[Some questions and answers from my recent Twitter Q&A]
EXTRA-MARITAL DATING SITES
Hamzah @Hamzah81: Whats the reason for the rise in extra-marital dating sites? Is our society decaying and losing it’s morals?
The Parker Meridien is a prestigious 5 star hotel in Manhattan. The restaurant, Norma’s is one of the best breakfast places in the city. They also have a pool on the roof and a divey hamburger place called “the Burger Joint” that is probably the best hamburger restaurant around. I love staying there. One time I went in the pool but felt self-conscious. A lot of French super-models stay there. There were all of these 8 foot tall beautiful men and women diving, kissing, swimming, and then there was me, sort of underwater in the corner, feeling embarrassed.
About a year ago they started renting rooms by the hour. Why would an upscale hotel like that rent rooms by the hour in the middle of the work day?
Brian told me, “it’s because of AshleyMadison.com.” A website that caters to married people wanting to have affairs. It’s one of the most popular dating websites out there.
Is AshleyMadison immoral? Is the Parker Meridien? I have no idea. I don’t judge anyone. If someone is unhappy in their marriage then I think they should tell their spouse that they plan on sleeping with other people. This is a health thing. People need to know that: emotionally and physically, the person they are sleeping with is going to exchange various fluids and emotions with someone else. That’s only fair.
But it’s not for me to judge their morals. Or for me or you to say society is somehow immoral. 100 years ago there was also cheating. 150 years ago there was slavery. 500 years ago colonists in the US did genocide on native Americans. Right now, in the present day and age, around the world one in three women are raped or sexually abused.
If people can find happiness in some small way: sex, swimming, burgers, and room service in the Parker Meridien with a complete stranger, then power to them. I hope they are having fun. For the sake of their spouses, I hope they are being honest but it’s not for me to say to them. When I think of it personally, it makes me cringe. It makes me hope that my life, wife, happiness, has moved beyond the AshleyMadisons of the world. But that’s only own insecurity. And I’m very insecure.
But to you I can say this: don’t be so worried about the morals of society. Trying to control (because that’s what judging is) society is like saying “this hurricane better not flood my house” when there’s basically no way you can stop it. You are bound to be unhappy if your expectations are too high. Even if you think judgments are not the same as expectations, you will be unhappy. Because they are.
Society is a collection of individuals. You get to choose what individuals you want around you in your short life. Be a good person, be the sort of person that enhances the lives of the people around you. Then websites promoting affairs won’t be a part of your world. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. Try to surprise your spouse every day. Write down a bunch of notes, coupons for things your spouse can do to you, and leave them in surprise places around the house.
This morning I was up before Claudia. I was reading downstairs. As soon as I heard the upstairs door open I yelled upstairs in the angriest voice I could muster up, “WHERE IS MY COFFEE, BITCH!” For the next 15 minutes she was laughing. The entire thing was ludicrous and my whole goal was to make her laugh. She was still laughing by the time she came downstairs. At me and not with me. That’s all I needed to do right then. I don’t have to worry about society’s morals.
And then Claudia got me a coffee.
WHAT IDEAS TO COME UP WITH
boz @bozwood: how do you decide on a given day what ideas to come up with? whatever u happen to be interested in or some other way?
Today I came up with two lists. One a list of novels I want to write. I want to write a thriller novel. Something that would be entertaining to people. I like to entertain.
The next list was a list of people I need to introduce to each other. If I really think about how two people can deliver value to each other, I make money by being in the middle if I introduce them. Good things will happen. Even if it’s not so obvious immediately how I will make money, I know that the secret of business is that when you create opportunities for other people, you indirectly create opportunity for yourself.
I may never write a novel. I may never introduce any of these people to each other. It was hard to come up with ten ideas for both lists. Maybe I will introduce some of the people. Maybe I will start but not finish a novel. Maybe I will just write on these Q&As. Who knows?
All I wanted to do was sweat the brain. This way when I really need to use my idea muscle: to save a life, to make my life more peaceful, to make money, to get myself out of a bad situation, to respond to a difficult situation, I know my brain will be up for the task. I don’t need to save the lists. A good idea gets tattooed onto the subconscious.
The important thing is: I made the lists. I exercised my brain. Now I have to do the other things:
Physical: Eat well, sleep well, stay in shape. Take a walk. Exercise. Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild” said the other day in an interview: “I challenge you to walk 20 minutes and not feel better at the end of it.”
Emotional: Only be around people who love me. Only respond to people who love me. Only respond to people I love. For me, it’s easy to get bogged down in destructive criticism instead of spending time with the people I love.
Spiritual: Surrender to the moment. Understand that I can’t control everything around me. Be grateful for what I have. Be blessed that I can enjoy the small things in this moment.
Mental: I did it: the Idea lists.
All four “bodies” work together. There’s a blood, a life force, that goes back and forth between all four bodies. You are at the center of that life force. If you don’t take care of all four bodies then the “blood” is blocked. You get the daily practice version of a heart attack. Your ideas won’t be as good. Or you won’t sleep. Or the people around you will bring you down. Or people will betray you. Or you will betray them. Or you simply die.
It’s a daily practice for a reason – because every day there are things happening in your life that will try to form a blockage of the life force that flows between these bodies.
Your ONLY job in life is keep the blood flowing between all four bodies every moment.
Then you will know what to do. What ideas to work on. What people to associate with. What words to say. I originally wrote about this in a post called “how to be the luckiest person alive” because it’s true. Luck happens when everything flows naturally between the four bodies. You shouldn’t even acknowledge it as luck. Because “luck” implies that it is something out of the ordinary. Your luck will come from a source that never goes away.
Patrick Meister @bhawks4life: how can I help eliminate insomnia and racing thoughts?
In 2004 I got a letter from the IRS. They wanted to talk to me about the years 1997-2003. I was pretty scared. They had a lot of things they wanted to talk about. A LOT.
The first thing I thought when I got that letter was, “oh shit. Tonight is going to suck.”
And I was right. Around two in the morning I woke up and went to my computer. I started googling all sorts of obscure IRS situations. I automatically put myself in the worst category. I assumed I was going to jail. I wondered if my kids would love me if I went to jail. Or what I would do for a living after I got out of jail. I started googling if it was true that if you put three cigarettes in a cup of water overnight and then drank the water in the morning you would die of a heart attack after 60 seconds. That seemed like a good idea to me at the time.
When I finally talked to my accountant the next day he said it was a normal letter. No big deal. We took care of the whole thing. But not before I had another bout of sleepless nights. I even went to a meditation retreat during all of this to try and calm down. I would be sitting there meditating scared to death of going to jail even though intellectually I knew there was no reason to be worried. The entire retreat I kept wondering what everyone there would think of me if I went to jail.
So many times since then I’ve been awake in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts. Would the stock I was fully invested in go up or down the next day? Would she leave me? Or her? Or her? Would my business fail? Would my website work the next day? Would Google buy my company? Uh-oh! Another letter from the IRS. Uh-oh, my daughter is sick. Claudia is sick. I’m sick.
I read all about insomnia.
Insomnia 101: no screen time in the two hours before you go to sleep, no alcohol, no heavy meals, no exercise, no sugar, no coffee at least 10 hours before you go to sleep. Soft voices.
But sometimes that doesn’t help. I’d get to sleep, and then at 2 in the morning I’d wake up as anxious as ever.
I’m sorry you are feeling this way. It’s a horrible feeling. You need to get some sleep, my friend.
The other day my 10 year old came upstairs around three in the morning. I feel so bad for her. She is stuck with my illness. “Daddy,” she whispered to me so Claudia wouldn’t wake up. “Daddy, I can’t sleep. I keep thinking of things.” She’s ten. She’s stuck with some variation of my brain. She’s never going to sleep.
I walked downstairs with her and we sat down and spoke for awhile. She told me she was upset because on her tenth year birthday someone was at her party who was acting bad. Mollie started to cry, “you only turn ten once. She ruined it for me!” I said, “Mollie, that was 8 months ago.” She said, “you don’t understand. You only turn ten once! Now forever it’s ruined!!”
And she was right. Forever and ever, what happened is what happened. The party was ruined. The boss hates you. Your friends betrayed you. The IRS wants to speak to you. Your business didn’t get bought. You go broke. Your girlfriend cheats. Your co-workers suck. But you still have to sleep. None of these things will get better at two in the morning. You have to surrender to that.
And 100 years from now, no buildings will have our names on them. I told her to count sheep and she went back in her room and eventually fell asleep. But I lied to her. Eventually that trick won’t work for her. Meditation is hard when your mind is racing.
Sometimes I do the alien trick. I pretend I landed in my body on a secret mission from the mother ship to make “James Altucher’s” life better and I ask myself, “who am I? Why am I feeling this anxious pain in my chest, or gut, or head. Why is this body’s mind racing? Where am I?” And I try to focus on the small sounds around me. I’m an alien on a mission. I try to place my surroundings this moment and that gradually makes me feel tired and go to sleep. It slows the brain down, while the alien gets acclimated with his new mission.
But I’ll be honest: the first thing that helped me sleep, years ago, was medication. I took a highly addictive medicine to get to sleep. “The first goal is to get you to sleep,” said the psychopharmacologist. And sleep I did. Sometimes for 14 hours a night, the medication was so strong. And I kept upping the dosage until I was taking eight times the amount per day as was initially prescribed.
But I had to get off the addiction or it would take me over. And that was hard.
First try Insomnia 101, then try the Alien technique, then see a doctor. But Insomnia 101 is better than getting addicted to something.
I’ll tell you what I do now if I have to. If I wake up at 2 in the morning (like I did this morning) and I feel “AWAKE” I get up and start working. I don’t try to go back to sleep. And then later in the day I’ll take a nap. I’ll still get eight hours but it will be an abnormal eight hours.
The body is meant to sleep and dream. Else you find yourself time traveling back to your tenth year birthday party, filled with anger and regret. Or it becomes too easy to time travel to an apocalyptic future where you are in jail and nobody loves you. The best technique: practice surrendering to the moment.Even if it means pretending to be an alien that it a long way from home. The best thing you can do to achieve your mission is sleep and solve the problems of your host body in the morning.
PITCHING STARTUP TO MEDIA
Michael Ozeryansky @oz_michael: what is the most important thing when pitching your startup to media?
I’m on the board of directors of a company that provides temporary staffing services. They are a public company and over the past 12 months have had over $400 million in revenues, give or take (I should know the exact number but I don’t and I don’t like to stop writing to look things up). The company acts like a private company. They almost never talk to the media, they don’t do any of the normal things that a public company should do. They just every day do their jobs.
When I first heard about the company I thought to myself, “sounds boring. No way am I going to get involved.”
But the more I learned about the company, the more fascinated I got. Everybody is getting fired these days. We are moving towards an employeeless society where eventually there will be no employees. Just temps.
In 2008 the tide came in. Everyone got fired. And I do mean everyone. Right now the data says 7.8% unemployment but that’s a lie. Most people got fired and then took jobs that paid lower in order to survive.
I spoke with several CEOs in 2009. I asked them, “be honest with me: you fired all of those people because everyone else was firing people so you had an easy excuse , ‘it’s the economy! We can’t help it!’ “. 100% of the CEOs gave those nervous chuckles that they do and said, “you got it.”
So we became, and we always will be, a world of temp-staffers, executives, and entrepreneurs. Everybody fits into one of those categories. Even if you think you are a permanent staffer, that’s just a lie your employer is telling you. There’s no more loyalty. You are a temp. And eventually your payroll will be outsourced. And eventually you will be outsourced. So you’re either ok with that, or you become an executive, or you figure out how to be an entrepreneur or work in a more entrepreneurial company.
What does this have to do with your question. One of the things I think about being on this board (and I’m not saying any private information. Just saying what’s on my mind.) is what data does this company have that would be interesting to the media? It’s not interesting if this company simply says, “we got a new client”. If revenues go up, that’s great. But who cares.
What would be interesting to the media is if there’s some sort of correlation between changes in temporary staffing in different industries and how that part of the economy is doing. Or how those stocks will do in the future. I think a lot about what sort of data a staffing company with $400 million in revenues might have that I can play with statistically to see what has predictive value on the economy and on stocks. To me, that is interesting to the media. And I would know – having been around media for the past decade or so.
Back to your question: figure out what you and only you know, based on the behavior of your customers and the data you are collecting on them, and how that can be organized to show something astonishing about human behavior, about the economy, about specific industries, whatever, and come up with a one page way you can share that with the media.
One company that I used to be an investor in until it was sold to Salesforce.com was Buddy Media, which sells software that companies use to manage their Facebook presence. I see them quoted in the media everywhere. Not because they get new customers (boring!) or they have a new product release (even more boring!) but because they put out a report about when the best time to post to Facebook was. What time of day, what day of the week, would get a user the most “engagement”. I actually think their data is wrong based on my own experience. But it doesn’t matter. That report is everywhere. And it got them press and got them more customers.
The site plentyoffish.com, a dating site, does this very well. They have huge data, millions of pieces of data, on what sort of men and women are attracted to each other, and what sort of men and women build lasting relationships. It doesn’t take psychology to figure it all out. They figured it out with data. And they share that with the press. The press eats it up every single time, and plentyoffish.com gets a new boost in traffic. Like clockwork.
Be the clock. Do the work.
ANGRY DURING HURRICANE
Eli Schostak @EliSchostak: were you angry at anyone or any Being during the hurricane?
When there was a foot of water on the first floor of my house and my wedding ring had fallen off and gone missing when I was futilely taping up the outside doors, I had a few choices.
I could’ve said, “Ugh, why me!” Why did I have to lose that ring? Why did I have to live in a place that was going to get flooded. The river hasn’t surged like this in 40 years. Why is it happening now when I have so much to do?”
But why would I chose to fight like that. I had another choice. Go to the second floor. Get out the ipad, and watch a movie. Which is what Claudia and I did. We watched Casino Royale, the James Bond movie while the first floor filled up with almost two feet of water throughout the night.
Yesterday, a few days after the flood, I realized that we forgot to take out of a drawer a box of comic books that I had been saving since 1975. All of my comics that I had left. About a year ago we cleaned up my old comics and got rid of a lot. So this was the final box, the box of my favorites. The ones that I wanted to hold onto forever. The river ruined them all. Why did we forget them? How could I have been so stupid?
I put the box of comic books outside (along with one sofa and one bed that we didn’t protect properly) to be picked up by the garbage people and sat there for about an hour reading them. They were soggy and wet and the pages were old so even the slightest touch would shred them. I read through each page of some of them. Even those ads: “Hercules Wrist Band!” , “X-Ray Goggles!”, “Ventriloquist Doll!” I remember reading these comics when I was a kid. I remember buying them. My sister and I would sneak out of my grandparents house and go to this one newsstand on 29th and 8th avenue and for a dollar I could buy four or five comics and then spend the afternoon reading and re-reading them. I loved them. And now, at long last, they were dead. I had to throw them out. Completely ruined. It’s nice to feel the sadness of nostalgia.
But then it’s over. Then you accept what is and move on. It’s also nice to clean things out. To start fresh. To realize that everything in life is here for only a moment. It’s our choice: enjoy the moment or not enjoy the moment. What will you choose? Why would you choose to fight? If you have high expectations for nature then you will be often disappointed. We came into this world naked and we will leave here naked.
Louis CK wrote to his email list that he was going to be on Saturday Night Live. I thought it was a beautiful email. I’m going to reprint part of it without any permission:
Last night we shot some pre-tape segments in greenwich Village, which was pitch black dark for blocks and blocks, as it has been for a week now.
Its pretty impossible to describe walking through these city streets in total darkness. It can’t even be called a trip through time, because as long as new york has lived, its been lit. By electricity, gas lamps, candlelight, kerosene. But this was pitch black, street after street, corner round corner. And for me, the village being the very place that made me into a comedian and a man, to walk through the heart of it and feel like, in a way, it was dead. I can’t tell you how that felt. And you also had a palpable sense that inside each dark window was a family or a student or an artist or an old woman living alone, just being int he dark and waiting for the day to come back. Like we were all having one big sleep over, but not so much fun as that.
This is how a lot of the city is still. I know people in queens, brooklyn, Staten Island, new jersey, all over, are not normal yet. And not normal is hard.
And here at 30 rock, these folks are working so hard this week. There are kids in the studio every day, because members of the crew and staff had to bring them to work. Many people are sharing lodging. Everyone is tired. But there’s this feeling here that we’ve got to put on a great show. I’m sure it feels like that here every week. But wow. I feel really lucky to be sharing this time with these particular good folks here at SNL.
In about 5 hours we’ll be going on the air. I’ll do a monologue. And we’ll show you some sketches that we wrote and try to make you laugh. I’m gonna look really dumb in some of this stuff. But I don’t care. Its awfully worth it. And I’m really excited.
Anyway. I just wanted to let you know. If you watch the show tonight, when Don Pardo says my name and you see me walking out, all the shit in this email is what ill be thinking. I’m a pretty lucky guy. I hope you enjoy the show.
Live. From new york. Its saturday night.”
I hope we can all be so lucky.