Ask James: Moving up the Career Ladder, Marijuana, Ambition, The Presidency, Cramer, and More
- Posted by James Altucher
SHOULD YOU BE YOURSELF?
Tania Hew @taniahew: Interested in your take on advice to be yourself when seeking leadership roles/new jobs.
Everyone puts on a mask when they wake up in the morning. They have different masks for different occasions. I have my father mask, my partner mask, my lover mask, my friend mask. My work mask. Most of the time those masks wear down. Over time, we become more comfortable being ourselves. On a first date we wear our best clothes. We smile. We spend money. We ask questions and then we ask the person to clarify. Six months later we are sitting around in our underwear watching football on TV next to the girlfriends we reeled in. “What, honey? Did you say something?”
Everyone does this. Or almost everyone.
You don’t have to do it. When you are interviewing or taking a leadership position or even going out on a date, imagine if you didn’t put on a mask. Suddenly you are standing out from 99% of the population.
People who are good at what they do (even a potential spouse looking for a mate in the wild) can spot the masks pretty easily. They aren’t idiots. Nor do you want to work for or be with an idiot.
You can choose to stand out from the 99% of the population. Say what you mean. Say what you want to do. As I mentioned in the previous article, I know I’m a poor judge of people. So when I meet someone I really want to ask questions and try to learn something. I don’t know about this person. I want to learn who they are so I can form an opinion. Ask questions in your interview. Learn more about them than they can learn about you. If you truly want to do well at a company, learn more about the company during the interview. What other way is the best way to learn about a company – you have an employee right there ready to answer all of your questions.
You might think: wear the mask in the interview but then do well at the job. If you can’t do well being yourself at the interview then why would you want that job? You want to be with people who like the real you, not the you who is good at wearing masks.
Before my first date with Claudia she told me she was from Buenos Aires. Like an idiot, I responded, “Oh, I’ve never been to Brazil!” I didn’t know Buenos Aires was in Argentina. Somehow she still agreed to go on a first date with me.
On the first date, I said to Claudia how when I was 13 years old I bought every book on astral projection with the idea that I would fly around invisibly in order to see other girls naked. That was my entire goal in life at that time although it never quite worked the way the books said it would.
Somehow she agreed to go on a second date with me.
Now, over three years later, I’m sitting in my underwear typing this while she is in some other room doing god knows what. Avoiding me probably. But I was myself all the way through and now I’m happy.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES WILL THE FUTURE BRING?
AGI-Panama @Agipanama: what oportunities ahead in a double digit inflation economy?
There’s two worlds that people talk about in commentaries in news. The financial world, where stocks go up and down, the dollar goes up and down, etc. And then there is the world of innovation, where people actually do things to make the world better. In “financial news” people talk/argue/slander/like about everything going wrong in the world. It’s so biased it’s painful. People want to scare you. So when you say “double digit inflation” I’m not even sure what that means nor do I want to even address it. Perhaps there will be inflation, perhaps not. Look at the conditions for hyper-inflation over history and you can make up your own mind.
So let’s just focus on what we do know. The world has problems. Smart people are working on solving those problems. And they will succeed, like they always have. The same opportunities exist regardless of inflation. The same problems will be solved. And a lot of money will be made, regardless of the value of some paper currency.
Alternative energy solutions, including fracking. Fracking, in particular, because for the past century, oil has been the cheapest energy source and now the technology for fracking is such that they’ve eliminated the pollutant issue and there’s also been plenty of discoveries in the US to make fracking worthwhile. If there’s a lot of oil discovered via fracking then there won’t be inflation in energy, for instance (which is priced in dollars all around the world).
Medical diagnostics for age-related diseases. As the baby boomers grow older: cancer, Parkinsons, Alzheimers, heart disease, strokes, depression, and so on will need to be diagnosed way in advance of full blown inception in order to best treat these diseases. Which leads to…
Cures for age-related diseases.
Social media marketing. Old school marketing means “one to many” over and over again (think: newspaper ad, super bowl ad, etc) with no direct connection to the consumer. Social media marketing is “one to one” over and over again. You get your customer, you talk to them, you engage with them, and you can do so for the rest of their lives (unless they “opt out” of talking to you. We are in inning zero of social media marketing and mobile marketing. That will change.
Clean water solutions. One out of two hospital beds worldwide are filled by people who are suffering from polluted water related diseases. This will change as companies and countries build the technologies to filter water better, faster, cheaper.
Food production solutions. In the early 1970s, economists – people with Phds that other people thought were actually smart – thought the world (even the US) was going to run out of food in a decade. Well, we’re still here. Food has gone from agriculture with people to agriculture with machines, to agriculture with genetically enhanced seeds, to hydroponics, to aeroponics, to vertical farming, and so on.
You say “inflation” but look at the past century. A unit of light has gone from horribly expensive to infinitely cheap. Food production has gotten infinitely cheaper. Most forms of production, because of technology and outsourcing, have gotten cheaper per unit of productivity. Housing has massively deflated because that bubble is over (although government measures of inflation DO NOT include housing prices). Technology has massively deflated per unit of processing power. What else has deflated. Almost everything. Sure, there probably will be double-digit inflation in order for the US to pay down it’s debt. Good for us.
Work on the innovative side of your life. Not the side that wants to constantly warn and scare you.
HOW DO YOU MOVE UP THE CAREER LADDER?
Wolfgang Bremer @WolfgangBremer: How does one market himself well inside a company to move up the career ladder?
When I worked at a corporate job I was scared to death. I didn’t know how I should act, dress, do, think, etc. I kept trying to kiss ass over and over and it just wouldn’t work. I kept trying to volunteer to do new things and it just wouldn’t work. My boss at the time even said to me, “don’t volunteer to do new things. Then you’ll be known as the guy that does those things and your workload will double without you getting extra pay for it.” I don’t know why he would say that to me. Perhaps he had his own issues.
That’s the thing, everyone in the corporate world has their own issues. They will all try to keep you down, while making themselves look good. They are all trying to maximize pay while minimizing work. Not everyone. Not the ones who do what I’m about to tell you to do.
But most of them.
On the second day of the job two things happened to me. One is: I was walking from Port Authority, where I had taken a 90 minute bus ride to get to work on time, to my office. The woman who was walking about three feet to my right on the sidewalk was walking one second and then lying on the ground dead the next second. She had been hit by a hit-and-run taxi. I called 911 at a payphone. There was blood everywhere. The ambulance came. I continued onto work.
The second thing that happened was that I was given a computer and told, “get this on the Internet”. I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up somehow wiping out the operating system on the computer. It was irrepairable. Everyone’s email on that computer got wiped out. There were no backups. There was no Internet that day. I had totally failed. I walked out on the hot summer day and called my girlfriend back in Pittsburgh, where I had left her behind, hoping I would leave her forever. I said, “I’m probably going to come back. I think they are about to fire me.” I then went back into the building, waiting to be fired.
But I kept going. I wanted to stay there. I loved the company. But I was stuck at the bottom and I wasn’t even good at it and everything around me was either getting wiped out or dying.
You can’t climb the corporate ladder. You have to fly to the top. The corporate ladder is too big. When I was at a big corporation my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss was the CEO of the company. And everyone was in their 40s or early 50s. There was no way I was going to climb any ladders.
But here’s what you do right now to maximize your chances to fly to the top:
- Learn the history of your industry. Everything. I worked at HBO which was part of Time Warner. I learned all about Time Inc. I learned all about Warner Brothers. I learned the history of HBO. I learned about every division within Time Warner, from DC Comics to Atlantic Records, to whatever. I learned about our fight-to-the-death competitor, Viacom. And then later (after Time bought Turner), Fox.
- Learn the history of the executives. I learned how the head of marketing went door to door in Louisiana selling Cinemax after Showtime came out. I learned about how my boss’s boss was a huge fan of Gurjideff so I read everything I could. I watched all the documentaries HBO put out because I wanted to get close to the head of documentaries even though I officially worked in the IT department.
- Exercise the idea muscle. I’m like a broken record saying this. But you want to be the go-to guy who comes up with ideas. And if you have an idea, don’t play politics. Go to the executive that best fits your idea. Let them steal it. Become Google. The source. Google doesn’t need credit if you search for “anal rashes” and find a good solution on another website. You’ll still go back to Google later anyway. Come up with ten ideas every day about how your company can be better. By doing this, you BECOME the company, not 8 levels down trying to get away with leaving as early as possible by doing as little work as possible. When I had ideas for other executives, no matter how high up, I’d go directly to their office and tell them. Later, word would get back to my boss and he would be upset and tell me, “Go through me first!” But I always ignored him, I always gave him FULL CREDIT for everything, and he was happy when he got promoted (even when people were congratulating me for being the source of his promotion).
- Finally, have lunch with all the secretaries. The heart of the company are the people who make everything happen. If you aren’t connected to the heart, you won’t get the blood and oxygen you need to thrive. You want to reach a certain executive, fall in love with the secretary. She is the vein connecting you. I had lunch with secretaries every day. Secretaries, assistants, Directors (the level below VP), all the people who are the veins and arteries of the company. My best friend at the company was the head of internal communications. He’s the one who could spread the word on any idea. Don’t play politics. Play friends in the sandbox.
- Oh, one more “finally”: look for a new job. At least every two years. One head of HR once told me, “find your value in the marketplace every two years”. The job market is a market like any other and you want to make sure you are being compensated appropriately. Also, sometimes the best way to climb vertically is to leap horizontally. In fact, I was always looking for a new job, always looking for multiple streams of income. This way, if I ever got fired for wiping out a computer, I knew I would be able to survive. I was always on the lookout for anyone who would say, “if you ever leave HBO, give me a call.” And I collected quite a few business cards that way.
Finally (for the third time), the best thing you can do is simply love the product your company offers. If you don’t, then no amount of backstabbing, politics, lunches, ideas, history, whatever, will help you rise up. If you don’t love what you do then you’ll grow to hate it. And why at the end of your life would you look back and say, “I’m glad I spent 40 years doing something I hated.”
BOOK ON CHESS
Adam Keeling @MainStInvesting: what is your favorite book about chess?
As the story goes, Laszlo Polgar had a theory about how to educate his children (and if his children or their friends read this, please correct me if I’m wrong). Home school them, teach them a variety of subjects, but at least 3-5 hours a day or more, they had to intensely study one subject. And in doing so from an early age, they will be among the best in the world. He put an ad in the paper looking for a suitable girlfriend / mate who agreed with his ideas. He found his wife. They then had to decide between two areas: tennis and chess. I don’t know why they chose chess instead of tennis. Maybe because tennis requires some things you can’t teach. Like a certain innate physical talent or strength. Whereas anyone can learn chess.
He had three daughters. Susan, Sofia, and Judith. All three were easily world champion level (for women) and Judith is, or was, in the top ten of the world for men. His idea worked. They all made a living from chess. They all became famous from it. The family thrived because of chess.
Part of his philosophy, it appears, was quantity over quality. Rather than give them very difficult chess problems (the way to get better at anything is to study prior situations of that field) he gave them bulk quantity problems. Some of them easy, some of them hard. The idea is that the more situations you see, the better your intuition gets.
He put them all together in a book called, “CHESS”. I find this to be the best book ever on chess.
Interestingly, another parent had similar ideas about educating kids. And he chose tennis. Richard Williams’ two children, Venus and Serena, are the two best women players in the history of tennis.
Leon Benson @LeonBenson2: What is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make?
One time I started a company and raised a quick $30 million and bought a bunch of companies and then tried to go public and then it went down in flames and everyone lost everything.
Another time I started a company and raised $0 and everyone made millions.
I’ll tell you the difference between the two companies. Money.
Not how much money I raised. But how much I thought about it.
When I started the first company above all I would think about was how much money I was going to make. I was already spending it. I had it all planned out. I was even looking for apartments. I was planning out what my personal Super Bowl commercial would look like. I was going to ask Spike Jonze to direct it. I was wondering what kind of private jet I would buy.
What did the company do? You might ask. Well, I don’t know. I bought a company, then two, then three. They all seemed to be in the “wireless Internet” space. But I had no idea what they did. We tried to go public. CS First Boston was going to take us public. They came back to us and said, “we have no idea what you do.” Nobody in upper management (where I was CEO) had a clue what we did for a living. Were we even making money? I had no idea. We had $30 million in the bank. Who cares? I tried to sell the company. We could’ve sold for maybe $50 million. Not enough! We were going to go public for a billion!
And we lost everything.
The second company started during a period when I had almost nothing in the bank. The second I started the company I stopped checking my bank account like I was obsessively doing every ten minutes of the day to see when it was, exactly, the moment that I would disappear and die.
I started to love what I was doing. I came up with more and more ideas for the site. I wanted the site to be perfect. I kept adding more features. It was perfect. Yahoo loved my site. AOL did. I went up to Google and they loved it. Reuters loved it. Everyone did. People would write me and say, “please remove my account from your site because I’m too addicted to it.”
Not once did I check my bank account. I knew I had value. I was creating more and more of it every day. I had no more need to worry about when I was going broke. Even though venture capitalists were calling me every day I said “no” to all of them. And eventually I sold the business and was very happy. And, without my love pumping into the site every day, the site quickly degenerated. I feel bad looking at it now. It’s ugly.
The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is the biggest mistake people make when looking for a spouse. Don’t think about money. Fall in love.
HOW DO YOU GET TRACTION FOR YOUR BLOG?
Alex Bakula-Davis @AlexBDavis: what were some of the simple ways you started to get traction for your blog early on? Im starting w consistent content.
First off, are you sure you want to do a blog? I probably obsess on this blog 20 hours a day, even when I’m sleeping. I’ve recently had an epiphany. The two biggest things I think about are traffic and “will I come up with new ideas”. I’ve written over 400 posts. There are only so many ideas. And not everything you write will be great. I have over 100 posts in my Drafts folder because I don’t think they are good enough.
My goal is to create “blogerature”. Good writing that fits in the blog format. The way literature is good writing that fits into a novel. I read about two or three hours a morning to get started. I read writers that I think will inspire content for the blog. Usually very autobiographical fiction writers. Just autobiography is not good enough because most people who write an autobiography are not good writers (they spent their lives getting good at something else, hence they have the material for a good autobiography). I’ll then spend up to the rest of the day thinking of ideas for the blog and starting and stopping and starting and stopping until I have a blog post. It’s grueling. It’s 7 days a week. It never ends. And it makes zero money (no ads on this site).
So are you sure you want to do this?
But ok, you do.
So here’s what you do: assuming you aren’t writing the same BS everyone else is writing. Assuming you have something new to say that isn’t said anywhere else. Assuming you are delivering real value into the lives of your readers. Then here’s what you do:
- Build channels on Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Pinterest, Amazon, so people become aware of your blog through a variety of social media.
- “Crush It” – this comes the Gary Vaynerchuk book called “Crushing It” and I like how he thinks about these things: basically, comment on everyone else’s blog. Participate in every Facebook question. Tweet in various conversations. Answer questions on Quora. Self publish a book. Crush it everywhere. I admit I did not do this so well. But I saw Claudia do it for her blog and she built up quite a following from scratch.
- Syndicate – write for other blogs. Write for the Huffington Post, or the top blogs in whatever field you are interested in. I’ve syndicated my material on at least 10 other popular blogs and tried to syndicate on others that said, “no” (famously, the Harvard Business School blogs where they passed around my material and I saw at the bottom of the email chain, “And yet another”.)
Do this consistently for a year. You will get a following. Note it won’t be a big enough following to generate a good living from ads. But it will give you a launching pad to think about other business ideas. Someone once told me: “all you need is 1000 true fans to build a business”. So you will get your 1000 true fans. And then you can decide what to do with them.
But most importantly, cut open an artery close your heart and bleed onto the screen. Else why should I read you instead of the ten million other bleeders out there. Humans are like literary vampires. We want to feast on blood. Give it.
Matt Kelmon @MattKelmon: what is your take on Jim Cramer? Genius investor or mostly got lucky, ie right place right time? #PT Barnum
I have one rule: I never say anything bad about someone who has been good to me and has made me money. Cramer has been very good to me and I owe a lot to him.
He gets a lot of heat for his stock picks. For acting the way he does on TV. But you have to keep two things in mind: nobody can make money picking new stocks every day of the year. And, number two, he’s an entertainer, and a very good one. The best on CNBC. The best in business. He’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of finance. And number three, judge not lest ye be judged.
So don’t think of him as a great investor, or a lucky guy (he’s started at least 3-4 successful businesses so that takes more than luck), or even a PT Barnum. I take him for his word: he is an entertainer. And a very good one.
- (Jim knows EXACTLY what he is doing)
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH REGRET?
John Pearson @JohnPearson555: How do you get past regret ? I can’t get past this and have been wasting more compounding months and months.
When the web first started I quickly became comfortable with all the programming tools available to make websites. I had the tools in front of me to program many different things: a search engine, a directory of my favorite links, a way to post reviews of places, a way to post gossip about other people, and so on. Also domain name registration was free at the time. “sex.com” was available as a domain at the time. The guy in the office next door to mine created lycos.com, one of the first billion dollar search engines (actually, the first). Another guy down the hall built goto.com. Another guy built Wisewire, which he later sold to Lycos for $50 million. What did I do? I played chess all day on the Internet. I put some of my short stories on a little website. Blech! I had such a head start. There was a grand total of maybe 50 websites at the time, spread out over four or five universities. “I could’ve been a contender”.
What a thing to regret. At the beginning of an entire revolution and was I a revolutionary? No, I did nothing. I was useless. Every now and then I still think about it. 1993. 1994. What was I thinking?
Regret is hard. It’s a form of time travel. You try to start something right now, in the only moment that counts, and yet your mind is propelled back into the past, into the things that you did that are long gone, that should have no impact on how you do things now and yet they do. They are constantly pulling you down into the morass, into the tears, into the fears that you never will do anything good again.
Use the past to help you plan the future. Use the past to help you live better right now. But once you dive into self-criticism, doubt, regret you have begun to time travel. You are living in the past. This is bad. When you catch yourself doing it you have to pull yourself back into the present. It’s a practice. Start doing it today.
One important way to deal with regret is to put it on the shelf. Say, “I’m going to think about you later but first I have to deal with RIGHT NOW. But thank you very much for showing up. Have a tea while you wait.”
Fortunately I also wrote about this very issue:
alex beller @bell_er: what would it take for you to come speak at a college campus in california? (i’m a student, we love your messages)
Just invite me.
WHAT IS THE GLUE THAT BRINGS TWO PEOPLE TOGETHER
Clint Smith @thecrint: what is the glue that brings/keeps two people together in a relationship/marriage? Tangibles please!
It’s really two question. What is the glue that brings people together. What is the glue that keeps people together.
Sex is the glue that brings people together. When I first saw Claudia, I’ll admit, before she even said two words to me I wondered what it would be like to have sex with her. And that’s how it’s been in every relationship I’ve had. Does that make me an animal? Yes it does. I’m a human animal. I’m a hunter in the wild. I have a biological need to spread my seed. Ok, enough of that.
Because no matter what, you need more than that to keep a relationship and marriage going (and by the way, you should always keep the first glue going but now you need cement to really build a house).
What’s the cement that keeps the house built that’s called marriage? I have to constantly put myself in her shoes. I have to constantly wonder when she’s happy or upset, what are the triggers that are causing these emotions. I want to alleviate her struggles and help her achieve her goals. And I also want her to be happy right now. I also want to feel like she is doing the same. I don’t want it to be one-sided.
Sometimes it can’t always be two-sided. That’s ok also.
But sometimes thngs just drift. People change. People no longer want to help the other achieve their goals. People no longer care as much about the other person’s happiness.
It’s ok to leave a relationship. Life is short. Give yourself permission to leave if you want to. And give the other permission to leave if they want to. Thats not glue. Or cement. That’s real love.
FOCUS ON ONE BUSINESS
Tiisetso theShog @TiisetsoMaloma: how important is focusing on one business venture at a time? What about entrepreneurship?
It’s not important at all to focus on one business venture at a time. In fact, I would counsel the opposite.
Let’s take Google as an example. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin were just starting Google they had one goal. Sell it as quickly as possible so they could get back to the other things that interested them: academia. They tried to sell Google for $1 million to Yahoo and Yahoo said “no”. So they were stuck with google.com and they ran with it, not figuring out how to generate revenues until another four years went by.
When I started Stockpickr.com I started probably 10 other businesses at the same time. I built keauty.com to be a beauty contest. I built SmokeLove.com to be a dating site for smokers. I built a site that helped people create contests. I really pushed hard on every idea. I had VCs interested in several of the ideas. But finally, like in a horse race, Stockpickr.com stuck it’s nose out in front as the site that was getting the most attention. So I dropped the others and ONLY THEN I focused.
Always have multiple balls in the air in the beginning. This way if one falls to the ground, you are still in the show. The true entrepreneur is looking at everything for opportunity. Opportunity, though, takes its time before giving it’s blessing on one idea over another. Give it that time, but also give it many options.
WHO SHOULD BE PRESIDENT?
Jim Prideaux @Kitsune808: OK, hope you are ready.Kinda depressed abt upcoming elections.Will be Bama-Redux or Dark Scary Mitt ! Is YOGA d’cure or only Ron P?
Answer this: what President has every changed your life? I’m going to assume you didn’t sign up for the army and get killed in Iraq. Because Bush (and Obama, who continued the wars) certainly changed a lot of lives. But if you’re the average person on the street, who changed your life? Did Clinton? Did Bush? Did Obama?
Certainly Washington and Lincoln changed a lot of lives. More US citizens died (as a percentage) on their watch than any other Presidency. And Roosevelt sent off a lot of people to be killed. So dying is probably the biggest way Presidents change people’s lives. Presidents have very little domestic power. Congress does. Presidents have the ability to make treaties and throw parties but not much else. So, for me personally, I could care less about who is President. Its just a popularity contest and I wish there was no such job as President.
Nathan Reimer @natedogreimer: Riskiest but most fulfilling job? I would say self-employed, do you agree?
In some ways it’s actually the opposite. And I’m talking about your use of the word “riskiest”.
Think about a corporate job. You’re in a big structure that can easily crumble. For instance, the economy can create layoffs and you’re fired. Or your boss can get fired which will make you fired. Or a customer can complain and now you are fired. Or your boss can simply, on a bad day, fire you.
That’s not safe to me.
A few months ago I met a guy who had worked in middle management at GM for 38 years. He had been fired when they went bankrupt. The top management got golden parachutes. The union workers got bailed out. He got nothing. “Almost 40 years I was there and then they did this to me. GM had the highest revenues of any company in the 80s. Who would’ve thought?”
Yeah, who would’ve? Nobody. And yet it happened. The biggest, safest job in the world ruined his retirement.
The tide came in in 2008. The myth that the corporate job is “safe” has gone away.
The only thing that is safe is you. Choosing yourself.
Take your skills and find multiple ways to make income off of those skills. And if you don’t have the skills, then get them. And if you don’t have the connections then spend the next year making them. But get yourself paid from multiple sources. Then you are safe. Then nobody can fire you (or if they do, you can replace them. You’re theboss, not the people who hire you).
Will it be fulfilling? Of course, because when you wake up you don’t have to worry about what your boss is feeling like when he wakes up. You only have to think about the birds chirping outside, or the rain pelting against your roof. You only have to think about your own fulfillment instead of the whims of the giants who can crush you like an ant.
Malpighian Corpuscle @asplenia: if ex said I was amazing but not ready to feel that strongly this soon and he wants to date others, doesn’t that just mean he’s not into me?
One thing I’ve learned after a 1000 failed relationships: always believe them when they are telling you something you don’t want to hear. There is truth in every word.
So if they say, “I feel like I’m going to hurt you”, believe them – they will.
If they say, “I feel I’m too stupid for you”, believe them – they are.
If they say, “You’re amazing but…”, then believe them. You are amazing. BUT, break up with them before they break up with you.
If they say, “You’re the most important thing to me but it’s hard for me to end this other relationship,” then take a big step back and never talk to them until they end that other relationship, even if it means you might never talk to them again.
If they say, “I just don’t know right now,” then since all we have is RIGHT NOW, it really means, “they don’t know”. Believe them and move on.
So, my guess is, you probably are amazing. You don’t need him to tell you that. He’s not your mirror. And if he says, “I must date others” then it’s a guarantee that you will be waiting by the phone while he is actually in the process of having sex with someone else at the very same time. I know this. Because I’ve been waiting by the phone too many times.
Tresaca Hamilton @tresaca: Did you start having networking lunches with wealthy people b4 or after u became wealthy? Thanks!
No, I was always wealthy when I networked. Not in money but in ideas. No random person wants to have lunch with you. Nor do they care if you pay for the lunch. What the random person needs is an idea or a connection that will make their life better or that will make them more money. I prepare at least 1-3 hours before any lunch I have with a new person.
So have wealth in ideas. This is the greatest thing you can offer someone. Before I ever meet someone, and this counts for the last 20 years of having lunch with people, I prepare ideas that I think will help them. I try not to think of how they can help me. If I help them, I know that sometime in the future they will help me. Networking is not about drawing a giant graph on your whiteboard of all the people you are connected to, and who they are connected to, and so on down the chain.
Networking is about who you have given to without any expectation in return. The entire world is like this quantum bank of probabilities. If you increases someone’s probable chance of success, then you have just increased your quantum net worth in this bank. Eventually you will be able to cash that in. Not necessarily in money. Not necessarily in a new job. But you will be able to cash it in. In the world of infinite possibility. It will be wonderful.
theBJJmInd.com @TheBJJMind: how to be more persuasive?
I’m going to make a list.
- Honesty. If people know you are always honest and you never BS, even at the smallest levels. You never exaggerate. You have no hidden agendas, etc. then you will be more persuasive. Your words will have infinitely more power. Honesty has exponential and not linear rewards. The more you practice honesty, the more powerful your words become in an exponential way. But it takes practice and consistency.
- Love. You can’t be persuasive about something you don’t believe in. If I was paid to sell vaccuum cleaners I could only be persuasive about it if I felt my cleaner was either the quickest, the “cleaniest”, the cheapest, the whatever, of all vacuum cleaners. It would have to be religion for me and that vaccuum cleaner would have to be the god of all vacuum cleaners.
People are better at smelling bullshit than you think. Actually, people are about as good as you would expect. If you put a plate of bullshit in front of them, it will smell.
The slightest bit of dishonesty and lack of love for what you are being persuasive on, creates bullshit. And it takes only seconds for the other person to smell it and then the meeting is ruined. If you can’t say something without turning it into bullshit then better to stay quiet until you stop vomiting. Then you will become a more persuasive person.
Clint Smith @thecrint: what can be done to restore the consideration needed to keep a relationship healthy, once it has been lost?
You’re going to have lots of relationships in life. Spouses, girlfriends, bosses, friends, family, children. Sometimes you’re going to be angry. Sometimes you’re going to feel regret. Sometimes you’ll miss someone, or hate them, or love them, or all of the above.
Relationships are complicated.
But they are always many. Don’t ever be afraid to leave a relationship. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard enough. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean the other person is bad. It just means two people spent some time together and now it’s time for those two people to change the nature of their relationship into one form or other. Change is as much a part of relationships as stability is. There is nothing wrong with change.
Even if you really, really want the relationship to work, no matter what happened, no matter what trust has been lost in the past, it still might not work out the way you want. You have to be willing to change the nature of the relationship. You can’t ever force someone to love you. No matter what you do, things often change. Love changes. Life changes.
Listen to what is really happening. Pay attention to how YOU really feel deep down. Do you feel bad? Do you feel wanting? Do you feel lonely? Then chances are this is a relationship that, one way or the other, needs to change. And then you’ll move on and find another slice of the myriad of colors that make up the relationship spectrum. You will explore that entire rainbow before you die. And before you find the pot of gold at the end.
Ron Des Laurier @CycleViewCharts: did U ever blow a bunch of money in the forex market and decide never again like Cramer?
Let me tell you something and listen very close. Ask yourself: who makes money in the markets? Who? I honestly have never met anyone who made millions trading on their own. Never. Zero. Everyone I know who has made millions trading did this:
- they had a fund so they were able to charge fees. If you get 20% of the profits off of $100 million dollars invested and your fund returns 10% then you just made $2 million from trading the markets even if you had no money at risk and even if you “just” returned what the market returned that year.
- they cheated
- they built and sold a company (or IPOed it) and held onto the stock for a really long time while the stock went up
- they built software to trade faster than the software next to them so they can make a trillion trades a second and steal a 1/10 of a penny from you on every trade.
[See, "Who Makes Money on Wall Street"]
Every market in the world returns somewhere between -20% and +20% a year on average and usually more like 5-10%. You can’t return 1000% a year consistently, which is what it takes to make a living from scratch in the markets. You just can’t do it. You need other people’s money. You need to charge fees. You need to hustle and sell and sneak around.
Now you ask about forex, and I’ll also throw in oil, commodities, gold, options. Other than options, who are the biggest players in all of those other markets. Foreign governments. It suddenly becomes YOU versus the collusion insider trading of the central bankers of Russia, China, Japan, the UK, and the US. Who will win? Will you beat them? Or will they beat you? Who should I place my bet on? Particularly if you don’t have a ten year track record beating them.
Almost everyone I know has lost not just a little bit of their money in these markets but ALL of their money in these markets. I hope I don’t add you to the list.
Ben Nesvig @BenNesvig: What book have you reread the most?
In 1993-1994 I started reading short stories coming out in various literary journals all by this one guy, Denis Johnson. They were amazing. I’d scour all the literary journals out there to find more and more stories by him. I couldn’t believe how good they were. I was reading every short story writer in existence and somehow his stories were an order of magnitude better.
Then he finally came out with a collection. Jesus’ Son. I remember the day it came out. I ran into a friend of mine and he said, “what you got there?” And I said, “this is the best book that will ever be written”.
The other day I was reading an interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk, who wrote “Fight Club”, “Choke” and other novels. I like his collection of essays also. In the interview he said he must’ve reread “Jesus’ Son” over 300 times. I felt happy that his writer who has been such an inspiration to me is also acknowledged by another great writer who is an inspiration to me. I immediately went home and reread Jesus’ Son again. I’m probably not up to 300 times but I’m at least over 100 times.
One time I was looking at Fortune magazine. I saw that Denis Johnson wrote an article for them. I got disappointed. Why did he write for a magazine that I could probably write for. Why isn’t he in some heaven for magical writers.
But that’s writing. It’s hard to catapult yourself into outer space even if you are the best of the best, a writer’s writer, the one that everyone else reads. So use his book as inspiration, but figure out how that inspiration will get you to your dreams.
theBJJmInd.com @TheBJJMind: do you consider marijuana a dangerous drug?
Falling in obsessive love releases various chemicals in the body. And when the girl breaks up with me it means I’m going to walk past her building a million times. It means I might spy on her. It means I might wait for her to call. It means I might cry if she doesn’t.
I’ll write her letters. I’ll explain things to her. I’ll buy her things. I’ll do anything to get her to smile.
Whatever that goddamn chemical is that is being released throughout my body during those moments is the most dangerous drug I’ve ever tried.
After that: alcohol. Which makes you do things you know you shouldn’t do and it makes you like people you know you shouldn’t like. That sounds pretty dangerous to me.
After that: nicotine. Which gives you lung cancer, strokes, heart disease, and other things that will kill you.
I haven’t really tried any other drugs other than those and marijuana. Oh! LSD once. Don’t try it after the age of 25. Life is like LSD after that age.
So what has marijuana done for me? Pretty much nothing.
One time at a party I smoked so much I couldn’t stop coughing and everyone was laughing at me. I had to go into a private room at the party and just sit there while I went back and forth between coughing and having this feeling that time was slowing down just for me. I went to the party with a girl. She left with someone else. My friends thought I was an idiot. I woke up the next morning on the lawn outside my apartment and I spent the rest of the day trying to apologize to people who didn’t think I did anything wrong, they just thought I was stupid.
So that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me on that “dangerous” drug. And I never had it again.
Oh wait, that’s a lie. I had it once in 1999. I was invested in a company called Gooey. They were an IM chat software that worked on web pages. So if you and I were on the same web page, we would see each other and be able to IM with each other. They got an offer from Star Media (remember them?) for $100 million. I owned 3% of the company. I was on the board. I went up to their apartment (four Israelis in one apartment) and they were all smoking marijuana so I joined them.
“Please sell the company to Star Media,” I told them. “I will get you all hedged up and you can pull cash out of the deal immediately.”
One of them said, after taking his puff, “Who the fuck is Star Media? We are GOOEY! We want Yahoo to buy us.”
Six months later they were filing for bankruptcy.
So yes, it’s a very dangerous drug.
Prat Agarwal @PratPreneur: Doesn’t being happy and thwarting your want for things impact ambition?
When I was in 7th grade we had one of those stupid “Most Popular”, “Most Funny”, etc class election sort of things. For some reason I was voted: “Most Ambitious”. I can tell my dad, who was their at the “graduation” was a little embarassed. He said to me, “did you even want that?”
What good is ambition? What is it? Let’s break it down. It means there’s some goal in the distant future that you might achieve that will make you, perhaps, happier than you are now.
Ambition is about time travel. It’s about traveling to an unknown future science fiction society where your dreams have come true. Your ambition has become magically quenched in this future and I guess the idea is you no longer feel it.
Take a step back. Pretend the ambitious side of yourself is another human being living in your body. Feel that ambition in your body. Say hello to it.
Now ask, “who am I without that ambition?” Let’s say you are ambitious to make a million dollars. Or you are ambitious to fall in love? Who are you without those ambitions? Take a deep breath while you ask it. Are you breathing? What sounds do you hear? What things do you see in front of you?
Can you be happy with what you have right now? Now go down the rabbit hole. Take it one step further. Whoever is happy, put that person aside. Who are you now? Keep going. Keep going until nothing exists but you. Who are you?
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