Ask James, Part II: How to Be a Millionaire, How To Be Ugly, How to Network, Back To School Reading List, and MORE!

 [I can't help it. I did this on my newsletter the other day. But enough people wrote me that they liked it  that I feel compelled to also put it here on my blog. Here it is. And join me for my twitter Q&A today. Follow me on Twitter. And if someone can tell me how I can consistently differentiate my newsletter from the blog, please tell me in the comments.]

HE’S JUST NOT INTERESTED

Greg R ‏@TheRakker: potential client that has shown interest in my product no longer returns my calls, should I drive to him and see what’s going on?

Answer:

This is a law of the universe: time is relative. When you need money or  love, time moves faster for you. When you are giving money or love, time moves slower.

When I was raising money for a hedge fund I’d pitch someoneone on Thursday. It would be a great meeting. On Friday I’d be pacing back and forth, “is he really going to let this weekend go by without calling me about the money?” I’d think. Would someone actually be THAT RUDE?

Or one time I was going out with someone. I listed for her the reasons why I thought we were great together. I wanted her to come up with a similar list. “I’ll sit by the phone until you call me back with your list,” I said. The phone never rang all night. When I woke up I, of course, had to call her. “Oh,” she said, “you mean you wanted that list right away?”

RIGHT AWAY? IT WAS THE WHOLE FUCKING NIGHT THAT WENT BY.

When someone wanted me to put money in their business I said, “looks good, I’ll get back to you on it.” Three weeks later I got an impassioned hand-written note: “Did I do something wrong? I thought you were a good guy and then I didn’t hear from you for three weeks.” When I was single I would lose facebook friends if I didn’t call a girl back fast enough. Not only would she unfriend me but all of our mutual friends.

Time is relative. But there are corollaries to that. If somethinig approaches the speed of light, mass gets infinitely big and time slows down to zero. If you love someone A LOT and they don’t return that love then the importance of everymoment gets unnnaturally big and timefeels infinitely slow.

So what you are going through is the “time is relative” phenomenon. Basically, your client hates you. But you want  your client badly. He has no interest at all and never wantsto hear from you again. But his importance has become unnaturally big and time waiting for him has become infinitely slow. SO it’s hard to move on with life. You need to moving at the same speed and as all of your other potenital opportunities.

You need to diffuse the matter. Or reach a middle ground. Here’s how  you reach a middle ground. Send update letters once a month. No pressure. “Here’s our latest products”. “Here’s our latest returns.” “here’s our latest clients”. And so on. Just an update. Your moving timeand space back to normal. Will he ever respond. Probably not.

But the laws of the universe have been obeyed. And you haven’t fallen into a black hole of waiting and frustration. The world is safely in it’s normal orbit. And you get a chance to spring forward life again instead of falling right into the sun.

 

SHOULD I BE NICE…OR A LUNATIC?

Walker Armistead ‏@wkarmistead: When trying to get what you want, how do you manage the tension between being nice/rational/reasonable and a complete lunatic?

Only idiots listen to a lunatic. Your goal with everyone you meet is to listen to them. They are human beings. They have something important to say. To tell you. They have been bottled up for so long, so frustrated, so miserable, that when someone turns an ear towards them they will talk, they will freely confide in you, and eventually the will listen to you.

This is because you are nice and rational and reasonable. Not a lunatic like the rest of society. You have something you want to sell. Listen first to see if they need it. Listen first to see what they need and how you can help.

Then help them. That’s how you get what you want. The riches will never stop flowing if you consistently do this.

That’s not lunacy. It’s the ultimate in sanity.

DO YOU GET SICK?

Jason Smith ‏@jasontoheal: do you ever get sick?

Answer:

I do get sick. But I haven’t in about three  years. Here’s how I get sick. It’s a tried and true formula and it works every time.

- I sleep for less than six hours for three days in a row.

- I drink every night

- I eat heavy dinners every night

- I meet with a lot of  people that I have to impress. This means I always have to be “on”, which is hard for me.

- I don’t take time to rest. I’m always going to meetings or working on things.

Then, on day three or four, I’ll get sick.

If I don’t do any of the above, I never get sick.

SHOULD HEDGE FUNDS BE ALLOWED TO ADVERTISE?

Matt Balaker ‏@mattybgame: What’s your opinion on the easing of advertising restrictions on hedge funds? It’s like they’re real businesses or something.

Answer:

There really shouldn’t be advertising restrictions on any business. We’re all adults. We’re all big boys. It’s amazing how many people get scammed by hedge funds every year despite all advertising restrictions. If there were no advertising restrictions then, ironically, those scams would be revealed a lot sooner because a lot more people would begin complaining early on. A free market is what protects people from scams more quickly than government regulations.

Example scams: Almost every hedge fund. Most mutual funds. Most financial services firms. Most food. Most over the counter and under the counter pharmaceuticals. Most education. Most lawyers. Most accountants. Most of everything basically.

But still we survive. Still we live. Still all the victims of Madoff got most of their original money back. Still people move on to make more mistakes. more foolish decisions, more misguided purchases, and more of everything. More, more, more, until finally we die and leave it all behind. Advertising restrictions won’t protect us from death. Only turning more into less, greed into “enough”, pleasure into contentment. We should learn to restrict ourselves before we let the government restrict us.

WOULD YOU MOVE TO THE UNITED STATES?

Daniel Toba ‏@danieltoba: if you were born in another country would you move to US?

Answer:

Here’s the twist: If I were born outside of the US, I’d move to the US. If I were born inside of the US. I’d move out of the US.

How come? If I were born outside the US, chances are I’m giong to find more opportunities to work at startups, to make money, to create things, to get funding, to live in wide open clean spaces, to create the life I want to create, than I could in my own country. This isn’t always true but mostly true.

If I were born inside the US, I’m just like everyone else. I’d learn what I can here, about all the things the US is good at. I’d try to accumulate some money, I’d do what I can to make a dent in life here. And then I’d move some place where I can take that experience and money and make an even bigger dent. I have kids so I would not do this at this  point but I had my total choice I’d probably move to India at this point, where the pace of life is a little bit different, US money goes a long way, and I’d have many experiences utterly different than I’ve had for the  first 44 years of my life.

 

HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY?

Amy Bianco ‏@happyinspirit: How do you get out of your own way and make things happen?

Answer: I was an idiot. At least in retrospect. For almost every event in my life I’ve gotten in my own way. I’d be offered a job and I would think, “no, I can’t take this job until I’ve published my first novel.” Or I would make a lot of money and I’d think,”no, this money is not enough until I have one hundred million in the bank,” or I’d be in a relationship and I’d think, “no this relationship is no good unless we are spending ever moment together”. Or sometimes I would pitch my services and then when they said “yes”, I would think, “but I don’t want this anymore!” and I’d  have to figure out how to get out of it.

What an idiot. Always.

So I’ve taken all these experiences and put them in a test tube. I heated the test tube up and watch two noxious gasses come out of it that identified the  two fundamental chemical reactions that occurred during every time I got in my own way.

A) The Past. I’d be worried about the past. I’d be worried that I was going to go broke, like I three times/four times/infinite times did before, unless A, B, and C happened. I’d get scared. I’d make decisions out of fear. Or anger or regret.

B) The Future. I’d be anxious about the future. I’d think, “unless I had one hundred million I won’t be as famous, rich, successful, as thisother person. Or..eventually I will go broke unless I do this. Or…I won’t be able to feed my family or I won’t be popular or or or…something. SOmething  that will happen in the future that has no basis in reality now.

I’m thinking of a specific event that your question reminds me of. I had just started a new company in early 2000. I was eating in a restaurant in Chinatown  and I got a call from one of my partners. I stepped outsideand it was raining. He said  to me on the phone, “get ready. We’re going to make one hundred million dollars on this.” And I was smiling. My chest swelled up withego. I remember thinking, “now, finally, nothing can hurt me.” And almost everything that happened afterwardhurt me: relationships, friendships, businesses failling, until I had gotten so in my way I had none of the above, including no money, and lost my house, and lost everything.

Why didn’t I just say, “I have enough right now.” Enjoy the rain. Enjoy the dinner in my family. Cultivate my friendships. Maybe start writing the things that would give me pleasure.

But I didn’t. I got in my way by being burned somehow in my past and being terrified for no reason about the future.

The only way to avoid getting in your way in the future is to be aware of yourself right now in the present. Don’t forget every day to be grateful for the things you have. Be grateful you worked hard for what you have. Surrender to everything  around you that you can’t control. Don’t overthink the future or overanalyze the past. People hurt you. There are potential things to be afraid of.

But not right now this second. Take at least half this second to enjoy what you have. Take the other half to feel  the different parts of your body and think, “I am here”. Listen to the sounds you can hear right now. Listen to the silences in between those sounds. Make it a practice to do that as much as possible. Then your mind will be rewired slowly to never get in it’s own way. And the time machine will gather dust in the closet, never to be used again.

 

VACATION OR STAYCATION?

Clint Smith ‏@thecrint: what do you do when you know you need a vacation, but don’t have the slightest clue as to how to best spend the time?

Answer:

Perfect! Take a “staycation”.

- Read

- Sit and do nothing

- Find something athletic local in the area to do

- Sit in cafes and come up with ideas on my waiter’s pad for things I never had the time to come  up with ideas for before.

- Go to a local museum and then sit in the cafe/bookstore and  come up with ideas.

- Sit and do nothing again.

- 11am! I used to do this “web show” for HBO called “3am” where I would interview people about what they were up to at 3 in the morning on, say, a Wednesday night. Nobody was up to anything good at 3am on a Wednesday night. I used to think that was the witching hour where all interesting things happened. I was wrong. You know what hour is even better? 11am. Because at 11am, who is walking around? They should be at work, or at school, and it’s too late for that mid-morning break, and it’s too early for lunch, and even if you worked in the restaurant business you are already at work by 11am.

So go to a part of your town that you have barely spent any time and watch the people walking around at 11am. It will be mysterious and dangerous. Give them stories. Find out their stories. Observe them. Draw them. Just relax.

In our daily lives we only perceive a small window of our universe. The benefits of a staycation:

1) you see a larger part of  your universe. You notice the tiny details that have always escaped you. You appreciate the small things in the lusciousness of  the life around you.

2) you don’t waste time in the traveling. Think of the 30 hours or so you save not having to pack, get on planes, travel, settle in, etc. It’s 30 hours no matter where you are going. What a drag!

3) it’s cheap.

If you have any other staycation ideas, write me.

Enjoy!

WHATS THE QUICKEST WAY TO BECOME FAMOUS?

Patrick Meister ‏@bhawks4life: whats the quickest way to become famous?

Answer:

The quickest way to become famous is to spend 20 years working really really hard for it. And I’m not saying this from experience. Just saying this from observation. Here’s what you do during those 20 years.

A) Know every aspect of the history of the area you want to be famous in.

B) Understand how every new idea in your industry was developed.

C) Completely dominate more than one industry. So you can combine ideas in the intersection of all the industries you are interested in.

D) Do the Daily Practice of improving physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This allows you to be a complete transmitter from the universe into your area of interest. It allows you to become an idea machine. To become the physical vehicle by which change can be channeled. Use tdp.me to chart your progress.

E) Once your idea muscle is developed enough start sharing those ideas with a community. Write for websites, comment on blogs, talk on twitter, answer questions on quora, speak at conferences, write a book, post on Pinterest, build a group on Facebook, make an email newsletter, consult for people, coach people, and so on.

F) Respond as much as you can to the people in your community who reach out to you. Every person you touch becomes a new node on your network. The more nodes on your network, the more the value of the network increases exponentially. Introduce different nodes. Becomethe Source.

One time I was playing poker in Atlantic City. Right next to me was a guy named Joe who was a very good poker player. The best I ever played against. A new guy came to the table. But he only had cash and he needed to get chips. Illegally(this is illegal in Atlantic City), Joe said, “don’t worry about that, I’ll sell you some of my chips” and he did. Later Joe told me, “always be the bank at your table. Then the other players like you and don’t want to bet against you even if they are pretty sure you are bluffing.”

Always  be the bank. Of ideas, connections, resources, everything.

G) Continue to do A-F. Your network grows exponentially. While I was writing this I was thinking of everyone from Steve Jobs to Bobby Fischer to Cyndi Lauper, Orson Scott Card, Eckhart Tolle, and on and on. I watched how each of these people went from studying the history of their field, to developing new ideas that pushed the field, to networking, to responding, to ultimately seeing their network hit a tipping point. I feel your question was a bit facetious but this  answer is basically my analysis of those careers. Do it.

 

READING LIST

boz ‏@bozwood: what % of your monthly reading is non-fiction and what drives the direction of that reading?

Answer:

I have three goals when I read:

A) fun

B) learn. And when I say “learn” I want to learn things that will mate with my old ideas so I come up with new ideas either for this blog or maybe, in the extremely rare case, for a business.

C) to be a better writer.

For “A” I read both fiction and non-fiction. I don’t get so strict on whether the reading will improve me. I just want to have fun with a good story or compelling, page-turning reading. There is some  selfishness in this reading in that I, eventually, would like to write a fun book.

For “B” I like to read almost anything. It’s not necessarily going to be the best writing (non-fiction writers, almost by definition, have spent time getting good at their area of expertise and not put in the 10,000 hours to become a world-class writer.)

For “C” I want writing that will literally put me in a trance with how good the writing is. It’s this trance that I then try to help improve my own writing.

I’ll read or spend some time reading, at least 50 different books a month.

Here’s my list of books I’ve either read chapters of, or the whole books, in the past week or so. Or books I’m planning on reading.

BACK TO SCHOOL READING LIST:

“The Next Decade” by George Friedman. The folks at stratfor seem to have infinite knowledge about the past, present, and future of all of our geopolitical situations and George perfectly summarizes them all for the layman.

“SoulPancake” by The Office actor Rainn Wilson. A unique book bursting with creative ideas.

“How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card – planning my BIG BREAK

“The Complete Book of General Ignorance” – it’s actually amazing how much pure knowledge I’ve gotten from this.

“I Am That” by Nisaragadatta Maharaj. Was on my last list but re-reading.

“Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell, an excellent comparison of the various myths that have evolved into today’s science around the world.

“Cyndi Lauper” autobiography. Yes, there’s a lot to learn here about being an artist.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. Often an inspiration for  my Q&A posts. Her book “Wild” is also excellent.

“Every Love Story is a Ghost Story” by D.T. Max – a biography of David Foster Wallace. I’m not a fan of any of Wallace’s work but his creative ascent and then descent into depression and then suicide is tragic and compelling.

“You Are Here” by Christopher Potter – a good introduction to the Big Bang, particle physics, what happened “after” and what might’ve happened “before”.

“Winter Journal” by Paul Auster  - a beautifully written memoir

“U and I” – Nicholson Baker’s internal love/hate relationship/rambling about John Updike. It’s interesting in a world of Google because he consciously tries to analyze Updike’s works without looking any of them up and without having read them all. And then he deals with his own jealousy over those works and compares Updike’s literary career with his own.

“The Chronology of Water” – Lidia Yuknavitch. Beautifully written and also recommended by Chuck Pahlianuk (“Fight Club”) who also recommends my absolute favorite fiction book, “Jesus’  Son” by Denis Johnson

“Loving What Is” by Byron Katie. An inspirational woman who seems almost supernaturally infused with happiness. She’s married to another of my favorite authors, “Stephen Mitchell” who wrote an interesting book “The Gospel According to Jesus” who picks apart the New Testament trying to determine what was added later and which parts might be accurate. I also recommend Katie’s book “Who Would You Be Without Her Story”.  She’s like an overly happy Eckhart Tolle.

Also, since my visit with Amazon and meeting a bunch of self-published authors I’ve become addicted to the books of one of the sci-fi writers I met there, Hugh Howey. In particular, in the past two weeks I’ve read:

“Wool Omnibus” – a 5 part collection of his Wool series

“First Shift” – a prequel to the above series

“The Plagiarist”

“The Hurricane”

and I just downloaded “Halfway Home” by him.

And finally, a few other books I’ve enjoyed recently.

“Daytripper”, a graphic novel by Fabio Moon

“You’re Not Doing It  Right” – Michael Ian Black. Funny.

rereading “Factotum” by Bukowski

These are the books I’ve read or re-read over the past month. I’ve had quite a bit of time on planes, trains, when I wake up early, and before I go to sleep and I spend that time reading. I haven’t included books I’ve only skimmed or read parts of nor have I included the books I’m planning (hoping) to read over the next few months and  I left off one or two books that I didn’t enjoy.

 

BOGUS BANKCRUPTCY

TommyO ‏@TommyOphotos: Was scammed by Tim Roberts of Savtira, lost small fortune 2 wks before their bogus bankruptcy. Who do I turn to? DA, SEC, FBI???

Answer:

One time someone I knew fell and broke her leg in a Macy’s. She spent the next five years suing Macy’s and hoping the settlement would be enough to satisfy her financial needs forever. So for five years she was always complaining about her leg. She couldn’t let her leg get better or else her entire wish for financial safety would have no merit. She became obsessed with the details of her case and was always on the phone with lawyers. Any guidance I would try to give her would be blocked by her friends, “Don’t say that! She’s worked hard for this. She’s depending on that settlement”.

She lost the case. No money.

Don’t be that person. You were scammed. You’re a big boy. Now you know. Don’t turn to anyone. Don’t count on getting that money back. Don’t live your life angry and with regret.

When I lost all my money in 2000, people close to me suggested I sue my stockbroker, who is still a good friend of mine. There was no way I was going to sue him. I made every decision. I had only myself to blame. I don’t care if suing him would’ve gotten my money back. Not suing him taught me to take responsibility for my own actions, to move forwards instead of backwards, to focus on ideas and creativity and growth instead of looking backwards constantly at regret and remorse.

You tell me what the better way to live life is? And when you make that money again, it will be the sweetest revenge. And you will. But not from the FBI. I don’t think the FBI is the way to get rich.

Remember: It’s Your Fault. 

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HUNTING? 

Colin T ‏@templec4: what are your thoughts on hunting…and in general being self sufficient w/ regards to your food?

Answer:

I had coffee this morning. Probably some migrant labor in South America picked the coffee beans I used and laborers lifted boxesof coffee and put them onships and sent them over here. I’m using a computer that was probably made in Foxconn, the factory company in China none for suicides of it’s workers. Yesterday afternoon I ate a steak, which was presumably killed by either a hunter or a slaughterhouse. I’m sure I’ve got some leather on the sneakers I’m wearing. Which I guess (I don’t even know) somehow comes  from skinning a cow.

You get the idea.

There’s two things:

1) Ultimately it’s a waste of my resources for me to be self-sufficient and gather all of these  things for myself. I’m not going to go pick and grow my coffee beans. I’m not going to make my computer. And I’m not going to slaughter cows. But I depend on thousands of people every day to do these things and more for me.

2) Perhaps I can grow a few vegetables and be self-sufficient as regards those vegetables. But I’m only fooling myself if I think that handles more than 1%of the things that I would truly need to do in order to become self-sufficient. In a modern world where trade is not only global but permeates almost every aspect of how we live (where does the oil in my car come from? Where do the ingredients of my kid’s medicines come  from. Or the pages in a book?) there is zero chance of being self-sufficient.

The best way I can redefine self-sufficient is to reduce your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as much as possible. Become happy with who you are. Be more appreciative of what you have now in the present. Be thankful we live in a world that largely provides enormous wealth regardless of where we are in the income strata. Be present as much as possible instead of worrying about the entire world. The world will get better and healthier  if we as individuals get better and healthier.

The “bad” people are the ones who desire too much or fear too much. So you should desire less and fear less and you can hopefully become a mirror to those who take advantage of the riches the world has to offer.

 

WHAT’S THE FASTEST WAY TO MAKE A MILLION?

Fashion ‏@runwayfashionUK: what is the quickest way to make a million?

Answer:

I will tell you.

Step one. Figure out an area that is “hot”. For instance, Facebook marketing is inning one. Better tests  for personalized diagnostics of age-related diseases is in inning one. Understanding the root causes of depression is in inning one. Combining mobile with social is in inning one. Self-publishing your book and marketing it is in inning one.  There are probably 30 more areas I’m neglecting to mention. Maybe 100. Or 1000. Start listing them today.

Step two. Start a service business in one of those area. For instance, go to every local business in your town and offer to set up the facebook fan page for their business. Then, in store, their customers can “Like” their page. Then all the friends of those customers will  see that they Liked that page and will be curious. That’s the basics. Then it gets more and more advanced as you get familiar with the Facebook landscape and their tools for targeted marketing. If you can’t get any customers for this basic business then something is probably wrong with your pitch, with you personally, or you live in the woods. You can be ten years old and get this business started. Get ten clients or more.

What about age-related diagnostics tests if you are not a scientist? No problem. Write a newsletter about the latest developments in that area. Make a blog about it. Or sell your subscription newsletter for a high price to every big pharmaceutical company. In other words, pick an area in “Step One” above and then brainstorm the various ways you can build a business around that area in “Step two”. You don’t have to make an airline to set up a travel-related company. There are many ways to come up with ideas that work.

Step three. Productize your service. Let’s say in the Facebook example above. Come up with a way a business can auto-post onto the fanpage timeline their latest offers, polls, etc. Products create more value than services as far as business acquirors are concerned because it follows along the  dictum of “make money while you sleep”. In the age-related diagnostics newsletter example – find software to scour the FDA database about new submissions that you then collate into your newsletter. And so on. I know one person who is an expert on how to find lists of “rent to own” homes. He quickly made a database, put it online, charged a subscription fee to get access to the database, marketed on Google, and is now making $300,000 a month within two months after launching. He’s 27 years old and never went to college. He can do it. So you can also. If he wanted to sell for one million dollars today to a company like Zillow for instance, they’d pay him that in a heartbeat. Since I’m an investor in his company I’m hoping he eventually sells for a lot more than that.

Step four. Get customers. Knock on every door. Call up every biz dev person. Make a list of 1000 potential customers and start updating all of them about your offerings, your new offerings, your customer development, your testimonials, your outreach and so on.

Step five. Sell the business. You aren’t asking for a lot. The question was: “how do I make a million”. If you want to sell your business for one hundred million you have a lot of hard work in front of you. If you want to sell your business for a million, there are plenty of companies who want to break into your space, get your products and customer list, and get YOU (because you know the space intimately by this point) and be happy to give you either a million in cash or a million in stock plus pay you an ongoing salary. A million is not a lot if you have a product, customers, a unique offering, and special knowlege, and if you are selling to a much bigger company.

That’s all it takes. Timeline? One year starting from today. Go for it. Make a million and please report back to me when you do so I can write a book about it.

 

WHAT IF YOU ARE UGLY?

peter atsal ‏@AtsalPeter: how do you advise someone to mentally cope with/ move past being unattractive, hating permanent features of the way you look?

Answer:

When I was 16 it would hurt me to walk past a mirror. Physically hurt me, I’d almost fall backwards if I suddenly realized a mirror was too close. I had wild, tangly hair when all the “cool kids” had straight blonde hair. I had big dorky glasses. I had acne and cysts all  over my face. Big purple blotches. Once a month I’d go to the dermatologist where she would drain all the pus out of the cysts, leaving them even more purple and patches of blood and damage all over my face.

I had braces with rubber bands criss-crossing all over my mouth. I had no idea how to dress in any situation. One person once asked me “why are you always wearing corduroy pants” in the middle of July. I was clumsy in gym class. And, to top it off, I had the distinct impression my head was bigger than  everyone else’s. When I rode my bike down the block occasionally the other kids would scream out the window, “Hey Moose!” and I’d hear their laughing as I sped up as quickly as I could to escape.

I would take my glasses off and back away from the mirror until I thought, in the blur that I saw, that I looked halfway decent. I’d usually end up about twenty feet away.

One time in chemistry class I heard two girls talking, “how can his acne be that bad?” And look at me while I pretended to look away. Another person told me, “you need to smile more. That’s the best you can do.” One time  I called a friend of mine and asked, “am I just never going to get a girlfriend?” We were in tenth grade. He said, “maybe in college or  after college you can.” At that age even a week seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t wait for college.

One time I spent an hour in front of the mirror trying to get out the knots in my hair. Then I sat down to eat breakfast. One of my parents came in and looked at me and yelled, “you’re disgusting!” Then I went to school.

Even now, when I make an appearance on, say, CNBC, there are more comments afterwards about how I look  than about anything I had to say. I never really understand it. When I went on online dating services I wouldn’t put my picture. Fortunately Claudia responded and asked why I didn’t put my picture and I had a ready excuse that sounded impressive, “because I go on TV a lot and didn’t want anyone to recognize me.” Good thing she believed and maybe was impressed by that bullshit.

And it is true that better looking people get higher salaries, better opportunities, more opportunities for sex, etc. That’s just the way the world works.

But just because you look in a mirror, doesn’t mean the mirror is showing you the correct image. A large part of that image is how you interpret what you see. It turns out almost everyone hates looking in the mirror. It turns out that personality and confidence and optimism add a lot to one’s looks. It turns out that being a good  person adds a lot to your attractiveness, particularly as you grow older. Experience also engraves itself in your features and moves past the mishapenness of youth.

And, by the way, you never look as bad as you think you do.

Here’s what you do the next time you wallow in your own self-hate. (Ugh, I’m going to do it again:)

I’ll change it a little: The Simple Daily Practice:

- Do one thing to improve yourself physically today. A little exercise. A walk. Sleep well. Eat well. Change one thing. Don’t snack on junk food.

- Be around positive people. Don’t be around people who are going to judge your looks.

- Build your idea muscle. People are attracted other people with lots of ideas. The  people with lots ofideas will save the world. Those are attractivepeople to be aroumd.

- Be grateful forwhat you do have. Surrender to what you can’t control and know that it’s for the best. That in the long run other things will compensate if you get good at not trying to change what you can’t control.

Believe me, this works. Again and again.

[As an aside, it's interesting to read this post on "What it's like to date a supermodel" to get some perspectiveon this]

NETWORKING

Ben Delphia ‏@BenDelphia: What’s the best way to network at an event where you don’t know anyone?

Answer:

Usually before you go to an event, you know who is going to be there. Maybe there is a list of speakers or other attendees somewhere.

Research the bios of everyone you know will be at the event. Maybe become Facebook friends with them.

Then spend time researching their companies. Come up with ten ideas for each person BEFORE the event. You don’t have to share those ideas with them at the event. But now for every person there you can easily go up to them and say, “you know,I was just thinking about you” and start reeling off your ideas. If they don’t seem interested. No problem. You’ve made contact. You’ve touched base. They will remember you the next time. Move onto the next person.

This is the best way to network. It may not have dividends for each person you come  into contact with but overall it will have great dividends that will compound into great success for you.

The key is: make sure you are good at coming up with ideas.

$100 TO INVEST

Ben Nesvig ‏@BenNesvig: If you had $100 to invest in self-education every month, where would you allocate the money?

Answer:

You don’t really need more than $100 a month to self-educate. Here is what I would do:

- read biographies and books about any topics that interest you. Most books are fairly cheap on Kindle or you can sit in bookstore cafes and read them.

- draw and/or paint. This gets the neurons firing in areas that have been lying dormant for awhile.

- by cheap pads (waiter pads, for instance), and just free form write down ideas, observations, thoughts of things you want to try.

- go to a museum and try to find at least ten things you didn’t know before that excite you.

- go to at least one networking event. Or dance class. Or something you never would’ve thought of trying. Just one. Don’t pressure yourself into suddenly doing kickboxing ten times a week.

- study yoga. And not just the physical exercises but the reasons behind each one. The reason a move twists a certain way, breathes a certainway, the history of that move throughout thehistory of yoga, the reasons for doing the physical exercises.

 

CUMULATIVE/CONSTANT

Josh Beck ‏@JT_Beck: is cumulative/constant improvement the most important “thing” in life?

Answer:

I wanted constant improvement. But I didn’t know what it meant. I felt it meant better money, better jobs, better women, better  friends, more control over the aspects of my life that I felt were out of control. I then felt I could “spend” in those area: have  bad relationships, experiment with things and in ways  I shouldn’t experiment, spend  where I shouldn’t, and in general purge myself of the good will I created via “constant improvement”.

Now I think the opposite. The best way to have constant improvement is to decrease constantly the things you feel the need to improve. Everything you want to improve is something external. More money. Better athlete, better at public speaking, better at writing. Perhaps I am just projecting these things and these are all the things I want to improve. But to have a goal is to be constantly striving and building to achieve that goal. And then once you achieve it, what’s next? More goals? Less? Do you roll down the  mountain and get disappointed. or do you get disappointed there are higher and higher  goals to reach, never reaching the highest of all.

For me, better to sit, being happy and grateful with what’s outside, but giving up all goals on the inside. If you truly want for nothing, then all your goals and dreams will be achieved.

HOW TO FIND THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE? 

Clint Smith ‏@thecrint: how should a single person find someone? Pitfalls to avoid?

Answer:

I’m ashamed to admit this: I’ve basically never given myself a chance to be alone. I always went from one relationship to the next. Which, of course, led to many unpleasant relationships. I think I was afraid to be alone. But consequently, I feel like I’ve mastered the art of meeting someone:

Step one: Be everywhere they are. Where are they? If you are a man, the women are in dance classes, cooking classes, art classes, and  on online dating services. I met Claudia on J-Date.

Step two: Don’t be afraid to ask. Start asking out everyone you think is attractive. It works. Practice today. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You see someone on the street say, “Nice dress”. If she smiles back, maybe ask her out. Don’t be rude. Just be pleasant about it.

Step three: It’s quantity first, then quality. Ask out as many people as possible. Go out on as many dates as you possibly can. Do coffee in the afternoon with one, dinner at night with another. Quantity.

Step four: Quality: The only way you will find quality is to cut your losses. How do you cut your losses. This is goal-driven. Make sure your goal is not simply: “to have sex” or “to get a girlfriend”. You want someone who likes you. Who doesn’t do “The Rules” of trying to “neg” you or make you chase after her or anything that smells like a game. The theme of what you want is someone who likes you, who is easy to be with, where things  happen naturally. Cut IMMEDIATELY anyone who doesn’t go along with that theme, even if you are amazingly attracted to them.

Then repeat.

Does this seem sexist? Of course some women go to tech meetups or chess clubs. But at the average tech meetup it’s about a 9:1 ratio. I don’t like gambling in situations where the odds are against me. If your goal is to meet someone, go where the odds are on your side. Or, as Wayne Gretzky says, “I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going”.

 

MY WEEKEND RETREAT AT KRIPALU

Albena Mitkov ‏@albenakm: you are just fabulous! do you have a support group you meet regularly? are you willing to come to ct to meet one? would be honored

Answer:

I don’t meet with any kind of support group BUT I am planning on doing a weekend workshop at Kripalu which is sort of like a spiritual resort hotel.

Here’s the link to the retreat: http://www.kripalu.org/program/view/AFPS-131/the_daily_practice_awakening_the_full_power_of_spirit

Basically, everyone gets there Friday. There will be dinner (I think) and I’ll give a talk and some Q&A.

Then Saturday morning, Claudia will teach a basic yoga class which will include some breathing/pranayama exercises.

Then I will give a talk about the relationship between entrepreneurship and spirituality. Can one be spiritual, secular, and  successful all at the same time?

A break at that point will include some worksheets to fill out. Then the afternoon for Q and A and some discussion of the role of meditation in society. At night, a discussion of meditation and the role of meditation (if there is any) in our society. Then some silent time until the  morning on Sunday.

Then Sunday, yoga and breathing again and a little bit of meditation. Then more Q&A, group workshops, and talks from me.

I’m a bit nervous about it. I’ve given lots of talks before but haven’t done the weekend retreat thing. I’m looking forward to being a little out of my comfort zone and seeing what happens.

 

PERSISTENCE

Adnan Qureshi: What is the key to persistence. I try the daily practice but cannot stay persistent and flake off after a few days

Answer:

I think my “Daily Practice” post  is usually too hard. For me also.  Sometimes I’m busy so I just can’t do yoga that day. Or sometimes I let the negative people overwhelm me. Or sometimes I find myself roiled in regrets and unable to be grateful for what I have.

I’ve repeated the “second arrow” story before. When something bad happens to you, it’s as if an arrow hits you. It hurts. You’re bleeding. But you’ll recover. It’s when you then feel regret or remorse over what you’ve done that the second arrow hits you. It’s that second arrow that can kill you.

So first, avoid the second arrow. Don’t feel bad that on your quest to improve yourself, you slipped. It’s only you. There are no judges out there on Mt. Olympus saying, “Adnan, you have SLIPPED and FAILED! You must be PUNISHED!” Nothing of the sort. Life is short, we get by as best we can, then we get absorbed back up to where we came and report on what happened.

If you want to do the Daily Practice but find it difficult, no problem. Just cut it in half. If that’s difficult, cut it in half again. It’s like Zeno’s Paradox. As long as you keep cutting in half, you will never hit the floor. Remove goals from your daily agenda. Replace them by themes. The theme is that you don’t hit the floor. You reduce suffering.

Worst case: pick one category (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual) and do one simple goal from just ONE of those categories (write down two ideas instead of ten). Now put an “X” on your calendar. You did it! Maybe tomorrow, or next week, or next year, write down three ideas and don’t drink alcohol. Or not. It’s all up to you. The second arrow has poison on it.

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