Ask James: Biggest Fear, Scummiest Decision, Prenups, Shame, Trading, The President, And More!


[This is part of the expanded answers to my Twitter Q&A I do every Thursday from 330-430. I will have other answers in smaller blog posts. If you like these Twitter Q&A posts, please Facebook Like so I get a sense of how useful (or fun) they are. Thanks. And please provide additional answers for people in the comments. I am sure that will be appreciated.]


Leon Benson ‏@LeonBenson2: What is your biggest fear? And what advice can you give to freelancers and business developers when it comes to forward progress


I’m without money. Homeless. Scabs. Claudia cheats on me. My kids hate me. People steal money from me. There. That’s the worst that can happen. Then I go homeless and have soup every day and eventually die. Or maybe even worse. I go to jail. Or, not being so selfish. Something really bad happens to my kids. Or something  bad  happens to Claudia. That’s my worst fear. In fact, I probably think about each of these things every single day. My fear is I will never stop thinking about these fears.

(biggest fear: something bad happens to her)

It’s so easy to be without fears. All I have to do is:

– not worry about money

– not worry about my health

– not worry that those I currently love will abandon me like so many have in the past.

– not feel insecure about looks or whatever it is i’m insecure about if we pull a date out of a lottery basket.

– not get addicted to the things that have addicted me in the past 44 years.

– not think about all the people who rub me in the wrong way, in the wrong places, at the wrong times. I obsess on them at 3 in the morning.

These are all basic things. What if you just say, “Ok, that’s it, I’m not going to worry about the above.” All of the above are my biggest fears. Perhaps even bigger is my fear that I will never eliminate these worries. Never experience what it’s like to be perfectly sane and go through a day where the worries hit me and just slide off like a drop of water. It seems like it could be so easy. Like I could just decide: I WON’T worry about these things.

We know this is true rationally. So why don’t we do it?

And if the worries come up I can invite them in for tea, say hello, say goodbye, and be happy all around. Because the real me is not the worry!.

Never say “I am worried about money” because then the “am” defines YOU as the WORRY. Say instead “I am a person with a mind that worries about money this second” . this distances the real you in time and space from the actual worry, from the perceived events that don’t even exist yet, will probably never exist yet.

How can you build the courage and strength to do this. How is this distance created. I have found only one way that works for me:

The daily practice that I write about constantly: 

You have to trust me on this. It works. I get the testimonials. It works for me. I’m not even trying to sell you anything. It simply works and I want people to feel better doing it.

Here’s the site that reader Jay Shirley developed to help others keep track of the practice. TDP.ME. Start off with simple, easy to accomplish goals. Just check the box. That’s it.

I am going to announce an official launch of that site sometime in the next few days I think to give a guide to people how to best use it.

My biggest fears have destroyed my life too many times. No more!


alex beller ‏@bellsaucy: how can you know if a startup concept is sound?


All startups are bad. I’m banning the word “startup” from the English language. This is not a criticism. I know why people use the word. But what is a “startup”? It’s somehow a shortened version of a “business that is starting”. But nobody would call a new gas station a startup. They only call technology companies startups. There’s something sexy about the word “startup”. Like if you meet a girl on a plane and you want conversation you say, “I’m doing a startup”. As opposed to “I just opened up a laundromat with a piano in the middle of the room that all the people doing laundry can play.”

Why don’t people call startups the same thing they’ve called it for the past 5000 years. A business. What does a business do? Believe it or not, every business helps people achieve some goal or some vision of happiness. Even if they have to create (like Coca-Cola is so successful at) what that vision is.

(scene from the best Coke commercial ever)

WHAT? Aren’t businesses evil? Unless they figure out a way to hang up photos on a web page from your phone and geo-tag them and collaboratively filter and recommend other photos from people of the opposite sex that might be in a half mile radius of you?

I’ll give you just my experience from some successes and failures. I started Reset, Inc. in 1995 to build websites for companies. Nobody had websites then. I knew I was helping people fulfill a great need. I started in 2007 because I knew people wanted bulk investing ideas without all the lying BS that comes with traditional financial media (the headlines: GREECE WORRIES! OIL PLUNGES!, etc).

I started because I thought people on twitter wanted to love each other and that if they can see each other’s tweets it would help them. Was I wrong!  When people want to be in love there’s an instinctive shyness that kicks in first and the lack of anonymity ruined my site. After spending $40,000 of my own hard-earned money, why didn’t I realize this first?

So how do you know it a new business idea is good? Ask yourself: would I use this? Ask others, would you use it? Create an image of it. Do people want to click on it even if the buttons are still rendered useless or unsanitary (and yes, buttons on the virtual web can be unsanitary).

Always start off the day saying “I’m going to save a life”. Can your business really save a life or make someone’s life better. If so, then it’s good. If you build it and users come and say “this is great!” almost from day one, then the idea is good. If they don’t say that, then the idea is bad. You have to have the guts and the courage to shut it down.

Starting a business is easy. Shutting it down requires courage. But shutting it down gets you down to the business of life once again: saving yourself, saving others. Start doing it. Again.



Nick Parry ‏@nickparrywales: is reinvention an option to failure?


Why do you need “reinvention”. What was wrong with the first invention of you? You were a perfect baby. You grew up, were programmed by society, your parents, your friends, your peers, your bosses, your spouses. Maybe you need a little DE-programming. We all do. But the invention worked! It speaks! IT’S ALIVE! Look around you, think in your head: what are all the sounds I’m hearing right now? What are all the things I see right now? What are the ugliest things I see right now? Is there not some beauty in all of them?

“Failure” and “Reinvention” are words society gave you. They tell you that you are imperfect as you are, and you need to improve in the eyes of society.

But instead, change “failure” to “learning experience”. Change “Reinvention” to “continued improvement”.

You learned something, you learn from it. Right this second: list all the things you learned. List the one thing you can do today to move forward. Them move forward. There’s no need to reinvent perfection.

(unless you are Frankenstein, you don’t need reinvention)



George ‏@georgeEcakes: What are 5 key books you feel I should read, and why?


I have a summer reading list I’m preparing. Will come out either before this post or after. I have several categories of books: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, funny, fiction. Claudia helped me. I’ll release it soon.


Chris Kaufhold ‏@ChrisKaufhold: I’m writing a book, but don’t want to blog. How to get speaking/consulting/etc. gigs without excessive self-promotion? Or must I?


Gary Vaynerchuck’s books are perfect here: “Crushing It” and the “Thank You Economy”.

“Crushing It” means blogging everywhere you can. Become a presence, a PRESENCE, in every community you participate in. The “Thank You Economy” means you make money everytime you say Thank You.

The reality is: you have to market yourself if you are writing a book. Unless all you like to do is the writing part. But clearly you are willing to do more: you want to get speaking and consulting gigs. So you are willing to put yourself out there. You don’t’ have to blog. BUT: comment on everyone else’s blog, make a facebook fan page and do some basic ads to get fans (topic of a post in the next two weeks that I will do), send your book to bloggers, send your book to people you want to consult with, engage in the ongoing 24 hour conversation called Twitter, hang photos in Pinterest, answer questions in Quora and refer to you book.

You must engage with people in order for people to engage you.

Blogging is not mandatory but engagement and connection are. So Warp Factor Five, ENGAGE, Mister Checkov!


Jack Turnbull ‏@sinwire: I have a good amount of assets. I am thinking of getting married. Do I need a prenup? How do I tell her?


This is a tough tough issue.

Signing a prenuptial agreement seems to fly in the face of “til death do us part” and so many people and many religions find prenuptial agreements morally repugnant. I do not have a prenuptial agreement with Claudia. I hope we stay together forever. I also trust if she abandons me for any reason then what we work out will be fair for everyone.

But not every situation is the same.

If you have significant assets and your wife doesn’t what I would do is this:

A) consult a financial advisor. He’s helped 100s of couples through this, so he will have ideas on what best to say. Ditto if you see a lawyer or even a therapist about this issue. Often when I don’t know how to deal with something, I ask someone who has helped 100s deal with it and they have good experience about what works and what doesn’t.

B) You can say, “I’ve worked hard for these assets and while I infinitely trust you, anything can happen and my financial advisor has advised me to protect these assets. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I just want to protect everything that has happened until the moment I met you.”

C) And then do something as fair as possible. Where if she is married to you, she gets to benefit and be happy. Make sure you give a little when you take a little. And include a twilight clause that says after a certain number of years the prenup goes away.

D) Don’t make it fancy.  Don’t put blame in there (“if you cheat on me then I get this. If i cheat on you then you get this. If you gain 20 lbs, I get this. If you don’t have sex with me 10 times a month I get this, etc) Make it simple. “All assets before this date are mine in the event of a divorce.” Very simple and fair to both sides. The simpler the better.

When you are fair and honest, then everything goes ok. You’ve earned what you’ve earned. That’s fair. But if you put your emotional baggage in the deal, then you are doomed to have that emotional baggage come to life.


Efrain Martinez ‏@martefrain_: how have you dealt with being ashamed?


I’ve been ashamed all my life. Ashamed when I wasn’t smart enough. Ashamed when I lost something in a competition. Ashamed when I lost money. Ashamed when my hedge fund had a down month. Ashamed when a business wasn’t improving every day. Ashamed when I lost my wife. Ashamed when I lost my home (twice). Refusing to admit to people even though the evidence was perfectly laid out in front of them in the real estate section. I get ashamed that I have to wipe myself when I go to the bathroom. It’s disgusting.

Why the hell did God give humans intestines and livers and kidneys. It’s disgusting. I wish I was a robot. Or bionic. The bionic stomach. It burns up all the waste that gets stuck there.

Here’s what I’ve written about shame:

“I got tired of being ashamed of things. I give up. I don’t want to be ashamed of anything anymore. Shame is not who I am. It’s just an ugly sweater I wear. Time to change sweaters. When I wear the same clothes too many days in a row, Claudia reminds me to change clothes. “You smell too much.”

Shame is one of those things that’s hard to change out of. We cling to it because it feeds something inside of us that we are afraid to give up. It feeds our perfectionism. It feeds out hypnotized visions of what success is. It’s a Halloween costume that we think looks better than our real self. But it doesn’t. It’s cheap plastic nylon whatever. Shame, and pretending to be perfect, limit our freedom but nobody taught us that in college.

And it oozes from the pores in our skin and the smell is unmistakable. Time to shower. Time to breathe in other smells. Time to be naked.


Chris Riley ‏@MustacheFesto: how do you regain self confidence after divorce and several jobs over last couple years?


This happened to me. It was like the perfect storm. I had made some money selling to in 2007. But gradually over time I was overspending, I bought a house, I rebuilt it, then I got almost immediately a divorce. Then got rid of me (ironically, they just asked me to write for them again after blowing me off a million times), the FT got rid of my column, CNBC stopped using as much for awhile, friends stopped calling me, consulting stopped, I started two businesses and both failed around the same time (October, 2008). I had a book come out in November 2008 and it was my worst selling book ever. I ate Thanksgiving dinner in 2008 by myself in a diner on 44th Street because I had nowhere to go, no friends or family that wanted me.

I had no confidence at all. I would lie in a room in a hotel (the Chelsea Hotel that is now closed) and just look out the window having no idea what I was going to do that day. How would I get off the floor?

The only way I’ve ever been able to do it (in 1991, in 1995, in 2002, and 2009) was to incrementally improve in four ways: how can I make my physical health better (stop drinking, for instance). How can I make my emotional health better (eliminate all negative people in my life who bring me down, even if they are people who are close to me in societal ways and I would feel shame rejecting them but its MOST IMPORTANT to not be around people who will bring you down), improve your mental abilities (read a book, write down ideas), and improve your spiritual life (accept that your situation is what the universe wants. Surrender to it. The past is the past and surrender to the fact that if you commit to health as described above then the universe will take care of you).

Now I only hope I stick to it. It’s a discipline. I call it the “Daily Practice” because it”s only practice. You have to keep doing it. Practice doesn’t make perfect but practice makes permanent.

I can just hear someone in the comments saying, “this is like one big ad for the Daily Practice”.

But I can’t emphasize enough how this simple approach to life has saved my life. Please try it. Please write me in six months. You will write me, “my life is completely different and better.”


Randy De Montalegre ‏@randyaaron: What are some good practices to deal with sudden stress. Tips for quick meditation?


I had sudden stress yesterday. A deal that was supposed to go through didn’t go through. Another deal that is going through has me worried about being paid. Plus I had to figure out what to feed my kids. All stressful!

There’s a few methods I use for quick meditation.

A) First, I label all worry thoughts, “not useful”. Worrying has never gotten me anwhere. In 44 years of intense worrying, not a single worry thought has improved my life and has often gave birth to more worry, more anxiety, more paranoid, and kept me from thoughts that would positively contribute to my success and happiness. By labeling a thought “not useful” you put distance between the REAL YOU and the thought that has invaded you. The more you label, the greater the distance eventually becomes. Until finally worry knows not to come near you. It is a distant speck on the horizon, a canyon of bliss separating you from “the other”.

B) Thinking under your shoulder. I don’t know what to call this technique but it is what it says. I try to think my worries and stress with the space right underneath my right shoulder (an arbitrary place). My mind suddenly starts to freak out. It calls out to me, “wait a second! Get back here! I’m worrying up here!!” and it wants me to return my attention to where the thoughts actually are. But keep breathing and thinking right underneath your right shoulder. You can’t think there because there’s no brain there. But you can try. This reduces stress because the space under your right  shoulder simply can’t feel stress.

C) The Alien Technique. I’m suddenly an alien from outer space that has been transported for 24 hours to this body. My mission: to clean things up. The first thing I always notice is that I think to myself: “whom this body doesn’t have it so bad. What’s he so worried about.” And then I (“the alien”) starts to do things that incrementally improves my life. He’s on a mission! Let him do his job.

D) Surrender. Life never throws anything at you that you can’t handle. Surrender to that. You know you will be able to handle it if you remain healthy and don’t succumb to the worry. Life will help you even if it seems there’s no way out. Look for the lessons in what you are learning. Surrender to those lessons and to the fact that you will learn much more in this particular class before it’s over.

E) The Visitor. Similar to the “Alien” but slightly different. This is my belief. Shed your body, shed your thoughts (which are not the real you but just these things that past like fish across the aquarium of your brain, shed your emotions (which are based on your programming since birth but still not the real you) and you are left with this silence, deep down, that is observing all of the above. Even go deeper. Who is observing the observer. This is the real you. But it’s the same thing inside everyone. It’s all connected. This is “The Visitor” a little chunk of silence that is 15 billion years old or more, the silence that existed before the Big Bang, a silence that you are a tiny carved-off chunk of. This Visitor is inside of you. He never feels stress. You are HIM. Visualize you are this visitor. Go beneath the thoughts that are so temporary and don’t really exist (the Visitor laughs at them with his 15 billion years of experience). Visualize this as much as possible. What can affect the Visitor?

F) Tense Up. Tense every muscle in your body for five seconds. Then relax. You just put your body in fight or flight mode. Then relaxed it. You will feel less stress.

G) Stretch. Hold your hands above your head. Turn your hands upside down and interlace them and then push them, palms up, to the sky. Stretch as high as possible, even going on the balls of your feet. Take a deep breath. Inhale all the bad in the world into you – you take in the bad. Then exhale good. You are saving the world with that exhale! Then lean a bit to the left, do the same. Lean a bit to the right, do the same. Then lean forward, all the way down, bend your knees, shake your head, take a deep breath, and then slowly come back. This is a good physical meditation. Claudia is making a video on this technique for relieving sudden stress.

H) BREATHING. This always works. Inhale for 20 seconds. Hold for 20 seconds. Exhale for 20 seconds. Hold for 20 seconds. Rest a bit. Then repeat. Do that four times. Your body will be shocked by what you are doing. It will go into survival mode. You can’t stress when your oxygen is being messed up like that. It’s a temporary salve but it works. My favorite of the above though is the Visitor.

If I had any religion, it’s that.

You Are the Visitor. You are 15 billion years old. And these thoughts of stress are not useful. Then do “F” and “G” to physically remove them. Then Surrender to the mystery around us that all will be taken care of. Then do what you need to do RIGHT NOW.


Patrick Meister ‏@bhawks4life: how do you determine what means “no” for a prospective client? Like if they don’t return calls on the first attempt?


I probably have gotten 1000 Nos in my life. Maybe more. I am Dr. No. I am an expert on receiving and occasionally giving “No”s.  So fortunately for you you’ve come to the right person. No matter what the situation is. Girlfriend. Client. Buyer of your business. Buyer of your house. Someone you want to have coffee with. You’ve come to the right man.

First off, if they don’t return your calls. It means “No”. Let’s be clear. You’v’e been rejected. But there are “No”s and there are “No”s. They are all different. Nos can become Yes very easily.

One time in 1998 I didn’t return the call from a stockbroker I had met recently. I didn’t know what he wanted. I didn’t return the call. He called once a week and was persistent. Not in a mean way. In a nice way. He was touching base. He would send me emails keeping me updated on news in my industry that I might not have been aware of. His name became more and more familiar to me because of these updates. Finally, about three months later I returned his call to hear what he had to say.

Three months after that he brokered the deal that allowed me to sell my first business and for that I am very grateful.

The key is “soft persistence”. Send a monthly update on how things are going. Every few months call again. Be like water dripping on rock. Eventually the rock withers away. If you try to be a hammer on the rock you are left with a mess and nothing will happen. Be water. Relax, have a cool glass of some.


@mostepicnow: What format do you recommend for creating websites? WordPress?


I can tell you that most of the massive websites I write for: (,, etc) use WordPress for their entire website and content management. So if it’s good enough for them it’s probably good enough for you. In some cases you may need a WordPress expert to help you figure out the subtleties. If so, contact me and I will find you one.


Efrain Martinez ‏@martefrain: was it easy for you to stop caring what people thought? like parents, friends, etc. how can we stop caring?


Unfortunately I always care what people think but I write as if I don’t care. That’s the hard part. I try not to care. I ask myself when I wake up, “can I please not care today what people will think”. But I also try to not write ANYTHING unless I know I’m going to care what people are going to think about it.

This, of course, get’s me into trouble. Because then if people don’t like something, I might care too much.

However, more important than caring, is delivering a message that you think is important.

Here’s what has happened in the world:

– the brainwashing starts when we are children. So we get programmed into believing things about education, housing, the political system, history, religion, polite society, etc. People slowly forget how to question these societal norms. I question them without thinking for selfish reasons. I don’t want this brainwashing to effect me or the people around me. Or, for that matter, I don’t want them to effect you.

– We also have forgotten completely what leads to happiness. It’s very simple to be happy. The key is to not want anything. If your expectations are zero, you’ll be the richest man alive.

(soon the chips will be implanted in babies brains)

Here’s the problem: we all want something. Money, sex, the girl, the guy, the house, the car. I want things also. So we can’t be perfect. I don’t want to be in a cave. But every day I try to “declutter”. I make life easier for myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I remove burdens and I strengthen the muscles in those “bodies”.

I can say I’m about to self-promote but since it’s free I might as well: try to keep track of your goals on each category. There are thousands of people using it now and over 30,000 goals have been achieved in just the pre-alpha release of the site. You don’t have to keep at it every day. Don’t feel guilty using it. Just enjoy. I care about people using it because I think as a society we have gone off track. We’ve veered into excessive anxiety enmeshed with materialism and we don’t even know how or why. Fan your internal flame and shed light on all the people around you.

Then, gradually, the opinions of others burn off before they can even touch you.


Robert Mingione ‏@RobMingione: College: worth it?


I have to say I’m almost a little upset now. In 2006 I first wrote in the Financial Times that college was not worth it – to the student or the parents. Everyone laughed at me. I got death threats. Ditto for 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Now, all of a suddent, it has become acceptable to talk about the worthlessness of college. Because everything I have been saying has come through: college students simply can’t pay down their debt.

The other day I went to NYU with a camera crew from PBS. I interviewed students and graduates about their college experience, their debt, how they will pay it, was it worth it. Stay tuned for the video any day. Suffice to say, the  result is very enlightening.

But, even before you do that: check out my book on the top: 40 Alternatives to College. These alternatives are not only better than college, more worth it than college, but will give you the life experience you need to compete, succeed, and be happy.



Chris Carney ‏@ctcarnes: how many minutes do you aim to meditate daily? I sit for 20 mins but feel like I’ve hit a plateau


Meditation is ALL DAY LONG. Most people think this: If I sit in the lotus for 20 minutes then I have meditated. Done for the day. But that sitting is just a practice. It’s practice for the rest of the day. Eventually, all day long you will be in a state of meditation.

And what state is that? It’s not a state of enlightenment. There’s no such thing. Even the quest for enlightenment is imaginary. When you quest for such a thing you are saying you don’t have it. But every second of the day we are enlightened. But thoughts and emotions and misery cloud that enlightenment, hiding the flame from us so that we can’t see it inside of us.

Meditation is a way of life. It’s walking around being aware of everything around you RIGHT this second. It’s recognizing the thoughts and negative emotions you come up as useful or not useful every second. It’s a constant state of surrender that the best things will happen to you if you let them. Whether you sit and practice this for 5 minutes, one hour, five hours, doesn’t matter. Ultimately, you do it all day and that’s when life is special every moment.

For me, personally, I find it difficult to sit in a half-lotus for a half hour and focus on my thoughts. I’ve done it. I’ve done very style of meditation imaginable. What I like to do is when I wake up, still lying down but maybe my knees up to prevent falling back to sleep, I try to observe my thoughts for about a half hour. Then I try to catch myself observing those thoughts. So now I’m observing the observer. Then I try to go deeper than that and observe that observer. Ultimately the observer doesn’t exist. Just like the thoughts don’t really exist. Then after a half hour, I’m ready for my day. And hopefully throughout the day I’m in a better spot to observe.


taspider ‏@taspider: Live in a city you don’t like and make a lot of money or live in a city you love and make peanuts?


There’s a zen story:

A guy is visiting a city and goes to the local wise man. He says, “if I move here will I love this city?”

The wise man says, “how were the people in your old city?”

The man says, “They were awful. I hate them all.”

The wise man says, “you won’t like this city.” So the guy leaves.

The next guy comes into town and goes to the wise man and says, “I’m thinking of moving to this city. Will I love it?”

The wise man says, “how were the people in your old city?”

The guy says, “they were great. I love them all and will really miss them”

The wise man says, “Then you will love this city”.

You can’t escape what is inside of you. If love is inside of you, you will bring it to the new city, no matter how different it is. But if you are escaping something, then what you will escape will come with you and you will still have to deal with it. I moved to NYC to essentially escape a relationship I was in. That relationship was then over but I still had to deal with all the problems I had in relationships. Hopefully I’ve dealt with them. I want my current relationship to work!


@nitisha_jha: it is wrong to like someone more than yourself.


You can’t like someone more than you like yourself. You are all you know. Everyone else is a projection of how you feel about yourself. Eventually, your own fears and hatreds of yourself will come out in the way you view others. No matter what you do.

I am a virtual test tube laboratory experiment on this. I see it every day. Someone is happy. Someone is beaten by their parents or they were peed on by the elementary school buddies and then what do they do 40 years later? They try to pee on me. In comments sections all over the “world wide web”. The triple-dub. Sometimes in the darkest recesses of message boards hidden away by passwords and six levels of verification there are people calling me an “ugly loser who is a shitty writer who doesn’t have a decent thing worth saying”. I know this because I care too much what people think (see above).

But whatever.

I can say this: you can’t meet love unless you love yourself. You can’t be happy at your job, unless you love yourself. You can’t be fully healthy unless you love yourself. Which is why I think this post is so important.  I’m jealous of Kamal for coming up with such a good, clean message. But he’s right.


Richard Valdez ‏@BigRichValdez: What do you think will happen after the next presidential election? What’s the worst that could happen?


Nothing happens after an election. Nothing at all. Name me one election where anything has happened that has changed your life for the better.

Think about the last election:

– we kept the same Secretary of Defense

– the new Secretary of Treasury worked for Bush

– we stayed in the 2 wars we were in

– we kept open Guatanamo Bay

–  Healthcare costs and student loan costs continued to rise

– unemployment went up, continuing the financial crisis

– Bush did a bailout. Obama did a bailout

– Bush made tax cuts. Obama continued them.

– Barack Obama has done the fewest vetos since Millard Fillmore. And for Bush, you have to go back to Warren Harding, who died early in his first term (note: I don’t count Abraham Lincoln, who essentially ran a dictatorship when he kicked out half the country].

– and on and on. Nothing changed. Nothing ever changes. What do we even need a President for? Do we really need such an expensive symbol?

As I’ve mentioned before, The Presidency is useless. 

I vote for Nobody for President because nobody tells the truth.



alyce byrd craddock ‏@alycecraddock: Help! Need a cure for worst-ever writer’s block!!


You need 10 Ways to Get Rid of Writers Block RIGHT NOW

Here’s two of the ways I mention:

D)     Start in the middle. This is the best technique on the list and will always work IF you have a topic already. The other day I was writing one of those “7 Things I Learned from X” sort of posts. I was staring at a blank screen.  I couldn’t figure out the intro. So I said to myself,  “how about I just start with the list.” So I wrote how the word “1) Honesty” and then I couldn’t think of what to say underneath honesty so I went to #2 , then #3, etc. Now I had a list of seven things but no descriptions/reasons for each item and NO intro and NO  conclusion. But I also had NO PROBLEM. Because the content was done. So I just filled in the blanks like a game of Mad Libs.

E)      Start with the blood. This only applies if you have a topic. I wrote a few months ago “5 things I learned from Isaac Asimov.” Or maybe “10 things”. I forget. But when I think about Asimov and me the first line that stands out is, “The first time the police were ever called to get me was when I was 15.” From there I have a story and will lead into the 5 things, particularly when I follow “D” above.”



Serge Koval ‏@sergekoval: If you wanted to build a useful tool for traders or investors what would it be?


The most useful tool for traders:

A helmet they put on their head that gives them a massive electric shock everytime they consider putting on a trade.

This is not to say trading is all bad.

But it forces you to be REALLY SURE before you put on a trade. Maybe you will only do one or two trades a year then. That’s enough to make all of your money. And trading includes both the entry and the exit.

(this daytrader is about to be CURED)


Efrain Martinez ‏@martefrain: I tend to avoid my problems. were you ever like this? advice?


Sure, I will give you advice on this. I am an expert on avoiding problems. This is why every few years I have to make a deal with the IRS. While I was in my first marriage I even had a slight crush on the IRS agent specifically assigned to my case. Heck, she’s still assigned to it. Hi Mary!

I avoid problems in every situation. Once something becomes a problem for me I almost avoid too quickly. I stop returning calls or emails.

So..who cares? We all die eventually. One hundred years from now we are all dust. People can just move on. They don’t have to worry about me so much.

BUT, that said, dealing with avoiding problems is causing you stress. I get that. Sometimes at 3 in the morning I wake up with almost a visible shudder. I wake up Claudia and say, “remind me to write back Peter tomorrow. I forgot to write him.” I get nervous when I avoid TOO much.

Here’s what you do. Make a list of all your problems. Right now do it. This is your list of the day. All of the people you’ve been avoiding. All the work that you have to do. Now do one thing to declutter each problem today. For instance, my driver’s license has been suspended for so long in so many states and for so many reasons that now I have to take the driver’s exam again. Ok, so I will get the book and study a little. Like, can you turn on red in New York State? I have no idea! Is it really such a crime to cross a double yellow line when nobody can see me?

As you get older you want to declutter everything. You want nothing holding you down. Problems are like zombies in a graveyard trying to pull you down under the dirt (why were you walking in a graveyard anyway? I’ll tell you why: because the entire world is a graveyard, patiently waiting for our bodies to bit by bit decay so we can marry the dirt while our souls marry the sky). Declutter at least one thing a day. Today I threw out some books. I returned some emails I had been delaying. I’m finishing this post I was putting off for some reason, I meditated on why I’m so anxious about different investments. This is all decluttering.

Declutter a little each day and you won’t have this problem anymore.


karen parmelee ‏@parmcharm: What is the cost of paranoia? What does hold back from being? Am surrounded by paranoid people…


Paranoia fills up your entire brain and then overflows into your actions. You make phone calls: Is he there? You write notes. Your mind is thinking thinking THINKING. You can’t even kiss because you are thinking so much about the people who want to do you no good. I’m not saying this is you. I’m saying this for all the paranoid people in the world. For the Paranoids of America Club, of which I am a proud but miserable member.

I know from experience what paranoid does. It siphons off every ounce of creativity and productivity. When you are paranoid you are taking a hot poker and searing all the pieces of your brain, mind, soul that could help you in life.

And you know what? Your brain loves it. LOVES IT! It’s having a party. It’s thinking, “he’s paying so much attention to me. I think I love him. So I’m going to be even more paranoid.”

Ugh, this brings back memories. I was running a fund of hedge funds about eight years ago. I would call a hedge fund I was invested in. “He’s on the phone, can he call you back?” the secretary would say. Five minutes later he still didn’t call me back. I was ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED with 100% assurance that he was in Brazil and had stolen all my money. I always thought Brazil. Maybe because it’s a fantasy of mine to go to Brazil. So I was projecting MY FANTASY onto the people I was sure was robbing me that second. I’d go through all sorts of scenarios. What would I tell my investors? What would I tell my partners? Who would ever hire me again? And then a minute later the hedge fund manager would call me.

(destroyed by paranoia)

But those times when I was paranoid it was a real illness. A disease. The only way to get over it is to finally say, “wait a second! I’ve been here before! I know this place. It’s called paranoia. And I know if I just take breaths and ride this out it will go away. Nothing I have ever been paranoid has ever come true. Except for that girl that got pregnant. But that’s another post. Maybe I already did it. I’ll do it again. No matter what I wrote, it got worse. But that paranoia was true. But even then, I could’ve avoided it. Because a paranoid situation you need to get away from. You’re not happy. Stop it. Figure out what you need to do to be happy. Your girlfriend wants to party all night while you sleep. Tell her, “no good, I’m paranoid” and see what she says.

And, like I say above, declutter. The less things in your mind, the less you will be paranoid. And also train yourself with negative awards. Every time you get paranoid, your ability to be creative goes straight down. You start to die. And it’s a slow unpleasant death. A cancer on the brain. Please don’t die. If you are reading this then I love you. You have nothing to be paranoid about.



quasirahul ‏@quasirahul: what’s the scummiest you’ve ever felt while doing business?


Ugh, he would call me at 4 in the morning. I was already paying him a 20% bribe on any business he brought me from his own company. I think it was Universal Records. Or Interscope. One of those record labels. Who cares the details. Let’s put “Interscope” in quotes so nobody sues me. But he worked there and wanted a bribe to throw me business. But that wasn’t the scummiest. That happens in the music business. That’s just money.

The scummiest thing was being his friend. He’d call me at 4 in the morning with his job problems. And I would take the call. I wanted him to like me so he’d throw me the business. I was a full service prostitute. Friendship, money, and we did a fairly decent job on his website. I say fairly decent because, to be honest, he didn’t need to be spending the money he was spending on us. The sites were okay. I didn’t like them. Ok, they sucked.

And I’d go out to LA and we’d hang out. 

And when I got home I’d sit in the shower for hours. Nothing could clean me. And I’d get sick. I’d throw up. And the next day I’d go to work and be all friends again. I remember seeing a therapist about this. But she was an astrologer also and there were too many Venuses and Jupiters to keep track of. All I knew was, “I was going to be a great success” but a year or two out. I remember saying, “i don’t even know I am anymore”. Sort of like Charlie Sheen in Wall Street.

Now I know who I am. And I’m not friends with anyone I don’t want to be friends with. Rule #1 in doing business with me.


Andrew Sider ‏@andrewsider: what are 2 industries/trends core to your startup investment thesis?


I look for three things:

– trends in social media. Social media marketing is going to replace almost all other forms of marketing. Or at least force the rest to innovate.

– anything relating to baby boomers: cancer diagnostics, hospices, alzheimers treatments, etc

– The US is the next Saudi Arabia. We have all the oil we need along the Mississippi via fracking.

(fracking is here to stay and is a HUGE upcoming trend)

I then look for:

– a CEO who has built and sold before

– good co-investors who have done due diligence before me

– cheap valuations

– revenues/profits in sight

– a predictable exit.

Then I invest. But only a small amount. There are plenty of opportunities. Enough to spread around.


Efrain Martinez ‏@martefrain: sorry for all the questions. but im in a weird part of my life. how are you different now than when you were 20?


When I was 20 here’s what I did not know because nobody had ever taught me or even told me I needed to learn these things and that these things were difficult to learn. I thought they would either be easy or I would never really need to know them.

A I didn’t know how to come up with ideas.

B I didn’t know how to sell ideas

C I didn’t know how to execute ideas

D I knew nothing about failure and how to bounce back from it.

Since then, I’ve failed and bounced back and have been rejected and bounced back and had to come up with new ideas and sell them maybe 100s of times. More than that. Maybe 1000s of times. I am a completely different person than when I was 20. Ethically, emotionally (my ability to ride the waves), spiritually (a better understanding of what it means to surrender to life around me and appreciate what I have this second instead of always striving for more) and even physically (when you are 20 you can take a lot for granted. When you are 44 you can’t and you have to have extra appreciation for the body you’ve been given).

So what does this mean from a practical perspective. It means every day, treat yourself like you love yourself. You wouldn’t harm your lover. So don’t harm your body, your emotions, your thoughts, your spirit. Keep improving them every day. Hopefully by the time you are my age you are way ahead of the game and will have avoided much of the misery I have been through.

[I hope you participate in the next Twitter Q&A on Thursday from 330-430 EST. If you like this one, please Facebook Like it so I know these posts are worth it. These are my biggest posts by far].

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  • Jquick99

    re: taspider ‏@taspider: Live in a city you don’t like and make a lot of money or live in a city you love and make peanuts?

    Do what I did: Live VERY simply in the big city, work hard, make lots of money, save/invest every penny you can. Then early retire and live where you want.  I now live in central oregon, where our motto is: my life is better than your vacation.

    and it’s true.

  • Jquick99

    James – “We have all the oil we need along the Mississippi via fracking [sic].”  What do you mean by “along the Mississippi”?  thanks.

    • Jquick99

       I guess you don’t feel like clarifying your statement.  If you mean the
      Mississippi RIVER, then that statement is INcorrect.  If you mean the
      Mississippi formation [under ground] in Oklahoma and Kansas, then you
      may be
      on to something.  This formation has nothing to do with the river.

  • Dubious Mikesimus

    Possible runner-up to the best Coke commercial ever:

  • karen parmelee

    Very excellent summations from Q&A James! As always, like a giant vitamin for my brain! I appreciate your insight to paranoid minds. I’ve just wanted to find a way to be tactful and humorous when pointing out family paranoia for being what it is and no more. I’ve decided on this, thanks to your many responses: “That’s untrue. Your paranoia steals your capacity for joy. What a shame.” And while not funny, it is very true. Above all else, I value truth. Thank you again! With much love, karen

  • Wil Stahl

    Really liked this weeks Q & A James.

  • Verry

    James Altucher,

    He is a branch only. But when a branch forget its true vine, it is just empty branch.
    The moment James connected to true vine, it would start to bear fruit.

  • JamieAThom

    Unless they figure out a way to hang up photos on a web page from your phone and geo-tag them and collaboratively filter and recommend other photos from people of the opposite sex that might be in a half mile radius of you?

    Someone did exactly that! Girls Around Me for iPhone: 

    It got shut down after that blog post made a lot of traction.

  • John Holton

    Re WordPress: if all you’re trying to do is run a blog, you can set one up at  Works great. If you already have a website, you can set it up in about five minutes. Your ISP might have a way to set it up automatically. WordPress is great.

  • Carlos

    I totally disagree with your answer about a prenup. A future wife would have to be really dumb, if she believed that your “financial advisor has advised you to protect those assets.” If that was true, why would you start the sentence with “I’ve worked hard for those assets”?

    If I was a woman, I would respond, “Cut the BS, I get it, you don’t want to lose those assets. It has nothing to do with your financial advisor allegedly “advising” you to protect them.”

    A twilight clause is just dumb. People don’t get divorce in the first years of the marriage, they get divorced later because they find out that they really didn’t know each other, or one of them changes. That’s when a prenup comes in handy. It’s similar to life insurance; you don’t need it when you’re 18, you need it when you’re 55.

    • June Chan

      I think the answer on prenup is great. Especially the part “When you are fair and honest, then everything goes ok.”

      Everyone in their late 20s and above probably have worked hard to achieve “something” that define themselves and attract their (potential) spouse. When the idea of prenup comes up – if it ever comes, it probably has a background of significant difference in assets between the two. That makes prenup a valid and reasonable consideration. We come to learn that things happen – even we work our best.

      Taking a prenup as essential for protection is probably motivated by worries and doubts. But rejecting a prenup as unacceptable in any case is also motivated by insecurity.

      Anyway, if I can’t take it, I’ll walk away. Still believing that the man really want to marry me, just he really can’t do without a prenup. lol

  • Mike

    To get over fear just ask yourself, will the situation kill you? Death is the worst thing that can happen to us and IT WILL HAPPEN. Chances are if you don’t worry or fear you will be ok and become stronger by learning.

    • JP


      Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.

      • Jquick99

         wow.  why are you scared of failure?  have you never swung a bat and missed? messed up cooking something? couldn’t figure out how to do something, and becuz of this [thinking, doing again] you succeeded?  i suggest you rejoice is failures…in the long run, it will make you a better person/get you closer to your “goal”.

  • JP

    James says:

    “But it forces you to be REALLY SURE before you put on a trade. Maybe you will only do one or two trades a year then. That’s enough to make all of your money. And trading includes both the entry and the exit.”

    What annoys me the most about your position on trading is that you seem to criticize the *idea* of trading.

    To me, the key to trading is to use the *real* advantage that the individual investospeculator has over the bots, the large traders, the banks, etc.

    That is that You Have Infinite Flexibility To Enter and Exit Trades Whenever You Want To Do So.
    I did one trade this year with 100% of my trading money.  I got 1.5%.  At this time I see absolutely no trade, so I won’t trade.  It’s sitting in cash making 0%.   And I’m find with this.  In fact, I don’t know when I will trade again.  It could be this year.  It could be next year.  It could be five years from now.  But I will wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Forever, if that’s what it takes.

    The key to making money in this rigged market is infrequent low risk trades.

    In fact the entire key to investospeculating is to never, ever be present when there is a major down day (if you are long).  This is actually much easier than it looks.

    • James Altucher

      The problem there is if you take that to the extreme you find computers. The high frequency traders are right there taking money from the daytraders on every single trade.

      The problem daytraders have is that the market is horribly manipulated on a second by second basis. The game has totally changed and is only changing against the daytraders. 

      The winners are three kinds of people: people who hold forever, people who hold for one trillionth of a second, and people who cheat. Daytraders get sliced up in the blender. 

      • Scott

        James im not sure if your writing keeps getting better and better or if reading you over time and getting to know where you are coming from makes your writing more relative each day.
        I am a stock market guy all my life. Not a trader but someone who buys and watches very closely because the market is my first love. After a long day with the markets I love to read one of your blogs to get back some humanity and than go hang out with the wife and kids.
        Keep up the good work and don’t worry, in the end we are just a speck of sand in an incomprehensible large universe.

        • James Altucher

          Yes, I like that. 

  • Yusuf Uqdah

    First of all James I truly love your blog and appreciate your honesty in your blog posts.  As an entrepreneur and a self proclaimed modern philosopher I turn to your blog for both information and inspiration.  

    To answer the persons question about blogging I think blogging is of course not necessary (nothing is), but it really helps.

    I started blogging almost a year ago, and there has been times I have wanted to quit, because I run a business and at times I felt it was a waste of time.  However, I stuck with it.  Here is why:

    -If you want to write a book which I do someday, what better way to record your thoughts than to put it in a blog?  You could argue that you could keep a personal journal, but a blog is better, because it gives you all the benefits of a blog (more later), and when you know that other people  are expecting your next post it gives you more discipline to write more often, than if you were to keep a personal journal.

    -A blog allows people to find you that would generally not contact you otherwise, or that you would not be able to find otherwise.  Just the other day someone from Reuters contacted me as a result of my blog and an envoy from a foreign embassy.

    -A blog allows for people to comment on your thoughts, which will help you refine your ideas.  This is more interactive than writing a book.

    By the way James, after reading your response to this poster I thought it would be a good idea for me to engage in any relevant discussion, forum or article that I find myself reading.  However, I would like to sign all of my post with the below signature that includes my blog.  If I am providing good content for the community, is it appropriate for me to advertise my blog in this way?

    Yusuf Uqdah

    • James Altucher

      Yusuf, I agree with you about the reasons for blogging. That might be a good topic for a post actually. Also, since you provide much value in your answer (you give), it is totally appropriate to put your URL (you receive). Gary Vaynerchuk in one of his books has a phrase for that – he calls it “crushing it”. 

  • Efrain

    Thanks for the answers. Abby would be proud. 
    James, do you like making these posts? Or do they tend to feel like a drag after a while. You know, since they’re so long.

    • James Altucher

      I like making them a lot. My only fear when they are long is that people will get bored reading them. Sometimes I break them up. Like this one was actually two posts (i took a question about “persistence” out and made it its own post). I also worry the quality of the writing goes down when it’s too long. But I’m trying to space out my writing time on a post so I can keep the quality up. 

      • Efrain

        I think maybe since they’re long, they might generate more traffic. For instance I read half of this yesterday and then came back today to read the rest. I like your writing, I hope you never stop.

  • Efrain

    One thing I’ve wondered about the economy is: Why do we have to let there be recessions? I mean, money is a man-made invention. So it seems odd that we’d let ourselves collapse because there’s not enough of that thing we invented. Can anyone help me understand this? 

  • Verry

    I am addicted to James….help…help….help me

    • James Altucher

      Its a good addiction!

  • Roy


    You mentioned the following years 1991, in 1995, in 2002, and 2009 as being your lowest points


    Is it because you stopped doing the daily practise?

    Or is having ups and downs a part of life…..a part of lifes renewal and rejuvenation process?

    Are low points due to us? or is it a part of life’s design?

    • James Altucher

      Its because I would stop the daily practice. Because even though life has its ups and downs, the daily practice focuses you on what you need to do right now to stay motivated and not be crying on the floor. But I would get lazy and the practice would lapse and trouble would start. Trouble always would start. 

  • Srikrishna

     I wanted him to like me so he’d throw me the business. I was a full service prostitute This happens to me everyday, all my friends, parents , relatives and even spouse ask me to be a prostitute to my boss and my company, so that they pay me every time they screw me and my ingenuity. But only a prostitute knows the pain of offering self only for money. I am working on tdp and towards my freedom. Thanks James for being there. :-)

  • naeldred

    On how to regain self-confidence:

    I went through–may even still be going through–a period of low self-confidence that had a lot to do with difficulties at my job (before I got laid off, a real confidence booster!). Things started to turn around for me when I realized that everyone out there has a way that they want to be perceived based on their identities.

    We make our identities up, and if I buy into everyone’s self-created identities–especially since they consider themselves superior (they’re only human after all so what else would they think)–I’ll eventually see myself as being less than them. Which of course is not true and chews up any self-confidence I may be experiencing.

    If I realize that in reality, if everyone except the psychopaths are as self-conscious and insecure as me, I have less self-confidence problems. I can then work at my task without caring what someone as neurotic as myself might think.

    And whenever I feel insecure about someone having more wealth than I, and less self-confident about my worth as a person, I imagine the two of us stuck on Gilligan’s Island. And I ask myself just what he’s going to buy with his wealth? We’re equal again, which means we were always equal, and I have no reason to fell less confidence in myself.

    Hope that adds something.

  • Nopls

    The explanation of the pre-nup is very simple.  Marriage IS a contract, with default terms that work for most people.  Since I have assets already, something not assumed in the default contract, we need to customize it for us.

  • Onebornfree

    Re: the prenup:

    Simple, don’t get legally married. Who needs a government approved marriage contract [or a government approved anything else for that matter]? It’s just another government scam.

    And if you _do_ get a government approved marriage and  you later realize you need a divorce- you have to get the governments permission to so do. Who needs that? What a  complete waste of time and money.

     Instead, work out a mutually beneficial private marriage agreement between the two of you.


  • Krishan

    “Starting a business is easy. Shutting it down requires courage. But shutting it down gets you down to the business of life once again: saving yourself, saving others. Start doing it. Again.” Nicely put. Half of everything we do (or more) is about starting over.

  • nkonev

    James, does WordPress work well with an app? A friend of mine wants to build a site with an accompanied app, will WordPress work, or will he have to build a site from scratch? There are some social media elements to the site.