Ask James: How to Get Over Heartache, The 5PM Diet, What Should You Do In Life, And More

WHAT SHOULD I DO IN LIFE?

Ali H. Baloch ‏@alihb12: I don’t know what to do in life and over what i am good. I lose interest in whatever i do after some time. can you help me find?

ANSWER:

Ali, It’s a horrible thing and I know how you feel. Not the feeling of “I don’t know what to do” but the feeling of “I feel bad that I don’t know what to do”.

When I was 18 I wanted to be a psychologist. Then I wanted to be an academic in computer science. Then I wanted to be a novelist. I felt the only way girls would like me is if I wrote a novel that was successful. I would pass a pretty girl on the street and I would think, “she won’t like me until I publish a novel”.

Then I wanted to be have my own TV show. Then I wanted to be a millionaire. Then… You get the picture. Every few years things changed.

My ten year old daughter said to me yesterday, “I don’t even know yet what I want to do when I grow up.” I told her, “That’s funny because I’m 44 and I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up either.” And she laughed and said, “what do you mean? You’re a grownup!”. Little kids sometimes think they know more about what “grownup” means than grownups do.

We’re all given this very deep impression when we are young that by the time we are “grown up” that everything needs to be settled. We need to have a stable financial life, a spouse, children, upward mobility, a career that moves from success to success. We need to be an aquanaut or an astronaut or a politician or a lawyer or something!

But that rarely happens. Even now I’m trying to figure out what to do next. I switched careers a few years ago and decided to focus on writing and investing. At some point I will switch careers again. Not because I am interested in anything else but it’s because it’s what I’ve done all my life and I finally can’t fight it anymore. In fact, I’m excited to see what I come up with that will hold my attention for more than a few weeks.

So I’m envious of you. You have an extra decade or so on me where you can continue to discover things you are interested in. You can continue to meander and pick up things along the way, the things that will add up to a great “you”. It’s like a magnet on the beach, picking up all the stray pieces of metal. Who knows what you will find! Maybe some gold (do magnets pick up gold? I don’t even know).

Enjoy the meanderings, the soul searching, the loves lost, the time wasted. All of it will add up to a complex and very unique “you”.  The more you appreciate RIGHT NOW the more the future will become a fantastic reality. Dont pressure yourself to be in the future

WHAT IS THE 5PM DIET?

Anna Power ‏@Anna__Power: You don’t eat after 5pm – is this a form of intermittent fasting? What changes to your diet, have you found beneficial and why?

ANSWER:

On Saturday mornings I go to the local farmer’s market and buy a loaf of Challah bread. I love Challah bread. Jews talk constantly about constipation by the way. Everyone thinks the cliche of a Jewish person is that they are good at money. I don’t know about that. I’ve lost all my money a few times and then some. But one cliche which is true: thick, concrete, starchy constipation – and then talk about it with every Jewish person you know. Usually over dinner.

After I buy that Challah bread, I eat it. The entire loaf. I can’t stop myself. So sweet and soft. It’s like bread made out of clouds. I love it. I eat it. And then I suffer.

That’s my one treat a week. The rest of the week I don’t eat bread at all. I don’t eat sugar or sweets. I’m 44. I want to look good, feel good, sleep well, long, and most importantly, when I eat something, I want to shit all of it out. At least the waste parts.

So here’s what I do for now.

After 5pm (sometimes 6pm), I don’t eat. And during the day I don’t eat carbs or sugars anymore (well, 2 sugars in my first cup of coffee for the day – I can’t help it!).

Why do this:

- Better for digestion. I know by the time I go to sleep (between 8 and 9pm) the food will have worked it’s way mostly through my digestive system. Imagine you eat a big steak and then go to sleep. Where is that steak all night long? It’s right in the middle of your digestive tract, an entire part of a cow. And it doesn’t move. Your stomach rumbles, you feel nauseous, etc.

- Better for sleep. For the reasons above. I like to keep things clear so at night my body is focused on what it’s supposed to be doing – sleeping! Insomnia is a horrible illness that I don’t like getting.

- You lose weight. You can’t help it.

- Your face gets more angular. I’ve seen it happen. Not just with me. With everyone on this pseudo-Paleo diet.

- Less pain. I used to wake up around 3 in the morning every night with pain in my stomach. Either sharp pain or naeusea. I used to attribute it to stress. But now I see it was because my eating habits were bad. It might’ve been the starch, or the eating past 5pm, or the drinking. Who knows? I don’t do any of those anymore and I no longer wake up in pain.

- You have more energy. On those Saturdays when I have the loaf of bread I go into “Challah Coma”. I can’t function for about 3-5 hours afterwards. And I’m even recovering the next day (like right now as I write this). I’m usually fully recovered by Tuesday. I’ve become much more aware of my body because of this diet and I can see how it changes and reacts to different foods.

- You appreciate what you eat more. One yoga practitioner suggests this: imagine your stomach as four fists. One fist is for food. The other for water, and two fists for air. This particular yoga guy lived to over 100 and probably only died that “young” because when he was 95 he fell and refused to have hip surgery. When he was 89 he demonstrated 20 different kinds of headstands. He attributed his long life to “good breathing”. Claudia is doing a bunch of posts on Pranayama (“good breathing”) on her website right now.

- Less snacking. We all know that most diets don’t work. The flip side is that EVERY diet works. How can that contradiction be? Well, most people can’t follow a diet for more than a few weeks. But why does every diet work? Because there isn’t a single diet that lets you eat Cheez Doodles. if all you do is avoid junk food, then you are fine. But extend out your definition of junk food. Over 80% of the grocery store is carbs. Mmm, delicious starchy carbs, cookies, breads, snacks, fried this, breaded that. Mmmmm. If you just do two things: no carbs, no eating after 5pm, you’ll get all the benefits of any diet you want.

What if you are invited to a dinner and you know there will be heavy eating, drinking, etc. I go to those, but not too often because I know it will take me awhile to recover. I don’t drink alcohol at them (all sugar and I hate the taste) and I avoid the dessert and appetizers and eat about half the entree. But it’s still after 5pm. And I know I’m going to sleep uncomfortably and be destroyed all the next day. As opposed to tommorrow, where I will be feeling great.

 

DO YOUR KIDS READ YOUR POSTS?

kcastagnaro ‏@kcastagnaro: Aloha from Hawaii! You write a lot about your children. Do they read those posts? What do they think?

ANSWER:

I write a lot about my kids in such a way that potentially they could feel unloved later on if they read it. For instance, “Is it bad I wanted my first kid to be aborted”. Or maybe they might get the wrong idea about important topics like in, “I want my daughters to be lesbians”.

One commenter even wrote me and said he felt my kids should be taken away from me by the government. This is fine with me by the way. If Barack Obama wants to raise my kids he can have at it.

My kids don’t read my posts. They haven’t even read my comic book, which I have repeatedly thrown at them and told them they would be tested later on. They ignored me and didn’t read it. One time one of them (I forget which) told me, “your blog contains inappropriate material for children” and that’s why they don’t read it.

WHAT!? I said. When I was 10 or 12 or 14 you couldn’t stop me from reading inappropriate material. I would fake vomit into the toilet, flush (so there was no evidence) claim sickness, JUST so I could stay home from school and read inappropriate content all day long. Which my parents’ bookshelves were full of. By the time I was 12 I had read the novels “Candy” by Terry Southern. “Boys & Girls Together” by William Goldman. “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” by Judith Rossner, “Wifey” by Judy Blume and the pop-psych sexual tease: “Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No”. I memorized the pages of every sex scene. I read the books over and over. Heck, I feel like reading them again now. I remember them so well I didn’t have to look up the authors even though it’s been over 30 years since I last looked at any of those books.

That said, my kids don’t want to read my blog but eventually they will. Eventually they will see how desperately I want to love them and want them to love me. How I hated being a father. How I grew to deal with it and while dealing with it, grew to love them.

But a post doesn’t make a father. With or without their knowledge of my darkest secrets, I tell them I love them, tell them they are beautiful, and let them know they are always safe with me, whether they like it or not. And often they don’t. Often they don’t like me.

My biggest challenge now is dealing with the moments they don’t like me. I’m sure after they read my posts at some point in the future they might be upset at me. But they will have to deal with it. Because they will know that I love them. And nothing I ever write will convince them that I don’t.

 

WHAT’S THE FASTEST WAY TO GET A GOOD REPUTATION?

Dexter Zhuang ‏@dexteryz: As a startup, what’s the fastest and easiest way to gain reputation with customers aside from a great product? Thx

ANSWER:

I know there are some books on this but I, unfortunately, have never read them. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this area where I built a reputation and then I lost it. 100% of the time it had to do with poor communication. For instance, in October, 2008 I was managing a small piece of someone else’s hedge fund. I was down that month. At the same time, my marriage was falling apart. It had actually been falling apart for years but this particular month it was REALLY falling apart. Arguments every day that were raw to the bone. All I can remember on top of this is that the financial system was also falling apart and for some reason it was raining every day.

I’m sure if I looked back at the weather reports it would show that it wasn’t raining every day. But I can’t remember a single day where it wasn’t raining. Where I wasn’t on my hammock and being rained on. Where I wasn’t walking back from the local museum where  I tried to hide in the afternoons and being completely drenched. Where I wasn’t outside talking to my partners and thinking, “this phone will get ruined in the rain”. Where my kids weren’t inside the house all the time wondering when I would come in and play with them. It was wet, raining, and my eyes were blurry from crying.

And one time my “customer” called me and said, “you really need to learn to communicate with people”. And he pulled his money from me. I’ve written about this before but now we are friends and work together often on a deal by deal basis. But at the time I thought I would never talk to him again. That time when we spoke was only after I had avoided about 20 of his calls and emails.

The same thing happened when building websites for a living. I had a designer that nobody wanted to use. And yet he was the designer on almost all of the projects. So I was avoiding the calls from customers begging me tp take him off the project. And I was avoiding talking to him about it. Finally, companies would call me in for a face to face meeting (always ugly. ugly faces everywhere, ugly scowls, ugly comments,  always “we wish we didn’t have to have this talk”, etc) and I’d have to reel them back in.

So here’s my guidelines on keeping reputation for ANY business: service or product businesses.

- stay in touch with customers. If you have only a few customers, call them every few days, even if it’s just to chat. You may find hidden needs that they have that you can fulfill, even for free.

- don’t be afraid to do extra. I always try to surprise customers with extra service. Something they didn’t expect. Then they know that with all the other guys they will get what they see, with me – they will get a surprise. Always.

- blog. If you have many customers, you can keep in touch with them via blogging. And with blogging, follow my suggestions. Bleed, add value, share ideas, and then syndicate also to get those ideas out as far as possible.

- customer service. When a customer has a problem, solve it immediately. Give them things for free. Scour twitter for comments about you and respond to them. Every forum is a customer service forum for you.

- “Thank you”. Say thank you to everyone. Commenters, twitters, customers. Say thank you in every way you know possible.

- “Crush it”. I’m borrowing this from Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Crushing It” and I know it works because I’ve used it. Go on every blog related to your company’s sector and start posting comments. Don’t link back to your site always. Only sometimes. Maybe one in five. Go on Quora, Pinterest, Wikipedia and become a quality source about all things related to your company. I use every social medium as a channel. You should also.

- Become the source. Look at Yahoo. They were a website that became big by being THE source for all other websites. Find everything related to your sector. Become the directory of all tools, websites, blogs, related to your sector. OWN the sector. On facebook, twitter, your site, pinterest, etc.

Building a great product is, as you point out, #1. But no man is an island and people live and die by communication. Keep people from loneliness and you have a customer for life.

 

WHAT SELF-HELP BOOKS DO I RECOMMEND?

Eli Schostak ‏@EliSchostak: which self help gurus have helped you in your life & how?

ANSWER:

I don’t really like the self-help category. That said, I’ve probably read every self-help author out there, ranging from the psychology section to the self-help section to the occult section and all the sections in between.

The problem is, most self-help authors focus on the wrong thing: how to get better at something. The goal in life is not to be the most impressive person in a meeting . Or to have the most money. Or to get the most girls. Not saying those are bad goals. We all have to live in the real world and we can’t become monks.

But often the goal in life is to cultivate NOT wanting those things. To be happy even if you aren’t the most impressive person in the meeting, or the richest, or having the most sex, or being the best speaker, or being the most creative. Sometimes it’s important to realize that the struggles, the little sufferings that battle us each day are not to be avoided but to be viewed as opportunities to strengthen the soul. To be grateful for what we have now, struggles and all, rather than to put together some complicated manifesto about how life SHOULD or COULD be in some distant future.

I think most self-help tries to convince you that suffering could be circumvented through various tricks and techniques that will ultimately not work or even worse, cause massive harm.

That said, a good book is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I think he borrows from various spiritual disciplines and condenses it down into something easily accessible. He focuses on various techniques one can use to be content and peaceful right now, rather than obsessing on past issues, or “visualizing” future outcomes that will crush us if they don’t happen. I also like Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell. The former for her frank discussions with people during seminars and the latter for his unique modern interpretations of various religions. I didn’t realize this until I had already read several books by both but it turns out they are married. Funny how that works.

 

HOW DO YOU GET OVER LOST LOVE?

Lloyd Taylor ‏@lloydhtaylor: what are some best practices for getting over a lost love?

ANSWER:

There’s nothing you can do. It’s really painful. The last time I had a lost love I would sleep by the phone, hoping it would ring. I would wake up every two hours. Is my phone even working? I would make sure the battery was fully charged. 6am I would start to debate making that first “GOOD MORNING!” call, all cheery, all hoping for the invitation that would never come. Or I would buy something – maybe breakfast, and show up unannounced. Or I would circle her house, all morning, waiting for her first foray out towards work or to her new boyfriend or wherever. “Oh hey, I was just in the neighborhood.”

It really sucks. And then you think of the person with someone else, a body pressed against her, that smile that used to be all for you and now is shared with…who? No matter what she did, no matter how poorly she treated you, no matter how much she wanted you to change, or she wanted to change, or she wanted the situation to change, or you did, suddenly you can’t get over her. Your brain is all lit up on an MRI, every neuron blasting messages of her smile, of the times she made you laugh, of her hair hanging down over your face while she laughs at your jokes.

I’m really sorry you are going through it.

There’s the cliches: better to have loved and lost, etc. There’s also the cliche that you will meet someone just as special again. But it’s hard to believe in those right now even though they are very true. You’ll know they are true later. You’ll also know that someone who doesn’t really want to be with you is probably not the right person for you to want to be with. But these things take time to realize. Just like it takes time to lose 50 pounds. Just like it takes time to learn French from scratch. Just like it takes time to learn a new musical instrument.

Which reminds me of another question somewhere in this post where I mentioned a book I haven’t looked at in 32 years but remember very well. It’s called “Don’t Say Yes  When You Want to Say No” and its a pop psychology book from the 1970s. There was a section in it with exactly your question and here’s what the author suggested. You can try it if you want. Or not, if you feel foolish. The idea is you need to go on a mental diet and not think of the person. Because right now, to be blunt, those thoughts are a waste of time and the faster you move on, the better.

When you think of the person say in your head very softly, “No”. It won’t work. You’ll think of the person again. Say in your head a little louder, “No!” Keep on getting louder and louder in your head everytime you think of the person. Then finally whisper out loud, “No”. Then start saying it louder and louder.

Ok, that’s the exercise in the book. I gave it as advice once before. In fifth grade. To Lori Gumbinger, who was getting over Brian Fox (my apologies to these two if I got the two people wrong but I’m pretty sure I didn’t). I forget if it worked but I do remember Lori shouting in the school cafeteria, “NO!”

My other technique, which I’ve used for myself and I don’t necessarily recommend it, is: meet someone new. We are often under the misconception that there is only ONE person who is the right person for us or who is the only person we could ever meet because of some problem we have or whatever. Well, it’s not true. There are many people who we could love. Who could love us. The fact that you reached out here shows you are capable of giving it your all to fall in love. That’s an attractive quality.

How do you meet someone new? Let’s not forget the basic statistics. Assume you want someone who is in the top 25% (one out of four) of these mutually exclusive categories: Sweet, Pretty, Intelligent, Creative, Emotionally Mature (SPICE). You are asking quite a bit and since those categories are exclusive of each other then if someone is in the top 1 out of 4 of all five of those categories then you are talking about one out of 1024 people who meet that criterion. Here’s the good news: that’s about 70 million people in the world. You have a lot to choose from.

Many of those 70 million people are taken. Or in other parts of the world. But many of them are also your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, and the girl in the yoga class down the street. In other words, instead of pining for your lost love, start doing the things you love. And when you are doing them, you will be surprised who you meet.

Go out now and find her. And don’t let her hear you say “NO” to loudly.

DOES HONESTY SCARE WOMEN?

Brandon Harnish ‏@bkharnish: honesty and women. What’s your experience? Does that superpower scare them? Attract? Something else?

ANSWER:

You mention the word “superpower”. Honesty is a superpower. Most people are not honest. Maybe in the big ways they are but in the small ways they cut corners. They forget to mention something. They tell a white lie. They wear too many masks.

We all wear masks. Particularly when we first meet people. We want to be liked and we’re afraid we won’t be if we don’t act a certain way. I shouldn’t say “we”. I should say “I”.

When I first started dating after my separation from my ex-wife I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to say or do. So I told the truth. Probably too much of it. And most women thought I was crazy. One woman wanted to date me but she kept telling me her therapist thought I was “completely insane”. At least that was her excuse.

And maybe I was. On my first date with Claudia I described how when I was a kid I wanted to learn how to do astral projection so I could fly around and invisibly watch all the girls in my school undressing at night. Somehow she agreed to go on a second date with me.

So sometimes honesty will scare away people. But here’s where the power lies. Nature doesn’t lie. The universe is what the universe is. The less you lie, the more in tune with that you are. The less you lie, the more the universe will naturally bring you the things that belong in your life. This is the superpower. Don’t cut corners on honesty. Don’t be “radically honest” (where you spew vomit truths out of your mouth). Just be true to who you are. It doesn’t mean every woman will love you. Or every business deal will go your way.

It means the right woman will love you. And the right things will begin to happen in your life.

HOW TO END POVERTY AND WAR?

Jordan Phoenix ‏@jphoenix24: If you had an unlimited budget of time, money & manpower, how would you end poverty and war?

ANSWER:

The first step to to end poverty and war is for the richest, most successful, most militarily powerful country in the world to take the first step. (That means the US).

There’s more than enough food to feed all the people in the world. The problem is that corrupt governments have leaders that siphon off all the money a country generates and takes the money for themselves, their relatives, and their friends. The Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia are notorious for this. We let them do it. We’re like the kid in school (uhh, we are like how when I was a little kid in school) who thinks he has to pay people to be his friends.

The best thing we can do with people is simply trade with them. End sanctions  wherever we have them. Don’t give foreign aid but allow companies to trade with each other. There’s no reason to give foreign aid to a country with a leader that is just going to pocket it. We don’t need to pay people to be our friend. But if the people in those countries are allowed to trade with the people in our countries then barriers will go down. We’ll see that most of the 70 million Iranians are no different than the 300 million Americans who want to do business with them. We’ll see that most North Koreans are dying to do business with us. Literally.

It starts with the US opening up our trade borders. Offering to be friends where, superficially, the countries seem like they don’t want to be friends because they have corrupt leaders (Iranians, Venezuelans, Cubans, etc hate their leaders but our sanctions make us the enemy instead of the friend).

For awhile, the leaders will still be corrupt. The hands will be out. The hands will grab. But nobody goes to war with their customers. And eventually, the more dollars that flow around, the more people will get fed.

DOES CLUTTERED DESK EQUAL CLUTTERED MIND?

Joel Clark ‏@joelclark22: How important to you find it to have a clean/neat workspace?

ANSWER

I’ve always been a total mess. It’s almost as if I’m incapable of cleaning up after myself. This is a cop-out. But once a week I pay to have someone clean my workplace. Sometimes twice a week if the kids have been over. If I could pay someone to bathe me I would.

It’s really true: cluttered desk = cluttered mind. But it goes deeper than that. You need clean everything. I can’t function creatively if my stomach is full. Then all my brain energy, all my blood, all the oxygen in my body, is hanging out near my stomach trying to digest whatever crap I force fed it on  some binge.

Or if my head is foggy from lack of sleep. Or if my emotions are crowded with anger and jealousy. Or if my breath is bad. It’s important to clean teeth because bacteria love to grow in your mouth. And an infection in the mouth can ultimately (and quietly) spread to an infection in the brain or heart. Believe it not but many heart attacks and strokes can find their roots in, basically, the roots of your teeth.

Clean your desk! Clean your mouth! Clean your emotions, your sleep, your aches, your pains. Gradually, these will be precursors to greater productivity and creativity. Try it. You’ll see.

(Claudia refuses to let me get this outfit for her)

 

WHERE SHOULD ONE GET INFORMATION FROM?

Fredrik Samanta ‏@FredrikFiltered: estimating over 50% of the “information” coming my way to be… tenuous, how should I change my information gathering

ANSWER:

What do you need any information for? You probably have enough. For instance, do you need to know about Higgs-Boson? I don’t even know what it is. Supposedly they found it somewhere. Do you need to have the “information” about it in order to get work done. A year ago everyone was obsessed with Fukishama. Now we know the truth: there was no more radiation coming out of there than exists under normal circumstances every day in Denver, Colorado. And yet the entire world was in a state of panic. I got angry hate mails, “YOU”RE GOING TO BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T WARN PEOPLE”. Did I get any apologies a year later? Of course not. People forget. People move on.

When I was selling my first company I needed to know information. I wanted to know what other, similar, companies sold for. So I read the SEC filings of public companies that bought companies like mine so I could know every deal just as well as my lawyer would know it. Heck, I ended up knowing more about those types of deals that my lawyer did. I also spoke to accountants about the obscure accounting rules (“pooling of interests”?) that would change how the deal would be treated from a tax perspective. On a need to know basis I identified all the sources of the best, most accurate information, and I read it.

Other than that, avoid random information gathering. The more information you know, the more you have to unlearn in order to be successful. It’s precisely when you think you know too much, that suddenly you become a “know-it-all”, with all of the negative connotations. Always assume you are a beginner, always assume that everything around you has something to teach you.

And finally, if you really want to read something for information – turn off the computer, turn off the TV, throw out the newspapers, and find a good book to read. That’s the information that will stick with you and make you better. Everything else will make you dumber.

[See also, "My Summer Reading List"]

WHEN IS ONE READY FOR KIDS?

Adam Tanner ‏@iamadamtanner: how / when did you know you were ready for kids?

ANSWER:

I have a 13 and a 10 yr old. I’m still not ready to have kids.

It is really hard to have kids. For the first few years of their lives you have to devote all your time to making sure they stay alive. Then you have to be a good role model for them. Then you have to entertain them, and feed them, and help them deal with the hardships of turning into an adult. You have to teach them how to be good friends, how to share, how to be polite, how to be respectful, how to be creative, how to avoid bad people. How to deal with it when people are mean to you. How to avoid being mean to others.

It’s too much for any one human to do.

First you have to make sure you know all those things yourself. And nobody does. I still let bad people into my life. I still have a hard time sharing and being polite.

That’s why I’m glad I now have kids. Because they force me to get better at all the things I’m supposed to teach them. And sometimes I even love them.

WHY DO I DO THESE TWITTER Q&As

Billy Murphy ‏@BillyMurph: biggest benefit from doing twitter Q + A’s? ideas for writing, fun interacting with readers, helps to build audience, other?

ANSWER:

I am an amateur at giving advice. I really love doing it. I look forward to Thursdays. Into writing these posts. I hope I help some people. I tend to like the advice I give, whether or not it’s right or wrong. But at the end of the day I don’t think there’s any real benefit to me other than that I just love doing it and it’s always fun to do things you love.

Click on this for the first “FAQ ME”. And “FAQ ME TOO” should come out eventually)

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT?

Marc ‏@FreeMarketsFan: Do u believe you, or anyone, can ever have a truly original thought or is everything simply a derivative off past ideas/thoughts?

ANSWER:

What are you thinking about the most today? I know what I will be thinking about. Crap. Mindless chatter. He hates me. I like her. She thinks I’m stupid. They like me. They hate me. They are doing wrong to me. Wrong things are being done to me. Stop the wrong things from happening. Trees. More wrong things are happening to me. And so on, On and on and on. A brain is boring. Brains were made to find food and have sex. We’ve done it well enough to survive 100,000 years and we probably have at least 20 to 50 more years in us, if not much more.

So no, there are no original thoughts. They are all derivatives of the first thoughts: more food. More sex.

But we got creative about how to get food and sex. We started putting two and two together. Ideas started to mate (hat tip to “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley) and come up with new ideas. Generations of ideas evolve very fast. Much faster than human generations.

This is why it’s so important to develop the idea muscle. You must come up with thousands and thousands of ideas to give you a basic population of ideas so they can mate and come up with new ones, so that new generations can develop quickly, so that no matter what ideas are thrown at you, the idea muscle will riff instantly so you can became an idea machine and develop new ones that spawn off of the old.

Otherwise you will be casting about for the original idea that will never come. A fisherman without his net.

Exercise: come up with 10 ideas today. Then throw away the list. Come up with ten ideas tomorrow. And so on. I’ve written before: but in six months your life will be completely changed as a result.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE THREE INDUSTRIES WITH THE MOST POTENTIAL?

Vic H ‏@Vic5557: What industries/fields do you feel have the most growth potential in 5 year horizon?

ANSWER:

I am going to write more about this on stock-related websites but the industries and companies that I think will do the best in the next five to fifteen years are:

A) Fracking. Most people are worried about fracking as a pollutant. But the latest technologies in fracking have solved just about every issue conceivable. It turns out that the United States probably has more oil left than Saudi Arabia and we are at inning one in drilling for it thanks to this year’s advances in fracking technology. This is how you solve an energy crisis. You reduce dependence on the Middle East where we are constantly fighting wars and worried about terrorism. You increase the supply of oil so it gets dirt cheap. And wealth comes to the country so you can focus on spending it on sustainable energy solutions. Fracking will do this.

B) Diagnostics of Age-related diseases. The baby boomers are retiring now at a rate of tens of millions a year. Economists complain (what else do they do?) that the “job participation rate” is going down because people have given up. That’s not the reason. It’s because baby boomers are retiring. And what happens after they retire? They get cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and other age-related diseases.

The best cure is prevention. Companies are spending billions on developing drugs that cure these various diseases. But more important than finding the cure is finding the disease. Being able to prevent a disease before it starts is the key to a long life. So diagnostics companies will massively succeed. The best innovations in this space are in personalized medicine, genomics, etc and there are new technologies being developed successfully every year. This will be a huge boom.

C) Social media marketing. When you advertise on the Super Bowl, you spend millions, hit 100 million people, and then have no way of every communicating with that customer again, or knowing how well your ad did. When you advertise on Facebook, you can reach out to a billion people, you get a customer that you know everything about, and you can continue to communicate that customer for free for the rest of their lives. Again, we are at inning one of people using social media (combined with mobile) to reach out and touch the people who we can really help (“advertising” will fade into “helping”). The social media agencies that were at the forefront have been bought. So inning zero is over. But inning one is just beginning.

 

IS THERE VALUE TO READING COMMENTS?

Ben Nesvig ‏@BenNesvig: Good idea or bad idea to read comments on my blog posts that get syndicated elsewhere?

ANSWER:

First off, I always read the comments on MY OWN blog. But I try not to read too much on others when I syndicate.

Claudia begs me not to read comments whenever I syndicate onto other blogs. Particularly Yahoo Finance is the worst. But I do anyway. And then I regret it. Everyone is accusing me of something. Usually either being ugly, being stupid, or both. Sometimes I’ve gotten death threats in comments. About one in fifty comments will happen to find the right button to push that will bother me.

But I try not to respond. When someone comments on the Internet they are just taking the worst qualities of themselves and throwing them at you. This is not an excuse. This is also not saying they are wrong. They might, purely by luck or accident, actually be saying true things about me. But it’s really a mirror they are yelling at. That’s why it’s pointless to look at or comment on the comments. Just like when I respond, it’s not really them I am responding to. I am also just putting up my own insecurities, my own fears, that have nothing to do with the person I’m responding to. And that’s all Internet comments are. A battle of insecurities.

But sometimes they are painful. Sometimes I am itching to respond. And on my worst days, sometimes I do respond and then regret it.

Better to have spent the time with Claudia instead.

 

avoid the #fuckitnothingreallymatters

Eric Romer ‏@EricRomer: love ‘What Are You?’ post. how do u avoid the #fuckitnothingreallymatters effect?

ANSWER:

Here’s the thing: it’s true. Nothing does matter. Whatever you do, 10 years from now nobody will remember. In some rare cases they will remember. But 100 years from now nobody will remember. Or 1000 years from now. The universe is 13 billion years old. We’re nobody in it. Each life is like a small pin in the middle of a gigantic stadium. It means nothing.

But…we have to feed our family. We have to feed ourselves. Our bodies want us to treat them well and to survive. So we need to do what it takes. And ideally the rest of the time we sit and we think to ourselves, “what will it feel like to be dead”. Because eventually we will spend most of eternity being dead. So why not practice thinking about what it will feel like right now. Practice as much as possible. There are secret surprises waiting for you if you think a lot about what it would be like to be dead, to be gone, to have no trace of you left. You end up loving everything around you. Because everything will eventually be gone.

All of the people we are arguing with. Everyone who has done us wrong. Everyone we have loved or ignored or hated. We all have that in common. We’re all brothers and sisters in death.

This moment is very special. Because in just one more moment, like everything else, it passes into the land of the dead.

 

SHOULD YOU TAKE ON A BIG CLIENT IF THEY ARE A PAIN?

Ben Delphia ‏@BenDelphia: Is it worth having a big client if you know they might be a pain to work with?

ANSWER:

No. Fire that client. I don’t care how much money they pay you. There’s a saying, “God doesn’t close one window without opening another.” Take out the word “God” if you don’t like it. “One window doesn’t close without another one opening”. Surrender to that quote. It ALWAYS works. It might not seem like it when one window closes, particularly if it closes on your hands. Particularly when it hurts and you scream out loud. And cry. But it works.

I had a client once who never paid on time, who always asked for bribes, who called me at three in the morning begging for advice, who lied constantly about what the size and scope of every deal was. Who would literally yell at me if I wasn’t his friend. I would go to psychiatrists and even astrologers (and sometimes psychiatrist/astrologers) to figure out how I can be true to myself if I was constantly faking being friends with this client. I hated myself, hated him, hated going to work at my own business.

Until I finally dropped him. And I started focusing on the good clients. And they started feeding my business more work. And they paid on time. And they treated me with respect. And I didn’t have to pretend to be something I wasn’t. And I could sincerely say what I thought and not be afraid of being cursed at or lose the business or made fun of or not paid on time. I stopped living in fear. And my business got bigger.

And then I sold the business as fast as I could. Because life is too short.

WHAT’S THE RIGHT AMOUNT TO BLEED?

Madeline ‏@anti_nihilist: How do I find balance btwn bleeding on page & revealing too much/showing weakness? Will admitting my failures help/hurt business?

ANSWER:

Kamal discusses this a little in his book, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It”. Specifically the discussion of how much should one reveal and if you reveal too much, there’s the fear that people will judge you or look down on you.

I mentioned to him at the time that I don’t write something UNLESS I am worried that people will judge me. Else I’m not really hitting the edge of where I think I can deliver value. It turns out that your maximum value is delivered right at the point where you are worried you are saying so much that people will judge you.

Note that doesn’t mean reveal everything. I reveal a lot in this blog but certainly not everything. I don’t want to hurt anyone for instance. The few times I said something that did hurt people, I pulled the posts down or changed them to respect privacy.

We live in a “self-help” society. Where people are hypnotized into thinking that striving for greatness is the only way to live. And “Greatness” is defined in various ways: non-stop happiness, productivity, financial success, love success, etc. The problem is is that life is mostly struggle. And that attempts at greatness are often met with failure. We need to give ourselves permission to fail. Not only fail at a business, or at love, but even the little things – failure to remember an important date, or failure to treat the ones around us with love and respect 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect.

Reveal enough so that we can see how you are not perfect. How you learned from it (or not). How you still moved on and tried to be honest. Honesty gives your words power. It makes your clients and friends trust you. I can tell you that because of this blog I have had more business opportunities than I ever would’ve thought possible. And if you look back on my posts you will see every failure and miserable embarassment possible. And yet, that’s how I built trust. And you will too.

 

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