S.P.I.C.E – Sweet, Pretty, Intelligent, Creative, Emotionally Mature


I’ve had four fun conversations today so far about cheating, lying, backstabbing, and pain. It’s 5:53 am.

If you talk to me, assume that I’m going to put our conversation word-for-word on this blog. However, I will always protect names and identities and will respect any wishes to not include a conversation. I will never expose identities. But even if you are Claudia or my two daughters I am going to totally use any material because every day I am desperate for something to talk about. (If you are my daughters you will thank me later for giving you plenty of material to talk about in later therapy sessions. It’s always hard to come up with good stuff to talk to your therapist about but you two will have no problem. )

Particularly when the conversations are meaty enough to write about. I also like when I instant message with people at 4 in the morning. Then I have conversations I can write about early. To get it over with. Because there’s one horrible thing happening to me today that I have to prepare myself mentally for.

I’m getting cable TV. For the first time in four years.

I’m not a TV snob. I love TV. My first job in the city was for a TV company. But I hate bad TV. And cable TV being installed makes bad TV tempting. I’m dreading that I might get caught up with the Kardashians. Or even worse. I know there is worse out there but I don’t even know what it is. But I have to watch my kids for two weeks later this summer. And they’ve complained that my house is not “kid friendly”. I asked them, “what does kid friendly mean?”

They said, “well, there’s not enough things for kids to do here.”

I said, “I have 6 computers and 3 ipads and two ipod touches. Plus there’s books here. You know that thing that your ancestors used to call ‘reading’ ?”

“Well…what about also getting cable?”

And I said, “absolutely not”.

But I love HBO and Showtime. They often have good shows that I consider art. And HBO is so goddamn smart that they know enough to avoid the Internet distribution of their shows for at least a year. And I want to watch them NOW. So I caved. Cable for the kids and HBO on Demand for me. Ugh. Being delivered today.

So I was glad to get several things done this morning.

First off, I go through lots of books each morning: Today, chapters in:

  •                 “Abundance” by Stephen Kotler
  •                 “The Charisma Myth” by Olivia Chabane
  •                 “More Notes from a Dirty Old Man”, by Bukowski
  •                 A story in Miranda  July’s short story collection, “No one Belongs Here More Than You”
  •                 An essay from David Foster Wallace in “The Kings of Non-Fiction”
  •                 “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha” by Stephen Mitchell
  •                 “100 Backgammon Puzzles”  (while going to the bathroom after coffee. Went through five puzzles. Was constipated).
  •                 “The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard” – I find them refreshingly humble and autobiographical

(Dubner, I’m coming after you!)

I don’t usually read through that much in a morning but I got up super early.  If I was feeling really productive I’d put Amazon links for each of the above. But I’m feeling lazy.

But let’s get to the conversations I’ve had so far. So then I can get to the SPICE part.

#1 My Business Partner Is Lying to Me. (AA is a Facebook friend). 

AA: My business partner has been lying to me for 2 months. I’ve been furious since yesterday!

Me: Don’t be. Most business partners lie all the time.


Me: I’m not kidding. And over time you learn which partners to completely avoid and which lies to filter out and how to react to them. Better to be  lied to now before you are lied to when you can lose serious money.  View this as a valuable learning experience on how to avoid future lies.

AA: that sounds so Zen

[Note: I think when people say “that sounds Zen” it means they are not going to pay attention to it, which is fine. It’s hard not to get angry when people lie to you. So I gave an example].

Me:  Let me give an example. Some billionaire wants to pay me to “consult” him on some stocks he owns. He’s lying to me so I said “no”. How do I know to say “no”.

  1. It involves me traveling to him across the country. Why can’t we just talk on the phone? I have yet to make money by traveling for business in the past 17 years of doing business.
  2. I’m better than him. He wants to level the field by paying me because money is what he has. I don’t need to be brought down by his money.

AA: Why don’t you mitigate the risk by taking the money up front?

Me: I don’t want the money. That’s not the lie part. The lying is the “consulting”. He probably wants me to write about his bullshit companies or whatever and then call me 50 times a day once we meet. I never do that. Ever. Instead of doing that I’d rather get cable TV today.

Here’s another example. Some guy wanted to borrow $80 million from a hedge fund and he said he had a $100 million letter of credit from HSBC to back the loan. Could I introduce him around.

My answer was “no” even though maybe I could get a consulting fee for doing it. Again, nobody gets free money and nobody has ever once given me free money. I asked his representative to show me the letter of credit and of course I never heard from him again.

I would say I have to deal with at least one major lie a day and a few minor ones. But I’m relaxed about it because after awhile you get to know basic rules:

  1. Nobody gives money for free. Since I was 15 I had to work very hard for money. And it’s usually pretty easy for me to lose money. Before I was 15 it was easy to make money because I would steal from my dad’s wallet. And before I was 10 I would shoplift. Until I was caught doing both. Now making every penny is hard for me.
  2. Never travel for money. Then you are kissing ass. If people want you, they need to show it. Not just with money. Money is important but its just a byproduct of value. Once you travel to get their money then you are a beggar with your face buried in the mud while you bow to the God of Money, a very powerful and persuasive God.
  3. Never trust experts. If an expert says, “this painting is worth $100 million but you can buy it now for $20 million” then they are lying. First, see “a” above. How, in all the world, is James Altucher getting an $80 million advantage over everyone else. That doesn’t happen. And second, nothing is worth anything until someone is willing to pay for it. Opportunities don’t just magically happen.
  4. Always look for agendas. Since everyone lies, try to probe a little more for the truth. Maybe there’s other ways to benefit from someone’s lie. Like, you can write a blog post about it.

So every day I live a much more relaxed life by not being angry about the lies (they are going to happen no matter what) but learning when and how to filter them and factor them into my daily business. Being angry about the lie is actually worse than being lied to. It means your brain can’t focus on being creative, being free, being peaceful, so you can actually conduct good business for yourself and your family.

AA: This is incredible advice. Thank you.

[Note: I include that last line to brag a little bit but I’m also grateful when people acknowledge that something I say is good advice. I’m insecure].

#2. My Girlfriend Cheated On Me (XX is also a Facebook friend. All identities protected)

XX:  I was in relationship with a girl for about 4 years and then she cheated on me for someone. It has been about 2 years now and i never talked to her after that but sometimes it gets difficult for me to control myself even now. What is best that I should do in the situation?

Me: The key is not the girl but how you rebuild trust in future situations. That girl is gone, over, done. She cheated on you, you will never know why, you will never get an answer, you will never know the solution.

But you want to make sure you don’t have irrational paranoia, or “post-cheating stress syndrome” in your future relationships.

You’re always going to be curious about the one you don’t understand. But wouldn’t it be much better to be with someone who is loyal and loves you?

XX: I also saw her facebook profile at 3am and things got bad after that. What you are saying is actually happening with me. After her i have been with 2 girls but never loved them, though i used to tell them that i love them.

Me: Maybe you like her BECAUSE she cheated on you. You just told me you lied to two girls who probably loved you. You’re repeating the pattern. It’s your way of relating, perhaps, to the girl who cheated on you.

XX: but sometimes you want the other person to feel the pain you have been through, to make them feel what it is like to be cheated by someone

Me: Right, but it’s impossible. They won’t feel that pain. They have moved on. They are done with you. So instead, you are making others feel the pain.

XX: But then when I realize I cant make them feel that pain I become more sad, and feel more helpless. She was my first girlfriend and we were together for four years.

Me: It’s ok to feel that sadness. Invite it in. Ask it for tea. Joke around with it, “wasn’t that girl a bitch?” But you’re never going to get resolution. Eventually that pain will start to wither but it’s ok to acknowledge it’s there.

XX: But how do I move on?

Me: Since I keep telling you how, it’s sort of obvious that you don’t want to. You keep telling yourself this story. She was your first girlfriend, she cheated, you can’t get over it. You go out with other girls and tell them you love them but can’t get over this one. You love this story. It’s becoming a part of you. Do you really want this story to end? It sounds to me you LIKE not moving on.

Let me ask you –  Deep down, do you want to move on?

XX: i dont know maybe i want her, maybe i love her still, somewhere i think time spent with her was best in the life. but i cant get her.

Me: Ok, so you don’t want to move on. That’s fine. But just acknowledge it. Don’t say you want to move on when you really don’t. Then you are lying to yourself. You can’t be happy if your brain is in a knot. Was the girl good to you when you were together?

XX: Yes,  We wanted to get married for awhile. I want that girl from back then. I miss her.

Me: Ok, so you want to time travel to that girl who no longer exists. She’s gone. RIGHT NOW there are some girls out of the seven billion on this planet who will not cheat on you and who will love you.

XX: That’s right. But I still think about this girl. She’s still unmarried. Do you think there’s any chance we will get back together? How can I get her back?

Me: No. She’s gone. And look at the pain she caused you. Do you like being in this pain? Maybe you do and that’s why you want to get back together with her. You have to answer if you like this pain. One the one hand you ask: how do I get over her?  On the other hand you ask: how can I win her back? It’s ok to be confused. But acknowledge that you don’t want to get over her yet. And then start from there.

Start from the question: do I want to live a life with contradictions? And work through that first.  First you want to get healthy and live a life without contradictions. Then you can figure out this more complicated stuff.

XX: Thanks James. I am going to try The Daily Practice you recommend. I hope I come out of this in a positive way.

Me: You will.


Note: It’s hard. People get wrapped up in the story: “He/She was perfect for me. There’s nobody else like that.” But the odds are against that statement.

Think about it this way. There’s an acronym I find helpful in relationships. You want S.P.I.C.E., someone who is in the top 20% of all of the following mutually exclusive attributes: sweet, pretty, intelligent, creative, emotionally mature. (For girls, you can assume “pretty” also means handsome. Guys, don’t go homophobic here if your girlfriend thinks you are sweet and pretty).

There’s about 3.6 billion women on the planet. If someone is in the top 20% of ALL of the above categories that’s one in 3,125.

That means, there’s 1,125,000 women that are perfect for you. You’re helped by the fact that many people are not looking for women in these categories. For instance, some guys (and women) have various emotional issues that cause them to look for people who will cheat on them. Or some people don’t care about “creative” or “intelligent” and that increases their odds. Also, if you can broaden your definition of “pretty” then you increase your odds even more.

But just knowing there’s a million people out there for you is a good start in believing that the one girl you missed was not the ONLY girl that was perfect for you. In fact, she might be L.I.C.E, (“loser”, “incompetent”, “caustic”, “emotionally immature”).

Ugh, I’ve had two more fun conversations so far this morning. One about prenups and the other about what it might’ve meant when someone described himself as  “an average millionaire” is but I think 2000 words is enough. And it’s 6:52am. I’m going to walk to the river. And by the time I get back, my Spice Girl might be awake.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/drwho13 Noah Lampert

    I’ve slowly been moving the time I get up back and back (or is it forward and forward?) I think I’ll be at the 4-5AM starting point sometime next year. Never thought I could do that, but hey, the nature of things is to change. Thanks, James.

  • http://twitter.com/inflector Curtis Faith

    This is your best post yet. Awesome.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Curtis, thanks! I was a bit nervous with this one. I don’t know why. I’m veering to be a bit more conversational.

  • samedayessaym

    This is true! but Few people know it.

  • chimera

    I was married for 8 years and my husband cheated on me – he just kissed another girl and I got a divorce. The thing was I knew I could never ever trust him. This was in-spite of the fact that we did not have kids and I desperately wanted to have kids. I think if we accept someone cheating on us, it leaves us with no self-respect. It is about 8 months since I have gone without cable TV. I’m afraid of the day I would return to it.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      There’s that saying now (which I agree with): if you have to delete texts, then it’s cheating. And I agree with your stance that it’s intolerable.

  • PlinytheElder

    When I say or think something is “Zen”, it is meant as the highest of compliments.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher


      • Stewart

        When I think of Zen i think of daily practice… ;)

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Me too!

  • mikeyhell

    James, we get Direct TV and I think it sucks. A million channels and there’s only one show that I watch and I’m not even that interested in it. I can’t imagine that cable is going to serve you any better. I know you want your shows NOW! but have you considered getting a streaming box (e.g., roku) instead? At least you can watch some quality films with a hulu acct.

    And True Blood? What’s up with this fascination with vampires? I don’t get it. Buffy was a good show but that was….in the 90s.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Here’s an example: The Newsroom. Looks like a decent show but will never get to itunes for hulu for another years. Same with Boardwalk Empire. Season 1 is there but I’d like to see Season 2. I like HBO shows, Showtime shows, Mad Men, and that’s about it. But only Mad Men gets to itunes.

      • mikeyhell

        Within a month you’ll be throwing your teevee out the window :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1296301372 Wil Stahl

    Please continue sharing your reading list. I’ve started to take up reading (as part of my tdp). Very much enjoyed Jesus’ Son.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Best book of short stories ever.

  • jewwhoz

    if there’s a war in the world you can sure that a jew started it and there will be none dying for it

  • jewrat

    if there’s a war in the world you can be sure that a jew started it and there will be none dying for it

  • http://mefrain.blogspot.com/ Efrain

    I think it’s better when your posts are longer. Which do you prefer?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I hate to say it, but the long ones.

  • mikeyhell

    James, I’ve read that “Abundance” relies a little too much on Ridley’s “Rational Optimist.” Are you finding that to be true? Can’t find a copy of Abundance locally so I can’t check for myself.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Hi Mike, it definitely does. I would say it’s Rational Optimist 2.0. Exact same arguments but a slightly more updated version of the latest technologies.

      • mikeyhell

        Hm, that’s disappointing to hear.

        • Lando

          Why is that disappointing?

  • 8th circuit

    If what you say is true “that everyone lies”, and you are a subset of everyone.. then what is your lie?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carla-Natali/100000148273008 Carla Natali

    Hello James, althought I believe your post´s statistics must be right (“1,125,00 women that are perfect for you”) I also believe there´s something wrong with the semantics. I don´t think there´s anyone that´s perfect to anyone, all relationships are faulty, ultimately we are! What I think a person should really been looking for in their partner is flaws that they can deal with and if cheating is one of them, so be it. There shouldn´t be a formula to be followed in those cases, if the guy wants to go back to that girl instead of moving on, maybe he should. If the story reapeats itself once again he might then get ready to walk on and never look back, or not and personally, I don´t think he would bring himself down by giving something a second chance.
    Ps: I´m not that girl… in case you´re wondering ;)

  • Jill

    XX: Perhaps he made a childhood pact (yes we are passionate even as children) and built a wall around his emotions way before the 1st girlfriend cheated and left, so now the 1st girlfriend becomes a lifelong obsession and he can’t let go and can’t remember the pact.

    There is a story about a guy who wanted to find the truth or universe or god…. whatever, so he told himself, I will become a monk and lock myself in a monastery for 20 years and then I will find what I am looking for, not knowing that it was with him all along and it was not necessary to do that to find love. Waste.

    XX loves and wants to be loved back, don’t we all. He loved the 1st girlfriend but it went unrequited and that hurts. If he hangs onto that obsession and possible childhood pact, he will tell it over and over to every new potential girlfriend, a sad story they’ll tire of quickly. None of the women will measure up in his mind and he will be with them physically but not emotionally. They will eventually figure this out and leave him to find someone who surrenders everything to them.

    Let it be that XX figures out what is holding him back and finds a love that is mutual and lasting for himself and not waste any more time obsessing.

  • http://askbetterquestions.com/ mikenolan99

    Walk slowly away from the cable box…

    Here’s the better solution… what we did. Cut the cord – no cable, dish, etc. Buy a loved one HBO/Cinemax, and get their username/password for HBO GO and Max Go. BETTER than getting HBO on cable. Instant watch anything on either network, any time.

    Get Hulu+ and Netflix.

    Buy a Roku box for a big screen.

    You are out $30/m or so, live life on demand, and have damn near everything at your finger tips.

    And, thanks for the blog. Just recommended a post in a meeting yesterday. Made me look smarter than I was!

  • Lando

    Yeesh. Sack up, XX.

  • michael


    I don’t know if a person can truly fundamentally change after say the age of 22. However, life is the best teacher.

    Isn’t possible that the girl who cheated on you when she was say 24 and hot and arrogant got kicked enough in life and 15 years later has realized humility and her own vulnerabilities?

    If the guy doesn’t want to let go, that is okay. He should get back together with her, and gain some emotional closure. The only time when you can’t get closure is if the other person is dead, has a restraining order on you, or you are locked in jail for the rest of your life.

  • ep3232

    Hey there James!, been reading for a while and just now wanted to comment, i’ve heard, felt or otherwise have known of situations very similar to mr XX, that im sure is a sindrome or something. cheers everyone!

  • ep3232

    about the “zen” part, a while back i was going through a really tough time, and someone thought it would be helpful for me to enroll in a dinamic meditation workshop, aside from the meditation that involved a lot of jumping around, i left with a few teachings that helped a lot, one is “live in the present”, that one particularly has helped me with a lot of my anxiety, breathing, also a winner in mindfulness, and one that keeps comming back to me one way or another, “mind our own thoughts” be mindful of what we say to ourselves, TDP touches all these concepts, so somehow i think that a Zen life doesnt involve siting meditating for hours but just be mindful and in the present.

  • shakingfist

    Don’t do broadcast TV… ESPECIALLY for your kids. Most of the dialogue and contrived situations in television programs are pure crap. Besides, if anyone talked like that in my home, I would ask them to leave. And if they talked l front of my kids, I would rough neck them out a window. Why do most tolerate this slop in a trough? I don’t eat dog food and I certainly don’t feed it to kids.
    You deserve better and deep down inside you know it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1191618469 Ben Banks

    “But just knowing there’s a million people out there for you is a good start in believing that the one girl you missed was not the ONLY girl that was perfect for you. In fact, she might be L.I.C.E, (“loser”, “incompetent”, “caustic”, “emotionally immature”).”-
    This should be a blog post in itself. I would love to hear more about that.

  • Lisbeth

    Ok this is my favorite post so far! True Blood; I could skip this season talk about boring all this talk about family values and religion? Is this an election year? TB needs to go back to its roots attractive nekkid people ;D

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  • http://twitter.com/RunPussyRun Nicolas Demoulin


    The fact that you mentioned loving HBO shows (but I already knew that !) makes me wonder one thing : have you ever watched HBO’s “How To Make It In America”. Do you like it ? I mean, a show about NYC and entrepreneurship, it would make sense ! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/nils.meyer3 Nils Meyer

    Hope you got AMC as well ;)

  • sharonshadwick

    James–great post. Now I’m dying to know what you think about prenups, what that conversation was about!

  • Shimona Carvalho

    I like your SPICE acronym, though I’d suggest capable instead of (or in addition to) creative. So many times I see guys pick girls who are completely incapable – can’t open jars, or car doors, or kill a spider or deal with any sort of challenge. The guys love it because they can be the man and feel good about all that jar and car opening, but then they get married and suddenly are surprised that they have a partner who cannot handle all of life’s little difficulties. Capable of handling life, I think, is a good thing to look for in the person you plan to handle life with.