  minimal product, sell it, make mistakes, tweak it, build it again, sell some more, learn some more. When you have users, revenues, and people who “can’t live without you”, then you have a business that can raise money.

But by then you might not even want it.

One thing I know: when you have a good business, raising money is easy. When you have a bad business or a business that is teetering or unsure of itself, then raising money is hard. When raising money is hard, don’t push it. That’s like going to the gym and starting off at the highest weight. You can damange yourself. Pushing investors can damage your business if you aren’t ready.  Take a step back and improve your business first.

SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCES

Ryan ‏ @TrenchtownTweet: What’s the most supernatural experiences you’ve…experienced?

ANSWER:

What isn’t supernatural? I’m typing in a computer and I can see in my logs that within the next 24 hours people from over 100 countries will read what I have said. I can browse photographs videos blogs written by people from all over the world.

I can go outside and see 2 ton machines effortless transporting people at high speeds from one location to another.

I can go to a building down the street and with some green pieces of paper, someone can cook my dinner, pour my water, clear my table, and then I can walk home breathing in the fresh air.

I can breathe. My heart will help out by taking oxygen to every part of my body, keeping this machine alive so that awareness and consciousness can be awake for a certain number of years. What an amazing thing? And thank god enough asteroids with water crashed onto this planet during its growing years so the right combination of water and land could exist to create conditions for life. Not to mention or exact proximity to the sun has sufficed to keep temperatures just right for life.

I received the most vile hatemail today over an article i wrote. It’s supernatural to me that I get such great teachers all the time to help me deal with my worst insecurities. Just when I need a teacher, He always shows up.

In my best moments, where I feel I fully practice what I preach, everything in supernatural, the magic is everywhere. In my worst moments, I’m on a cement floor, and even the air I breathe is pungent and weighs me down. But it’s my choice ultimately. Hopefully I will more and more choose the supernatural door then the door filled with fake realities.

 

(the supernatural can be found anywhere)

#1 MOST IMPORTANT FOR STARTUPS

Dan Russell ‏ @danruss: what is the #1 most important thing for a startup to do?

ANSWER:

The #1 thing for a startup to do is to get customers. #2 is to get paying customers. #3 is to make money while you sleep.

 

COMING BACK FROM FAILURE

Alex Broches ‏ @AlexBroches: I lost a lot of $ the last 4 years, my business did not turn out the way it should.Its been rough mentally,how did you come back?

ANSWER:

I’ve written about this quite a bit and I really understand the pain. It’s hard to lose money and time and life on something you put your heart and soul into.

You can only come back one day at a time. It’s like mourning the loss of a loved one. You won’t get over it in a day. And maybe every day for the rest of your life you will feel the loss and emptiness of that loved on.

But every day you have to set four simple goals for yourself for THAT DAY. Every day you must improve along these lines:

Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.

Just do one simple thing a day at first for each item. This is the ONLY way I’ve been able to not only climb back, but climb higher and higher. It has ALWAYS worked for me and nothing else has. And I have testimonial after testimonial on this ever since I wrote my first post about it.

A simple physical goal: sleep 9 hours. Or, no snacks. Or, 50 pushups.

A simple emotional goal. Think of five people you love and why. Or…if someone makes you angry, just try to replace the angry thoughts with the opposites (ignore the person).

A simple mental goal: make a list of new business ideas and what the next first step will be. You have just spent years on one idea so your idea muscle may have atrophied. That’s ok. It’s one day at a time. Give yourself time to rebuild the idea muscle. You will do it and have even better ideas because of your experiences.

A simple spiritual goal: Name five people you are grateful for. Do it every day.

If you do this, what I call The Daily Practice an describe in more detail in my book, “I Was Blind But Now I See” then all success is yours.

I’ve also been building a site, with Jay Shirley, that people can use totally for free to help track these goals and share experiences. It’s at tdp.me. It’s ready to use now (and about 2000 people are using it) but full release will be in a couple of weeks.

 

BONDING WITH TEAM MEMBERS IF YOU ARE A LEADER

Stuart Brown ‏ @StuartKBrown: what are the best ways to bond with team members when leading a project?

ANSWER:

Everyone at heart is a child. So you want to be the parent. What does a child want?

  • - to know firmly where they boundaries are. They will test those boundaries over and over but if you are firm about the boundaries then they will love you for providing the safety of those boundaries
  • - protection from those who will hurt them. Which means to be a good team leader you have to manage the people above you so they let the people below you alone.
  • - they want to be fed. So fight for their salaries, fight for their projects and ideas.
  • - Always be constructive. If someone has a bad idea, break it down and really go over why the idea doesn’t work and perhaps together you can find a way to transform the idea into something that works. most people don’t know how to be constructive critics. The way to do it is to make sure you are really working from a place of honesty inside yourself and then constructively make the idea better or explain how the team member can be better if they realize why the idea doesn’t work.
  • - Most important: Never take credit for anything. ALWAYS give credit for everything.
  • - Sit with your team members. Let them know you are fighting the war on the same side as them.
  • - When good things happen (a project is delivered) treat your team members. At my first company, I brought in a massuese every Friday. A small cost to me had great benefit to the employees and actually helped them reduce stress. I was the only one who didn’t like to get the massage. I don’t like it when people I don’t know touch me.

When you give, you will receive.

KINDLE CAFE

TheMaybeBook ‏ @TheMaybeBook: Kindles on leash, yes. How to learn new industry with nearly zero experience? But 20 years running bookstore. Buy and learn?

ANSWER:

Just do it. Outline what the next steps are and move forward. It sounds like you have a passion (based on earlier tweet) from going from a bookstore business to a cafe business.

So find a good spot to rent. Figure out the zoning issues. Buy cheap restaurant equpment on the Internet. Make a fun design for your place.

Then, put two or three kindles on leashes to every table. So now you have our bookstore cafe. Name all your coffees after famous authors (including me :).

Serve cupcakes. Great ones. Because people are addicted to sugar.

And make sure you have a huge list of people you can invite to the opening party. HUGE. The restaurant, and cafe, business is all about your connections and who you can get in there every day.

The Kindle Cafe! Invite me to the opening party. I want a cupcake with vanilla icing and rainbow colored sprinkles. If Claudia doesn’t convince me to go off sugar forever.

Now GO. Start!

(serve these cupcakes please)

BUILD SOMETHING PEOPLE NEED OR SOMETHING THEY DON’T REALIZE THEY NEED?

the grumpy hypnotist ‏ @steveroh: Should I build something people need or build something people dont realize they need yet?

ANSWER:

The way to make the most money is, of course to create an entire market and monopolize it. Google did it. Apple did it. Even Walt Disney did it.

But these are very very rare.

You shouldn’t do it if you want a more stable way to make money, even a lot of money.

If you build something that people need and you can build it for cheaper than they are willing to pay for it then you will make millions if not billions of dollars.

I will give you my example: In 1996 I started a company called Reset that build websites mostly for entertainment companies but also other fortune 100 companies.

A lot of companies didn’t realize they needed a website. A lot of companies saw no benefit in one.

A big part of my sales process was convincing them that they did need one. That was very hard. But I was lucky in that there was this brief three year period where at least they were STARTING to realize they needed one. If I had started in 1994 I would’ve had no customers and gone out of business. And if I had started in 2000 I would’ve been too late and even junior high school students would’ve known how to build a corporate website.

Perhaps its best to be in that middle area, where people are starting to realize they need something and you can bring them over the edge.

By the way, the irony is that many companies no longer need their website. Now on Super Bowl ads all you see are their facebook URLs. Turns out what people really needed was a direct way to connect with their customers, and Facebook (being a “cleaner, more organized, mini-Internet”) actually provides better pages for companies than standard company websites. This, of course, has created enormous opportunities for people in the business of providing Facebook services.

 

WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT?

perry ‏ @pierreJaune: it just dawned on me while commenting on your post that deliberate ignorance = enlightenment. what do you think?

ANSWER:

The words “deliberate ignorance” is still mental masturbation. We have to think about what it means. Even the word “enlightenment” is something argued about among religious academics and debated among seekers but not finders.

Who knows what enlightment is. But it’s not a word, or a state of mind. The mind is just an earth-made machine with neurons and synapses and electrical impulses that were designed to maximize our chances to pro-create, reduce disease, and eat well enough to survive.

So whatever enlightenment is, it has nothing to do with “enlightenment”. It has nothing to do with the body or the brain or the heart. We have tiny tiny tiny brains compared to the mysteries of the Universe, compared to the source of all consciousness (another bullshit phrase but there it is, I used it). Our brains are so tiny and yet we spend all of our time living in them.

Sometimes I try this exercise when I’m angry. I try to be angry in the space right below my shoulders. Try it right now if you can. Think of someone you are really really angry at. Now try to be angry in that space between right underneath one of your shoulders. Pick the right one (far from the heart).

It’s weird what happens. All of a sudden my brain goes crazy. It says, “HEY! I’m over here. What are you doing over there? You’re not supposed to be angry over there!”

Your brain is not your friend. It wants you to think think think. To live in it. To suck the energy out of you. Don’t do it. Don’t think of the esoterical of “enlightenment”. That’s just as bad as being angry all the time. Just make sure you’re alive and breathing. Give up and surrender everything else because that’s just brain-stuff. Its the cobwebs we start to spin from birth on.

Give up. Surrender. Give up in your tiny brain. Then explore what’s left.

(the "Buddha Boy" supposedly went six months sitting in the Lotus position without food or water in 2005. No scientific verification though)

 

WORLD ALL ABOUT BUSINESS?

YYogini ‏ @YYogini: Is the world all about business? How does environmental conservation prosper since it’s not “profitable”?

ANSWER:

The world is certainly not all about business. But let’s take a step back. The world, among other things, is a collection of individuals. You and I are individuals.

What are we about? Are we about business? The world will ultimately be about what the entire collection is about.

As trade goes up, as innovation and technology increase our access to the normally difficult parts of living on this planet (energy, health, food per unit gets cheaper every century since the dawn of time), then it will be easier for you, me, others to pursue spiritual questions: what does it mean to be happy? “Who” is actually feeling the happiness? Who are we, deep down.

Business is a tool for allowing us to not have to battle the forces  of nature every day. Only occasionally is creating wealth about luxury, but for many it’s about freedom.

You bring up environmental concerns. But free trade helps with that also. I’ll bring it up in the context of natural disasters. The recent earthquakes in Japan and Haiti. One country economically developed. The other one not. Which one survived the best. Which one had the less deaths per capita. The economically developed one did.

The same thing will happen with the environment. As long as there is no government interference, US entrepreneurs are constantly seeking out newer, cheaper, faster ways to create better alternative fuels. Don’t worry about whether or not its profitable. It will be. Technology that is needed always gets cheaper and cheaper. Don’t worry so much. Right now, make sure you are breathing ok. Make sure your heart isn’t stressed. Make sure you aren’t obsessing over issues you have no control over. Then take a deep breath. Enjoy your day.

(Before...and Just 6 days after the earthquake in Japan)

INVESTMENT THESIS

aminTorres ‏ @aminTorres: James, do you have an investment thesis?

ANSWER:

Yes, very much so. For both public and private companies.

  • Strong CEO who has built and done it before
  • Good co-investors that I know have done their research (this way I can be lazy about my own research)
  • Strong demographic trends (see my above answer on bubbles)
  • Good valuation versus competitors and versus historical valuations (Most of my current investments were made in 2009)
  • Product built, revenues positive. This way I know that the business is real and not just an idea in a garage still.

Note, this checklist would’ve kept me out of Facebook and google because it would’ve failed #1. But that’s ok. Those are only one out of a million. I can’t hope to get those. But an investment doesn’t have to return a billion percent to be good. I’m happy to just be clocking in good ones.

Another note: Of the 13 or 14 companies I’m invested in I’ve broken my discipline twice. One was a solid zero and the other will probably be a breakeven. The rest are doing very well.

[I had several other questions that I answered. But I am going to save them for full posts. This post is already 8500 words. It's a lot. If you like these sorts of Q&A posts, please Facebook Like the post so I get a sense of what is working and what isn't. Also, if you wish to contribute even more answers to these questions, please do so in the comments. Thanks a lot.]

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